We made great time to Dublin and eventually everyone assembled at the Hop On, Hop Off bus stop at St. Stephen’s Green. I’ve never been one for bus tours (or overly guided tours in general), but 3 people familiar with Dublin recommended it to me before H suggested it, so I figured it was worth trying. It was a great decision. For €16, we had unlimited access to the bus for 2 days and the drivers provided some unintentional hilarious moments.
After a couple stops on the bus, we set out to find somewhere for lunch… for 9… and we were on a schedule as 4 of our group had to head back to the airport later that day. H led the charge through Temple Bar on the lookout for a restaurant. I spotted a sign ahead that said “Ristorante.” As we got closer, The Italian Corner came into view. I suggested we try that. I must admit, I made the suggestion without really considering the possible consequences. If it went badly, I would have serious bad restaurant selection guilt, having subjected 8 other people (9 including M whose milk probably tastes the same in any setting) to my bad decision. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out what that felt like.
We had lunch a little early and that probably saved us from a seating problem. They easily pulled a few tables together to make room for everyone. There were plenty of good menu options including a prix fixe 2 course lunch for €10.95. I had the Caprese salad and Linguine Marinara (selection of shellfish in a white wine cream with lemon & fresh herbs), but it turned into Penne Marinara when I requested the gluten free pasta. B had the Hamburger Di Manzo (beef burger, Italian herbs, crispy pancetta, mozzarella cheese, sun dried tomato relish and 7 garlic mayo on ciabatta). H and K are quite accustomed to my food photos (K even helped explain it to everyone else). For H it was the Pasta Bolognese and for K, Naselli Salati Al Pomodoro (Pan fried hake with tomato & chorizo sauce, green beans & olive oil mashed potato).
Not only was the food outstanding (best gluten free pasta I’ve ever had… by far), but they were fast. I knew we were on a schedule and was a little worried lunch would take forever, but even with several of us choosing the 2 course lunch, we finished in just over 30 minutes… without feeling rushed. H won the fastest meal contest, though, managing to eat her lunch, feed M and take her out for a walk to help her get to sleep. M is Super Baby. Even at her fussiest, I’m pretty sure most parents I know would gladly trade their own child’s demeanor for M’s. She’s an amazingly good natured little girl and even teething, she hung in there with us for 2 full days of sightseeing. She was fabulous company the entire time.
With everyone fed and M quietly napping, we headed back to the bus stop. I’m officially a Hop On, Hop Off convert. We stayed on the bus all the way to the Guinness Storehouse. The impact (and ownership) of the Guinness family on Dublin is really astounding. It almost feels like a small city within a city. They even have their own power plant.
The Guinness Storehouse is a 6 floor exhibition linked by a pint glass shaped atrium. The actual brewery is closed to the public, but the exhibition is located inside a converted 18th century fermentation building. I wish we’d had a little more time, but it was probably better that we had to be mindful. With all the detail, it would be far too easy to spend a few hours watching all the videos and reading all the exhibits. There’s just a lot to see. You have 2 chances to sample the product on the tour. On one of the lower floors, there’s a sampling room where you’re offered a half pint glass. At the end of the tour, you can take an elevator up to the Gravity Bar 360. You show your ticket and receive a pint of Guinness in return. Then you have the opportunity to enjoy it while surveying an amazing 360 degree view of Dublin. If you don’t want to enjoy your pint in the Gravity Bar, a floor below, you can learn to pour a pint and earn a certificate for your trouble. I have to wonder, though, why anyone would risk ruining their pint? We all opted for the Gravity Bar.
After we finished our pints, it was time for 4 of the group to make a dash for the airport. H and M stayed with us and their Australian friend, N. We hopped back on the bus. I can’t remember why we were in such a hurry, but for some reason we were trying to save time and asked our bus driver if it would help us to hop off the bus, walk a distance and then get back on (effectively skipping a lengthy section of the tour). I believe the driver’s response was “loads.” So once again, we were off the bus and walking.
We walked and walked and eventually we found our stop. After a short wait, the red double-decker bus came into view. The door opened and who did we see? The bus driver who told us we’d save time by getting off the bus! He looked quite sheepish and quickly made the sign of the cross. All we could really do was laugh, though. We met a few awesome drivers on the tour, but I think he might have been our favorite. It wasn’t all his fault. We did make a quick stop to make a phone call along the way.
In the end, it was good that he came across us. His was the last bus of the day. The bus tour finally ended north of the Liffey near the General Post Office. We walked back toward St. Stephen’s Green and did a little shopping before stopping in to McDaid’s pub to have a pint and wait for K to return from dropping the others off at the airport. I was pretty convinced we would be shown the door immediately because, you know, we had a baby… in a bar. Totally different rules in Ireland, though, and I admit they make more sense. It’s not like she’s going order a drink. McDaid’s was on the list of historic pubs I wanted to visit, though they were a bit young having been open a mere 232 years.
We found seats near a window. I almost didn’t order a Guinness, but it was taking too long to think of something else to drink so I went with it. Great decision! Without a doubt, the pint I had at McDaid’s was the best pint I had on the whole trip (the Gravity Bar 360 pint was a close second). I’m quite proud of myself for being able to tell the difference from pint to pint now. I’m a little afraid of what the first pint in the US will taste like. My tastebuds are spoiled and I fear the moment when they will receive their rude awakening. Since returning home, though, alcohol is pretty much the least appetizing thought possible. I’ll enjoy that while it lasts.
B left McDaid’s not long after to meet K and bring him back to the pub. When they returned, it was obvious something exciting had happened to them on the way back. Apparently, Justin Bieber was in town performing concerts two nights in a row. Suddenly the oddly high number of teenage girls we’d noticed out the window made sense. Rumor on the street had it that he was marooned inside Monsoon (a women’s clothing store) right next door to HMV. At least it made sense for him to be at HMV. There were crowds of people pressing up to the door of the store (mostly teenage girls, but some boys and adults too) hoping to catch a glance of the Bieb (or the Beaver as we prefer to call him).
There were groups of girls running up and down the street and through alleys, all hoping to catch him on the way out. At one point, two girls about 13 years old in school uniforms came running into the pub (another strange sight for the Americans), ran up to the bartender and demanded to know if Justin Bieber had been there. We tried to convince B to stand outside and pretend to be talking him on the phone (at least he had his American accent going for him) to see if he could divert the crowd, but in the end, we were a little afraid they might attack him. The looks 2 of them gave B and K threatened to kill when K made eye contact with them and gestured in B’s direction as they peered into the pub. The second they realized he was kidding, their eyes turned to daggers. These girls don’t mess around with the Beav!
After finishing our drinks and getting a dinner recommendation from the bartender, we walked outside to get a closer look at the madness. That’s when we heard it… “Justin! Justin! Justin!” followed not long after by chants of “Bieber! Bieber! Bieber!” These fans were serious. The chants got louder. I read a few days later that the police had to be called to Grafton Street to break up the “near riot” the fans caused. B thinks it must have been the next day but I think that was the riot. I’m right.
After we had our fill of the Bieber hysteria, we decided to have dinner at the Clarendon Bar, recommended by the bartender at McDaid’s. We found a nice corner table on the 3rd floor of the restaurant. Their menu wasn’t extensive, but they had some great choices. H and I had Bangers and Mash, K had Fish and Chips, N had the Irish Stew while B had some sort of Pasta with chicken and chorizo. B hates spaghetti noodles, so I can’t imagine he was thrilled with his food when it arrived, but he said it was still good.
The general consensus was that everyone enjoyed their meal. Mine was definitely very, very good and may have been one of my favorite meals on the trip. While B wouldn’t concede that my Bangers and Mash were better than what he had the night before, he did at least admit my Mash were a little better.
It was a long (though great) day and we were all tired. After dinner we still had the drive back to Naas ahead of us, so we called it an early night before our return trip to Dublin in the morning. I was really looking forward to sightseeing day 2, but not thrilled with the reminder of our impending departure.