By the time we docked, the sun was setting and we made our way to our hostel, Abraham House. It was Friday night and we were about to begin our 2 days in Dublin. We had been told repeatedly that the locally-brewed Guinness is far crisper, fresher and more delicious than anywhere else in the world, and therefore we were eager to try it for ourselves. We walked to Temple Bar, where we found “Trad Fest” in full swing – I never did find out exactly what kind of festival it was, but it featured a great deal of celebration and live traditional Irish music, which was enough of an explanation for me. We bar hopped along the busy street, drinking a pint of Guinness in each bar, before finishing up the night in the eponymous pub of the area, Temple Bar, where we listened to some live fiddle music.
We began the next day with a “full Irish breakfast”, which, based on our experience over the past 3 months, is indistinguishable from a “full Welsh breakfast” and a “full English breakfast”, aside from the country in which you’re eating. I had booked tickets for a tour of the Guinness brewery and, although it was halfway across the city from us, we decided to stroll there and check out some cathedrals and monuments along the way.
As we walked around the exterior of Dublin castle, a large group of cyclists wearing period costumes slowed down to chat with us. We leaned forward to look into the bike basket of a man dressed as butcher, which held a large, fleshy-looking object wrapped in plastic. “Is that a pig’s head?” Brent asked the man, with a mixture of thrill and horror. “Yes”, the man replied blankly, as though this was a perfectly normal thing to carry around Dublin. The group directed us to where they had come from, Christchurch Cathedral, where there was a traditional Irish village set-up as part of the Trad Fest celebrations.
At Christchurch Cathedral, we found rows upon row of stalls set-up by farmers, merchants, fortune tellers and craftspeople. A farmer proudly pointed out the goat responsible for the cheese we were eating. At another stall, a lovely older woman wearing a kerchief taught Brent how to make a Brigid’s Cross from reeds, while a man explained to me how to make a thatched roof from straw. Their rural Irish accents were incredibly difficult to understand, so we mostly smiled and accepted all the free samples and gifts thankfully. We left with some homemade bread flour and a small bag of fudge made from Guinness.
Not surprisingly, the Guinness storehouse was a whirlwind of Guinness propaganda. By the time we reached the 5th floor of the pint glass-shaped interior, we were giggling with mock reverence about how that great Arthur Guinness had blessed the world with his magnificent creation. The last step of the tour involved lining up to learn how to pour our own “perfect pint of Guinness” from a bar tap. We each poured our own complementary drink and then the tour guide offered us the extra pint he had poured to demonstrate the appropriate technique for our group of tourists. As we sat at a table finishing off our three pints, a couple walked by and offered us their own free drinks. We congratulated ourselves on having been more than compensated for the brewery’s admission price through scavenged pints.
Since it was 4pm and we were bordering on tipsy, we decided to get a late lunch at a pub, nap, and then venture out into Saturday night in Dublin. I went to the washroom while Brent paid the bill, and came out to find him sitting on a bar stool next to 3 middle-aged Irishmen and with two full pints of Guinness on the bar in front of him. He explained that the men had insisted on buying us drinks. The strangers quickly turned out to be generous to the point of aggression. Each time we finished a pint and tried to make an exit, they gave us a dose of Irish peer pressure and bought us another round. One of the men, Mike, insisted that we become Facebook friends immediately and gave Brent loud and unsolicited lessons on how to be a good lover. We asked him what he did for a living and he looked at us, without a hint of humour, and said “Well, I’m a breakdancer – we’re all breakdancers”. It remained unclear whether the man had a startlingly dry sense of humour or if breakdancing is far more profitable in Ireland than in North America. We eventually dragged ourselves out of the pub around 10pm, with the men still calling out and insisting that we stay and go out dancing with them. I suppose that would have been the opportunity to find out if they really were breakdancers by trade. I guess we’ll never know.