I wound from the south parts of the city center, from around Trinity and up across the river, and apparently I went west, for I started recognizing where I was when all of the Jameson logos and signs began to pop up. Down another street I went and there I was, Jameson’s distillery. I visited last year, as I mentioned before, but I have to be honest, I wasn’t quite so taken with the tour itself. The Jameson Distillery tour in Dublin felt like a bit of a fraud, as all of the areas the tour visited through were specifically built for tourists – there were no original areas where people used to work, creating their golden elixir, only videos and sets created to show how whiskey is made. I was disappointed to see very little history, because, for experiences like that, I like to being able to pass back in time a bit and feel as though I could imagine being in the same place doing the same thing as people once had done over one hundred years ago.
This time around though, a tour repeat wasn’t for me – and so I took a seat by the bar and tried a few of the whiskey’s that I had missed the first time I was in Ireland. I sampled the Midleton Barry Crocket edition, the Green and the Yellow spot whiskies. The Midleton was top notch, of course, but so is the price tag, and the others were nice as well, but I still enjoy my Midleton Very Rare and Jameson Gold much more. Time passed and drams emptied, and before I knew it, I was beyond buzzed – to save some embarrassing moments for myself, I’ll say that I had an interesting walk home – that’s right, I was that guy with the goofy smile and a bit of a hitch in my step, all the way back to the Avalon House.
Now, I’ve been traveling for just over 4 months straight at this point (as you can tell, I’m behind in my travel updates) and I’m thoroughly OVER hostel life – call me old, call me jaded, I don’t care... But I’m over dorms, I want my sleep, and I’m over partying like a kid without a care in the world – it’s not for me anymore. While Avalon was gracious to give me up with my own private room, I could see the lack of character in this hostel. There was very little sense of community, everyone separated and remained that way – but it also didn’t help that the building is massive and that the age groups ranged so much. There were plenty of under 17’s staying there, as well as couples older than twice my age. And while the hostel itself is well put together and has a nice cafe, and a large theater/TV room in the basement, the overall vibe of the place was off. The hostel rooms were dingy and white-washed, without a spark of flare to be seen anywhere, and it was near impossible to make spur-of-the-moment friends. With all of that said, I do admit that this is probably the best hostel in Dublin, but I wouldn’t rank it in the top 100 of Europe, as some rankings like to do.
I took it easy for the rest of the night, sleeping easy and (probably) snoring a lot – but I had the room to myself, so who cares? Eat your heart out hostel-goers! The next day I wandered some more, stopping in front of a health foods and vitamins shop just down the street from the Avalon House, and a furious battle of good versus evil was taking over my mind with each and every step I took, entering the store. Up until this point, I had been feeling a bit tired, overworked, sore and my mind wasn’t able to work as strong for as long, as it used to. So, I approached one of the saleswomen and explained all of my problems and ailments, and she went on a very thorough tour of the store, showing me all of the options, and a few strange, hippie-esque natural remedies, that I wasn’t so sure would work, let alone be legal in the states. After nearly an hour of questioning and challenging her, we settled on a few bottles of vitamins, because things like homeopathy and oddity oil extracts seemed too far from authentic medicine to me. NOTE: Now I’ve been taking these vitamins for nearly 2 months, and it was definitely one of the better things I have done. So if you’re traveling for a long time and you start to feel like you’re wearing down, then maybe check in and see what vitamins you’re missing – or see a real nutritionist to help you out. All I know is that I can work much longer days, I wake up less sore, and I simply feel better, overall.
That night, I went out – yes, yes, I just bought a bunch of pills to make me feel better, and I ate a bunch of fruit too... But then there’s Guinness and Irish whiskey that was calling my name – I mean, come on, I am in Dublin, Ireland, right? I asked the hostel receptionist for a good whiskey bar and they pointed me to O'Neill's on Suffolk and sure enough, it was a happening time. There were loads of people, strewn throughout its many rooms, but not TOO many, which was a relief – as it was a weekend in Dublin, which screams drunks and streets filled of puke anyway. I went upstairs, where a band was playing in a small corner, at which I sat across, in front of O’Neils sexy and delicious whiskey collection. There were over 100 bottles of goodness stashed upon its shelves, and I had a fair go at trying them all that night. I met a poor middle-aged woman who was all alone, and we ended up just chit-chatting for a couple hours that night – she was on a work trip, but had arranged for a few days off to see the ‘REAL’ Ireland, and I couldn’t help but scold her for planning to stay in Dublin for all of her days. I believe, after a hour rant, she decided to head south and at least see Enniskerry, Glendalough and Wicklow. I can only hope.
The next day, I felt... Well, the best word for it, without cursing, is... ROUGH. But that was my own damn fault. I took it easy most of the day and I realized that a sort-of-familiar feeling had gripped me after the night before’s drinking session. I have no urge to drink much anymore. It wasn’t that typical, “Oh God, what have I done to myself, I feel like death warmed up and served on a platter,” sort of hang over feeling – it was that, I just didn’t feel the need or the want to drink much anymore. I had wanted to buy a bottle of whiskey to take around Ireland with me, so I could save some money, instead of drinking in pubs every night. But I really just didn’t want it anymore. And since I’m behind in my updates and I can update with a little foresight – that feeling was legit, and sure, I drink a little here and there, like I’ll have a beer with food sometimes, but overall, in the last two months, since that night in Dublin, I’ve only been drunk once (coming up later in this post), and had maybe two whiskies and less than ten beers over that amount of time. And that still may sound like a decent amount of drinking, but for me, for TWO MONTHS... That’s amazing! And I can’t say that I’m upset about it. My wallet, my belly, and my bowels are much happier for it – ha!
For the last day, I walked around the St. George Arcade market and other surrounding areas, before shipping myself off to the Dingle Peninsula. Last year when I visited, I accounted for too little time to drive around the Ring of Kerry and ended up skipping out on Dingle entirely. But I wasn’t about to let that happen this time around, and I’m sure glad I was able to make it happen. I arrived by bus from Dublin, but not before an insane and horrible motion sickness took ahold of me. I’ve never been one for sickness, not on a boat, plane or bus (sometimes a car, when I was young) – it really took me by surprise, but I was sweating and near-violently ill feeling as the bus took the tiny Irish roads at full speed (or so it seemed). It was one of the worst feelings of my life, and it didn’t help that the journey took several hours to complete. Now, from here on out, I have to take motion sickness pills before my wild rides – BLECK! Oh well, it could be worse.
In Dingle, I took up in a local B&B-hostel hybrid, I sampled the local foods and of course, the whiskies. Perhaps too much whiskey, to be honest. I found a great pub near the church, that I suppose was a part of some Irish whiskey trail that I hadn’t heard of prior to visiting. Awesome old building that was once a shoemakers shop and one side of the main room was left as if the shoemaker never left, and the other was the bar. I sampled many new whiskies and decided that this was my last major go at whiskey drinking on my trip. And so it was – are you surprised?! Drunk before the sunset, I wandered into the typical Murphy’s pub for some Guinness beef stew (which was the best I had ever eaten – and I refuse to attribute that to my alcohol-induced state). I remember little else (yeah, it was THAT bad), except a local music group was playing to a full house in Murphy’s – regrettably so, I’m quite sure I was singing, clapping and acting the hapless goof for most of it.
The next morning, I jumped on a last minute tour group of 9 people crammed in a white van, since I had no rental car to explore the peninsula. I’m not a ‘tour group’ type of person, and I despise them, almost as much as I despise visiting boring, traditional museums. It’s really too bad, because the group of people were quite nice and the guide was exactly as you would imagine (knowledgeable, elderly, and witty – what were you thinking?)... Although, the bad part was that I was the odd one out, being the 9th person to join the tour – for everyone else was quite a bit older than me, three times my age, at the very minimum. The tour was slow and filled with loads of irrelevant, random and boring information, but all in all, it was a pleasant time – at least I was able to see the peninsula, eh?
I spent a few nights in Dingle town before taking off to the top of the Ring of Kerry, in Killarney – which I visited a year previous, on my own, with a rental car, but I only drove halfway to Waterville, before turning inland and driving through the middle (and in a future update, I stop back through to tour the rest that I had missed, but not quite yet). I had setup a WorkAway gig, as I wanted to give this newer service a try, before writing much about it on the blog – I always try to suggest what I have had a chance to use myself. My host or boss, or whatever you want to call’em, was to pick me up at the Killarney bus station. To see Killarney a bit, I decided to take the early bus from Dingle. I wandered around a bit, visited some shops and decided that I would venture out of the town – I started hiking through the Killarney National Park. I thought I had the mapping set in my head, and so I took a few turns, read a few whimsical signs (you know the ones that seem to point in the middle of two directions and you’re not quite sure which way is the right direction?!?!?!) and took the wrong paths. I was led to a rock beach, which was beautiful. And then the paths to Ross Castle that were supposed to take me an hour or less, took three hours, and my feet and back were killing me – since I was lugging all of my equipment and rucksacks with me.
I limped to the finish line at the castle and found that I was too tired to go any further, which I had plans to see the Muckross House estate and the Torc Waterfall. Sadly, I was unable to even walk through the castle even – for a sort of (with sparing the ooey-gooey details) puss-ridden growth had taken ahold of my big toe through the three to four hour hike I had managed. I cleared and cleaned the wound, bandaged it (go me, right?!), then flagged down one of those oh-so-romantical horse-ridden carriages, which took me back to town. I hobbled around the mall for an hour, before meeting up with my WorkAway hosts...
More travel updates coming soon! Next update from Cork & Kinsale, Ireland
Travel update I – Barcelona, Spain
Travel update II – Madrid, Spain
Travel update III – Granada, Spain
Travel update IV – Ronda & Sevilla, Spain
Travel update V – Marrakech, Morocco
Travel update VI – Marseille & Nice, France
Travel update VII – Monaco & Florence, Italy
Travel update VIII – Rimini & Cesenatico, Italy
Travel update IX – San Marino & Verona, Italy
Travel update X – Venice, Italy (Part I)
Travel update XI – Belgium & Luxembourg
Travel update XII – Slovenia & Croatia
Travel update XIII – Venice, Italy (Part II)
Travel update XIV – Austria, Germany, and Switzerland