On gloomy days like this I like to document my trips throughout 2012 which were unfortunately conquered before I created my travellers portfolio, so here's one from my trip to Ireland! As requested, with more pictures this time.
07.02.2012 - 09.02.2012 -1 °C
In previous years since the age of 14 I began writing a list for the different things I wanted to do in life before I kicked the bucket, Christ knows why you would be thinking about that sort of stuff at that age, but regardless I still created the list. I don’t have it around anymore but I distinctly remember a few things like learning to play an instrument, learn a foreign language, and other pretentious crap. However, at the very top of the list I had scrawled “Drink a pint of Guinness in the hills of Ireland”. I can’t remember why but they’re must have been something up in the hills to make a 14 year old want to drink stout, then again with a cat called Bailey and my mother being named Stella gave indications of a borderline alcoholic family. Suppressed family issues aside, I decided to make my first tour of Europe to Ireland back in February 2012 with my friend Cooper.
I had always toyed with the notion of traveling alone, but in research of Dublin it seemed a big scary place, and so did the Irish. With only a week before the flight, I had booked things last minute and managed to squeeze me and Cooper in a reservation at a small hostel in the centre of Dublin. The reason being that I was contemplating whether it was the right thing to go running away to Europe being a party of just two teenagers, this doubt was soon outweighed by the inner 9 year old Reece who became increasingly excited in the mention of the word holiday.
Chris the manager had been to Dublin and told me of its rich traditions, wonderful architecture and ‘a rate pint of Guinness’. The night before going to Dublin I had realized I had never tried Guinness despite serving it for over two years. Whilst tending to customers I grabbed a small glass and poured half an inch of a thick tar-like substance which I thought looked more like morph from art attack had fell into a blender. I reluctantly gulped down the glass of black stuff with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp, I would have sooner had a liquidized piece of plastercine from the 90s when I first tasted Guinness. With that I packed my rucksack, bursting with more clothes and accessories which any other normal heterosexual male would find quite feminine, so I get changed a lot, lets leave it at that.
Cooper was the complete opposite, Cooper has a salty demeanor with a negative vocabulary for all things good in the world with a brain so short sighted it could fit onto a memory card. Me and Cooper have been friends since secondary school and despite our conflicts in personality I thought he was a good traveling companion at the time, but I've been wrong before. After receiving a dozen kisses from mum and looking like someone had punched me repeatedly in the face with a kiss shaped stamp, we set off for the airport with high hopes, and 12 pairs of boxer shorts.
I remember the feeling when I was stood in that airport for the first time. Of going away on my own and feeling the rush of independence, overwhelmed by the rush of middle age women storming past with their suitcases in one hand and children under the other, grunting and heaving through us like menopausal elephants stomping down small trees. Anticipating having to wait three or more hours at the airport we was early, very early. This meant passing the time looking at overpriced cigarettes and trying on a dozen pairs of equally overpriced sunglasses. Why some people buy some of this useless sh*t at the airport is beyond me. The flight to Dublin was a quick one taking just under an hour and a half, being in a confined space with Cooper for a long time was bad enough without being stuck at 15,000 feet in the air with him.
After passing through departures I was tempted to claim the name of one of the passengers being picked up by a chauffeur at the airport, the cards held up always stated cool names like Mr.Flint or Mr. Roxborough. I just wanted to feel like the cool cat, just swaggering through the crowds as though I was a young heir who had just claimed a small fortune. Before I could even joke about doing it, Cooper swept out the terminal doors with a grey cloud of complaints above his head, sweet miserable bastard.
Fair play to us, we did make it all of twenty meters out of the airport before getting lost. Moments before Cooper had rightly said wait till we see the right bus. The right bus being the number 22 Air-link but in my excitement I had climbed onto the first one I saw, being the number 21 Air-link. The bus we was supposed to catch had been next to us on the motorway for the best part of ten minutes, we watched like hawks for its direction of travel hoping that we was actually on the right bus after all. However, our hopes sank and fists clenched when it veered off into the opposite direction towards the centre of Dublin whilst we was heading towards rural Ireland. I began clasping at the windows like a mime having a seizure behind a cling film wall. Despite us paying ten Euros we got off the bus and waited for the right one to come, which didn’t for the best part of two hours and it didn’t sit well with Cooper which obviously resulted with me putting my iPod on full blast to drown out the sea of sarcasm and complaints.
After 7pm the bus had finally came after we had decided to walk back off from the motorway, all the while tempted to throw myself under a passing HGV from Cooper’s tired voice. By 8pm we were moments from the hostel but had seemingly became lost again. I had the street name ‘Templebar’ and the ‘Kinlay House Hostel’ scribbled in my childish font across the crumpled piece of paper. I tried observing the foreign landscape whizzing past at 50mph looking for a sign with those familiar words ‘temple bar’, with intervals of looking down at the scrawled piece of paper with hopes of help. However help soon came in the form of Jim Barns, a stocky ginger Irishman with hands the size of a loaf of bread, capable of breaking bows of sturdy English oak in two. But Jim had no intention of breaking us in two like a Kit-Kat, but more along the lines of helping us on our way. We told him the address and in one magical swoop he pushed the bell to stop the bus, ushered us off the shuttle and with a pat on my back he shook my hand and said” There it is, enjoy yourselves lads and welcome to Ireland!”, pointing to a sign saying Temple Bar, with Kinlay House Hostel in sight. True to Jims well wishes I intended to enjoy Ireland, and that started with veering off into a pub just before the hostel, it would have been rude not to.
“Two pints ‘o’ Guinness barkeep” said Cooper, my face began eating itself at the thought of another sip of that dark sludge. As we toasted to our first Guinness in Ireland, I felt the sensation of a creamy smooth bitter fill my mouth, me and Cooper looked at one another with shock an awe, this wasn't the piss water from back home, this was proper Guinness, Irish Guinness. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. After that we ordered four more pints before watching the game and stumbling to the hostel, feeling very Irish indeed.
It had seemed moments ago at 8pm that Jim Barnes had pointed us in the right direction, but it was midnight and we could just make out Kinlay House Hostel at the end of the street. The letter said the latest check-in was 23:30 so I doubted we'd sleep with a pillow but instead a rubbish bag with a complimentary malaria stricken rat, but drunken me wasn't prepared to share a bed with the rats.
I raised my right hand and bashed my knuckles across the solid oak door several times before whimpering and clutching my hand in pain. I should have thought ahead and used Cooper as a door barge. Bear in mind it was winter at the time and at midnight things aren't getting any warmer. From the pub to the hostel my beer coat had felt like a thick fluffy coat to a thin t-shirt which would make any man’s unmentionables shrivel to the size of a chipolata with nipples that could cut glass. Upon raising my left hand to lose for a second time against the solid oak door, a tiny hatch opened revealing a middle aged man with the facial hair of a wookie topped with a lime green beanie wearing tiny glasses. His beady eyes didn’t even have time to adjust before I had shoved the confirmation letter into his beardy mass.
Kinlay house was a huge hostel spattered with character in the form of graffiti across the walls. Ranging from pictures of tens of thousands of Asians with camera’s, to Scotsmen and Englishmen sat around a table drinking masses of Guinness.
The receptionists must have been stoned, despite their friendly Irish ways they seemed as high and crooked as the tower of Pisa. In explaining the rules of the hostel and our place of stay I couldn't help notice them cramming their faces with brownies, crisps and fits of laughs coming from nowhere. Probably laughing at my erect nipples and Coopers humungous ears, wondering how he hadn’t managed to take flight in the cold wind outside, but the stoners mind boggles.
With that I explored the kitchen and common room, then retired to bed. For those who have never been to a hostel, it is much like a hotel but your room is a 10 bed dormitory shared with other people. It’s always been the greatest to meet different people from all sorts of backgrounds, doing the same as me in a much cooler fashion.
As I was still a little drunk I struggled with the drunken mans greatest weakness, the task of getting undressed for bed. To make matters worse the lights were out and I didn't want to be the dick that woke everyone. Cooper had done this task effectively without waking a soul, slithered into bed and said “night pal, see thee tomorrow.”
Alone with no help I fought with the air trying to get my other leg out my jeans with as much hope as a flamingo trying to shave its legs, all the while hearing a faint sound of rap music but had no idea where it was coming from. In doing so kicking the bunk next to me and propelling myself into the bed, but this wasn’t my bed. I saw nothing but darkness, and a laptop screen. Whoever’s bed I was in felt warm and occupied, and with no hesitation I jumped up to see a girl I now know by the name of Lüszi, taking refuge up against the wall in her bunk from the drunken Englishman with a close resemblance to Boris Johnson in his drunken state.
Without saying a word in a cool calm manner, Lüszi helped me into bed and carried on with listening to her rap music. I on the other hand boggled how Lüszi had not beat me within an inch of my life with her laptop. I woke at 7am the next day with a cloudy mind, pondering just where the hell I was forgetting I had left England. Soon reminded by seeing Lüszi and remembering last night's cock-up. Hanging my head past Lüszi with my tail between my legs, I rudely awoke Cooper and we made our way to the kitchen for breakfast, if you could call it that. Store brand cornflakes which Tim Robbins could have easily used to carve a tunnel in the wall in Shaw shank Redemption and coffee which looked freshly scooped from the bottom of the river trent.
By 8am we had sat and joked about the last night and eaten our bodyweight in processed English breakfast. After making the effort to head to Dublin we weren’t going to spend time there gossiping and drinking tea.
I picked up a fistful of pamphlets from the lobby and we headed for the centre of Dublin. After browsing through the pamphlets we discovered the only pass time or places that were open at 8:30am were strangely enough all breweries, which answered a few questions in my mind about Ireland’s drinking rumors being true. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of Dublin was smashed by 8am. Our only options were the Guinness Storehouse or the Jameson's Irish Whisky Distillery, so we did both. By midday we had visited both and gotten plastered, to be fair we hadn’t done bad. The Jameson’s Irish Whiskey tour consisted of a trip around the factory distillery and of course a complimentary whisky to round it off. However, ‘Nigel the legendary tour guide’ which we had named him in our drunken state, offered us to test more whiskies in comparison of one another. Starting with Jamesons, then Scotch, and finally double distilled American Jack Daniels one after the other. It was 12pm in Ireland, and I was well on my way. We gave a thumbs up to Nigel the tour guide and signed the guestbook comments box with ‘Nigel! Waht an asbolute guy cehers mayte’. Slurring is basically a second language to the Irish anyway so they knew what we meant. After which we stumbled out of the distillery in a fit of laughs and hiccups, then we made our way to the Guinness storehouse. Slowly, but surely.
Dublin seemed a longer walk after a few whiskies and signs became more enticing with the words ‘Guinness is just this way‘ spread across them, walking around the distillery in the dark had made my eyes reluctant to light for a while. With my hands over my eyes with slurred speech and a watering mouth anyone would have thought I was THE teen werewolf himself. Despite our public display of drunkenness, laughing at the thought of pigeons having an Irish accent and the notion of leprechauns emerging from the drains to greet us, each passer by was as friendly as the last, there is truly no place with friendlier citizens than what Ireland can boast.
The Guinness Storehouse turned out to be much bigger than I anticipated, with vats the size of houses and the gates of St. James’s Guinness brewery looming over us it made for some great shots, even in my tipsy state, they came out pretty well. The storehouse was like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory for drunks, with waterfalls and vats full of hops everywhere with samples of old Arthur’s best Guinness. It seemed that the spiral design of the building meant that the higher you went, the higher you got, in every sense of the word. By the time we had hit the gravity bar at the very top, we was plastered. With nowhere to sit for the masses up people taking in the whole of Dublin we shared a table with some American chaps who were in Dublin on business but were clever enough to arrive early to see the sights in Dublin, they knew the score. With the entirety of Dublin seemingly at my feet with the Irish Wickelow mountains on the horizon and having beer with friends, I felt at home. Despite being hundreds of miles away from it, it was at that moment I felt the ‘travel bug’ flood over me. The notion that the undiscovered road was my home was a warming feeling. Despite not even knowing these American’s it felt good to hear how things worked over there compared to England, to speak to strangers with stories to tell was a whole new experience as a result of after spending years in a small village, and having the same social skills of a chimp. It was undoubtedly something I wanted more of, to hear stories from across the world, and just hopefully take something from each person I met. Below is photo of not us, but more importantly our perfect pint of Guinness in the gravity bar.
This is a panoramic of the entire view of the gravity bar.
After a long and strenuous morning drinking myself and Cooper decided it was best to grab 40 winks if we were to go out that night around Dublin until the early hours of the morning. It was the last thing that I wanted to do whilst in Ireland. After somehow getting into the hostel, we passed through reception in a jumble of slurred words and burps. I cant remember getting into bed which is the first time in a morning for me as bedtime was 12pm. I had somehow managed to set my alarm for 7pm and woke with a flyer stuck to the side of my face which I must have picked up at reception, upon this flyer were two gleaming words which are a beacon to any young man on a night out, ‘Pub Crawl’.
Blinking in the evening sun and splashing cold water on my face, I got ready for the night ahead. My head was cloudy with Irish spirits but it wasn't going to stop me heading out, Cooper was stricken with flu at that point and it still didn’t stop the poor guy from hitting the town. After speaking to the guy on reception I had already apparently paid for our pub crawl tickets which were next to nothing including a shot in each bar we hit, with only the two of us stood in reception, it was looking bleak.
We headed to the meeting place which incidentally was the first pub we visited in Ireland, ‘The Mercantile’. It was brimming with different ethnicities and buzzing with character, I couldn't help but wonder what the night would bring. The tour waltzed into the room so casually, giving the barmaid a wink and waves to random people in the crowd, in return throwing him a cheer. You could tell this guy knew Ireland like the back of his hand. I can never remember his name for the amount of alcohol I must have drank that night.
We started from the bottom of Temple bar, one of the most famous streets in Dublin and worked our way to the top, somehow. Each bar had a person waiting at the door with a tray of complimentary shots, from Jagerbombs to cocksucking cowboy’s. The first bar was The Old Storehouse which was filled with live bands. Each thrashing their guitars and the uilleann pipes in a hearty symphony which was capable of making any old timer put down his stick and grab the nearest gal in a drunken irish frenzy. It sounded a little something like this.
Me and Cooper couldn’t contain the need to jump up and swing one another around a little and splash some Guinness around, but returned to our seats on the bar short after to keep up appearances of being straight of course.
Each bar had a person waiting at the door with a tray of complimentary shots, from Jagerbombs to cocksucking cowboy’s. After the first bar, that cloud of social awkwardness amongst the group had evolved into a mist of Irish spirit, we began talking to a couple named Kristen and Michael, both American and incidentally, gun slinging rangers in the US military. So I can’t say their last names for legal reasons. They had both came across the pond for the sights of Ireland and just what it had to offer on a night out, so I agreed to help make it their best, so long as I didn’t pass out.
I had friends in the military and knew just how much they could drink, without trying to keep up with them and observing from a safe distance of course. There seems to be a mentality in the forces which makes them all want to get absolutely sh*t faced when off tour, I mean who could blame them to be honest. With introductions and conversation flowing we headed to endless bars and then to the nightclubs. Which at first seemed filled with people of an elderly disposition after being so accustom to teen hipster scumbags flinging their alchopops around giving it ‘all that’ as they flick their middle finger up at you for brushing gently past them whilst in transit, which in basic English scripture to young people in the UK ‘ you want some mate?’; and breathe.
I felt in good company as our ranger friends bombarded past those who refused to move for us seemingly obvious ‘out of town’ types. Despite them being so passive afterwards seeing the size of Michael, one small Irish man refused. He began throwing profanities in a strong Irish slur which would even make pop-eye scratch his bonce in confusion. To top it off the small flat capped Irishman began rotating his fists one over the other in a clockwise motion saying “Come on big lad I could take ye ewt”. We fell into a fit of belly laughs and walked on by. So continued the best night of my life in Europe so far, along with the spilling of Guinness, the fits of laughter, and the realization that traveling was my passion now. I had made friends from Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy; you name it. We danced and drank the night away until just about 6am, and was in bed for 7. Im the one in the middle, with the lovely shaven head, some may even mistake me as a rough member of the IRA...Hopefully not.
The rest after that is history, we returned home after getting friends information we had met. I returned home with an Irish hangover, and a smile on my face.
The notion of simply agreeing to a night out had let me to the contacts I have across the entire globe today. If an opportunity for anything arises, say yes, you never know where in the world it could take you. I hope you enjoyed reading this entry as much as I did writing it. -R