Going Irish

Zoe and I flew into Dublin at night, zooming over the webs of light woven by human activity. Fireworks Night had technically already past, but fireworks still sprouted up and bloomed below. It was strange. These normally large impressive explosions were now only brief bursts of unsteady light. But they were still just as beautiful.

We were visiting Dublin because our friend is studying there on another BU Abroad program. She had already visited us in London (see Day 34 and Day 35). Now it was our turn. She had a schedule planned out (printed maps and everything) so we started out early, took the bus into the city center, and made it into the first tour at Kilmainham Gaol—the infamous Irish jail that was briefly home to hundreds of mostly petty criminals and political prisoners.

It’s most well-known inmates were the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. These seemingly average people had attempted to fight for full Irish independence from the British. They obviously failed, and it being war time, the British showed no mercy. They rounded up the leaders, held them at Kilmainham and then proceeded to kill them one by one in the jail courtyard. Before the Rising, most people were generally ambivalent or against the idea of an Irish Republic. However, how the leaders were killed and the sympathetic stories associated with them turned the tide of public opinion. These rebels became martyrs and folk heroes still celebrated today.

We learned this from our tour guide (and, literally the day before, from our history class) as she showed us around the ancient walls of the jail. We started in the oldest wing of the building (build in the 18th century) and strolled through the cold, stone corridors. Centuries of grime stained the walls and dimmed the grey, rainy light coming in through the windows. After lingering long enough for our guide to point out cells that notable Irishmen had spent some time in (including the leaders of the Easter Rising) and a few other facts, we moved on to the newer wing of the prison.

Added on in the 19th century, it followed the latest thinking of the day, which including the healing properties of natural light. So after dim and dank corridors we were lead into a large, oval shaped room, flooded with daylight from the skylight above. It still wasn’t necessarily a happy place—the white washed walls were impersonal and the cells were cramped—but the sweeping lines of the design gave off a decidedly elegant flare. No wonder many films have been shot here.

We were then led to the inner courtyard where the leaders of the Easter Rising were shot. Another gloomy place built with dark grey stone that loomed over us, blocking out the meager sun. Appropriately, it was raining.

After the tour we spent sometime in the museum, had a snack at their café, and then headed off to our next stop: The Guinness Storehouse.

Even more Irish then the four leaf clover is a Guinness pint. Back in the day, they used to believe it was better for them then the water (which it probably was, but that’s beside the point). So, yes, the Guinness Storehouse (basically a Guinness museum located in the old distillery and next to the new one) is a bit of a tourist trap, but it kind of had to be done. Plus it was a very well-designed tourist trap: from the dramatic lighting to the engaging videos to the interactive elements, it was the most modern and user-friendly museum I’ve ever been in.

The ground floor and first floor take you through the beer making process from the ingredients to the distilling to the transport. Then up to second floor to the tasting rooms where they attempt to teach you and 30 over people crammed into one room how to properly taste a small sample of Guinness. Then on to the third floor to see statues of the zoo animals that used to sell the alcoholic drink. Some kids were climbing on the turtle and the seal, both of which were posed to steal the zoo keeper’s pint. Now there’s an image you won’t see in the states.

Then, passed the Guinness Academy where they teach you how to pour the perfect pint and the over-priced restaurant and bar, we went to the top of the building and entered the Galaxy Café to redeem our free pint. The room was jam packed with people all jostling for a place. It was amazing that there weren’t many catastrophic spills. We gathered our Guinness and were lucky enough to find seats near the windows. Now here was why we choose this bar (as opposed to the other two in the building) to have our pint: the 360° view of Dublin.

The clouds were breaking up, illuminating the bricks and stones of the city below. The mountain hovered in the background to one side and seagulls dove and soared on the other. Yes, you can tell that they knew what they were doing when they built the Storehouse.

After we (almost) finished our pints and bought our souvenirs, we made our way over the self-claimed “oldest pub in Ireland.” Regardless of whether or not that statement is true, the food was hardy, classic, and very good.

Once we finished our meals, we wandered around for a bit: Visited a couple bridges, spied on the statue of Oscar Wilde through the bars of the park gates, and strolled through a couple stores. We would’ve done more but it was still damp and much colder than expected so we ended up huddling in another pub for desert and live music before heading back to get some sleep.

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