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Bangers & Mash, Black Pudding and (more) Guinness

March 13, 2011

If I had one complaint about our trip, it’s that we didn’t have enough time. I expected to feel that way, though. By Saturday morning, I was disappointed we hadn’t seen more and regretful we’d let our jet lag get the best of us the day before. We split our time in Ireland between Dublin and Naas where we traveled on Saturday for the Christening of  H and K’s daughter, M (the true purpose of the trip). There just weren’t enough days in either place. I felt better, though, after receiving an email Saturday morning from H saying we’d return to Dublin on Monday for more tourist time.

We decided to walk around Grafton Street then get some lunch and walk through St. Stephen’s Green before hitting the road. Though Naas is only about 24 miles from Dublin, we learned quickly that it takes a bit longer to get from place to place than we’re used to. I was a little tired of the wandering before eating routine so it was a relief when we chose one of the first open places we saw, Gotham Cafe. I honestly wasn’t expecting too much. For some reason, from the outside, it looked like a chain restaurant. As it turns out, they only have two locations and the second has only been open a short time.

We ducked in just ahead of the lunch rush. Once again, I found myself with a great selection of gluten free items on the menu. Best of all, they had several salads to choose from. While I eventually chose one of the least healthy salads on the menu, after all the fried foods and Guinness I’d consumed Thursday and Friday, even an unhealthy salad felt like an improvement. I went with the Cobb Salad while B chose the Union Square pizza (chargrilled breast of chicken with baby roast potato and a blend of mozzarella and fontina cheeses on a garlic and herb butter sauce).  Though it was a bit of an unexpected bragging right, they stated quite prominently on their menu that they make their pizzas in one of the best pizza ovens in the world. They imported it from Washington State.

Cobb Salad

Union Square Pizza

We had a great lunch and everyone was really friendly. We’d already noticed in a couple of restaurants that it could be a bit hard to identify who our server was. There were so many different people coming to the table (all very helpful) that it didn’t feel like we were seated at any one particular person’s assigned table. The same was true at Gotham Cafe. We were helped by at least three different people. I’m not sure why this is, but I imagine it may have something to do with the differences in tipping etiquette. We struggled with that throughout the trip. Just as people visiting the US struggle with how much we tip here, we struggled to tip appropriately without feeling cheap.

From Gotham Cafe, we headed back down Grafton Street and to St. Stephen’s Green. The weather was great throughout the trip. While it did get pretty cold at times, it hardly rained and was even sunny for a couple of days. Our walk through the park was overcast, but still quite pleasant.

St. Stephen's Green

We were anxious to get on the road, so after spending some time in the park, we headed back to the car and toward Naas (or so we thought). What an adventure that was. We had trouble with the GPS on our rental car throughout the trip and this was perhaps the height of the trouble. It directed us to an entirely different town. We took side roads and went through a few small towns (that we later discovered weren’t exactly on the way), eventually ending the adventure with a slightly harrowing drive past a Mill, over a tiny bridge, into a dead end and down a few one lane roads (with 2 way traffic)… with a couple U-turns for good measure. We made it a little later than we’d intended, but we made it in one piece and with some good video.

After checking into the hotel and getting settled, we met up with H, K and quite a few of their other guests in town for the Christening. We all had a nice dinner in the restaurant in our hotel (which proved to be the hub of action during our time there) before walking back to H’s dad’s house for drinks and to meet more of the guests. Our night ended back at the hotel (which had turned into a virtual nightclub by the time we returned) having a couple more pints with H’s dad and sister, a friend of her dad’s and couple of guests (A and D) in town from Manchester. Though we were tired, it was a great night.

The next morning we were up and ready for M’s Christening. Finally the jet lag surrendered! After our previous day’s driving adventure, I was glad we were all meeting and driving over together. The church was absolutely beautiful. We attended mass before the Christening. H and K were kind enough to ask me to do a reading. At 7 months old, M already has more passports than most families and I was happy to represent her American citizenship alongside her Australian, Irish and English contingent.

2 Mile House

After the Christening it was time for lunch. H’s dad hosted a lovely plated lunch at our hotel for all of the guests complete with live music. I had a really nice cod with mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding (which I’d never had before and loved) while B had the chicken complete with Black Pudding. I learned what Black Pudding is, but didn’t taste it. B was a little braver. He tried it, but didn’t finish it. It’s rare that he’s braver with his food choices than I am, but in my defense, I didn’t tell him what it was before he tried it.

We spent the afternoon at the reception with more Guinness and great conversation. It was a long day for everyone, so we all went our separate ways when it was all over. B and I weren’t particularly hungry yet, but it was a Sunday night so we couldn’t expect much to be open and the hotel stopped serving food at 9:30pm. We went back down to the restaurant around 8:30 to get something to eat before it was too late. I had a small plate in mind, but there weren’t really any small options on the menu. Instead, I chose a bacon cheeseburger while B went with the Bangers and Mash.

Great burger! The bacon stood out particularly because it was such a thick cut. Probably not exactly what I needed right then, but it sure tasted good. B absolutely devoured his Bangers and Mash (and says this was the best meal he had the whole trip). I’m lucky I even got a taste. All thoughts of not being that hungry went straight out the window with his first bite.

Lawlors Hotel

We were finally starting to adjust to the dining pace, so we enjoyed our leisurely dinner and took advantage of the rare animal that is public wireless access in Ireland. Hard to believe we’d already been in Naas for a day and a half and were headed back to Dublin (though staying in Naas one more night) for sightseeing in the morning. We called it an early night after a very full day.

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