My Goodness, My Guinness

It’s most definitely one of the top five tourist spots in the city. My student housing was directly across from the entrance to the Guinness Storehouse and a consistent stream of people flowed in and out through the alleyway every day. Those leaving held their Guinness Giftshop purchases in black and gold lettered giftbags. Horses, pulling carriages filled with families holding cameras, selfie-sticks, and Go Pros, trotted out from the alley and on to the road from the storehouse for scenic tours of the city.

A few other students in my program gave lukewarm reactions to the Guinness Storehouse. The tour was self-guided through the massive facility that ends at the famous Gravity Bar, which offers a panoramic view of the city. Despite hearing that it was just an “ok” thing to do, I felt excited to visit.

If you are planning to go, I suggest ordering your tickets online. You can pick your time and you get a small discount. As with most things, I got a discount for being a student (yay!). It’s a bit of a walk from the street to the back of the lot where the entrance is. Once you walk to the entrance of the Storehouse, you see the crowds of people, standing in line waiting to buy tickets and catching horse-drawn carriages to take them to other locations in the city. I was able to bypass the line and get right into the building because I bought my ticket the night before.

The Storehouse is massive. There are seven floors to explore Guinness past and present, and even when you think you’ve gone up a floor, you still may not have reached the next one.

Immediately upon starting your tour, you are greeted by the sound of a roaring waterfall as you enter into a dark room with ingredients used for beer such as hops and barley. Guinness facts dot the wall. One of the facts states that Guinness uses 100,000 tonnes of Irish barley per year. You move through the first floor, reading about the ingredients and then move under the waterfall before taking stairs or elevators to the next floor.

Some parts of the facility are not part of a standard ticket, such as the Guinness tasting room. My ticket did not include this, so I moved past that part to the rest of the Guinness Story.

There is a floor with interactive videos of actors portraying members of the Guinness family and workers talking about their lives and the normal of their everyday. The lower floors contain these stories and more about the brewing process.

Old machinery actually used in days of Guinness past are placed in large rooms.

One of my favorite floors contained old and new advertisements and marketing artifacts, paper, and videos. I love media and marketing and found walking through this section fascinating. Here you see all the Guinness animals, including the bird and sea-lion, and when you walk out of the past section you can enter into a large dark room with more recent advertisements playing. They are dramatic as they light up and surround you.

With your ticket you have two options. You can take it all the way up to the final stop, the Gravity Bar, or you can go to the Guinness Academy and learn to pour your own pint. I chose the latter, naturally. Who wouldn’t want to learn to pour their own pint at the Guinness Storehouse?

The view outside the window while I waited in line for pouring my pint. 

At the Academy, ten of us gathered around as the pouring expert showed us on the official glasses on the perfect pour. That perfect pour, by the way, should take 119.5 seconds. First you pour the glass, slowly tipping it back and fill it mostly up. Then you have to wait, as one of the unique parts of Guinness is the nitrogen involved in their brewing. That’s how the iconic head of Guinness comes to be. After the beer has settled and turned from a caramelly color to a dark red with a nice head, then you push the lever the other direction to properly fill your pint glass. Fun fact: I accidently pulled it the wrong way the second time and got a few shouts as I started adding more nitrogen. Oops! I corrected it quickly and had a delicious pint, I promise you.

My Pint!

After the Guinness Academy, there was more exploring old advertisements and playing an interactive harp. I stopped by 1837 Bar & Brasserie for lunch. It was fantastic. The menu had a myriad of options and the best pint to pair with them. Oysters and Guinness have been eaten together since 1837, hence the name of the restaurant. I developed a love of oysters after being introduced to them by my fiancé and his family. I haven’t had any for a while, so I was so excited to have some in Dublin! Pittsburgh oysters are just not the same as oysters from a coastal area.

The pictures will have to do. I can’t describe how good they were! Ah, they taste like summer.

After getting my fill of food and the history and process of beer making, I took the escalators up and a set of stairs to get some great views of Dublin at the Gravity Bar to end my visit. I didn’t get more beer up here, instead I took pictures out of the windows and watched the bartenders fill pint after pint.

YUM!

My visit exceeded my expectations. I loved every floor and exhibit, and of course all the pints of Guinness! I think it is a must-see/must-do while in Dublin.

After perusing the gift shop and buying a few gifts for family and friends, I left the building and ended my Guinness experience, taking photos of the exterior of the building and the Guinness gate.

I spent about four hours inside the Guinness Storehouse and highly recommend taking your time as you make your way up and around the building. There is so much to see, do, and yes, drink.

Enjoy!

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Inis Mór

After our brief stop at the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to our Galway hostel for the weekend. We had the rest of the night after a group dinner to explore Galway and the rest of the next night as well. The morning following our first night in Galway we hopped back on the bus to take us to a ferry which would bring us over to the Aran Islands

I have never taken a ferry before and was anxious yet excited to see what it was like. We were warned by our program directors that the ride over could be rough for some of us. It didn’t help that the weather was poor and sea was choppy. So, for the forty-five minute or so ride over, we were told to sit outside or in the back of the ferry if we tended to experience motion sickness. Our group of forty-some students and program directors boarded the ferry almost last, leading to few seats left for our large group. I hurried in and found a seat upfront, not wanting to sit outside in the frigid air. Some in our program found seating inside, but many had to sit outside and ended up soaking wet once we arrived.

The ferry that took us over

The ferry ride over for me, luckily, was without any stomach upset and was actually fun. I loved the bouncing of the ferry and the splashing of the waves against the side. Not even halfway through our journey though, scores of people were hunched over trashcans scattered along the floor in various stages of motion sickness. There was a group of girls traveling together that quickly morphed from laughing at every jump in the boat and taking selfies to crying. I felt bad in my seat watching the lone girl without problems checking on her friends and grabbing them plastic bags and water.

Once the ferry reached the port, we grouped up, half soaking wet and frowning, and the other half ready to get started. The island offered three ways of reaching our ultimate target of Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) and a tour of the island. You can tour and explore the island by way of biking through bike rentals, a bus tour, or a horse carriage. I decided on the bus tour. When we arrived, it was pretty cold with strong wind and I wanted to be out of the elements, hoping it would warm up.

The Aran Islands are three separate islands. Inis Mór (Inishmore), which means the big island, is known for hosting past Red Bull cliff diving competitions and also was a filming location for the 2010 movie, Leap Year. Inis Meáin (Inishmaan), meaning the middle island, features the John Millington Synge cottage. The smallest island, Inis Oírr (Inisheer), the east island, is known for its lighthouse and the shipwreck, Plassey. All the islands offer stunning views of the sea, interesting terrain, and a fun biking and walking atmosphere. We spent our time on Inis Mór.

I shared a bus with one other Pitt student, six other students in our program from other schools, and an older couple. Our bus driver drove us up the one main road on the island to the village at the top. Pictured below are my shots from inside the bus, so you may see some window glare. The bus moved surprisingly fast up the hill with bikers, walkers, and cars moving in either direction. Sometimes a lost cow had to be corralled back to its field by an irritated farmer. That, by the way, was hilarious. Cows take their good old time moving. We did not mind.

Many of my pictures are from this viewpoint. I sat in the front of the bus, taking pictures out of the many windows.

The bank on the island 

St. Brigid's cross on the front of a home

We shared the road with bikers, walkers, other cars, and the ocassional loose animal. 

Right before the village our bus and a few other cars had to stop as three donkeys had gotten loose from their enclosure and were taking up most of the road. We passed them on their side and continued and heading up to the village.  Our driver let us know how long we would have up here before he would drive us back down to the main part of town. As we walked down the road, away from the ice cream shop and knit shops, the donkeys came barreling through, passing right next to us. It was awesome.

After the exhilaration of watching wild and rowdy donkeys doing whatever they pleased, we continued to the final rest area before the trail heading up to the ancient site. After the eventual hike up to the site, I would come back to eat lunch and shop in the knitting and jewelry store.

Finally, with my ticket bought, I started the hike up the trails, walking behind and passing various travelers on the way up. We hadn’t been told too much about Dún Aonghasa other than that it was a prehistoric stone fort built on the island. I was not prepared for the views and experience at the ancient site. Before that sight, came the walk on the craggy ground flanked by the stone walls. The land on the islands are rocky and not the best for farming. In many of my pictures, you can see the rocks and stone breaking out from the ground.

Our tour guide had told us earlier on the way up that these walls were not held together. They were loose stones piled on top of each other. While walking the trail, I rested against the wall up the winding path to adjust camera settings and the rocks started to shift. It was so weird to see these walls all over the island, knowing they were freestanding.

No building material keep these rocks "glued" together. They are simply stacked on each other. 

Aran Islands

It was, uh, a tad bit windy as you can see. Had to take a snapchat!

The path steadily took a steeper turn with more rocks and stones slicing through the ground.

At last I made it through the main hike into the mostly flat open field, to see the exposed cliff side at Dún Aonghasa. The views were breathtaking, the height, terrifying. I stayed here for a while, inching myself to the cliffs edge and securing myself for some shots of the cliff faces. After enough time and a substantial increase in my heartrate, I headed the final distance to inside of the fort’s half circle structure.

The stone walls on the right are the walls of the fort. 

A heart on the footpath

I don’t need to say much as the views truly do that for me. I photographed the stone walls, the cliffs, and the people exploring the grounds around me before heading back down to the village to take some pictures of the town at the top before the tour back down.

Inside Dún Aonghasa

The final stretch back to the town at the top

After some time, our tour guide collected us in the square and loaded us back up for a trip down to the harbor. Before the harbor though, he took us to one of the old church sites and current cemetery on the island.

We thanked our bus driver as he concluded the tour and for his many jokes and good humor in taking us around. He stopped a few times on the road when he saw me trying to take pictures of cows and horses, so my shots were better.

A very happy cow

While in town before heading out on the ferry, I indulged in my own planned splurge and bought a famous Aran Island sweater, soft as a cloud and so comfortable.

I bought a sweater from this shop!

It was another fantastic day in Ireland.

Céad Míle Fáilte: Welcome to My Blog!

Today is my second day in Ireland. It was a busy day. Before I dive into the details, I want to describe my first day in the Emerald Isle. 

Day one started early. On May 23rd, I flew from Pittsburgh to New York. After a layover, I had a seven hour flight over night to Dublin. I was tired from three days in a row of little sleep as I squeezed in last minute doctor's appointments I'd been neglecting over the semester, packing, and final days at work. I assumed that I would be able to sleep on the plane, but try as I might I could barely sleep for more than twenty minutes. Early in the morning, around 5:35 Dublin time, the pilot announced that we would be landing. I opened up the window covering, hoping to catch a sight of the green expanses, but it was a mostly cloudy, overcast morning with thick gray clouds hanging low. Finally, as we approached the runaway, I saw patchwork spaces of greens. It almost felt like a dream as the wheels touched down on the runway. I felt exhausted from the previous days but I couldn't help but feel my bubbling excitement. 

After we landed, the passengers filed our way into the airport, a handful of cranky babies cried (bless their parents) and sleepily we made our way to the immigration section of the airport. After I made it through the checkpoint, I arrived at the luggage carousel, hoping for a quick turn around. I sat on the floor for an hour, trying not to nod off. I had thoughts of hot showers and fresh bed sheets dancing in my mind. I watched a cute toddler run between her parents with her jelly legs wobbling at the effort. Her smile stretched across her face and her curls bounced as her father scooped her up in his arms. I smiled watching them; it helped the time pass and it was nice to see someone appreciating the early hour. 

After about an hour the luggage began pouring out, black, floral, animal print, all kinds of bags tumbled out. I grabbed my bags (I packed a lot because what if I need those extra thirty pairs of socks?!). I am a planner, someone who likes schedules and order in my life. My packing backs this up. Anyway, after grabbing my bags I pushed the luggage cart out to the buses lined up outside. I bought my ticket which would take me closest to the hostel.

I want to take a moment to say how much I appreciate public transportation. The bus was filled with fellow travelers from my flight who were heading to their hostels and hotels. Most of us were searching maps, reading emails, checking text messages and google maps for where exactly we were supposed to be dropped off. The bus driver took a minute before we took of to explain how buses work and payment works in Ireland. We clamored on with bulky suitcases and bags and stuffed them on the bus luggage rack and sat down. She called out each stop and helped travelers figure out the best stops for them. When I got off my stop, the next to last, I pulled out my phone hoping to figure out which direction I needed to go. Before she left, the bus driver asked the group of us who just stepped off if we knew which way to go. I told her the name of my hostel and she spent a quick minute detailing the directions I would need to take. She gave me a smile and continued her directions even as the doors closed. This was my first of so far many encounters of Dubliners being so helpful and kind to me as a traveler. I'm used to Americans being categorized as friendly, but this felt like a personal and individualized encounter. I take the bus daily in Pittsburgh and am confident in navigating the sometimes tricky world of public transport. Despite this, it was still nerve-wracking to be so tired in a country I was unfamiliar with to try and navigate the streets and bus routes. The bus driver left when I thanked her and heading in the direction she described. 

With slow and heavy steps, I made my way to the hostel. I scoured the internet to try and find an affordable and nice hostel. I was most nervous about this. I value sleep and privacy. I would be spending the duration of my stay in a six person room in a bunkbed with a shared bathroom and shower. I wouldn't know who I was rooming with until they showed up to claim their bunk. It would be a while until I met them. I hobbled my way to the hostel, my energy dissipating with each step and finally arrived. I had four hours before my check in. Luckily, my hostel has a spacious common area on the ground floor with tables and chairs, couches, a bar, and even a pool table. I slumped into the couch and slept for four hours in a disjointed mess of limbs and uncombed hair. 

When check in came, I raced up to my room and took a swift shower, washing travel away. I then proceeded to sleep for the majority of the day. Throughout the day various hostel-mates trickled in but I barely registered the door swinging open. I did force myself to eat late at night before the hostel dinning hours closed, not having eaten since breakfast on the plane at 4 a.m. The food in this hostel is amazing. Let me explain with a picture of my dinner from the first night. A picture says a thousand words after all. 

The Avo Burger at Generator Hostel in Dublin

The Avo Burger at Generator Hostel in Dublin

After dinner, I walked about fifteen minutes to where I would be staying once classes begin next week. I circled back toward my hostel and explored the area close by, calling it a night not long after. This photo is the only one I managed to take my first day in Dublin. Since I spent the majority of my day sleeping. 

As far as my hostel-mates, everyone is great and super conscientious of noise and space. Only one hostel-mate and I have not said hello because either one of us have been asleep while the other is awake.  Of the five in the room, two are Germans, one is Canadian, and two are American. The five of us had a laugh this morning, discovering that the small and so far inaccessible balcony attached to our room has a discarded pair of boxers shorts resting there from a previous tenant.

Day two proved to be more enriching and tiring in its own way. I have yet to purchase a bus pass and have been waking to all my destinations, which I love! This gives me a chance to pull out my camera and document street life. I am obsessed with museums of all kinds. I had a quick breakfast in the hostel and drowned myself in sweet, sweet life giving coffee and headed out to my first stop of my busy day. There are numerous museums in Dublin and since I was still recovering from the exhaustion of travel, I wanted to head to a close one. The nearest one was around ten minutes away called the National Museum of Ireland. I headed that way with my camera in tow excited to begin photographing my adventure. To my delight, the museum had free admission. I was behind a group of Irish school students on a field trip and began to make my way though the museum. As I pulled out my camera, I realized my batteries had been left in another bag back at the hostel. Not wanting to delay, I took my phone and headed into the display rooms. 

I didn't look up what the museum offered before arriving. I wanted to be surprised, plus it was so close. The museum detailed a lot of the political and military history of Ireland with some interactive displays. This was incredibly exciting to me as this was one of my focuses in studying Irish History. 

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This figure depicts a prisoner captured in 1798 after the United Irishmen Rebellion. The plaque next to him posed two options for his fate, either execution or because of his age, he would be sent as a prisoner to Australia. 

This figure depicts a prisoner captured in 1798 after the United Irishmen Rebellion. The plaque next to him posed two options for his fate, either execution or because of his age, he would be sent as a prisoner to Australia. 

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the interactive display of old guns. After you picked one up, the screen displayed the proper way they were used and handled. Next to the guns was a wooden block depicting the result of the bullet on contact with a human. 

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the interactive display of old guns. After you picked one up, the screen displayed the proper way they were used and handled. Next to the guns was a wooden block depicting the result of the bullet on contact with a human. 

Later in the museum I had fun with another display. One of the museum workers saluted me when he saw me and told me I was a soldier now. 

Later in the museum I had fun with another display. One of the museum workers saluted me when he saw me and told me I was a soldier now. 

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The remains of a B-17 engine that crashed in 1943. 

The remains of a B-17 engine that crashed in 1943. 

After the museum, I headed back to the hostel to pick up my batteries. The next stop was Dublin Castle for a guided tour. On the way I took some pictures on the street. For a background, right now Ireland is buzzing with news of the upcoming referendum on the 8th Amendment. I've been reading a lot about this topic in the recent weeks as a multitude of news agencies are covering it. I was not prepared for the amount of signage regarding the amendment on the street. It was as if every post had at least one poster either for or against repealing it, sometimes there were multiple signs stacked on top of each other. Here are a few pictures I took while heading to the castle. 

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You can see in this picture the posts down from the one upfront have similar signs all the way down. 

You can see in this picture the posts down from the one upfront have similar signs all the way down. 

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May 25th (tomorrow) is the referendum. 

Here are a few other sights on the way to the castle. 

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The signs feature both Gaelic and English!

The signs feature both Gaelic and English!

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A statue dedicated to children born after/of the Millennium. 

A statue dedicated to children born after/of the Millennium. 

It began to rain just as I made it to the castle. 

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Our tour guide James took us down into the underground of what was once the wall surrounding Dublin Castle. Where we stood would be where the moat once ran. The rocks here are the side of the wall and James is standing in front of the steps that lead to the entrance. 

Our tour guide James took us down into the underground of what was once the wall surrounding Dublin Castle. Where we stood would be where the moat once ran. The rocks here are the side of the wall and James is standing in front of the steps that lead to the entrance. 

The steps were purposefully made uneven to hinder the advance of enemies should they try to climb. 

The steps were purposefully made uneven to hinder the advance of enemies should they try to climb. 

This building is the private chapel on the grounds, originally made to be an Anglican church. 

This building is the private chapel on the grounds, originally made to be an Anglican church. 

Cromwell, who is not a happy historical memory for most Irish people, is listed here. 

Cromwell, who is not a happy historical memory for most Irish people, is listed here. 

The chapel has the names of British leaders sent to manage Ireland from Dublin Castle. 

The chapel has the names of British leaders sent to manage Ireland from Dublin Castle. 

Apparently, Bram Stoker worked in this building! It's now a government building. 

Apparently, Bram Stoker worked in this building! It's now a government building. 

Fun Story! The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and the national color is blue not green! When the Republic of Ireland went to make the harp the symbol they discovered that Guinness had copyrighted that symbol over a hundred years earlier. So to satisfy this situation, Dublin's Government flipped the harp. If you look up Guinness, the harp faces the other way!

Fun Story! The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and the national color is blue not green! When the Republic of Ireland went to make the harp the symbol they discovered that Guinness had copyrighted that symbol over a hundred years earlier. So to satisfy this situation, Dublin's Government flipped the harp. If you look up Guinness, the harp faces the other way!

The interior had so much gold!

The interior had so much gold!

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Gold on Gold on Gold on Gold!

Gold on Gold on Gold on Gold!

In addition to the gold, each room had beautiful and unique chandeliers. This was one of my favorites. 

In addition to the gold, each room had beautiful and unique chandeliers. This was one of my favorites. 

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One of the most interesting parts of the castle was the room that featured those executed in the 1916 Uprising. It was such a stark change from royal opulance to plain portraits hanging on a wall of men who were executed. 

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I enjoyed Dublin Castle and plan to head back to explore the gardens and the art gallery on loan from Connecticut which features art depicting the Irish Famine. 

After my outings I came back to enjoy my first pint of Guinness and Fish and chips in my hostel and to listen to live music from a local band. 

I will admit I am not usually a huge fan of Guinness. It's my Irish sin, I know. I LOVED this pint. It tasted great paired with dinner. 

I will admit I am not usually a huge fan of Guinness. It's my Irish sin, I know. I LOVED this pint. It tasted great paired with dinner. 

I could not finish this all! I did give it my college best. 

I could not finish this all! I did give it my college best. 

While eating and enjoying my pint I listened to Fenton Blue, an Irish Alt-Rock band. 

While eating and enjoying my pint I listened to Fenton Blue, an Irish Alt-Rock band. 

It's been an eventful day and I'm tired! I can't wait to post more from my adventures. Stay tuned as I update my blog. Also watch out for the gallery of all the extra pictures that didn't make this post! And I also want to take a moment to thank all those who helped make the beginning of this adventure great (thank you bus driver and hostel-mates), my University's study abroad program, and the Nationality Room Committee/Irish Room scholarship. I cannot express my gratitude for this opportunity enough.