Welcome to another edition of K’s High Five, which offers the highlights of recent ramblings and adventures in a given city. Up this time? Dublin. It was my first experience in Ireland, and when the next opportunity strikes, not the last.
In town for a conference, I had little time, and given all my summer travels coupled with my thrifty disposition, a creative budget. Creative…meaning that my money choices always reflect certain values for me: 1) local eats 2) local history 3) local culture.
#1 Literature History…the snippets I’ve gathered from Irish history have come from key films (My Own Left Foot, Michael Collins) and superb literature (The World According to Garp) and thus, I knew I would carve out time to visit The Writer’s Museum
a few blocks north of the busy old town. The literature movements of Ireland reflect its political evolution, and this museum offered a wonderful exposure to the making, shaping, breaking, and re-emergence of this country (yep, people…it is less than 100 years separated from Britain). For around $8 a tour of the museum expanded my horizon, and I soaked up little biographical snapshots of some of the greatest writer’s of modern times: Shaw, Wilde, Yeats and of course, Beckett. Thus, all gussied up with such enlightenment, Literary Pub Tour felt a MUST do.
For 12 Euro you get to explore some of the most historical pubs in the center of town, with theatrical performances of Irish writers strewn along the way. Given that I learned that women were not allowed to drink in public until the 1960s, I felt inspired and asked the bartender to let me pour my own Guineness. He happily obliged. And that trip to the writer’s museum paid off, because I won the quiz at the end of the tour (with two beers in my belly!) and now will be sporting a kicking new T-shirt. So?
The next night I paid 20 EURO to score FIRST row tickets to The Plough and the Stars, written by Sean O’Casey. Riots exploded at the performance of this play due to a scene where a prostitute covered her fully clothed body for 10 seconds with the Irish Flag. The Abbey Theater performance, itself rooted in the political uprising in the early 20th century, felt opulent, and the performance roused me.
So, for around 40 EURO my two evenings bounded with entertainment, history, and culture.
#3 Good Eats…in Dublin? Wow, the chow in this town completely surpassed all my expectations.
I’ve never experienced such attentive and yet unintrusive, and bubbly service as the staff at the Merrion hotel. Their attention to detail, from the arrival cupcakes….
to the Irish Breakfast (yep, that’s BLACK PUDDING to the upper left)…impressed me. And remember, this is from a woman that has traveled more to more than 21 hotels since 2010. Even if you merely pop in for the extravagant afternoon tea, this hotel certainly is a respite from the “do it yourself” locales I am accustomed. Thomas, the night manager, won my “friendliest” Dubliner award. He and I spoke for more than 20 minutes about Irish history following the theater and honestly…after a day of business and moving about with no connection, warmed my spirit. Thanks Thomas!
Another good eats will be spotlighted the next post, as I completed task # 86!
#4: Whiskey, please. In Dublin alone, Jameson Whiskey is sipped every 2 seconds. And it is the third best-selling in the world. FOR GOOD reason. While most people shell out $21 smackers to tour Guieness, I chose the Jameson Distillery ($14) to learn more about why I love this smooth, fruity liquor. And by far, the guide was the most entertaining and knowledgeable (E.G. They buy their casks from Portugal, using them after making Sherry in them, which they then sell and fill with the liquor to age, which is why whiskey is caramel in color).
Impressed with my barrage of questions, he chose me and two other volunteers to compete in a “taste” test between single distilled American Jack Daniels (made from corn) versus double distilled Scottish John Walker (from barley) and triple distilled Irish Jameson. Walker definitely punches a earthy “camping-flavored” finish, and of course, Jameson silky-ness won my vote. Tour and tasting and new friends, more than this frequent flyer bargained for!
#5 Finally, conference compiled and complete, some shopping and walking felt just what this doctor ordered. Driving in, I salivated at a store window’s offering and squealed when I was able to find myself back at the heaven called AVOCA. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner. One of my favorite shopping experiences of the year. Not only are all their items Irish (and some UK) in origin, but, they evoke HAPPINESS in my little heart. For 98 minutes, until 2 minutes past their closing time, I slurped up the aesthetic display and touched, smelled, considered, everything. Nothing was dismissed (“that costs too much!” was a thought I discounted time and again) and I sincerely appreciated the “art”. Not a fan of shopping in the past, stores like these, that combine local purchases (not in a touristy way) and my tastes, well…they are rare. To be savored indeed.
I picked up a staple sweater jacket I will CHERISH forever. To applaud my evolution as a business woman, and a lifelong “traveler.”
Whiskey or Beer? Ever tasted either Irish staple?