A Travellerspoint blog

Day 4: A Castle, A Pub, and Finding The Craic in Dublin!

in which your author describes watergate, finds a long lost pub, gets treated like a celebrity director, and welcomes his brother and a new friend in the irish capital

rain 40 °F

I woke up on Day 4 feeling much better – there’s some sort of magic craic in Corey’s hot whiskey – and we make our way downstairs for a wonderful breakfast and lively conversation with Corey and Nadia. These guys are utterly pleasant human beings, natural talkers who endearingly finish each other’s sentences. They've gone out of their way to do up a breakfast for weary travelers; we sample some local orange marmalade, Corey’s sweetened porridge (recipe closely guarded), and of course, tea. We’re there chatting for at least an hour, and they’re excited to show up a photo of themselves a with Barack Obama cutout. We get on talking about American politics and out of the blue Corey says “Jaaayson – his Irish “a’s” are delightfully long – “I have a random question. What was the story behind Watergaayate?” Amy goes back for a nap (what she later called “one of the best naps she’s ever had in Europe”) as I write my second blog post. I should note that it’s even more challenging than it normally is to keep this blog together while traveling with others – I have to grab little pockets of anti-social time whenever they present themselves.

Corey is on his way out but before he leaves treats us to a marvelous solo rendition of a Christy Moore song.


We walk toward Kilkenny Castle and see a bit of the very charming, typically Irish town.


I had seen the Castle in 2008, but didn’t remember anything about it until I walked in the side gate. It was closing so we didn’t stay for long, but we still take some photos; it reminds me (on a smaller scale) of the medieval castle I visited at Carcassonne in the South of France in 2011.


We grab some take away food (potato & leek soup) at a small cafe by the castle and sit and eat – I realize later that I took the exact same shot out a window that I took in 2008!


There’s one last pub Corey had mentioned which might be a match for the one I was seeking but had yet to find. It’s called Cleere’s, and it’s on High Street, quite a bit further away than the others we had peered into the night before. We stop in a pharmacy to stock up on sick meds and Amy has a pretty hilarious conversation about the morning-after pill with the local pharmacist (called a chemist here). Kilkenny is one of the prettiest towns in Ireland – it’s big enough to contain interesting shops and a festive atmosphere but at the same time feels like a traditional small Irish town.


When we make it to the end of High Street my heart skips a beat as I recognize my surroundings – this was definitely the place I had heard that great music over five years ago! It looks exactly how I remembered it, though far less crowded. I explain to the bartenders and the handful of patrons at the bar about how I had been there and recorded video that I played for probably 40 semesters worth of classes and everyone seems to get a kick out of it. I ask about whether Jimmy Rattigan, the singer who performed the Stephen Foster songs that night, was still coming around; “oh yes, he’s still here, sings every Monday night!” “Please tell him the American music teacher says hello?” "Oh yeah, he’ll definitely remember!” We sit by the fire and have a nice pint.


Amy takes a nice shot of me by the fire:


In the back of the pub there’s a room which I hadn’t remembered from my last visit – all sorts of laughing and shenanigans seem to be coming from that direction. I open the door and there are about a dozen high-school-aged kids rehearsing for a play. I tell one of them that I’ve worked as an actor with an Irish Arts organization interested in what’s going on in contemporary Irish theater, and they swiftly invite Amy and I to come and watch their rehearsal. I grab another pint from the bar and when we walk into the back room, the director immediately tries to free up some space for us to sit – we try to make ourselves invisible in the back.


We start laughing fairly quickly, however, as what we’ve happened upon is a rehearsal of some broad comedy sketches, mostly set in a prison. Everything is played for laughs and it’s fun to be a supportive audience. It’s really the first unusual and creative experience which that we’ve found via serendipity. After about 30 minutes, the rehearsal ends and we exchange information and ask them about their fledgling group, called Dramatic Irony. They explain that they’re all about to enter college and forming a theater group seemed to be the best way to have some fun. Very inspired by the pluck of these talented young thespians!


As I exit the main pub I wonder if I’ll be back within another 5 years? Amy notices a Watergate Theatre directly across the pub – did that prompt Corey’s inquiry? We pop into a convenience store and I grab some Guinness chocolate:


We say a very fond farewell to Kilkenny – a city we entered with a fair amount of organizational frustration and leave with satisfying smiles – and start toward Dublin, where we will meet brother Dan and new friend Graci in Dublin.

The drive is much more straight-forward (in more ways than one) than the backroads roller coaster of the previous night, and we pull into Dublin at around 9pm, far later than we had originally intended but with plenty of time to find some craic. It takes us over 45 minutes to find a parking spot along the River Liffey, and we gather our bags and walk up toward Temple Bar where Dan and Graci were hitting up the pubs.

We finally meet them on the street outside the original Temple Bar, and they take us back to the Airbnb flat, conveniently right over the Ha’Penny Bridge.


We unpack and relax and head out as a new 4-piece unit. We stop into the Lebanese place where Amy and I grabbed late night food on New Years and I get the same delicious, garlicky baba ganoush I had that night. What does this sign mean?!


I figure Brogan’s Bar would be a nice place to kick off the night given that we know where it is and it tends to have a relaxed energy. I pick up a round and show my brother where my Facebook picture was taken.


Dan and Graci had already made two friends the prior night – a young Dublin girl named Jessie and her boyfriend Dan from Birmingham – and they join us at Brogan’s. (Apparently Dan got off the plane in Dublin and said "Everyone here looks like Dad!")

A woman stands at the bar near us with an unfortunate remnant hanging from her jeans – Graci names this #TPSmoochfest2014.


We head back toward the busier part of Temple Bar and go into a place where a local guitarist Cormac whom Dan and Graci had met the night before was playing.


I find a scarf outside the pub and I claim it as my own; I've already lost a much-beloved scarf on this trip, a long blue one I'm fairly sure I left on the plane to Dublin.


We enjoy some pints (a fellow from Finland buys me a Caol Ila scotch, which tastes rare and delicious) and we dance and have a blast.


After that place closes, the guitarist leads us into a posh subterranean speakeasy cocktail bar where I order a delicious drink called a Shoe Shine. It's a gorgeous old speakeasy-type bar and I walk around and take some shots of the interesting layout:


We link up with a bunch of locals and I talk about Keith Jarrett’s work with a local pianist named Tom who’s a big fan of Sun Ra. Amy sketches him:


We close that place down and find ourselves standing on the sidewalk at 5am and it’s raining and I’m ready for bed.


Graci and Amy depart with some new friends and Dan and I walk back to the Airbnb. The introduction of the two new folks has definitely changed the energy but we’re all looking forward to the jam-packed week we have ahead of us! (I really want to note for the record that although I typically don't like to skip ahead, I’m finishing this entry – now about four days behind – in the Elephant House in Edinburgh in the very same room where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. I could use some wizardry – or a flight back to the US and some good rest – to kick this cold which neither my brother nor I has been successful in kicking this week!)

Posted by coolmcjazz 03:55 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin kilkenny

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Hi Jason
We loved you page on Kilkenny !!
Well done Lad !! You a very talented writer Jason and Hi to Amy too ! Hurry back to Kilkenny soon
Corey and Nadia

by Corey and Nadia McHugh

We had such a blast meeting and staying with you guys! Wish we had more time to hang out, but it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Do come to America – and Corey, bring your guitar!

by coolmcjazz

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