Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scotland and Ireland Day Eight - The Husband's Birthday...

Since it was the Husband's birthday (yes, the lucky man got to celebrate his birthday in Dublin) he got to choose where to go and what to do. Since he's a big Guinness fan, the first stop was the Guinness Factory, so, since both of us were tired of dealing with buses, we took a taxi to St James's Gate.

(Can you see how excited he was?)

Thanks to the Dublin City Pass, we were able to get in for free. The first stop on the tour is a little orientation where a Guinness employee talks about Arthur Guinness, the history of the factory, and points out the 9,000 year lease that's sealed in glass underneath the floor. 

It turns out that the factory tour is built around an atrium that resembles a pint glass. During the introduction you are at the bottom of the glass. From there you walk through an exhibit that talks about the main ingredients for Guinness and how it is brewed. Once you are finished with that, you can go into a Guinness tasting room, and there are also exhibits about how Guinness is transported and how it's been advertised over the years. Meanwhile, as you go through all this, you are slowly going from level to level up the pint glass.

After you are done with the exhibits there's a computer where you can take a test about your Drinking IQ, and there is another kiosk near by where you can look your family name to see if you might be related to anyone who worked in the Guinness factory. There's also a spot where you can learn to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. However, if you do that, you won't get your free Guinness in the Gravity Bar later.

The factory also has a couple of restaurants; one is a fancier sit down type place and the other is a cafeteria that offers more traditional Irish food. The Husband decided he wanted to eat there and we both got shepherds pie and a desert. 

I cannot recommend the cafeteria at the Guinness Factory enough. For about 12 euros each we both had an entree (Shepherds pie) which came with three different salads, and we also shared a yummy desert. It was an amazing amount of food that we were, unfortunately, unable to finish. 

After lunch we continued our trek up to the Gravity Bar for our free pints of Guinness. Since the bar is at the top of the Guinness factory it has an amazing view of the city - but it was too crowded, so we couldn't get anywhere near the windows to see what the view was like. 

(I don't drink beer, so the Husband got an extra Guinness)

Once we were done with the factory, we went downstairs and purchased tickets for the Dublin city Sightseeing tour bus. This is a red bus that goes only to the popular tourist locations so we wouldn't have to worry about getting lost. Also, the ticket is good for two days, which gives you plenty of time to see everything. 

Next up for the day was Kilmainham Gaol, which is a prison where many of the leaders of the different Irish Rebellions where held there over the years. Also, historians feel that it was the executions that took place there in 1916 that turned the tide in the battle for Irish Independence. 

(The entrance)

(A quote above the door)

(The Victorian wing)

The gaol has held more than just political prisoners over the years; during the famine it was quite crowded since people committed crimes in the hopes that they would be caught since prisoners got at least three meals a day. However, it's stories like that of Joseph Punkett and Grace Gilford, who were married just hours before he was executed, that will be remembered and retold more often. 

(The exercise yards)

(Two crosses mark the spot where the leaders of the Easter Rising were executed)

(A plaque in memory of those who were killed)

From Kilmainham Gaol we caught the tour bus to someplace a little happier - the Jameson's Distillery!

While I'm not fond of beer - whiskey is definitely right up my alley. This tour is much shorter than the Guinness tour, but it covers a lot of the same type of information; what ingredients are used for whiskey and how it's made. Did you know that Jameson's is triple distilled, which makes for a smoother taste? And that the barrels it's stored in are personally selected for that purpose. 

During the tour, the guide asked for eight volunteers. We already knew what the volunteers were for, so the Husband stuck his hand up and was one of the lucky men and women chosen to take part in a whiskey taste test. 

Each participant was given three shots of whiskey; one was the best selling American whiskey, Jack Daniels, the next was the best selling Irish whiskey, which was Jamesons, of course, and the final shot was the best selling Scottish whiskey, Johnny Walker. 

After tasting each whiskey the tour guide asked which whiskey each person liked best. Most said that they enjoyed Jamesons the best, but a few said they liked Jack or Johnny better. We had been told that if you answered that you liked Jamesons better then you would get a free certificate stating that you were an official Irish whiskey taste tester - but the tour guide gave the certificates out to everyone no matter what whiskey they liked. 

(The Husband was quite excited about his)

By the time we were done at the Jameson's Distillery, most of the tourist spots like museums and what not were closed for the day, and the tour bus was no longer running, so the Husband and I walked down Abbey Street to O'connell Street. The Dublin Bus runs a Ghost Bus tour that we were interested in taking, however, we couldn't purchase them online, so we were hoping that we would be able to buy them at the Dublin Bus office. They were closed by the time we got to their office, so we waited outside for the bus to show up. 

I am sad that I didn't think to take pictures of this thing. It was a double decker bus, but it was decorated with a wrap around sticker that depicted graveyards and ghosts that blocked out all the windows except for the windshield and the windows up top. Inside the bus had been redecorated with dark paneling and velvet cushions that had a damask pattern. There were chains and fake spider webs hanging from the ceiling, and a skeleton in a robe that sat on one of the seats. 

If you've ever been to Halloween Haunt at Knott's Berry Farm and walked through their vampire maze, Lore of the Vampire - well.. the bus looked a lot like that, except it was on wheels. 

Thankfully they still had room, so we paid the driver took the stairs up to the second level (the stair well was decorated with fake stone!) and settled into seats at the back of the bus. The guide came up and exchanged his coat for a bloody lab coat, told us to pull the curtains blocking the windows shut, and away we went. 

Like the Ghost Tour in Edinburgh, the Dublin Ghost Tour Bus is more theatrical. The bus took us around the city and stopped outside of various points where the guide would talk about the location, the people who lived there, any ghost sightings that may have occurred, and he would also give anyone who flinched at one of his practical jokes (like tossing a rat tied onto a string at one lady) a hard time or make fun of any wrong answers a guest might give for a question he asked.

We were allowed to exit the bus and walk around twice. The first time was at St Kevin's church, a church that dates back to around the 13th century. According to our guide it was rumored to have been used by the Hellfire Club for certain practices, but I can't find any information online to confirm that. What I can tell you is that all that is left of the church is its ivy covered walls, and its cemetery which has been converted into a park. 

(Our guide talks about the cemetery)

(Supposedly a little boy has been spotted here)

When the cemetery was converted, people were able to come and claim the bodies of their loved ones to be reburied elsewhere, but a lot of bodies were left behind. Rather than move them, the tombstones were just shoved up against the wall instead. In some places they were piled four deep.

Once we reached the church, our guide discussed how the cemetery was a popular spot for body snatchers, and discussed what, exactly, body snatching entailed using another tour member as an example.

From there the bus drove around some more, again stopping at different places so that we could look out the windows at them (If you take this tour I would highly recommend sitting on the left side of the bus so that you can see more) and our guide made fun of more people. 

The last stop we could exit the bus at was outside of St Audeon's where the guide showed us part of the remaining medieval Dublin city gate and walls. Here there are a series of steps that go from the gate up to the top of the hill. There is also an archway built into the wall at the bottom of the steps where the guide told us there used to be an entrance into the Dublin underworld. According to him, there were a lot of brothels in the tunnels under Dublin (just like in Edinburgh) and that the prostitutes would bring out their babies to the church nearby and give them up for adoption since they could not care for them. Supposedly one girl fell in love with a man and had a child by him. Rather than allowing him and his wife to raise the child, she gave it up to the nuns at the church nearby. The man accused her of killing the baby, and the girl was executed for her crime. Ever since there have been sightings of a woman in green, walking from the archway up the stairs. 

While explaining all of this, our Guide, who claimed to believe in ghosts, but still had that air about him that said he was a skeptic stopped multiple times to stare up the steps at something. Now, it was a pretty windy night, and as you can see in the picture, there are a lot of trees around St Audeon's, so it's quite possible that what we saw was just a combination of things, but the Husband swore he could see shadows of people peaking around the corner of the church to look down at us. Judging from how the guide kept looking up that way, I bet he saw something too, and I don't think he's such a skeptic anymore. 

There's another group from around Dublin that gives walking ghost tours as well, but we were unable to get in touch with them, and their website was a bit confusing, so the Ghost Bus was the last of our paranormal experiences in Scotland and Ireland. 

The tour ended at O'Connell Street and the Husband and I walked down to the Temple Bar District for dinner. The Husband chose a place that had mainly American food (it was his birthday after all) and we headed inside. Unfortunately, we were seated in the back of our servers area, and it was a busy night, so it was a good 30 minutes before he came over to take our order, and another 30 before we actually got our food. However, the spot gave us a great view of the antics that were about to ensue. See, behind us was the bar, and a group of girls who were obviously a part of a hen/bachelorette party were hanging out there. Then suddenly, I noticed the Husband's eyes get very big, so I looked over and...

There was a fireman stripping for the girls! And he was a damn good one too! Yes he got down to the buff, but he did it so cleverly and kept an Irish flag wrapped around his waist so that only the girl he was dancing for had any idea how little he was wearing. He finished his act and made his escape with one of the waitresses acting as a body guard for him. But then, not even 15 minutes later, he was back and dancing for another hen/bachelorette party down on the other side of the restaurant. Apparently, the stripper was an employee of the restaurant! You'd definitely wouldn't find that in the US (which is sad, because, man, girls night out would be so much more interesting)

We paid our bill and left and then caught a taxi back to our hotel. This taxi driver was just as friendly as the gentleman from the day before and we chatted about the weather, and then the Husband and the Taxi started talking about diesel cars. The Taxi driver got us to our destination, but unfortunately pulled into the wrong driveway - the one for the bar next to our hotel. He turned around though, but warned us that while the hotel we were staying at was really nice, the neighborhood was not and to be careful if we went outside.

The husband and I exchanged a look - it figures that we would learn this the night after we had gone walking around the city because we got off at the wrong bus stop. Oh well. 

We paid the Taxi and headed inside where we promptly passed out again.

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