Days 64-70: A week with sightseeing, rugby, and family time
10.06.2016 - 10.12.2016 55 °F
When we last left our traveller's, they were in Southern Spain on October 6th. On that day, we woke up early and got on the road at 8am in Granada and arrived in Madrid around 1pm. It was bizarre that at 8am the sun hadn't come out yet, and it felt like we were escaping in the dark of night. It was a beautiful drive through Spanish countryside, with lots of rolling hills studded with olive trees.
We parked and walked to Dave and Karen's flat in Madrid, where we would be staying when we got back from our trip in Madrid. Our flight to Dublin was on Ryan Air, and the airline charges 15 euros for each bag. We were able to store our big bags at Dave and Karen's, and just travel to Dublin with our normal backpacks. Karen treated us to a great lunch at a cafe around the corner, and we got to have a quick catch up on their lives as expats, what the Brush children are up to, and make some plans for when we got back from Dublin the following week. By the time we finished lunch it was time to head to the airport. We walked back to the car and had a smooth drive to airport, with the exception of a discovering a 90 euro parking ticket on our window. We thought we'd found the perfect parking spot in the city, but it turns out we were supposed to get a ticket from a parking meter. Whoops.
We had smooth travel to Dublin, and caught a cab to my cousin Jesse's apartment. He had just arrived that morning from a business trip to South Africa, but he seems immune to jet lag after all the travel he does for work! I was even a little sleepy from just our 2 hour flight from Madrid, but he was spry as could be. We went out to a pub nearby, and caught up over a couple of rounds with the Ireland-Georgia soccer match on in the background. Our visit to Dublin was off to a great start!
(note: for details about the ins and outs of our time in pubs, check out my Dublin Pub Review)
Friday, October 7
Since Jesse had just gotten back from South Africa the day before, his office granted him a travel day (aka day off) to recuperate. This meant we all got to sleep in and go to brunch together! We went to a local coffee shop just a 5-minute walk away called Grove Road. Stephen and I each had a breakfast sandwich that was basically and an Irish breakfast between 2 slices of bread: fried eggs, bacon, sausage and tomato relish. Accompanied by a nice cup of pour over coffee, we were ready for the day!
We walked toward the city center, with Jesse adding context and anecdotes along the way. We cut through St. Stephen's Green, a beautifully manicured park right in the middle Georgian Dublin. A "Georgian" building refers to the time of construction during the reigns of England's King Georges, and all have brightly colored doors. As legend has it, the Irish were instructed to paint their doors a somber black upon the death of England's Queen Victoria; however, the rebellious residents instead painted their doors every color of the rainbow as an act of defiance. St. Stephen's Green is bordered by beautiful Georgian houses, as well as the posh and historic Shelbourne Hotel. During the 1916 Easter Rising, Irish Citizen Army dug defensive trenches in St. Stephen's Green. The British military posted up in the Shelbourne, and with their elevated position shooting from above forced the Irish rebels to retreat to the far side of the park. During the Rising, fire was temporarily halted to allow the park's groundsman to feed the local ducks. Today, locals and tourists alike visit St. Stephen's Green, and perhaps the ducks are the great, great, great... grandchildren of those ducks from 1916!
Jesse dropped us off at the Little Dublin Museum, and took off to meet up with his Linked In team for lunch. Even though it was his day off, a special team lunch celebration was going on and he wanted to partake in the festivities. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the museum! The Little Dublin museum tracks the 20th century history of the city, breaking out the milestones of each decade with great photographs and artifacts. They lead regular 30-minute tours, with fantastic narration from an enthusiastic and friendly Irish guide. We learned about the growth of Ireland's nationalism movement, the 1916 rising, the civil war the followed independence, and more. After the tour we walked through the exhibits on U2 and Dublin's beloved Lord Mayor Alfie, who served a record 10 terms. The museum gave us great insight into the city and Irish attitudes!
We wandered a bit more around the city center to get our bearings, and rendezvoused with Jesse back at his apartment. Of note is that we signed up for a 3-day pass (5€) on Dublin's bike share program, and we had our first bike ride that afternoon. They drive on the left in Ireland, and the same transit laws apply to bikes. So we had to pay extra attention on that first bike ride, looking right/left/right, realizing you could turn left at a stoplight, waiting until oncoming traffic clears to make a right... It was a bit disorienting!
We rested up a bit and ten all 3 of us rode over to the Linked In office. Jesse gave us a tour of the facilities, which include all the amenities you'd expect from a SF-based tech company like an in-suite gym with personal trainers and fitness classes, a cafeteria dishing up gourmet breakfasts and lunches, and a coffee shop with 2 full-time baristas. We even got to meet some of Jesse's team members that were still in the office on a Friday evening, which helped complete the picture of what his life is like in Dublin. They were all so nice and friendly!
Saturday, October 8
We had brunch at Sophie's, a rooftop restaurant with sweeping views across the city. Unlike other cities that have staggering skyscrapers, most buildings in Dublin don't exceed 5 stories. So almost any rooftop gets you an uninstructed view! Jesse's friend Thomas joined us, and we had a delightful meal while commiserating about the experience of being an American expat during his presidential election. The night before Trump's audio bragging about sexual assaulting women hit the press, and we had a good long talk about the election and registering to vote from abroad.
The big event for the day was a rivalry rugby match between Leinster and Munster, 2 of the 4 provincial rugby teams. We aligned ourselves with Leinster, since they're the Dublin team! Because the 2 teams are the most celebrated in Ireland and the match-up draws such a crowd, they moved the game to Aviva Stadium, which can hold 55,000 fans. We scored sweet field-level tickets online the day before (35€), and arrived at the stadium with enough time to place some sports bets and enjoy a few pints beforehand. There was great ambiance in the streets around the stadium, and a mix of fans dawning blue (Leinster) and red (Munster) made their way to their seats.
The pre-game spectacle was really something else. Guinness-sponsored blimps rose up from midfield, displaying the starting rosters for each team. As the home team prepared to emerge, Guns and Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" came over the sound system and flame throwers around the stadium flared up while supporters waved their Leinster flags proudly. It was quite a scene! Video clip here.
The game was a blast, with vocal fans for both teams mixed in around the stadium. Leinster (the home team) won, so we felt extra good to be wearing blue! I won't embarrass myself trying to provide a more detailed recap of the game. Here's a link to the write-up from the game with some professional footage: http://www.skysports.com/rugby-union/leinster-vs-munster/77867
The rest of the afternoon was a fantastic harmony of napping, eating and pubs that you can read about on the Dublin Pub Review. We had a hearty pasta dinner at home to refuel for our big evening out:
Sunday, October 9
We stayed local for brunch again, this time turning left out of the apartment to a cool sport called TwoFifty Square. We had life-saving breakfast burritos and yummy coffee, and returned back to the apartment to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning.
In the late afternoon Jesse led us on a quick bike ride out to the grand canal area, so we could see a different part of the city. We were extremely lucky with the weather, and ended up with a totally sunny afternoon!
From there we walked through a cute neighborhood and park out to the Sandymount Strand. Jesse has gotten into running, and will run out to this beach sometimes. It was low-tide when we arrived, so we could walk right across the hard-packed sand. It's so nice that Dublin can be such a bustling international city and also have beautiful coast like this!
We caught a DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) train to the city center, and had an evening of pubs and sports. Since we were watching a lot of NFL football as well as the Ireland vs. Moldova World Cup qualifier, we went to PaddyPower to place some more sports bets. Jesse ended up in the positive, and Stephen and I lost 3€ on some long-odds bets that would have had big payouts if they'd panned out! It's fun to do a little sports betting to be invested in a game, but Ireland actually has a sever gambling problem. It seemed like we were never more than a block away from a sports betting establishment, and you can place a bet on *anything* in any *amount* - no minimums. In addition to soccer, rugby, Gaelic football, American football, horse racing, dog racing, etc., they even have SIMULATED horse races you can bet on. Like a slot machine in Vegas, you can place a bet on horse #12 and then the house will play an animated horse race to see if you win. Yikes!
Before we made our way to the bar we had a nice walk along the Liffey River, and got to pass beautiful monuments like the stunning neoclassical Customs House.
Monday, October 10
Jesse had to take off early to get to work, but graciously left us his keys so we could come and go during the day. Stephen and I went to Grove Road again for breakfast, and then headed to the museum area. Unfortunately, our plans were foiled because most museums are closed on Mondays! You'd think after 2+ months as tourists we would have remembered that, right? Fortunately the National Gallery of Ireland was open, free, and had a very nice collection. In addition to a gallery of great impressionist/post-impressionist art, there was a whole floor of Irish art organized not chronologically but by topic (assembly, allegory, religion).
At a loss of where to go, we begrudgingly got on the hop on/ hop off bus. Since we like walking around the city centers, we hadn't taken these tourist buses yet on our trip. We wanted to get to other side of the city and the bus came very highly recommended, so we hopped on. We were lucky to get on a bus with a live guide, and sharp-witted Irishman with great information and good jokes. We hopped off the bus at the Teeling Distillery.
Stephen had tried Teeling when we were out at a bar, and their brand was all over Dublin.
Dublin had traditionally been the heart of the Irish whiskey industry. Back in the 18th century there were over 37 different distilleries in Dublin. The Liberties area of Dublin in particular was recognized as the epicenter for Dublin whiskey and dubbed the ‘Golden Triangle’ due to the number of distilleries clustered in a one mile radius. During the 19th century Dublin whiskey became globally recognized as the Premier whiskey in the world. Irish whiskey fell on hard times with the Irish independence movement, American prohibition, and the World Wars. Ireland's whiskey distilleries suffered and many closed up shop, consolidated, or relocated. Teeling opened just 2 years ago, and is the few new whiskey distillery to open in Dublin after 125 years.
We went on the 45-minute distillery tour, led by a young man enthusiastic about Teeling and whiskey. They had just started a batch the day before, and the sprouted malt, water, and yeast mixture were bubbling and swirling in a huge wooden vat. The mixture, called "wort" was so active it looked like jacuzzi jets were on! The tour ended with a stop in the tasting room. I had the basic tasting with their small batch blended whiskey served neat and then a whiskey cocktail with that same whiskey and ginger liqueur, aperol, and a fruity tea. It was VERY drinkable, and you can find the recipe here. Stephen, as a more sophisticated whiskey consumer, opted for the tasting with a single malt, single grain, and the flagship small batch blend.
We had to walk a bit to catch the hop on/ hop off bus again, since the portion of the loop that dropped us off ended at 4pm. We completed the rest of the bus tour, but unfortunately we were on a bus with the recorded audio rather than the live guide. We met up with Jesse at a pub near his place, went nearby for some fish 'n chips, and then went out to catch a movie. We went to an 8:30 showing of The Magnificent 7, and were in bed before midnight.
Tuesday, October 11
This was our last day in Dublin, and we had a full day of museums! We started off with the archaeological museum, which houses an amazing collection of artifacts from prehistory to Celtic gold to Viking battles. Our visit was enriched by the great information on each display, provided in both English and Irish.
From their we went to the nearby Natural History Museum, referred to locally as the dead zoo because of all the stuffed animals. When I say stuffed animals, I mean it in the taxidermy sense. When you first walk in you're greeted by the skeletons of giant Irish deer, and the room is full of preserved Irish fauna: stuffed birds and quadrupeds, casts of fish, and busts of animal heads. It was a little creepy, but interesting and the price was right - free! The museum itself is in a Victorian building, and is essentially the same as it was in the 1800s.
Our last museum was the Charles Beatty Library, located on the grounds of the Dublin castle. Charles Beatty was a wealthy Englishman who lived in Ireland, and developed a great fondness for the country. He made a fortune in mining, and with his wealth acquired an impressive collection of religious documents. He donated his collection to Ireland, and is open to public for free.
The masterpieces of the collection are bible excepts from Egypt, written on papyrus from 150-250 AD. In some cases, these texts are the oldest known versions of those portions of the bible. The museum organized the texts by religion, so these old bible texts as well as beautifully illustrated bibles and sheet music were clustered with information about Christianity. There were also collections of Torah and information about Juadaism, Quran with information about Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism.
In contrast to year heavy pub food, we cooked dinner at Jesse's. We had meatballs, risotto, and zucchini, and Jesse opened a nice bottle of Pinotage he brought back from South Africa. We had a relaxing, delicious home-cooked meal, and then cozied up to a movie at home.
Wednesday, October 12
The next day we slept in and had a leisurely morning at the apartment before meeting up with Jesse at the LinkedIn office. We got to experience the beautiful 15-minute walk to the office that is Jesse's commute along tree-lined canals with ducks and swans.
It was different seeing the office full of life, with people on their way to the lunch, the gym, or in-between meetings. We got hot lunches and ate with Jesse's team, before heading up to the barista bar for coffee drinks.
We had a long goodbye with Jesse, and made our way to a pub for a few pints before our flight to Madrid. We had a great week in Dublin with Jesse!