A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about dublin

Day 3: May-lin-felt?

in which your author buys things and doesn't buy things and revisits another site of old glory

semi-overcast 63 °F

Day 3 – a travel day! Mostly. Especially after the previous night’s shenanigans at the middle-of-nowhere pub, I find myself still with the urge to sleep in; one of the great joys of traveling solo is the freedom to do this. After Tom whips up a bevy of suggestions for Madrid, I say my fond farewells to my terrific hosts and their rollicking trio of dogs. One of the great joys of being in the arts is having the chance to work with and meet such good and hospitable people. Get ye to Boston with the quickness, dear friends!

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The drive to Dublin is uneventful and I follow the suggestion to park the rental car in a lot. I only have a few hours here but am in the mood for slow browsing; the open St. George’s Mall provides this. I spend about twenty minutes at an antiquarian book shop; I ask for anything on John Doyle O’Reilly, whose memorial I had seen the previous day, and the proprietor brings out a massive first edition volume. Two hundred Euro is far too rich for my blood (not to mention this thing would take up half my suitcase), but it’s fun to look at. I also pass on an (overpriced) play version of J.P. Dunleavy’s The Ginger Man, a quintessential Dublin novel which I’ve been reading on and off over the past year. I grab some Mediterranean food in a box, then end up purchasing a red-striped shirt on clearance (5 Euro) from a nifty vintage store. It’s lightweight so will ball up in my suitcase nicely. I wrap things up with a pint of Beamish stout and an hour of writing at Grogan’s Castle Lounge, a relaxed traditional pub with dim lighting and more greyed men fixed at the bar like signposts. With about 40 minutes left before my rate kicks up another notch, I briskly walk down to Brogan’s Bar (these rhyming names do get confusing), where Jo and Tom took the Swampoodle cast on our last night in Ireland, and where a picture was taken of me that I still use as a profile pic. (I also visited here with Dan, Amy, and Graci on my last trip, capturing an photo of an unfortunate woman with toilet paper stuck to her jeans, and spent New Year's Eve with Amy at Peader Kearney's pub next door.) The bar is empty but the bartender is welcoming; I grab a half pint of Guinness, sit and write, surrounded by all manner of Guinness advertising. Just as I left the place. I take another selfie before popping in for a falafel to go next door – the Lebanese proprietor is extremely friendly and curious about my vegetarianism. I tell him I expect to see him still in business there in about two years.

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I race back to the car and after a wee bit of drama with the parking lot attendant I retrieve the car after four hours (16 Euro, ugh) and head out toward the North. It takes a good hour just to get out of Dublin on the M4 but once I’m on the motorway it’s smooth riding up through Belfast (including a stop to get a flat white and a delicious white chocolate Magnum ice cream bar) and on to Magherafelt, small town in County Derry and the site of the infamous “Flax 4” escapade of my last trip to Ireland in January 2014. Mark Madden – along with Jo and Tom, a sold contender for Ireland’s Resident Hospitality Ambassador – has become a great friend after that trip, having been to the US a few times since, where he was exposed (literally) to a French Maid’s race in Washington, DC, and the first Solas Nua in Boston staged reading I put up at The Burren in Somerville. It’s amazing the serendipity borne only of travel can form connections that last a lifetime.

I pass by and wave hello to The Flax Inn upon entering Magherafelt, about 45 minutes west of Belfast; the correct pronunciation of the town (Jo was coaching me) is something like “Marrafelt.” Mark has moved to a new house since last I was here, and I settle in. We head out and pop in at Bryson’s, site of the late-night music session where I serendipitously made my Irish singing debut in 2014. It’s so wild to be back here.

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We catch up and keep moving, next to Mary’s, an absolutely gorgeous and ornate Victorian-style pub with massive mirrors, French Nouveau art, and dim-lit corners with soft burgundy sofas. We get in an extended chat with the manager who gives me a tour and tells me to check out the Merchant Hotel cocktail bar in Belfast. (Which, time traveling ahead two days, is actually my next stop, as I’m writing this from the MAC in Belfast right now.)

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We close down the place – this being a Monday night we’re really the only patrons at this point anyway – and head back. I end up staying up until close to 5am watching the DNC speeches including Michelle Obama’s. She is such a gift. (#Michelle2024!) Getting to sleep this late doesn’t portend well for an early morning…

Posted by coolmcjazz 07:37 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged dublin magherafelt maynooth Comments (2)

Day 8: A Cross-Country Drive and Crossing to Scotland

in which your author doesn't get nearly enough sleep, drives through his great-grandmother's hometown, and arrives in one of his favorite cities anywhere!

semi-overcast 40 °F

From what I recall of the morning of Day 8 – and do forgive me, as I must admit I’m now writing these posts from the distance of slightly over a week ahead! (the blog must be completed) – I awoke frustrated about the fact that I was granted fewer than five hours of glorious sleep in the quite comfy and large hotel bed. This would be an ambitious travel day of crossing the country in the morning and ending up in a different country by afternoon, and leaving at 7:30am would be crucial to making the day work as planned.

We stumble downstairs; I ask if we can grab coffee to go and am told plainly by the kind-but-not-messing-around man in charge of the hotel’s breakfast service, “No.” (I've forgotten we’re Americans used to breakfasting on the run and the Irish simply won’t have that!) I grumble about the time to Danny and Amy and we sit while Graci and Mark join us; Mark orders a veggie breakfast for us – by this point the breakfast man has told us leaving at 8am will get us to Dublin on time, though I do want to see a bit of Athlone on the way – and we’re all sitting and drowsily enjoying our last moments in Galway. As I guessed, we really didn’t leave enough time to spend in this town, and because it’s “the off-season of the off-season,” I fear we’ve missed out on the typical festive character of the town that I witnessed when I visited in 2008. Still, it was great to solidify the mental picture of the town I began forming almost six years ago, so when I visit next I'll have an even better idea of where I am!

We pack up the car – I’m flummoxed after somehow losing my Red Sox hat (which was later located in Stranorlar!), and say fond farewells to our serendipitous travel companion, Mark, The Pride of Magherafelt and Enabler of One of Our Most Fun Experiences Of The Trip. (Flights on the fly to Edinburgh were too expensive, but something tells me this isn’t the last we’ll see of our Irish friend. Perhaps next time we will watch some “American football” and eat some “MackDonald’s” with him?)

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I last only about 45 minutes behind the wheel and Amy kindly takes over, driving the remainder of the three-hour trip to Dublin. I had wanted to stop in Athlone, a small-ish town in County Westmeath, because it’s allegedly the town our great-grandmother Bridget Creighton came from in 1882. As the family history goes, she was only 5 and came over with her mother on a boat; she got deathly ill on the journey and her mother prayed she wouldn’t die so they wouldn’t toss her body overboard. Luckily (especially for us!) she didn’t, and raised a typically large New England Irish family. We didn’t get out of the car in Athlone, but drove through its downtown section, and it looked perfectly nice, if small. The midlands don’t get nearly the same tourist traffic as do coastal cities like Dublin and Galway, but there’s a charm nonetheless. I look forward to spending more time in Athlone on some genealogy-dedicated trip in the future!

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We get to Dublin with what feels like plenty of time, but Amy is a ball of stress, having not yet printed out her crucial boarding pass; RyanAir is very cheap to fly, but if you don’t bring a printed boarding pass they charge you 80 Euro to print a new one! We find our way (barely) to the hotel Amy has booked for our last night in Dublin and I repack my computer bag with essentials for a 2-day trip to Edinburgh. (RyanAir also charges lots for checked bags so we all made sure to slim down for the trip.) Amy wants to stay behind to try to get her ticket printed at the hotel, and the rest of us head to the airport on the hotel shuttle. I don’t have a good feeling about splitting up like this!

We manage to get on the plane (after forgetting to have our boarding passes stamped by Irish customs and encountering a sympathetic and very helpful gate agent who does this for us) but alas, no Amy. (We wouldn’t see her until much later that night, after she caught the next flight, unfortunately at a not insubstantial financial loss.)

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Arriving in Edinburgh, we take five or so minutes relaxing in an airport lounge; a poorly timed rest, as it turned out, because just as we are about to board our bus to the center of town, a frantic airport agent tells us to evacuate the area because the airport is undergoing an emergency closure! We wait for over an hour in a small room crammed with would-be passengers, and information is sorely lacking. (What kind of fire drill tells people they can’t leave the area?!) Finally I approach someone official and state that we’re not trying to stay at the airport, but leave it and go into town, and she matter-of-factly says “Oh, you can just walk out.” (Good thing I asked – we might still have been waiting hours later!) While we're waiting, Danny and Graci, ever in good spirits, entertain themselves with Mad Libs.

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Later we found out there was a false alarm based on a suspicious package, and the airport was in fact shut down for a number of hours. We walk over a mile to find a bus. Not the best way to drop into town but we at least feel better off than our dear, poor friend stuck at Dublin Airport! Here's the shot where I say "put on the face that represents your last hour"; somehow it comes out looking like the album cover for an indie band.

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We hop on a double-decker to town, sitting on top in front. (Why don’t they have these in the US? Apart from being fun, they seem an efficient mover of people. Then again if we did have them perhaps they wouldn't be as fun?) Approaching the center of Edinburgh, I start to recognize neighborhoods and landmarks from my trip in March, 2011. (Especially the Castle, which looms ominously over the entire city.) Edinburgh is an eminently “memorizable” city – after having spent only five days here I really felt I could “see” the layout of the city in my mind.

The bus lets us out on the North Bridge; as Danny gets out he hears bagpipes. We walk up through a neighborhood I remember, and pop our heads into a cute café where I remember eating some rather mind-blowing vegetarian haggis in 2011. They don't serve food for a couple hours, so we press on; Graci and Danny grab loaded baked potatoes from a neighboring shop with a friendly attendant. She has me take a photo of her in one of the trademark British style red phone booths. Welcome to Scotland, Graci!

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We make the rather long hike to our Airbnb, and are disappointed to discover that although the place is clean and the furnishings are nice, there’s only one large bed for the lot of us. After a fairly pathetic attempt at a nap, Graci and I decide to hit the town a bit while Danny is collapsed in sickness-recovery mode on the couch. First stop is the afore-mentioned Arcade Whisky and Haggis House, by now open for food. I thoroughly enjoy my veggie haggis, and also my first scotch back in Edinburgh, a Balvenie 15. (I think? I remember I wanted a fairly expensive one for my first scotch whisky back in town.)

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The area in front of Edinburgh Castle is completely deserted; when I was here in 2011 there were swarms of people about. Graci seems floored by it (understandably).

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Walking down to Grassmarket, it’s noticeably quieter than my last visit. (It’s also fairly early at night, but still the city seems pretty dead.) Speaking of dead (bad segue), we read the text at the raised circle where hundreds (thousands?) of religious dissenters were publicly executed; Edinburgh is a city that wears its ghosts plainly. (The ghost tours proceeding around us add to this feeling.)

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We stop at another pub (the Black Bear?) for more ridiculously-inexpensive-by-American-standards scotch on "malt of the moment" sale (Dalwhinnie 15 and Highland Park 12) – I think Graci is starting to get one reason why I love this town so.

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We walk up a street and I recognize where I am – right by what could be, apart from the Castle, the most famous landmark in all of Edinburgh: the beautiful statue of loyal Greyfriars Bobby, pilgrimage spot for dog lovers all over the world. (As detailed on my last visit.) I really like coming back to cities I love.

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We make our way over to a pub called the “Brass Monkey” which a few locals have recommended. It’s a bit more lively, and sort of fascinating in its low-light Brooklyn hipster vibe (doesn't really feel like a proper Scottish pub, but more student-friendly) but my social graces are exhausted so I retire to the back room where enormous mattresses are spread out (Apparently the bar plays movies in this space at 3pm every day.) I spend about an hour texting with a great new friend. (Wink.)

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After a while we head out and outside the bar I meet one of the friendly chaps Graci has befriended – a friendly intellectual type with a very cool handlebar moustache!

We get back to the flat and wait for Amy to arrive. Not the most exciting day, especially in comparison to our previous day of travel serendipity –although we did successfully execute (so to speak) a somewhat crazy itinerary of waking up in Galway, crossing over to Dublin, and going to sleep in Edinburgh! – but at least we all made it to this fantastic city, by hook or by crook, and we have the next couple of days to explore. I have such a soft spot in my heart for Edinburgh and can’t wait to revisit certain spots and show this town off to the crew! If only any of us could manage some decent sleep...

Posted by coolmcjazz 17:59 Archived in Scotland Tagged edinburgh dublin athlone galway Comments (0)

Day 5: A Perfect Pint and Trip Up to Belfast

in which your author discovers untold powers of willingness to let an itinerary shift, almost certainly annoying his travel companions on the way!

semi-overcast 45 °F

Due to the previous evening’s shenanigans – is it appropriate to use clichéd Irish slang when describing things that occur in Ireland? – Day 5 began with its front end significantly lopped off. Dan and I walked down the Liffey to put change in the meter at 6:15am and he would venture out twice more over the course of the next six hours to add time. We’re not sure what getting a parking ticket with a rental car would entail, but we’d rather not find out.

Graci and Amy join us and we’re faced with our first daytime group decision – should we visit Kilmainham Gaol, Trinity College/Book of Kells, or the Guinness Storehouse? Give ya one guess.

We make the not insignificant walk to the factory, pausing for a few group shots along the way.

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I’d been to the Storehouse on my first visit in 2008, and as an amateur brewer myself am pretty familiar with the brewing process, so Dan and I whip through all floors fairly quickly while the two ladies relax in a cafe.

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We all meet up in the famous Gravity Bar at the very top, where one will find one of the finest views of the city of Dublin. (It’s even more impressive during the day.) We all enjoy a “perfect pint” – which somehow, is a true claim; the pints at the factory ARE perfect – and plot our next move.

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On the ground floor of the factory, Graci and Amy take mini-naps next to where the original 18th century lease for the building lies encased in glass.

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Our itinerary had us going to Belfast that afternoon and I push to keep this intact even though we’re behind where we wanted to be. As I drive us the 2 ½ hours north, the car resembles a mortuary – everyone is passed out in deep slumber and I supply music of gorgeous Irish singer Iarla Ó Lionáird as background. (I packed both CDs, an iPod, and an iPod cord, and all were used at various points. Yay for that!) The driving presents no difficulties on the highway, but navigating the numerous roundabouts (back home we call ‘em “rotaries!”) coming into Belfast are challenging and rather frightening. I'm beeped at at least four or five times, usually for driving too slow!

We arrive in Belfast at about 9:00pm, staying at a house owned by a woman named Romy whom Danny has found via the Couchsurfing site. As we drive in I play some Van Morrison, native son of Belfast. Romy greets us outside her house in a packed residential neighborhood and based on a claim on her profile, I shout out “Are you the Queen of Belfast?!”

Romy is a Belfast native of the town (pronounced here something like "toyun"), as is her fifteen-year old daughter Seren. She sets out a delicious feast of vegetarian stew, and though we’re all exhausted there’s a lively conversation at the table, comparing Irish and American school systems and hearing about what makes Belfast tick. In 2007, I performed in a Solas Nua-produced play set in Belfast called Scenes from the Big Picture – a production Peter Marks of the Washington Post called “One of the 10 Best Plays of the Decade” – and so I’m really interested to hear the distinctive Belfast upward twang we worked so hard on – and probably still never got perfect. The dipthing for the vowel sound in "house" and "town" is closer to how Americans would pronounce "ice" – Romy and Seren humor me by demonstrating a few of these sounds, which really don't exist in American English. All the while in Belfast, I'm reminded of Daniel Day-Lewis's magnificent performance as falsely accused Belfastian Gerry Conlon in the 1993 film In the Name of the Father.

Unfortunately we’re all too tired to go out and explore the city, so I write a bit and the others pack in to sleep at various locations around the ornately decorated house. We particularly fancy the “One Direction Sucks” scrawled on the living room wall.

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Probably our most crunched-in day overall due to our late start and ambitious travel plans, but we’ve met more good people and I’m excited to see at least a little bit of this city in the morning!

Posted by coolmcjazz 13:57 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin guinness belfast Comments (0)

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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Amy takes a nice shot of me by the fire:

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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?!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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

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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 Comments (2)

Day 1: Bhliain Nua Sásta from Dublin!

in which your author and his travel companion land and breath in the delicious smell of irish peat!

semi-overcast 45 °F

Forgive me, dearest travel blog, for it has been one year, ten months, and thirteen days (?) since last we spoke, exiting Amsterdam and my favorite top floor Dutch haunt on a layover after a too-brief Scottish adventure. This distance, for the record, is far too long – though I am pleased my streak of annual Europe visits was kept intact by the auld skin of its teeth as I landed in Dublin on the final day of 2013. (Dublin counts as part of Europe, yes? Yes.) This is my third trip to Ireland – other stops occurring in August, 2008, and in January, 2011, and I’m just so jazzed to show it off to my brother (his first trip – see below for his fancy packing maneuvers) and friends.

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I write from sullen, seaside Cork – the entirely of Ireland seems asleep today after the shenanigans of last night – where my traveling companion, the hearty Miss Amy Morse and I have safely landed after driving about 3.5 hours in an exceedingly safe manner in our black, stoutish rental car (perhaps we shall name him Murphy?) which must be driven on the wrong side of the road, by a driver perched on the wrong side of the car. I’m actually quite ill, having picked up a nasty, brutish bug from my brother Dan as he drove me to JFK Airport in New York on Sunday, me crowing at him “Don’t worry; I never get sick.” He and his friend Graci – yet to be met by your blogger but already a riot in the tone of her Facebook posts – arrive in Dublin tomorrow, and we will drive back up to meet them on Friday.

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Last night was my first New Years outside of the country, not to mention the first New Years in which I actually celebrated twice – once at Midnight in Dublin, and five hours later, watching the tweets flood in over Twitter from the side of my bed. (Glad you made it to 2014 in one place, friends.) New Years has for a long time been an important holiday for me, dating back to reunions with music camp friends in high school, and I’ve always celebrated the fact that it’s the one day of the year when you can greet strangers on the street with wishes of happiness and not get odd stares.

We arrived yesterday even earlier than our scheduled time of 5:10am, grabbed a coffee – Irish but not that Irish – and experienced our first mini-crisis when I walked outside and realized I didn’t have my favorite long blue scarf to guard against the impending and persistent Irish bluster. Is it on the plane? Does it have a new owner? Did I leave it in my brother’s car? Time will tell.

Two friendly chaps helped us get on the correct bus and we eventually made our way over to Drumcondra, a gritty, high-character (in more ways than one) area in North Dublin. Our lovely Airbnb host Laura was exceedingly welcoming and pleasant, and we chatted excitedly about the trip and other topics including, naturally, the Pope. Amy fell fast asleep.

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Day 1 of her self-pledge to “run every day” commencing, Amy explored the neighborhood while I conked out for only an hour or so, my internal time clock wondering what day, year, or century it was.

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We began our journey into Dublin City Centre, in search of New Years craic, around 17:00, and decided to pop into a pub about two blocks down Drumcondra (?) Road called The Auld Triangle.

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Laura later explained to us that the name came from the triangle which would be rung at the old Mountjoy prison not far from where we were. The depictions of IRA hero Bobby Sands (whose hunger strike I saw depicted in excruciating detail in this amazing film) on the outside of the pub made me guess this would be sort of charged spot, and that was realized when our instant friend Paul spoke extensively about current Irish politics and immigration., and we took in the décor, festooned with political slogans and remembrances of athletic triumphs. I only heard about 60% of what Paul, a soft but incessant talker, said. Ruddy, odd-faced men with wrinkled sandpaper faces stared up at the ceiling, wearily waiting for who knows what? Odd-faced men, straight out of Beckett But men! “Up Where We Belong” played on the jukebox.

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We have our first Irish Guinness and Paul buys us both another, slightly extending the desired length of our drop-in, and when we leave, he extends to Amy what would soon call “an extended remix hug.”

We continue on the path toward downtown, dropping into a few pubs to use their facilities, running into a man from Arlington, MA who gives us lengthy directions. We stop into another pub for a quick pint and talk about dreams and relationships. Amy says “Nobody writes in a bathroom stall, for a good time, have children.”

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We arrive at bustling Temple Bar and put our names in at a busy brewpub with many floors, playing “Freebird” and feeling a bit college for our tastes. By this time we’re both quite hungry and are graced with some terrific pizza slices across the street.

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We make it back to the brewpub and are seated on in a tight enclave amidst revelers and frantic waitresses. A band starts to play familiar American pop songs, and though they are somewhat competent musicians they seem to have all the originality of a stack of Manila file folders. People barely clap. “Maybe They’ll Take a Break?” Our food is not terribly good. The waitress tries to get away with taking 50 Euro on a 24 Euro check (“Are you sure?!” she asks, holding my change in a tin, and I respond, “Yes, I’m sure… that that’s my change." “Are you sure?!” she exclaims again, continuing to hold the tin and perhaps hoping I was too intoxicated (I wasn’t) to catch the mistake of leaving a 1000% tip on service we barely experienced. Grumble. I get my change, leave a far more reasonable tip, and we amble down to the street, having experienced perhaps our first mild letdown. Amy says “I wonder where the grownups are?”

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We walk the streets of Dublin, wading through crowds of revelers and as I take a selfie outside the famous Temple Bar, a group of teenagers jump in.

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I recognize a dance hall once billed to me as “The most authentic musical experience in Dublin,” and recognize the plastered smile and cruise ship atmosphere from the window. We end up in another large brew hall, this one with almost equally bad music (a balding chap manning professional DJ equipment and halfheartedly karaoke-ing himself through another set of too-familiar songs. No one pays him any attention. I’m starting to crash and can’t even finish my beer.

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We walk on, considering where we should spend midnight, approaching in about fifty minutes, and after passing a pub I immediately circle back saying, “no, this place.” We get in and order a pint and it suddenly dawns on me that I’m in the same locale where my favorite Facebook profile photo was taken in January, 2011, after the Swampoodle development week. I’m instantly in a better mood, and the vibe is relaxed and cheerful. We attempt to recreate the photo although the lighting is a bit off given that I’ve (smartly) left my good camera back at Laura’s and use my iPhone instead.

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At about ten minutes to the hour we find ourselves in a much more raucous pub with a solo singer-guitarist leading the crowd in cheers and songs. Everyone is friendly and most in the young crowd are cheerfully half in the bag. “They’ve come all the way from America!” “Mary Mack, she had bones like razor blades!” “Bada bing bada bing. Pavarotti!” “Bottle of vodka – f*ck the neighbors!” “Goodnight everybody. Take care of each other – that’s all that maters.” Here's some video:

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We stick around making grown-up talk with a friendly couple from Belfast – a public relations expert curious about Twitter, and her motorcycle photographer boyfriend, who once took pictures for a play by Owen McCafferty, author of Scenes from the Big Picture. I give her my card and we do hope they’ll be in touch to show us around Belfast where all four of us will be on Saturday.

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We say our goodbyes outside to the hyper-friendly young folks from Belgium and Brazil, and after grabbing some delicious, spicy Middle Eastern food to go from a jam packed café, we manage to hail a cab. The cab driver isn’t quite sure where our place is and drops us off a good twenty minute walk away, it’s nice to smell the peat in the air and spend the first hours of 2014 walking briskly and collapsing into a heap.

Amy has returned from her second run, this one through dark Cork at 11pm, and comments on my pages of writing: “You seem to have some great content there. Did you capture the way the city streets gleam because of the way the street lamps glisten?” No, but thanks for the verbiage. Great artists don’t borrow, they steal.

Posted by coolmcjazz 03:43 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin newyearseve Comments (0)

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