A Travellerspoint blog

Belgium, Holland, and Madrid/Barcelona

Days 78-84: Bruges, Ghent, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Barcelona

View October in Spain on GenovevaLewis's travel map.

We took a side trip from Madrid to explore the charming canals in Bruges and Amsterdam, and added a stop in Ghent to admire the iconic altarpiece "Adoration of the Majestic Lamb."

Thursday, October 20

We landed in Brussels from Madrid and caught the train from the airport to Bruges. Big, dark clouds hung on the horizon as the train rolled past farm fields and small towns - very reminiscent of the many flemish landscape paintings we'd seen at the Thyssen museum in Madrid.
It was pouring when we arriving, and we paid a steep 6€ to ride the local bus 10 minutes to our accommodations for the night. We'd booked another AirBNB, just on the outskirts of the historic center, where we were greeted warmly by our host Steven. He equipped us with umbrellas and we walked to the center to explore the charming old town.
We got caught in a couple of intense rain showers, and sought refuge at Republiek - a theater converted to a hipster brew pub with fantastic beer and local cuisine. It was a great recommendation from our host, and Stephen enjoyed sending photos of our beer samplings to his brother to share the memory of beers they'd had years before (Brugge Trippel) and do a little humble bragging about new discoveries (Viven Master IPA).

Friday, October 21

We had a nice breakfast with our host featuring homemade granola and goat's milk yogurt, and then walked through old town by canals to de Halve brewery.
De Halve Maan brewery was founded in 1856 and boasts a recently inaugurated beer pipeline that transports the beer brewed in the historic old town to a bottling facility 2 miles away. We enjoyed sampling their beers in comfy leather chairs with a view over a well-travelled canal and a cozy fire crackling away. After a few rounds we tried their version of carbonnade - a flemish stew of meat and beer.
We continued our walk through town past charming canals and churches.
I started to not feel well, so Stephen escorted me back to the apartment.
Stephen spent the evening at funky local bar with weird music and good beer.

Saturday, October 22

On Saturday we had a morning train to Ghent. We seemed to be the only people leaving Bruges, and passed droves of people coming into town for the weekend on our way to the train station. When we arrived in Ghent, I was happy to see a mass bike parking lot at the train station.
We booked out accommodations for Ghent very last minute, and stayed in a quirky musician's quirky house.
We arrived at noon and he was just getting up from a party the night before, the traces of which were evident from the dank smell of cigarettes and scores of bottles strewn around the house. The house had 4 floors - our room was on the top floor and the 1 bathroom in the house was in the basement. Not ideal! It was just for 1 night, but was definitely the roughest AirBnB experience we had.

We dropped our stuff and walked to the old town, crossing some lovely canals.
We had a nice 2-course lunch with a view of the St. Bavo cathedral, which houses the famous Ghent Altarpiece.
After lunch we went to the church to see the town's main attraction. The Ghent altarpiece is formally known as the "Adoration of the Majestic Lamb," and is one of the most important works of the early Northern Renaissance. It a very large and complex 15th-century Early Flemish polyptych altarpiece. Eight of its twelve panel painting are doubled hinged shutters, and allow two distinct views depending on whether they are opened or closed. When opened, the center panel has as its centerpiece an altar on which the Lamb of God is positioned, surrounded by 14 angels arranged in a circle. The lamb has a wound on its breast from which blood gushes into a golden chalice, yet it shows no outward expression of pain, a reference to Christ's sacrifice.
St. Bavo's church itself is massive, and features lots of eye catching baroque features.
We wandered back across the canals, and posted up at a cozy neighborhood bar. We saw food emerging from the kitchen, and ordered up portions of the daily special - a savory meat pie with vegetables. It was great comfort food for a cold night!

Sunday, October 23

We had an early start to catch our bullet train from Brussels to Amsterdam, and it was a COLD morning!
My cousin Jesse was in Amsterdam with a group of coworkers from Dublin. We were able to meet up for a leisurely lunch at Van Zuylen right on one of the canal crossings, and then link up with his group for a drink before they had to mobilize toward the airport. One of his coworkers lives in Amsterdam and had picked a cool spot that was an old school that shut down and had been repurposed as a restaurant. Circle of life?
Because the annual Amsterdam Dance Event was that weekend, we had to book accommodations on the outskirts of town. We took the tram out, and met our host Mercedes. She was a delightful woman who teaches special needs children, and rents out the extra rooms in her flat to AirBnB travelers. She recommended a cool spot called de Skool, another school that was repurposed as a restaurant. Don't ask me why all these schools are available!
We were about to order when our server broke the news that they were closing early to host a special dinner with the DJs from the Amsterdam Dance Event. We settled our bill and went to a hipster burger spot called Frits.

Monday, October 24

Ever since that day in Bruges I wan't feeling well, and since I still hadn't recovered we went on a medical safari to get some antibiotics. I visited a couple of pharmacies which recommended doctors, and ultimately ended up at an expat medical clinic. I got seen right away by a 5th year medical student, who asked some basic medical history, took a sample, and wrote me a prescription. The consultation took all of 20 minutes, and I was able to fill the prescription across the street. I was out of pocket about $100, and I was happy to be on the mend.

We had a lunch stop and then queued up at the Van Gogh museum. I love Van Gogh. I love his works and lament his struggle as a brilliant artist that did not sell a single painting in his lifetime. The Van Gosh museum has some interesting pieces, like a whole room of self portraits, but I wish the museum has a stronger collection of his masterpieces and did a better job telling his life story.
We had dinner and drinks close to home that night, repeating our experience at Frits and meeting some characters at a nearby bar.

Tuesday, October 25

I whipped up a hearty breakfast at home, before we headed into town. We spent the day immersed in the Rijksmuseum, which houses an immense collection of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day.
It was huge, and we explored the collection chronologically. We had to negotiate quite a few stairs to get around the collection! The building is beautiful, and even houses a large art history research library.
We made our way back to our neighborhood, and got a drink at our local watering hole. We hadn't noticed until this visit the creepy halloween decorations on the ceiling!
We walked to de School for their Tuesday night ramen special. My antibiotics prevented me from drinking, but I was delighted to discover Amsterdam has a thriving culture of herbal teas. Most of the establishments we visited offered lemon/ginger or fresh mint teas, which were beautifully presented with a little saucer with honey and a biscuit on top. The ramen was a little disappointing, but the ambiance was awesome!

Wednesday, October 26

We spent our last day in Amsterdam meandering the canals, getting pleasantly lost in the city.
We revisited Van Zuylen for lunch, but sat indoors since the outdoors conditions were not conducive to dining al fresco. I enjoyed some fancy herbal teas, as well as white shrimp croquettes - a local delicacy and
On our way to the train station we passed through the red light district- blocks of glass windows filled with women in lingerie. You can "window shop" so to speak, but don't linger unless you want to make a deal. These girls are trying to maintain a business, after all!

We waited for our flight in Amsterdam airport's green space. Would have loved to sit outside the whole time, but it was pretty chilly and we migrated indoors.
We arrived in Madrid and took public transit to Karen and Dave's condo. Karen, being the amazing human being she is, nourished us with another delicious home cooked meal. We caught up a bit before calling it a night, since we had to get an early start the next day.

Thursday, October 27

Our train left for Barcelona at 5am. From the train station we caught an urban train to our AirBnB in the Gothic Quarter to drop our stuff off before getting coffee at our beloved Satan's Coffee Shop. We were regulars during our last visit to Barcelona, and recognized some of the staff but they didn't recognize us. Fortified by caffeine, we revisited the Sagrada Familia.
We passed gravel pitches where large groups were playing petanque (similar to bocce ball), and then found Ali! - Stephen's pakistani barber in Barcelona.
We caught the metro to the Barcelona and went for tapas at Bar Jaixa, where we found some familiar faces. We'd chatted up the staff and a few regulars on our last visit to Barcelona, and they remembered us! We shared tales of our travels, and chatted quite a bit about the US election.
We stopped by the market near the apartment for dinner provisions, and cooked up a delicious pasta dinner from scratch.

Friday, October 28

We tried out Nomad coffee, which we bought coffee beans from before but hadn't tried in the store. Their pour over was the most expensive of the trip but not the best prepared, so we were disappointed but caffeinated so all was well.
Barcelona hosted the summer Olympic games in 1992, and we walked around the Olympic park a bit.
We enjoyed the views from the National Museum of Catalan Art, which is a stone's throw from the park.
We rode the metro back to the Gothic Quarter and got lunch at Bar Joan in the market. We loved their house vermouth, and the energetic staff. They remembered us as well, and we had a feast from their lunch menu.
We visited our favorite stand the get get cuts of cured ham and sheep's milk cheese, and went back to the apartment.
Stephen was on the prowl for a rooftop bar, and we found a winner on top of the Museum of Catalan History. We had a sweeping view of the harbor! We timed it perfectly with sunset, and also got to see the 2nd largest yatch Eclipse, which happened to be docked in the harbor.

Saturday, October 29

We loaded up all our gear and walked past some Gaudi architecture on our way to Satan's for a farewell cup of coffee. 90_AD451ED5D0D434E7916908C95D4CC411.jpg
We braced ourselves for our final flight on Ryan Air, which was predictably late and unpleasant. We learned at this point it was worth it to pay the extra 15 euros to avoid waiting in line, so we could relax in seats until there was actually an attendant and they were actually boarding the plane.

We arrived in Rome and took the Leonardo Express train into Termini Station. From there we had a 20-minute walk to our fabulous AirBnb for the week, which we shared with an Albanian model/fashion designer. More on that next time!

Posted by GenovevaLewis 10:54 Archived in Netherlands Tagged ghent barcelona amsterdam madrid bruges Comments (0)

Our Week in Madrid

Days 70-77: Good people, tasty tapas, exquisite art, and a bullfight!


Greetings from the United States!

We arrived safely to North Carolina in early November, and have immensely enjoyed our down time eating, drinking, and being merry with friends and family. This has also given me some much-needed time to process some of our final adventures on our EuroTrip!

We left off in Dublin...

Wednesday, October 12

We arrived in Madrid by way of flight from Dublin on Aer Lingus. We had an easy ride into the city by way of the Metro, and were at Dave and Karen Brush's flat around 9:30pm. We walked through the door and Karen greeted us warmly, "Bienvenidos!" They'd already eaten, it 10pm after all, but she didn't hesitate to dish us up homemade spaghetti and meatballs - her grandmother's recipe no less. Dave was settling into a cup of coffee, which gave us all the chance to catch up and discuss plans for the week.
As some context, Dave and Karen Brush are good friends of my parents. It started with Dave and my mom working together, and then the Brush family moved to Sierra Madre and we hung out all the time. Their oldest is just a smidge younger than me, and naturally we were the best of friends growing up. Dave's career took the family to New York and then London, and now Dave and Karen have been in Madrid for the past 2 years and their 4 kids are scattered around the US as young professionals and college students. Since the Brushes left LA, I'd probably only seen them a handful of times, so to get a whole week to catch up was a real treat!

Thursday, October 13

Maybe we were tired from the travel, maybe the drizzly weather, or maybe the sumptuously comfortable bed - but we totally slept in. We emerged around 10:00, and Karen was in the breakfast nook working away on a crossword puzzle. She'd set out fresh berries, to go with granola and greek yogurt for breakfast - YUM!
Karen headed out to do her morning workout, and Stephen and I walked to the Prado museum - Spain's national museum of art. It features one of the world's finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art. We bought a very helpful guidebook at the museum, and found a comfortable bench to sit and read about the Spanish masterpieces by Goya, Velazquez and El Greco before exploring the collection of Spanish art. In addition to the great material in the El Prado guide, the paintings had informative placards in both English and Spanish with a bit of history/analysis of the painting. We leisurely explored and studied the Spanish art. Reading the guidebook and thoroughly enjoying the Spanish collection took us about 3 hours.
We took an extended lunch break at the museum's cafe to rest our legs, and study up on the works we'd discover on other floors of the museum. The museum highlights their masterpieces in the free map they provide, which makes for a fun sort of treasure hunt. There are about 40 masterpieces, from great artists like Raphael, Rubens, Caravaggio, and Titian, but the painting that was a real highlight was Bosch's Garden of Earthy Delights. Here is a description of the piece: The three scenes of the inner triptych are probably (but not necessarily) intended to be read chronologically from left to right. The left panel depicts God presenting Eve to Adam, the central panel is a broad panorama of socially engaged nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruit and hybrid stone formations. The right panel is a hellscape and portrays the torments of damnation.
We really enjoyed the collection, and all-in spent 5 hours at the museum! By that time it had started to rain, and we headed back home. We reunited with Karen, who was at work preparing another delicious meal from scratch - chickpea and chicken stew with olives and artichoke hearts. We sipped on some wine while she worked away on dinner, and we had a really nice chat over dinner. I still need to track down that recipe...it's a keeper!

Friday, October 14

In addition to exploring Madrid, Stephen and I had to book our lodging and travel for the last few weeks of our trip. We woke up and got to work on exploring options for how to spend the last week of October. The original plan was to spend that time in northern Spain, but we decided we wanted something different. We kicked around a few ideas, and at Karen's suggestion looked into Amsterdam. We did some more research, and then put a bookmark in our work to head out for lunch.
We walked to the San Anton market in Chueca, Madrid's chic gay neighborhood. The area had fantastic signage that facilitated finding the 3-story building that housed the market. On the first floor independent vendors sold fresh fish and meats, fruits and vegetables, Iberian ham and cheese, bread and so on. The second floor had small stalls serving tapas, and the top floor was a rooftop terrace with a fancy restaurant. The second floor was where we found happiness. The tapas were reasonably priced (1-2 euros each), and there was a bar with red vermouth on tap. It was a delicious and budget-friendly meal out!
Fortified by tapas and vermouth, we went to the Reina Sofia - Spain's national museum of 20th century art. We were a bit disappointed with this collection in general. I'm not a huge fan of modern art, and the collection has a lot of early, abstract works by Spanish artists. Perhaps we'd seen too much good, classic art the day before.
The highlight of the collection is Picasso's "Guernica," which I had studied in an art history class I took studying abroad in Spain. Here's a description: The painting, which uses a palette of gray, black, and white, is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. The painting was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by Nazi German and Fascist Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalists.

Dave and Karen planned a superb evening for us! We started at "El Mismo," a cozy hole-in-the-wall bar where Jesús prepares the most impressive gin and tonics with boutique Spanish gin. He asked what kind of gin we like, and when I responded that I usually drink Tanqueray he protested, No no no! He pulled down all the bottles of Spanish gin he had, and presented each one with its ABV, origin, and tasting notes.
After much deliberation we each picked our gin, and Jesús got to work. Each of the gins were accompanied by unique garnishes to highlight the characteristics of each particular gin. I had Nordes gin from Galicia, and my gin and tonic came with dried poppy and rose petals, licorice root, and lime zest. Stephen's Gin Mare from Catalunya got a whole dried tomato and dried basil leaves, Dave's Ginsef from Valencia an orange slice, and Karen's Masters gin from Madrid had the classic lime as well as lemon to highlight the citrus notes. We shared tastes, and each one was so different and so good!
From there we moved onto the main event: dinner at KultO. This NY Times-reviewed tapas restaurant serves up Mediterranean/Mexican/ Italian/ Asian fusion cuisine. Each of the dishes we ordered came as its own course, and we shared everything. This family-style approach made for a comfortable ambiance and allowed for lots of yummy bites! Fermented and raw seasonal vegetables, tuna tartar, tuna "tacos", braised octopus, slow-cooked lamb shank, a fabulous bottle of Rioja red wine, and for dessert 7 textures of coffee. The friendly staff presented each dish along with instructions for consumption to maximize enjoyment. The decadent, delicious food, the comfortable ambiance, and great service provided the perfect setting for our visit. What a fun, memorable evening!

Saturday, October 15

We all had breakfast together at home, including fresh-squeezed orange juice courtesy of Karen's morning trip to the market for fresh produce. Dave and Karen took off to take care of some errands, and we spent the morning booking our travel and accommodations for the following week's journey to Bruges, Ghent, and Amsterdam. Then, we met up with some friends in Retiro Park for a picnic.
While in Paraguay as Peace Corps Volunteers, we had the pleasure of meeting Carlos through the entrepreneurship initiative "Paraguay Emprende." At the time he represented a large financial institution on the board for the initiative, and subsequently he won a grant from the Paraguayan government to study Governance at one of Spain's top universities! He and his wife arrived an hour late, keeping the tradition of "Paraguayan time" alive. We found a nice patch of grass in the sun and sprawled out over a blanket they brought. They raved about their experience living abroad for a year, and understandably seemed a little anxious about the year almost being over. We had a great visit, and walked through the park a bit before saying goodbye.
For the second double date with the Brushes, we had dinner out at La Maquina. We had an epic brigade of oysters, scallops, shrimp and boquerones (anchovies) as appetizers, and well-prepared main courses from braised rabbit to steak. For dessert we indulged in the vanilla souffle.

Sunday, October 16

After another lovely breakfast at home with fresh doughnuts from a local bakery courtesy of Dave's early-morning jaunt around the block, we went to an impressionist exhibit at the Caixa Foundation together.
The Phillips collection from Washington DC was on tour, and we got to enjoy some of the world's best impressionist paintings up close.
The Brushes had plans to drive out to their Spanish teacher's home in the countryside, so we parted ways after touring the exhibition. We continued on to Spain's busting (and crowded!) Sunday flea market, where I found a wool scarf to keep me warm on our upcoming trip to the Netherlands.
We went to Madrid's bullfighting ring "Las Ventas" to buy tickets for that evening's bullfight. The arena is divided into sun and shade seats, with the sun seats being the cheapest. There are 4 tiers of seats ranging in proximity to the action, from the equivalent of court side to nosebleeds. We were able to get first row seats in the third level, which was definitely close enough! We had an unobstructed view, but were also far enough away not to smell the bullfight, which I'm told can be nauseating.
There are 6 bulls and 3 bullfighters in a typical "corrida," with each bullfighter taking on 2 bulls. The first bull emerged and the bullfighter was waiting for him in the center of the arena on his knees for a "paso a las rodillas." The bull almost followed the matador's red cape to the side, but instead gored the matador with his horn. Here is a video I captured, but don't worry - I stopped it when I saw things weren't going well for the matador! His team rushed to distract the bull and remove the matador from the situation. After assessing the damage, which ended up being a 1/2-inch puncture in his chest, the matador decided to continue to the fight. The picador emerged on his blindfolded horse, and incites the bull to charge the horse. Fortunately the padding protects the horse, and the picador uses his spear to jab at the bulls back.
This continues until the matador waives him off, and then the 3 banderillos have their turn. These guys hold 2 barbed daggers, run at the bull, and try to stick them into the nape of the bull's neck. After striking the bull, they have to run fast!
At this point, the bull has 2 stab wounds from the picador and 6 barbed daggers hanging from his back. After all this, the matador returns to the arena. He leads the bull in a series of tight passes, cheered on by the crowd when he can guide the bull through 4 tights passes in a row.
Two of the matadors had good luck with this, which I caught on video here and here. Once the bull has basically bled out and lost the will the fight, the matador stares down the length of his swords to the spot between the bull's shoulderblades. His goal is to get the bull through its heart, at which point it would die almost instantly.

After the bullfight, we met up with Dave and Karen at home. We debriefed our experience over a bottle of Rioja wine jamon iberico and manchego. Before calling it a night I prepared myself a cup of tea, in the perfect mug:

Monday, October 17

Karen embarked on a quick trip to London in the morning, and we ventured into the rain to take advantage of free museum day at the Thyssen Museum! We had to wait a bit in the rain outside, but soon enough we were immersed in a superb collection of art spanning from pre-renaissance to modern art.
We had a late lunch on the way back to the condo, at a cute cafe with a magnificent 3-course menu. I had a salad with jamon croquettes to start, baked merluza as a main, chocolate mousse for dessert, and a glass of red wine for 12 euros!
Especially after his stint living in London, Dave is quite the soccer fan; naturally, he and Stephen got along! Liverpool and Manchester United were facing off that evening, so we met up at The James Joyce Irish pub to watch the big rivalry game. The game did not live up to the hype and ended in a disappointing 0-0 tie, but we had some delicious stewed meat and Guinness so we were still happy :)

Tuesday, October 18

We went to the Spain's National Archaeological Museum, located an easy 5-minute walk from the condo. At this point in our trip we'd really become connoisseurs of archaeological museums, and this is definitely among the best in Europe! There was a cool multi-media presentation at the beginning that projected major historical events and migrations over a map of Spain, following a chronological timeline and showing pictures of archaeological ruins recovered from Spanish sites and where to find them in the museum. Also, at the beginning of each major transition point in history (neolithic, bronze age, roman empire, visigoths, Islamic conquest, etc) there was a subtitled 5-minute video that provided great historic context.
We had a late lunch at home, and rested up for our evening entertainment: Real Madrid vs. Warsaw Poland in a Champions League match. Stephen had been trying to get us to a soccer match all trip, and we got unlucky enough to always visiting a city when the home team was traveling on the road. When the opportunity to go to a Champion League match in Madrid emerged, we did not hesitate. We go tickets for the 3 of us via Europe's equivalent of StubHub called Viagogo. We arrived at the stadium 30 minutes before the game, found our gate, then had issues scanning our tickets. The staff directed us to a customer service desk, where we discovered we'd been sold fraudulent tickets! The website supposedly vets the tickets, but in this case the vendor had sold multiple versions of the same ticket and we had the bad luck of not being first the first ones at the stadium. We heard the chants of the crowd, and the kickoff whistle. The game was happening and we were missing it. While Stephen was on the phone with Viagogo, Dave rounded the corner in pursuit of customer service. We caught him up on the situation, and decided to watch the game at a bar nearby. We ultimately got our tickets refunded, but would have much rather been at the game!

Wednesday, October 19

We braved the most touristy areas of Madrid and took the metro to the Royal Palace. We arrived just in time to catch the change of guard, with all the corresponding pomp.
We walked through the gardens at the Royal Palace and down to the Manzanares River. The park along the river was lush with trees, some of which marked the arrival of fall with their orange leaves. We also got a nice view of the palace from the river.
We walked back up to the royal palace, caught another change of guard, and stopped for tapas at Mercado San Miguel on our way to Plaza Mayor. The building that housed the market was originally built in 1916, and had been refurbished as a culinary pavilion with a bunch of specialized vendors offering tasty tapas.
We passed touristy shops selling all kinds of kitch, and realized how fortunate we'd been to basically avoid tourist infrastructure for the majority of our week in Madrid. We passed through Plaza Mayor, but did not linger for fear of being harassed by one of the many costumed characters shaking down tourists to take pictures with them.
The final stop was Puerta del Sol, Madrid's central plaza and #1 meet up place. Again, we did not linger long as most of the walkable areas were occupied by tours. We walked one side of the plaza, and caught the metro home.
Karen had returned from her trip to London, and we had time to touch base on dinner plans. For our last supper we had delicious, fresh trout at home with a nice bottle of albariño.

Thursday, October 20

We headed to the airport mid-morning to catch our flight to Brussels, after being fortified by a solid breakfast at home. After our trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, we flew back to Madrid. So, we got to downsize and travels in just our normal backpacks and tucks our mega backpacking bags in a closet. We had smooth travels to Brussels, which I look forward to telling you about on an upcoming post!

Hasta luego!

Posted by GenovevaLewis 07:53 Archived in Spain Tagged prado madrid archaeology tapas reinasofia thyssen caixa Comments (1)


Days 64-70: A week with sightseeing, rugby, and family time

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View October in Spain on GenovevaLewis's travel map.

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!

Posted by GenovevaLewis 13:06 Archived in Ireland Tagged pubs ireland dublin rugby strand sandymount leinster Comments (0)

Dublin Pub Review

After visiting 14 pubs over 6 days in Dublin, I feel like I have some authority on the matter...

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When planning a trip to Ireland, it would be foolish to overlook the pubs. So much of Ireland's culture is in the pubs - in the food, in the drinks shared by friends and colleagues to blow off steam from the week, in the Irish music and dance, and in the buildings themselves. Our trip to Dublin put the pub culture at the core, with my cousin Jesse, a veteran to Dublin's pub scene after living in Ireland's capital city for 8 months, showing us the ropes.
Please enjoy this review of the pubs we visited on our 6-night bacchanal in Dublin, and definitely consider checking out a few if you find yourself in Baile Átha Cliath - "Town of the Hurdle Ford," (aka Dublin) in Irish.

Cheers! Slainte! (pronounced slawncha)

The Best, Classic Irish Pubs

The Barge
We landed in Dublin at 7 and were at Jesse's apartment on Lower Rathmines at 7:40. We were at The Barge at 8. This pub holds a special place in my heart as the first pub on our trip, and thus set the bar for all the other pubs we visited. The building has the feel of a boat, and could probably fit 500 people across its multiple floors and cozy nooks. We watched the Ireland-Georgia World Cup qualifier match, and Jesse's half-American/half-Irish friend Thomas joined us for a fun evening.

It was at The Barge that Jesse introduced us to the Irish round system, whereby everyone in the group takes a turn buying a round of drinks and everyone is expected to partake. So when Jesse got the first round of drinks for Stephen, himself, and me, we'd effectively committed to at least 3 beers by the Irish round system so everyone would have a turn picking up the bill. The taps run the show here, and we enjoyed a sampling of Irish beers over several rounds. There's a great lager by Guinness called Hop House 13 that's quite good, and I also really liked a Pale Ale by the name of Wicklow Wolf. Each beer comes in the glassware by that particular brand of beer, optimized to release the aromas, flavors, and, in the case of Guinness, nitrogen bubbles for the perfect pint.

We also had our first sampling of pub grub at The Barge. I had the classic fish and chips with mashed peas, and the boys had steak sandwiches. So at The Barge we were able to comfortably eat, drink, visit, and watch a sports match, and thus it earns a spot at top of my list of pubs.

McGrattan’s Bar
As advertised on the banner above the pub, McGrattan’s Bar is Dublin’s headquarters for rugby. After the Leinster-Munster rugby match, we hopped on bikes to put some distance between us and crowd and find some food to soak up the Guinnesses we enjoyed before and throughout the game. The bar had a light smoky aroma and cozy warmth from a peat fire going, a real treat after being outdoors at the stadium with a chilly breeze on our backs. We had no competition for a table, and watched New Zealand's All Blacks spank the Springboks in South Africa while we noshed on some classy pub grub. We had the famous spicy pork sausage with mashed potatoes and gravy, fish and chips (but salad in
stead of chips), and a steak sandwich. Maybe because they weren’t too busy, maybe because we were close to the bar, but we got some of the most attentive table service here of any of the pubs. As we wrapped up our meals the pub started to fill in more with people from the Leinster-Munster match, as well as a stag party centered around the billiards tables. If there were a rugby match that I wanted to watch with a meal, McGrattan’s would be the place to go.

The Portobello
On Sunday night after an evening of NFL games and biking across town back to our neighborhood, we decided to pop into the Portobello for a final pint. We were delighted to discover the pints were 4€, the cheapest we ever found on the trip! We got a round and piled into a booth, which happened to have an NFL game on the Jesse was following because of a sports bet he'd placed at Paddy Power. A 2-man band got going around 11, and they were a riot. This was also in the aftermath of Donald's lewd comments about women coming to light, and one of the guys did a great Trump impression. He also had mastered Obama and Bush (dubya), and had the whole bar in stitches over American politics. They called us out, "It looks like we've got some Americans glued to football there in the corner. Where are ya from lads?" California! "Oh California, yeah. We've got a song from California. Here we go. It's a Californian folk song..." They sang the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Ha!
"How about you sir? Where are you from?" North Carolina! ""Oh North Carolina, sure. We've got a song from North Carolina..." Then they sang Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show - and not just the chorus that everyone knows but the whole song! We were quite impressed. We stayed for another Irish song and then called it a night, since Jesse did have to get up for work in the morning after all. We liked the vibe here so much that Stephen and I stopped in for a pint on our way home from tourism another day. Highly recommend!

William Searson
Located just a 2-minute walk from the LinkedIn office, Searson's is the go-to Friday night watering hole for the team as well as other professionals in the Grand Canal area. The pub sports a classic horseshoe bar in front, a long main room with booths and high tables, and a popular heated outdoor smoking patio. The clientele ranges from 20-60, in casual to professional attire. We were greeted by a Heineken promoter upon arrival, who invited us to a round of Heineken Light on the house. Wait, free beer? Yes, please. We took our beverages down the long stretch of indoor seating and posted up at a standing table on the outdoor patio. The downside to the patio is the smoke, but the convivial ambiance and UV rays trying to make their way through the cloud cover makes it worthwhile. We had a very friendly young Irish waitress, who was very excited about a trip she was planning with friends to California for next year. Pints were fairly priced (5 euros for Guinness), and the menu had solid hearty options like lamb shank. We actually liked it so much that we stopped in for our final pints in Ireland after saying goodbye to a Jesse at the Linked In office and killing some time before heading to the airport. Definitely a good spot to include on a pub tour, though its a big and bustling pub so if the aim is bonding with the bartender best to look elsewhere.

Cool Hipster Pubs, Though Not "Classic Irish Pubs"

The Market Bar
We popped into The Market Bar on our Saturday night pub crawl, first wading through the courtyard in front that was packed with the bar's smoke-loving clientele. On the inside, Jesse and I grabbed a table and Stephen bellied up to the popular bar to get a round. As the name suggests, the space used to in fact be a market. Inside, there was a big, almost warehouse-like room with brick walls. The lighting was very dim and there were lots of lounge seating arrangements, occupied by a very hip, under-30 crowd. The Market Bar was among the most hipster pubs we went to, so even thought I loved it I wouldn't consider it a classic Irish pub - which is why it's not on "The Best" list.

The Bernard Shaw
We walked by The Shaw several times on our way from Jesse's apartment to the city center, and we met up with Jesse for a pint when he got off work on Monday. The facade is very eye-catching with whimsical painting, which is just a taste of the explosion of color you find in the courtyard. The bartender was among the chattiest we encountered, and they had a good selection of beers on tap. For the tip jar, they had it set up as a sort of poll with 2 jars. "Trump's wig is made out of...(jar 1) your chest hair (jar 2) the tears of children." Do you get the sense that we're kind of a joke to the rest of the world for even having this numnuts as a candidate? Anyways, we enjoyed our pints on the patio under the warmth of heat lamps. The courtyard is also home to a retired double-decker bus that has been refurbished into a pizza kitchen. We did not partake, but it was a cool concept for sure. Similar to The Market Bar, this was an extremely cool, hipster pub - but not a classics Irish pub.

Located just 2 blocks from Jesse's apartment, the Blackbird has the most hipster vibe of the pubs we visited with dripping red candles illuminating the space and a stash of vintage board games to entertain. The beverage offering here seems split between taps and spirits, and their dining offering is a food truck in the patio that reheats pizzas. The guys each got a glass of Teeling, the only Irish whiskey still produced in the city of Dublin, and I got a glass of beer. We got our hands on a Connect Four set, and had a mini-tournament with Stephen emerging as the victor. I loved the ambiance here, and we fit right in with the 25-35 year old crowd. The music added to the scene, but was not so loud you couldn't talk to the person next to you. It's a great nighttime pub, either for an intimate romantic night by candlelight or a playful evening with friends.

37 Dawson
We kicked off our Saturday night pub crawl at 37s, a classy spot with an upstairs bar. They had a well-stocked liquor supply as well as beers on tap. This place reminded me of some of the dimly lit, hipster whiskey lounges around Downtown LA. There were groups of friends coming in with reservations for table service as wells as others the filed through to the smoking patio. It had a classy feel and was a great spo

Pubs That Didn't Connect

The Bleeding Horse
What do you get at the end of a Friday night of Dublin pub crawling? Something that looks like this:
To round out our Friday night pub crawl, we ended up at The Bleeding Horse. Another classically unassuming building that has a small street front, The Bleeding Horse actually has two stories and can fit quite a party. Leinster rugby flags adorned the rafters for the match the next day, and the speakers pumped out music that encouraged dancing over conversation. I had a glass of Bulmer’s cider here and the guys got glasses of Green Spot Irish Whiskey. It's a perfectly acceptable Irish pub, but didn't capture my heart because the music made it feel more like a club than a pub.

We experienced this pub in the circa-midnight hours, so maybe not at its best - or perhaps in fact at its very best? I'm not sure. We met up with a friend in the far back of the pub, and the staff was shutting down the back of the bar section by section. As soon as we settled into a new arrangement, we got uprooted. We finally found a "safe" section that wasn't closed and were able to get a drink. We stuck to the taps since it was our last stop, but this pub also had great cocktails like a gin and tonic made with whole juniper berries and a slice of cucumber. We were only there for a short time, but met lots of friendly people. Particularly for the hour we visited, there was lots of mingling going on among the single folk. Of note is also that this pub visit occurred within 24 hours of Trump's "grab them by the pu$$y" comment surfacing, and every Irish person we met was already cracking jokes about it. "Hey guys, do you have a tic tac?" We had a good time here, but I think if we'd gotten their a little earlier we would have gotten to experience it with a little more lively. With portions shutting down behind us, it felt like closing time for sure.

The Dawson Lounge
This little pub boasts that it is probably the smallest pub anywhere, and has a capacity of about 20 people. It's downstairs off Grafton street, and has a low ceiling a small bar. It's a bonafide pub with a variety of beers on tap and Irish whiskey, but is more of a novelty bar. It's really small, and not recommended for anyone that has ever felt claustrophobic. When a couple of groups file it one after the other, you wonder if there is enough oxygen for everyone in the room!

Not My Favorite

M.J. O'Neill
With endorsements by every tour book and trip advisor, Oneills showed promise as a contender for top gastro pubs on our trip. We grabbed a corner table and reviewed the menu, loaded with tantalizing meal options: venison stew, shepherds pie, prime rib roast...We made our way to the food station and the enchantment fizzled. The food was prepared in big batches and slopped onto plates by an eastern European staff. Not a knock against the eastern block, but just not the authentic, made-to-order Irish cuisine we were hoping for.
We wrapped up dinner and headed upstairs to await the music, which was meant to start at 9pm. Around 10:15 the band finally put their beers down and made their way to the stage. They incorporated some Irish dancers into their set, but only the 6 tables right around the stage could actually see the fancy footwork. We tried to follow on the video feed, but the quality was bad and the shot didn't follow the dancers.
Just outside the pub is this statue of Molly Malone, the fishmonger of a popular Irish song (and unofficial Dublin anthem) about a young girl who sold cockles and mussels by day and was a part-time prostitute by night. The band actually played this song, so it was cool to see her statue as we made our war down Grafton Street.

We’d gotten tickets for the rugby rivalry faceoff between Leinster and Munster, two Irish provinces that have both won the Heineken Cup (Europe’s premier competition), and for our pre-match pints we went to Slattery’s. The pub is just a few blocks from the Aviva stadium, and 2 hours before kick-off it was already filling in with sports fans. Like many pubs, the facade is unassuming. From the outside, you might guess the pub can fit about 50 people, but then you go in and it keeps going, and going, and going... The music was a mix of 90s American rock, and if the TVs were showing American football rather than Irish soccer I could have been tricked into thinking I were back in the US. A few knocks against Slattery’s are that our Guinnesses came in plastic cups rather than glass, they failed to deliver on their promotion of a free pint of Guinness for rating them on Google, and they charged our credit card in dollars vs euros even after we’d made a point of asking them to run it in euros. The exchange rate is currently about 1.11 dollars to euros and that’s the rate you pay if you use your credit card directly in euro. If instead the credit card is run as dollars, the credit card processor converts at an unfavorable 1.17, which can add up depending on the size of the tab. Aside from those annoyances, it was a great place to grab a few pints before the game for its proximity to the stadium and sport clientele.

Woolshed Baa & Grill
It's almost unfair to include this on the Irish pub list, because aside from being an alcohol-serving establishment in Ireland there's nothing Irish about it. But, for an American sports fan living abroad, it's a great place to find yourself on a Sunday with friends watching NFL football. The upstairs bar swarms with Americans, clustered around TVs and projections showing their hometown teams. Everyone wears their jerseys and with the smell of wings and sound of fans yelling at their screens, it's hard to believe you're not in the US. The bar also have soccer matches on, and they dedicated a handful of screens to the Ireland vs. Moldova World Cup match that we'd all placed some sports bets on at the nearby Paddy Power. Since I'm not a huge fan of American football or noisy, crowded bars, this was not my favorite of the pubs we visited.

And a final dishonorable mention goes to Sam's, literally next door to 37s - where we started our Saturday night out. We started to head in and were intercepted by the bouncer, who informed us they were only accepting people with reservations. This was his indirect way of saying we weren't allowed. Jesse had been there before, and suspects we might have been turned away for our attire. Well, I don't want to give my business to a stuffy place like that, so I'd like to close this pub review by saying FU to Sam's!

Posted by GenovevaLewis 09:29 Archived in Ireland Tagged pubs ireland dublin Comments (0)

Granada and La Alhambra

Day 62 & 63: A couple of days in the old "Kingdom of Granada" with Arabic palaces

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We enjoyed a final morning at the beach in La Herradura, and then headed north to Granada. It was a smooth 1-hour drive, and we parked in a free lot about a 10-minute walk from our airbnb in the Albaycin neighborhood. We'd corresponded with our friendly host beforehand to get tips on parking, arrival, etc., and she greeted us warmly. Her male counterpart could not be bothered to muster a greeting, and in the 2 days we were there we didn't see him move from the couch or seem particularly interested in us.

We set out to get some tapas before hustling up to the Alhambra. We had a 6:30pm entry to the very popular Nasrid Palaces in the Alhambra, and wanted to explore the other areas of the complex. As context, today's Granada was brought under Moorish control in the 8th century and in the 11th century the Kingdom of Granada was established. The Alhambra was constructed under the Nasrid Dynasty from 1237-1391, and was occupied by Muslim sultans until 1492 when they officially surrended to the Catholic Monarchs of Spain - Ferdinand and Isabel. We started with the Generalife Palace, which was constructed to be the recreation area of the Kings of Granada could escape from official life.
On our way down from the Generalife, we popped into the old baths of the Mosque and entered the Palace of Carlos V, who was both ruler of the Spanish Empire AND the Holy Roman Empire in the 1500s. He moved into the Alhambra after the Spanish monarch, and did some remodeling to create a palace befitting of an emperor of his stature.
From there we went down to the Alcazaba, one of the oldest parts in the Alhabra and the miliatry area of the comples. The views from the Torre de la Vela (watch tower) were great, and served the obvious practice purpose of scoping out any oncoming threats in the distance.
Then we could queue up for our entrance to the Nasrid Palaces. The design of these palaces is stunning - intricate carves plaster, colorful tile, polylobed arches, lattice wood doors, fountains, and beautiful views.
We walked back over to the Albaycin neighborhood and caught the sunset from the San Nicolas lookout with about 200 other tourists, and then sauntered down into our barrio for some tapas. Granada has a pretty sweet tapas game. Basically everywhere in Granada, if you order a 2 euro beer it comes with a free tapa. The local spot we ended up had a curried couscous with veggies for the first round, then chicken kabobs with fried potatoes, and then fried eggs with potatoes. It was a lively scene and made for great people watching.
For our second day we wandered down to the cathedral, stopping for breakfast at a cafe along the way. Again, very much a locals-only scene and boisterous clientele. We toured around the Royal Chapel of the Ferdinand and Isabel - the Catholic Monarchs. The gothic vaults were especially beautiful, and the chapel is special because it houses the remains of the Catholic Monarchs. Strict no photo policy on the inside, but here are some shots from the outside:
We explored the tapas scene in the downtown area, first at a cafe in a wet market with everything from whole, skinned, head-on bleeding lambs to chirimoya. Then we walked toward one of the gardens adjacent to the Alhambra, and stopped at another spot for tapas with a nice view.
The park was still closed for nap time when we made it there at 4pm, so we walked in to the Alhambra area again to visit the Alhambra Museum. It was closed when we went the day before, so we enjoyed getting a second chance at it to see some of the original, well-preserved artifacts like tiles, engraved wooden lintels and doors, glassware and ceramics. We also visited the Fine Arts museum in the Carlos V palace, which also had a strict no photos policy.
By then the Carmen de los Martires park had woken up from its siesta. We were glad to have had such a productive time waiting for the park to open, because the park itself didn't have any elements particularly characteristic of Granada. It was a lovely park with a small pond and ducks, a small rose garden, some nice views of the city and a lovely building refurbished in the Alhambra style, but after already taking a lot of steps that day we found the park to be a bit of a bust.
We went back to the San Nicolas lookout for sunset, and even though we were early the square was already packed. We took in the view, and then cruised to our favorite little tapas joint near our apartment. We had a few more tapas, and then headed back home.
Tomorrow we have a BIG travel day! We have about a 4-hour drive to Madrid, where we'll touch back with the Brushes - good family friends of my folks that have been living in Madrid for a couple of years now. From there we'll continue on to the airport, and catch our 3-hour flight to Ireland to visit my cousin Jesse! He moved there about 6 months ago, and we'll be staying with him for about a week in Dublin!

Posted by GenovevaLewis 13:24 Archived in Spain Tagged alhambra granada albaycin Comments (0)

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