Endless pints of Guinness, crazy weather, amazing AirBnB's, a complicated, tumultuous history and so much more.
24.03.2015 - 07.04.2015 8 °C
With no major flights booked beyond getting to Dublin on March 24th and 20 plus hours of flying from Perth, Australia behind us, we couldn't have been happier to know that we wouldn't be jumping on a plane any time soon. Clearing customs was the only hurdle between us and beginning our time in Ireland. This process went well as we had our documentation lined up ahead of time and I personally think the guy who was helping us just might have been to tired to bother asking a boat load of questions. This same gentlemen would be our first encounter of friendly Irish hospitality as he went on to make some recommendations on where we might have our best chance at finding work and where to avoid. This was quite kind of him and with that simple gesture, things were starting off on the right foot. For our fellow travellers out there, here is some quick insight into what we had to arrange before getting to Ireland. We ended up getting our Working Holiday Visa's through the Irish Embassy in Ottawa. These visa's would allow us to stay in Ireland for up to 2 years from our date of arrival, earn an income if the opportunity arose and to also come and go from the country as we desired during that time. The up front cost for this was $200 cdn each and it only took a couple weeks to organize all the required information and get our paperwork returned from Ottawa. Websites can be somewhat confusing when it comes to understanding what visa, if any, you require when travelling. If you have any doubt about what you need I highly recommend contacting the local embassy for your destination to ensure you are on track for your travel plans. It was just around 7:00 am when we cleared customs. As we waited for our bags a lovely Irish lady started up a conversation with Sherry while I was busy checking out the airport washrooms. They carried on for some time until our bags came gliding around the carousel and they parted ways. Another friendly face from Ireland!
Originally, we were not supposed to get into our AirBnB apartment until around 5:00 pm because our hosts would both be at work when we arrived, but thankfully I checked my email at the airport and they had left a note saying that Jaro would be around to meet us in the morning! This was a huge relief as we would of had to store our luggage and find something to do for about 10 hours, which would have been quite interesting considering our zombie like state....it wouldn't have been ideal but we were prepared to do it. Things were looking up and despite being tired we had smiles on our faces.....and then we exited the airport....When the automatic doors slid open and we walked out onto the pavement we got a lovely blast of 0 degree celsius weather. As if it was rehearsed, we both gave each other that look of "what the hell were we thinking leaving the warm weather in Australia!" I am sure that many people reading this are thinking the same and to be honest, we don't really have a great answer for that question. In our planning we just figured that after the time spent in all the other locations that it would be time for us to move on and so why not get settled into Ireland where we planned to set up shop for awhile. Pretty simple. Now that we were freezing our butts off, our next task was to navigate our way to our apartment on the South Side of Dublin. The gents that would be hosting us at our AirBnB sent us some extremely detailed information on how to get to their humble abode and from that we knew we needed to jump on an AirCoach. 10 Euros each would get us dropped off just a few short steps from our destination - which wasn't too shabby - heck I would have paid twice that just to get into somewhere warm at that point in time! The AirCoach buses can be easily found outside of the arrivals terminal and there are plenty of helpful staff if you have questions about ensuring you get on the right bus. A few pleasant features about these buses are that they have ample room for luggage storage, the seats are comfy and spacious and for the uber social media fans there is free WIF that works quite well! This actually proved quite useful for us as we needed to contact our hosts to let them know when we would be arriving on their doorstep. I wish I could tell you all that I had some amazing Irish sensation that came over me as we passed through the city to our destination, but to be honest, it was cloudy, it was too damn early in the morning, and we were cruising through a city.....so nothing too inspirational was firing up inside of me just yet. The streets were filled with pubs, I can verify that, but other then that single stereotypical observation, I really don't have anything exciting to tell you about our arrival in Dublin. Maybe the 20 plus hours of travel and over 30 hours without sleep had something to do with it.
Sherry and I had never used AirBnB before, so this was a whole new experience for us. In the simplest terms, AirBnB is a website that people can post accommodations with the intent being to rent them out in various capacities. You can rent an entire home, apartment, or just a single private room within a residence, for any given duration depending on your travel needs, with the only catch obviously being availability. In this case, we chose to rent a private room in an apartment in the south end of Dublin. What the heck - why not meet some new people and maybe learn a few things from them during our stay. To some people this may not seem very appealing as you are thrust into a living situation with complete strangers and surely it could be a roll of the dice in terms of personalities meshing or not. On the plus side, it can often save you a few dollars as you are only renting a single room and you have a kitchen to cook out of, thus giving you the chance to save on dining out every night. Another plus that you will frequently find in the shared accommodation set up is that you get first hand tips from people who live in and know the city, which in turn could lead to experiences that you may otherwise have not been aware of through the usual tourist information sources. When booking your accommodation you do have the advantage of seeing the reviews from past guests which can help to alleviate any anxieties you may have about your new roommates. As the saying goes, to each their own. I can tell you for certain that Sherry and I are big fans of having shared accommodations in the AirBnB scenario. You'll see why as our Ireland travels carry on.
Tired and groggy, Sherry and I hauled ass off of the AirCoach and then over to our apartment which was about 2 blocks away. On arrival we were greeted by Jaro, who was extremely welcoming to the dishevelled looking travellers who could have easily fit into any suspect line up at that point in time. After exchanging pleasantries and getting the lay of the land, Jaro headed off to work, we grabbed some food from a local shop and then it was head to pillow for both of us! The plan was for a short nap, but jet leg ran the show that day and we both crashed from about 2:00 pm until 6:00 am the following morning (sound familiar). The kicker for all this sleep was that it took place on Sherry's birthday! Whoops! So, quick recap here - on my birthday I jumped off of a giant canyon swing and we had an incredible dinner out, while on her birthday, just one week later, we flew for 20 hours and then slept for like another 16! So much for all that "make your birthday memorable", mumble jumble I wrote about earlier! Arriving in a new country on her birthday seemed like such a good idea when we booked everything.....
With our bodies recharged, we spent the next week or so touring around Dublin, taking in many of the essential tourist stops. Our hosts had plenty of guidance and advice for us on what to do and when to do it, which proved invaluable as we were like fish out of water in this new city. Getting around is fairly easy with tram lines running in almost all directions, plus buses and taxis being found throughout Dublin. Figuring out bus schedules is still a bit like solving the Da Vinci Code for me, so the trusty old tram (Luas green line) was our chariot in and out of the city centre for the week. It also helped that we had a stop just outside of our apartment building. Our first steps out on our own into Dublin took us for a walk around the coastal towns of Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire. When we reached the harbour of Dalkey we were met by a surprise visit from some local seals who were enjoying a fish gut lunch being provided by a local fisherman who just finished cleaning up his catch for the day. After that we made a stop at Finnegans pub, which claims to be President Obama's favourite pub in Dublin. The pub was nice as it had all the truly Irish elements found throughout it, I just felt a little out of place because pretty much the all the rest of the patrons were around when the automobile was invented! Obama must have liked this place because it made him feel young. It was really tasty lunch and In true Irish fashion, it was a fish and chips washed down by a nice pint of Smithwicks for me. Unfortunately we were hitting up these coastal towns early in the spring so they were not quite yet alive with the buzz of summer tourists and the harbours were void of the many beautiful boats that call them home during the warmer months. All that said, it was still nice to be breathing in the fresh sea air, while taking in a very relaxed environment.
When we finally made it into the city centre we got ourselves tickets on the Dublin Sightseeing Hop on/Hop off bus tour. This is the best way to get your bearings and to get a good idea of what you want to see and do while in Dubin (https://citysightseeingdublin.ie). Dublin is a city that is steeped in centuries of incredible and complex history. The tour guides on these buses will give you great insights to the major events that have taken place over the years in Dublin, along with the famous people who helped to shape the city into what you see today. As my high school history teacher Pete Carver would attest to, I am not exactly a history buff. I have the C's, D's and final exam marks to prove it. With that said though, I really did enjoy learning about the origins of the city, along with the centuries of conflict that has shaped Dublin into the city it is now, while building Ireland into the country we know it to be. Even if you cannot keep up with all the timelines of conflict, despair and growth, it is pretty incredible to be standing in front of castle walls that are almost 1000 years old (Dublin Castle - city centre) or looking at inscriptions on jail walls that were carved by the famously executed 14 hero's of the Easter Rising in 1916 (Kilmainham Gaol). At Kilmainham Goal you are even shown the exact places where the executions took place, which is quite moving on its own. History aside, the bus tour also gives you a great chance to figure out which pubs you want to grab a pint in, of which, there are literally hundreds. Take advantage of the hop on/hop off aspect and try a few out along the way!
Two stops on our initial city tour that I really enjoyed are the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery. No coincidence that free samples came with the ticket price! The prices for each tour is respectively decent and, in my opinion, worth the spend. There are many people who will say the Guinness tour is not worth the expense as it is not a guided tour and I have agree as it would seem like a given since they are such a large and prosperous operation. Sherry and I both felt like we got value from our time at the brewery, but I can certainly see the other side of the argument. There are many different ways to purchase your tickets for the Guinness tour, we combined it with our hop on/hop off bus ticket, but another great option to help avoid lineups and to save some cash would be to use the Viator App, which I would recommend checking out for any travel you will be doing. Once purchased, your ticket includes a complimentary pint of Guinness which you can chose to use during a lesson on how to pour the perfect pint or you can relax in the Gravity Bar at the top of the building where you will be treated to 360 degree views of the city whilst sipping on the wonderful brew that helped to build it all. For Sherry and I, we ended up being able to take in both experiences. When we walked into the Guinness Storehouse a gentlemen who was unable to use his ticket for a pint, kindly offered his ticket to us to use and I had absolutely no problem accepting! On top of that, Sherry doesn't drink beer, in light of her gluten intolerance, so needless to say I was one happy lad, quite full of Guinness by the time we walked back out onto the streets of Dublin. Watching Sherry focus so intently on pouring the perfect pint may have been the best part of my day. You would have swore she was mixing highly toxic chemicals, that, if mixed wrong, would have killed everyone in the room. I couldn't even get a smile out of her for the photo! As for the Jameson Distillery (we did this on a separate day), we had a great time there as well. You can purchase your tickets right in the building and if you have to wait a bit before your tour starts there are lots of little restaurants around it where you can saddle up for some Irish grub and maybe a drink or two to get yourself in the mood for some whiskey tasting! Unlike the Guinness Storehouse, this tour was a guided one and the young lady that was touring us around did a great job of going over the whole distillery process, while sharing the storied history behind Jameson's which dates back to 1780 . At the end of the tour you are given a chance to compare Jameson's, with Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker, before heading into a private bar area where you get to chose a Jameson drink to top off your tour. There is no doubt when you leave this tour that you will have warmed yourself up on the inside and will be ready to face the ever changing weather that Ireland can toss at you. Just a quick note on the weather - the rumours are absolutely true! You can be treated to rain, snow, sunshine, gusting winds, rain while the sun is shining and just about any other type of weather you can think of, all within a single hour at times. I would strongly recommend applying the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared" when heading out to tour around Ireland. Investing in a durable rain jacket/wind breaker, will be money well spent all day long.
In our fist week we spent lots of time trying out some of the local pubs and doing our best to train our ears to interpret the many different Irish accents we encountered. The pubs fill up early and if the weather is all out of sorts, they will fill up even earlier. So, if you plan on just randomly popping into a pub in the city centre later in the day, be prepared to duck in and out of a few before finding a seat, unless you are one of those people who likes to get into a fresh pint early in the day, then you will have no problem finding a barstool to curl up onto - just don't mind the well weathered Irish fella who might babble on next to you in what will seem like a foreign language of sorts. Of course we made a stop in the Temple Bar district at the one and only Temple Bar. If you google "Dublin Bars" the Temple Bar will no doubt be the one that tops the list. As much as the locals will tell you that Temple Bar is nothing but a tourist trap with jacked up prices, I still can't get over how great it felt when I was tipping back my first Guinness while listening to an Irish musician entertain the bar. We were tucked into a corner that put us well within earshot of the music, but slightly out view from the singer, but it was perfect. You won't likely find too many Irish folk in Temple Bar, as it is in the heart of the tourist district, which means we were sharing this experience with...you guessed it...Tourists! Even with our company maybe not being all that genuine to the Irish experience, I still had a big old smile on my face and enjoyed every minute of my time there. If you are trying to manage your costs then you may want to limit your entertainment and dining experiences in the Temple Bar District and Grafton Street areas as food, clothing and just about everything else is priced for tourists with deep, or at least, alcohol inducedloose pockets. The good news is that you only need to walk a few streets away from these areas and you will still be able to enjoy great food and entertainment and not blow your budget. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying to avoid these areas, both Temple Bar District and Grafton street have their own unique appeal which deserve your attention. On any given day you will come across some extremely talented buskers on Grafton street (singers, dancers, artists, musicians etc.), while the Temple Bar District offers the opportunity to run into new friends from all over the world.
As I mentioned earlier, Sherry and I really hadn't made any concrete plans beyond our first week in Dublin, so as a result we spent a few days working out what we thought we should do next. This is where the AirBnB scenario played out really well, as we had the apartment to ourselves during the day and our hosts had tones of Ireland travel information gathered up that we could peruse through at our leisure. Surprisingly, during our days of planning we received an invite to head over to England and spend the Easter Holidays with Sherry's Aunt Marj, Uncle Phil, Cousin Allie and her boyfriend Alex in England! There was nothing much to discuss on this one, it was a yes right away, followed by the task of booking a RyanAir flight to get us there (so much for not flying again for awhile hahaha). While leafing through some of the pamphlets in the apartment we came across Shamrocker Adventures which offers a 7 day tour that takes you all the way around Ireland. This was a goal of ours from the beginning, but we just hadn't figured how we would go about it with no car and not wanting to overspend on a tour. The price was appealing right off the bat, so I did some research on trip advisor and could find no flaws in what I saw there. If there was room available for us in one of their upcoming tours we were sold. We had hoped to time it that when we got back from England we would jump right on this tour, but it was booked up until April 18th. Knowing we would find something to fill the time in between we signed ourselves up. Now, I may make these decisions out to be very simple in nature, but what is important to note is that there are two of us involved in each one. There were plenty of conversations and time given to each person to think through our options as they came to us, which kept things on the up and up once we finally pulled the trigger. Did we agree on everything right away, no, not always, but we have learned to give each other time to work their way through a choice before reacting to their initial feelings about doing it. These are the simple little life lessons that you go through together and which seem to be magnified when travelling and if adhered to, will hopefully only make things even easier down the road as we learn how each other operates. Alright, I think that is enough of my Dr. Phill impression, lets get back on track here!
I will leave off this post by saying that this will not be the last that you hear about Dublin and the many great experiences it has to offer. Our first week in the city staying with James and Jaro was a great introduction to Dublin and Ireland as a whole, but we knew there was so much more to see and do. Each day that passed by we became more and more comfortable with our new surroundings, which brought with it a craving and anticipation for even more!
Shayne & Sherry