As I sip from my last pint of Guinness while in Ireland, let me try to catch up on the happenings of the last few days. Events resume with Sean's arrival on Thursday afternoon. I guess I should also mention that I had my first pint of Guinness while waiting for him at the hotel. He dropped off his bags and we headed straight-away to the Guinness factory tour - a pilgrimage of sorts. We actually had a bit of luck as we weren't watching the clock and they let the last folks in at 5pm. We got there just before 5 and were just about the last group they allowed. Given the time, we headed straight for the "free" (admission is 14 euro) pint at the top of building. The view was grand - the bar was like one of those circular revolving restaurants (except it wasn't revolving) with windows and views of the city from all directions and the first glimpse of the countryside since I arrived. After the pint, we took the tour (it was self guided) from the top down. Not the best tour in the world, but there were a few interesting things - lots of history on the advertising, including a copy of the first ad which was a testimonial for all the health benefits that Guinness provides (such as builds muscles and cures insomnia). They also allowed tasting of the malt that they use. Other than that, the tour left Sean wondering why we paid so much for just one pint. As one on a pilgrimage, I didn't understand what he meant - I viewed it as more of a donation to the beer gods.
After the tour, we walked to the Temple Bar area of town where we were scheduled to join a "Musical Pub Crawl", starting at Oliver St John Gogarty's. We arrived early enough to have dinner - the burger in pepper sauce I had was quite tasty (the burger being more of a giant meatball with no bun). The tour itself was quite entertaining. The traveling from bar to bar wasn't really necessary as we had private rooms in the next two bars, but it was helpful to see a bit more of the Temple Bar area and get further oriented. The guides of the tour were also the musicians and taught a bit of the history of the music and instruments and played a number of traditional songs (not the drinking songs often played in American bars).
After the tour, we continued crawling on our own, first taking in a coffee and then going to a few more bars that evening, starting with, appropriately enough "The Temple Bar". It was only Thursday, but the bars were quite packed - very difficult to find a place to stand without the constant passing of people on either side of you. In general, it was a youngish crowd and people were generally friendly - but the noise made conversation difficult. We did get a tip that Ireland was playing England in the Six-Nations rugby tournament on Saturday and that we should definitely find a pub to watch. We finished the night with an unnecessary stop at a place called Zaytoons that had wonderful kabobs and lamb doner.
St Patrick’s Day begins with the hotel breakfast. Definitely a bit busier than the day before! We hoped to catch one of the attractions before the parade, but much in the city was closed or had delayed openings due to the holiday. So, we stop at a coffee shop on the parade route for a coffee and to keep warm until the parade time draws near. We line up for the parade a bit before noon. It takes about an hour and half for the parade to arrive at our location. By this time, the crowd had grown to about 5 or more deep the entire length of the parade route. The crowd had also grown extremely cold - the low temperatures were accompanied by a brisk wind and rain, sleet and snow. It was said the crowd last year was twice the size - if not larger. The parade itself was - well - interesting. There was a lot of creativity and aside from the marching bands, you truly didn't know what to expect. Still not sure I understand the themes or imagery in all that I saw. The states were well represented with a number of marching bands - including one from Texas that clearly didn't have appropriate uniforms for the weather (however, the carnival dancers on the Brazilian float were clearly the most underdressed wearing only bikinis).
After the parade, we took in a tour of Dublin Castle which was quite enjoyable. After a quick stop at the hotel, we began another crawl from the hotel on to Temple Bar. Unlike Belgium were you often sample many beers from one bar, here you sample the same beer from many bars. With only a few exceptions, we had a pint in each location and moved on to the next. Each bar definitely had its own feel - though a common theme was that most were very crowded. I'm guessing we stopped at 4 or 5 before trying to find a good spot for dinner, but not wanting to break the crawl. So, we got a tip on a nearby bar that had a carvery offering ham, turkey and a number of other options. Although the bar was packed which made finding a place to eat difficult (impossible?), the portions were generous and the food was very good. From there, back to the crawl - visiting a number of additional bars that evening and collecting stories that won't be written down. Another stop at Zaytoons before retiring for the evening at about 2 or 3am. Looking out the hotel window at this time was somewhat comical - the street had a constant stream of "lost souls" all trying to find their way home. It looked a bit like a scene from one of the zombie movies - they were all heading the same direction, all had a bit of a stagger in their walk, many were moaning or making other unintelligible sounds and many were flailing there arms in a desperate effort to hail a taxi.
That's all for now - I'll fill in details on visits to Newgrange, Trinity College, the museums and a day trip to western Ireland on the journey to London tomorrow (I've decided to give the ferry / train one more try as I would like to see both Ireland and Britain from the sea).