2005-02-25 : Tiptoe through the clich?s, and grab a Guinness while you’re enjoying your craic.

There, OK ? I said it. I used that word. It's the Irish word for “having a good time”. Now without wanting to appear *too* cynical, I just want to make it fairly clear that an Irish good time isn't necessarily any better than a regular garden variety good time. Or maybe it is, and we just didn't get any… I guess we were in Dublin after all.

Oh yeah, that's right – we went to Dublin last weekend ! Before I continue this post, I shall now include the Foreword, written by my learned colleague Oli (pictured).

“My first trip to a city with Jason really demonstrated what it was to be a tourist, for once I couldn't spit on the tourists because I was one, yes that guy on the back of the genuine ye old irish horse and cart, photographing signage and desperate to shed my Euros to anyone with an irish accent. This was more than a city break however, it was a life changing weekend, no.. I'm lying again, it was just a p~ss up somewhere different, sit back and enjoy Jason's exaggerated stories and staged photographs…”

He's a caring, understanding nineties type, isn't he ? Right, so – into it ! THE DUBLIN VOYAGE…

For starters, you're always onto a good thing when you have half a day off work… even if you spend most of it on a tube train to Heathrow… EVEN if an idiot with an out of tune 3 string banjo gets on the tube and starts singing Van Morrison songs at you. But anyway, we went to the airport, flew to Dublin, and then took a photo of Pinchy on a giant metal pig with wings. Some taxi-related misunderstandings, and we eventually found ourselves checked into our hotel (just in case you're interested) and ready to go do some touristing.

First step was to head to the main booze district in the city (known as Temple Bar), and what better place to start in Temple Bar than the pub known as… The Temple Bar ! So this was my first experience in an actual Irish Pub (i.e. a pub in Ireland, as opposed to a contrived exercise in spray-on theming involving Guinness ads, old bicycles and farm implements). OK, maybe I'm being slightly misleading in this, as Shane (Justin's friend) was fairly quick to tell us that since the Temple Bar district had boomed with tourism, the Temple Bar Pub has exploded from a cosy little knothole to a sprawling complex involving Guinness ads, old bicycles and farm implements.

Look, enough about that – the place we had dinner was really cool. The Bad Ass Cafe. Gotta say, this place had atmosphere… the food was great (their calzone's are ENORMOUS), and they had those groovy whizzy mechanical egg things that shops used to have to pass cash from the cashiers to the office. Apparently. I don't know, I'm not that old – but I've been informed that's what they are.

Right, so next was a couple of pubs and a nightclub, a whole lot of cash, and then a cab ride home from a cunning bastard driver who managed to take us on an 8 Euro ride for a 3 block trip. It must have been quite scenic.

Saturday morning the group split up, and we decided to make our way to the holiest of sites, The Guinness Storehouse. Yes it's a pricey tourist trap, and yes it was mostly redundant for the fact that I know damn well how beer is made… but it'd be unforgiveable to go to Dublin and NOT pay homage at this most important location. Pinchy and Fnord came along too.

One thing that I thought was pretty impressive – in amongst all the wanky marketing tripe – was the number of times I sawy the word “Grist” written in large letters. And for that one, I'm gonna stick with “Ya just had to be there”.

After our “free” pint in the Gravity bar:

(the bar at the top of the Storehouse building that commands excellent views of the city, provided the weather's any good and that you can atually get through the knotted ranks of tourists to see out of a window), we decided to push on to the Old Jaimeson Distillery. None of us could be bothered walking, there were no relevant bus routes nearby, and not a cab in earshot. So we took the next most sensible form of transport available.

It's quite impossible not to look like an absolute tourist whilst getting a ride in a horse and cart, although I suspect at some point we looked like stunt tourists, as at one point in the journey our horse seemed to lose traction and there was the uncomfortable sound of metal & hoof sliding on bitumen. But we all escaped alive (if somewhat poorer), and upon arrival we decided that none of us could in fact be bothered to go do the tour. We sampled a couple of whiskies though and then pushed on to go meet the others at the train station.

The next part of the afternoon was going to be up to the lovely seaside spot called Hoath (note: this is NOT a planet from the Star Wars Trilogy, although the temperature would have been about right that weekend). Unfortunately there was train related maintenance going on, and we could only go south, and so we proceeded down to a place called Dalkey. I must admit, this part of the mission escaped me somewhat, as when we got there we didn't go anywhere near the sea, but instead found a cheery little restaurant that could fit a table of 8, and went there. It was still a good bit of fun though (apart from Andie feeling sick and Eugene taking her back early. Poor thing.), and we trained it back into Dublin and once again split up.

Paul (pictured) – ever the man with a keen eye for a tourist must-do – had pointed out the Jewel n the Tourism Crown of Ireland, and we made it our sworn mission to visit this during the Saturday evening. It was The Bram Stoker Experience – a tribute to the fearsome and famous Vampire Lord, Count Dracula, and the life and works of Bram Stoker (born in Clontarf, just out of Dublin) told using Latest Technology. *Another* description could also have been “Piss Weak Scary World”.

I'm afraid that my limited powers of narrative prose can't possibly begin to capture the experience of this installation. Nor did I get any photos, as I was barely able to hold my camera still throughout the entire ordeal. It was without doubt an experience I shall never forget.

So back into Dublin again – we met Oli (yes, this is still the same day, and I'm rushing my description here), popped back to The Temple Bar for a pint, saw a Stag Night all dressed as superheros encounter a hen's night dressed as cowgirls (not an unusual occurrence in Dublin these days), found a Mongolian BBQ restaurant to have dinner at, popped in for cocktails at a fairly empty and ordinary lounge – distunguished by the fact it was the emptiest building in the Temple Bar area – and then off to another pub, Kehoe's. I'm sure this would be an excellent pub, and I'm all for a crowd, however this was bordering on the ridiculous – it was probably about as roomy and enjoyable as being on the tube in peak hour… except that everyone was shouting at each other, the ceiling was higher, and they had beer.

So after about 45 minutes of squeezing around trying to find somewhere to stand and deciding it wasn't gonna happen, we moved on to the Smallest Pub In Dublin, The Dawson Lounge. Intriguingly enough it was roomier than Kehoe's, despite only having about 9 square metres of floor space.

Finally our Saturday night capped off at The Sugar Club – my favourite of all the drinking holes we went to (and there was a few!), and the only place in Dublin I'd hurry to go back to. It was wild – it was funky, had a great crowd, and top atmosphere… and it was just a jazz club, being exactly what it was.

Sunday I'm at a bit of a loss for, as I've been writing this entry for about an hour now and my eyes are starting to bleed. I know we got on a stupidly cold tour bus (well it was an open topped bus, and we wanted a view – I guess it was our fault) and endeavoured to get around to see a museum or two. Comically, every time we went to get off, the tour guide would say “Sorry fellas, that doesn't open for another hour”, and so we'd sit down again. We popped into one of those tacky touristy souvenir shops to grab some necessities, although sadly Paul didn't lash out and buy the green beard/hat combo. Pity, really.

Our token bit of cultcha for the weekend was going to the Irish National Gallery and looking at the Jack Yeats paintings. This turned out to be a bloody good idea of Justins, because not only was it free, but it introduced me to a fascinating artist with a quite distinctive and captivating style.

OK I'm going to wrap this up now because I'm sick of the sight of this keyboard. We visited the Museum of History and Archaeology (did you ever find a Museum that WASN'T about history), and were quite interested in the strength of the Viking influence on Irish development and culture. Then we went to The Merrion Hotel for afternoon tea. It was all rather posh, and probably would have been better if we weren't all exhausted. Justin seemd to find it hilarious when he saw a bunch of bedraggled and exhausted males at various stages of 5 o'clock shadow and hangover, sitting in these opulent surroundings and concentrating intently on the harpist that was situated adjacent to our table.

Home stretch now – we flew back to Heathrow, tried not to snap each others' heads off due to exhaustion and grumpiness, and made it home by about midnight.

Right, that's all. I'm going now.