Day 1 - Wednesday to Thursday 6/3/15 to 6/4/15

Brian, one of our good neighbor friends, offered to take us to the airport so we canceled the cab we had scheduled and took him up on his offer. We made a lunch stop at Paradise Pup on the way. Brian and his wife Jennifer enjoy eating there as often as they can so we jumped at the opportunity to try it ourselves. Jennifer was at work and couldn't go so Joyce kiddingly worried that she might not be speaking to us for a while.

Boarding the airplane was a breeze; so much less hassle than on our other flights. We didn't have to take anything out of our bags and got to leave our shoes on. We got to the boarding gate a couple hours early and saw a lot of people checking in at the counter with their boarding passes. We were told our passes were already good to go but when they began boarding, Jeff was pulled out of the line and Joyce had to board alone. Joyce walked very slowly so Jeff could catch up after a quick visit to the counter to have someone type something into the computer. Thought the boarding passes were already good to go but obviously not quite. After scanning Jeff's boarding pass again, he was then moved up to the front of the line and easily caught up to Joyce in the jetway. WHEW!

Seven hours after leaving at 3:50 pm on Wednesday we were now in Dublin except that it was now 5:15 on Thursday morning. We took a bus to the stop nearest our airbnb flat. It was a double decker bus with a very large rack on the lower level where everyone put their luggage. Joyce didn't want to ride on the upper level with Jeff so she could keep an eye on our bags (can't be too careful, or can you?). The flat was not ready because it was too early in the day. We killed some time walking around the area and found that every place to sit down for a cup of coffee was not yet open. We finally found a hotel with a small café that had just opened and sat down to kill some time. The Spire of Dublin ws very near our flat and we passed it numerous times during our stay.

The Dublin 'Spike'.

The Dublin 'Spike' in silouhette.

There were a good number of people sleeping on the streets.

Low tide on the Laffey River.

The flat in Dublin was very near the Laffey River and very near the historic Temple Bar district. A great central location for most of the sights. Our arrangement with our flat hosts was to meet one of them, Ali, in front of the flat at 9:30. He would take us to another flat they owned that was being renovated but where we could stash our luggage until our flat was ready at 1:30. He walked with us for a few blocks to show us one of the better places to exchange US dollars for Euros and pointed out a few places to see and eat.

We still had a few hours to kill so we decided to sign up for a walking tour. A couple of different organizations do these walking tours and we found one nearby that started at 11:00. While waiting for the tour to begin, we sat on benches overlooking the Laffey River and at one point saw two full grown swans flying down the river toward the sea. We have seen plenty of swans hanging out in ponds but had never seen one flying before. That was pretty cool. They're very graceful even in flight.

We ate brunch at the Petite Parisian, right next to the bar where the walking tour was to meet. Our first meal in Ireland was French food; ham and cheese croissant for Jeff and a Crouque Madame for Joyce.

After brunch we walked to where the walking tour began and found about 100 or so people waiting there. Fortunately they split everyone into two groups. There were many other groups besides our two groups doing walking tours at the various sights, perhaps 8 or 10, so this is obviously a very popular thing for tourists to do here. The tour was actually pretty fun and showed us some of the history of Ireland and the pride of her people. The tour guide had a stereotypical Irish accent, of course, and included several jokes in his spiels poking fun at the Irish government and the Irish love of drinking.

Our 'walking tour' guide.

Three bars in a row in the Temple Bar area.

This is a synopsis one of the tour guides many anecdotes: Dublin Castle is where the Irish crown jewels, both pieces (ha ha), disappeared when the jewels were transferred to a safe which was to be placed in the newly constructed strongroom in the Castle. The new safe was too large for the doorway to the strongroom, and Arthur Vicars, the Ulster King of Arms, instead stored it in his office. Vicars was known to regularly get drunk on overnight duty and he once awoke to find the jewels around his neck (ha ha). It is not known whether or not this was a prank or a practice for the actual theft but the jewels were discovered missing on July 6, 1907. No one was ever arrested for the theft and they have never since been found. If you happen to see them somewhere, let me know (ha ha). Of course the tour guide threw if a few cracks about Irishmen never turning down a drink and how incompetent the Irish government was/is.

Dublin Castle tower.

Courtyard wall at Dubhlinn Garden.

The helipad on Dubhlinn garden has brick pavers laid to form the Celtic word for 'welcome'.

Helipad 'Welcome' in Gaelic.

Stock photo of the garden.

Brightly painted doors were common in Dublin.

The tour's last stop was a bar where everyone could get a discount on their pints but since there were 50 or so people in the group we went into another of the hundred or so bars in the area and had the place almost to ourselves for our first pint of Guinness in Ireland. We both noticed that the Guinness was a little smoother and less bitter tasting than what we get in the U.S.

Bad Ass pub where we had our first pint.

First souvenirs from Dubin. They look like those in the U.S., but they're not.

One of the prettier pubs in the Temple Bar area.

Another one.

And another one.

A typical cobblestone street in the Temple Bar area.

After the tour and the pint we met Ali at 1:30 and got a tour and rundown of the flat. The hot water had a timer that we had to switch on and wait for 20 minutes before we had hot water in the morning. Unusual, but manageable.

Our flat was #29, and we're celebrating our 29th anniversary in a few days. A nice coincidence.

Our Dublin flat living room.

We walked around the area now that everything was open and found several huge four-story department stores that incorporated entire block long by block wide buildings. There were thousands of people walking around the area, especially on one street that was closed to traffic where 5 or 6 of these huge shops were located. Street musicians, blind beggars, sand sculptor, etc., were doing their thing at various points on this pedestrian-only street.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant near the flat. We stopped at a grocery store and bought wine (French) and cheese (Irish) to enjoy at the flat for dessert.

We woke up at 2:00 a.m. (8 am Chicago time) and had to force ourselves to stay in bed. We managed to fall back to sleep relatively soon though because we were pretty exhausted from being awake for about 26 hours.

Day 2 - Friday, June 5, 2015

We rented bikes from the dublinbikes system to ride to the Guinness Storehouse. We had never used any city's bike sharing system before but a friendly local helped us get the tickets to rent the bikes. We stopped on our way to the Guinness Storehouse to mail a few postcards at a post office and had a couple of scares while trying to ride on the left side (wrong side for us) of the very narrow roads that carried a lot of huge double-decker buses.

Stock photo of Dublinbikes stand.

At one red light at a tee intersection Jeff stopped but after seeing there was with no traffic coming from the tee street, he started to ride again. We heard a siren and Jeff was pulled over for running a red light. Fortunately the officer let him off with a verbal warning.

We rode most of the way in a very light drizzle and had to stop several time to get our bearings. We had rented an internet hotspot device on our previous trip to France and it worked out great so we rented one again for this trip. We could use apps or Google for information or text or read emails, etc., without having to use the international roaming service on our iPhones. Thanks to the Pocket Earth app we were never completely lost.

Our first view of the Guinness plant.

We had to wind down a couple industrial street to find the entrance.

Thank goodness they had big signs.

Quintissential picture of one of the famous gates.

We got to the Guinness Storehouse and started the tour. The Storehouse opened at 9:30. We got there about 9:40 and had no one in line ahead of us.

One of the fist exhibits at Guinness showing water as a primary ingredient.

The tour is self-guided and includes a "free" pint of Guinness at the end. You work your way up from the first floor through exhibits on the making of the beer and the many advertising campaigns throughout Guinness' history to the sixth floor where you can learn how to pour the perfect pint or continue to the seventh floor where you can have your free pint poured and served by a bartender. The classroom on the sixth floor was almost empty and a very persistent Marta convinced Jeff he should wait a couple of minutes for a few more people and she would teach us how to pour a beer. Sure, why not.

First student in training. Thant's Marta behind me

My graduation class.

My diploma.

The seventh floor had windows all the way around and allowed a very nice panoramic view of Dublin and the surrounding area.

View of the Guinness obsevation floor.

Another view.

Joyce got her free pint and after checking out the views we walked down to the fifth floor which held three or four bars and/or restaurants. We stopped for a lunch of beef and Guinness stew. This was our first 'Irish' meal and it was actually pretty tasty.

After the Guinness tour we walked in the direction of our flat and stopped at John's Lane Church.

John's Lane church.

John's Lane church doors.

Inside John's Lane church.

Stained glass inside John's Lane church.

A Dublinbikes stand with no bikes available.

Pedestrian walk signs had a red, yellow and green man.

Green man means go.

High tide on the Laffey river.

The tram tracks in Dublin.

We continued walking until we got to The Brazen Head, the oldest bar in Dublin, and stopped to have a pint. The place was fairly crowded but we found seats in the bar and watched a big group of people who were congregated in the outdoor seating area and who were dressed in all sorts of unusual outfits as though it was a costume party. We learned it was a bachelor party and we learned that in Ireland they call bachelor and bachelorette parties 'stag' and 'hen' parties. They seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The Brazen Head pub.

Stag party in progress.

We next walked to the Jameson Distillery a few blocks away and asked about the next tour. We would have to wait at least one hour, so we sat at a table among about 50 empty tables in the courtyard to look at our map and decide where to go next. A waiter came by and told us we couldn't sit there without ordering something. We explained we just needed a minute to look at our map but he said it was the owner's rule, but then he walked away. We had the sense he didn't really care, but we got up and left anyway.

We walked to a very old church nearby, St. Audoen's which was first built in 1100's. It went through several periods of construction and neglect and still holds services for a very small congregation.

Ornate lecturn in St. Audoen's.

Inside St. Audoen's.

Grave marker right in front of the altar.

Wife of someone important buried in another room (not by the altar).

Part of St. Audoen's in disrepair.

The modern part of St. Audoen's.

Our next stop was St. Patrick's Park and Cathedral.

Sign for St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Marker for St. Patrick's well.

Joyce was humored by the first warning on this sign.

St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Ornate plaques on the iron gates.

Grave in the cathedral with date of 1631 in lower right corner.

Mobs of people touring the cathedral.

Choir area in the cathedral.

Then we walked to the Marsh's Library which cost € 3 for entry but they take your money right at the doorway to the library room. We peeked inside and left because we probably saw most of what we would have wanted to see from the doorway anyway.

Marsh's Library. No mention of admission fee.

Next we walked to Iveagh gardens. We couldn't get in the first entrance we saw because they were doing construction for some upcoming event so we walked to another entrance. We found a path behind one hedge maze but ended up at the fenced off construction area so we had to turn back the way we came and follow another path. We left that park and walked to St. Stephen's Green, a park first enclosed in 1664 and turned into a public park in 1877 and has been maintained in almost identical condition to that way it looked then.

Iveagh Gardens hedge maze. Note the construction fences in the back.

St. Stephen's. Greens

The three guys in the center were all juggling but the photo barely captured it.

Map at St. Stephen's Green entrance.

For dinner we went to The Bank Restaurant; literally a bank that is now a restaurant. Our waitress said a few words in French and when we told her we were going to Paris in a couple of days she gave us some recommendations for a couple of places to eat and drink where she used to work in Paris. (When we got to Paris and looked the places up they were pretty far from anything we were doing and never made it to either place.)

Ceiling of The Bank restaurant.

Who are those people in the mirror?

The men's room in the basement had one of the banks original vaults behind a gate..

After dinner we went to The Church, literally a church that is now a bar and restaurant that has free live Irish entertainment every night. The main floor was all restaurant seating and the entertainment was in the basement bar. Most of the tables in the basement had signs saying they were reserved for 9:00, but we found a couple empty seats and listened to the musicians and watched the Irish dancers while we drank a couple pints. Then it was back to flat where we had some wine and cheese dessert before turning in.

Day 3 - Saturday, June 6, 2015

We decided to ride bikes to the nearest ocean shore which is the Irish Sea between Ireland and England. We went to the tram line station near our flat and got on the next one going East. We didn't have tickets and no one on the tram said anything so we rode to the end of the line and got off. While we were trying to figure out the self-service ticket machines a man walked up and told us how it worked. We had stolen the first ride but we bought tickets for the return trip (and all our other tram rides). We walked around the corner to the dublinbikes station where we began our ride to the sea in strong (gale force) winds that were nice when the winds were at our backs but not so great otherwise.

We rode the bikes to the end of the road by the sea and walked the rest of the way to the water's edge. The winds were so strong it was even hard to walk. The tide was low and several people were out playing on their toys that looked like wind surfers but with wheels. The high winds were pushing them at pretty fast speeds and we saw a couple times when the cart was actually blown over. We picked up a few souvenirs: a couple of sea shells and a couple 3-leaf clovers that we planned to give to Samantha who asked us to bring her something unique from Ireland.

Joyce sells sea shells by the sea shore??

Touching the Irish Sea.

Wind sailing.

We had to walk the bikes part of the way back due to the headwinds that were impossible for us and several other bikers to ride into. We were certainly glad when we got back to the bike station and could end that misery. The bike ride was about 8 1/2 miles round trip. The news said the average wind speeds that day were 28 to 35 mi/hr with gusts up to 60 mi/hr. A quick Google search shows gales begin at 32 mi/hr.

A light rain started just after we got on the tram for the return trip. We ate lunch at café that was right next to our tram stop. The drizzle stopped while we were eating and after lunch we walked back to the flat where we fell asleep (passed out, actually) from the grueling bike ride.

Later that day we walked to Trinity College and saw a long line of tour busses dropping off and picking up groups of tourists. A lot of them were full of Asian tourists. We walked around a bit and decided to sign up to take a guided tour. The tour guide took us to an open area in the courtyard and began her talk but a group of Asian tourists were making so much noise and talking so loudly it was hard to hear her, how rude. At one point on our tour we went into the campus library which was full of books that were hundreds of years old. Everyone was taking pictures but one Asian tourist with a very expensive looking camera (how cliche) leaned from behind Jeff to take a picture and actually rested his camera lens on Jeff's shoulder. He stood there for a much longer time than necessary to take a picture at which point Jeff decided to just walk away rather than wait any longer supporting his camera for him. What the heck kind of manners do they teach wherever this group was from?

Trinity College library.

Artwork on Trinity College campus.

The guide said students called it 'The Death Star'.

That evening we went to Madigan's Pub for dinner and had a nice Irish meal; Irish stew, of course. After dinner we ordered Tullamore Dew and Jameson whiskeys for dessert. They were hyping the Tullamore Dew but we both liked the Jameson better.

Day 4 - Sunday, June 7, 2015

The hosts of our flat left us some eggs, bacon and bangers which we decided to cook for breakfast. They also left us blood sausage which we respectfully declined to prepare. Not very impressed with the bangers. They reminded us of big breakfast sausages but without much flavor.

We took the tram to the stop that was closest to Phoenix Park in Dublin. With 1,750 acres, it's one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. We planned to rent bikes from a stand near the entrance which was not part of the dublinbikes system. The bike stand was not yet open so we walked to a small SPAR mart for espresso/chai to wait. We decided we would just get a couple of dublinbikes instead because we didn't know what time the Phoenix bike stand opened and there was a dublinbikes stand about a half of a block from us. We rode quite a distance around park, probably about 8 miles. Fortunately it wasn't windy and was mostly pretty flat.

Napoleonic monumnet in Pheonix Park.

Close up of a scene on the monument.

The Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park.

After touring the park we stopped at a café for something to drink but couldn't help order some porridge just to find out what it was; fairly bland unless you add some honey. We next walked to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The museum is in what used to be a Royal hospital which had a beautiful sculpted garden. The gardens were the best part of our museum visit but that's probably only because we have a hard time appreciating what passes for modern art.

Sundial clock at the museum.

Courtyard at the museum.

A large plastic trash bag is suspended and becomes art.

Suspended cellophane can be art too.

Dryer lint can be art??.

Sign by the dryer lint artwork.

Garden at the art museum.

Interesting art by the garden.

Sign next to that artwork.

We took the tram to the Jameson Distillery to take the tour. We bought tickets on-line the previous day and got there about 30 minutes early so we decided to order a beer. They sell whiskey with a beer chaser but not just a beer so guess what we bought. The beer was interesting; they brew it in old Jameson barrels so you get a tiny taste of Jameson and oak flavor in the beer.

The tour was nice and at the end we got to taste test Jameson against Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker. The Jameson won in everyone's opinion. Love Jameson, sorry Jack. After we left the distillery we walked across the street to a pub for a pint. It was fairly busy and we sat next to a man who looked like he'd been drinking there for at least a couple hours. He kept glancing at us and finally began telling us about the Irish revolution and Michael Collins and the Blue Boys whose flag was hanging above the bar counter. He told us about the Collins Barracks which is now a museum a few blocks away. After our pints we headed to that museum.

We chose not to drink from this fountain.

Beer brewed in old Jameson barrels.

Whiskey tasting at Jameson.

It was dinner time so we walked to Nancy Hands for a pint and a dinner of a cheese platter and prime sirloin. While we are enjoying dinner, a man went into the women's restroom two times. The third time, though, he went to the men's room. Joyce said he finally got it right on his third try. Jeff said that was probably only after he complained to the bartender about all the women in the men's restroom! LOL BJE (Maybe you had to be there, and maybe had a couple pints).

Nancy Hands pub.

We took the tram home and picked up wine and some more cheese on the way to the flat. Tomorrow we fly to Paris.