Tuesday, 31 March 2015

#BBGoesGreen for St Paddy’s Day - Part 1

Sunday 15 March 2015
4am. My alarm sounds and I leap out of bed, wide awake, prepared and eager for the day.

Who am I kidding. In actuality, I rolled out of bed and bleary eyed fumbled down the stairs for breakfast and a shower. Good thing I had finished packing the night before because I was in no state to be conscious. 

Soon I made the slow stumble down the street to the thankfully close meeting point. I was on my way to Dublin for St Patrick’s Day with almost 40 other BritBounders. It was going to be disgraceful.

***

I boarded the bus, my sleepy eyes struggling to make out faces, but near the front I spotted Sally. “May I sit here?” and plopped myself down. It was complete night outside and the clock ticked down to 5.15am at which point any stragglers not on the bus would be left behind. A final flurry of movement at 5.13am and we were all aboard.

We set off into the darkness.

Before we all fell asleep, our Topdeck trip leader Sabrina made the rounds to find out insurance details and emergency contacts. She stopped next to me.

“What’s your name?” Sabrina asked, pen and paper in hand.
“Sasha,” I replied, sleepily.
“Where are you from?”
“I’m Sasha.” I look confused. “Wait. No. I’m from Adelaide. My brain isn’t functioning yet.”

Sabrina laughed and gave me a hug. It was a sleepy, mildly humiliating start to the journey.

We had 3 hours before our first stop. Sally and I made small talk for a little while but sleepiness soon overcame us. A look up and down the bus saw everyone catching up on their Sunday morning sleep in, sitting upright, heads lolling to the side.
Feeling my way through the darkness
The music was suddenly cranking, and startled faces abounded as BB’s were rudely awakened.
Guided by a beating heart.I can’t tell where the journey will endBut I know where to start.
So wake me up when it’s all overWhen I’m wiser and I’m olderAll this time I was finding myselfAnd I didn’t know I was lost.

Ok! We’re up! We’re awake! We were approaching our first stop for breakfast and a leg stretch.

***

12 hours since our departure from London we arrived in Dublin, having travelled through England, Wales and then across the channel to Ireland on the ferry. At some point during the journey, the room allocation piece of paper had been passed around. There were to be 4 large rooms of 12-14 people in each, and my name had been written down for me in group 4.

We arrived at the hostel in Dublin, some of us already a little green from the 3 hour ferry ride, and our room allocations were distributed. Group 4 remained unaccounted for. 

“There was a problem with the fire alarm in your room last night,” the hostel owner announced, “therefore we’ve left the best until last..you all get an upgrade for tonight.”

Reading out names in groups of 3, we excitedly split up to see what our private rooms could possibly be like. I was to be sharing with Alex and Kailey. We swung open the door to our room and saw three puffy white beds, neatly folded towels, exquisite lighting, a television and a shiny white clean - and private - bathroom. 

#winningatlife!

Throwing on the TV, we prepared ourselves for the Welcome Party that night. There was commotion coming from below and, looking out, we saw naked revelry as one of the BB’s streaked through the courtyard. This pretty much set the tone for the next 3 days.

We made our way down to the lobby to set off into the night. Straight to the bar, I spotted Coopers Ale in the fridge and I exclaimed in surprise. On closer inspection, I realised we were in an Australian bar - which felt a little strange considering we were in Ireland. No matter, I decided to fill up on Bulmers Cider - decidedly Irish.

Here we drank and chatted (and threw back strange green shots - #BBGoesGreen) before moving onto Temple Bar, where we sweated and danced until the early hours.

***

Monday 16 March 2015
Thankful for the Maccas run I had taken the night before, I woke up a fraction groggy. We turned on the TV and watched Catfish and 16 and Pregnant, high quality British TV, while getting ready and enjoying a private shower in our private room. We had to take our suitcases down to breakfast with us because our luxury was to be short lived - we were moving into our big 14 room dorm that evening.

Breakfast was a lovely hot Irish breakfast where I did not try the pudding, and today Sabrina our Topdeck guide took us on a walking tour of Dublin before depositing us at the Guinness Storehouse. We learnt about the Spire of Dublin, affectionately known as the Stiletto in the Ghetto, which at one point had lights at the top but “Ireland couldn’t afford to replace them”. The Stiletto was our beacon home - it had lights on the base that lasered into the night sky so anytime we were lost and drunk wandering the streets of Dublin, we only had to look up for the Batman lights and the calling of the way home.

We learnt about the Dublin Post Office and the Easter Rising, and saw the bullet holes in the major statues that line the middle of the main road. Ireland has had a rocky and turbulent past - with basically all of the 4 provinces, and within each province each of the 9 counties, and within each of those 9 counties each region - hating each other (and continuing to do so). So much hate and so much love bundled up in one place. But then everyone banding together to hate the English when necessity arose.

She has a bullet hole in her chest.

We visited Trinity College which was founded in 1592 and where women were first admitted in 1904. Here at Trinity, if you have been made a scholar, you are officially allowed to request a Guinness while undertaking your exams. Apparently this was tested and the student was fined for not wearing a sword - part of the official attire supposedly required to be worn by scholars (not that they do). I love Ireland.

Soon it was time to make our way to the Guinness Storehouse to learn all about how the hefty beverage is made.

The Guinness Storehouse tour is self guided - we were each given a map (which I probably would have benefitted from looking at) and a voucher for our pint of Guinness - and pointed in the direction of the START sign. Architecturally and interior design-edly, the Storehouse was amazing. Facts and figures graced the walls, the floor - no boring signs situated in front of a boring display. Moving pieces, gushing water (to symbolise the fresh Irish water that goes into Guinness, part of the reason it tastes so different to Guinness elsewhere around the world), exposed piping. I didn’t spend a long time reading the facts - I figured I can google them later. Instead, another BBer Jeremy and I revelled in the green lighting and the structural design and collected our little sample of Guinness bread.

Pure Irish water - and make a wish!

Round about here I did my usual Sasha trick and wandered off, losing those I was walking with and continued up the building by myself. As it was the day before St Patrick’s Day, the Storehouse was teeming with people. I would have been interested in attempting to pour my own Guinness (it takes 1 minute, 19 seconds to pour perfectly) but a) the line was ridiculous and b) I didn’t want to mess up my first ever Guinness by doing a shitty pour.

There was a level dedicated to Guinness marketing which I found particularly interesting - as well as left field and random - and I stood transfixed by a mechanically moving fish for enough time that people probably started doubting my sanity.

I made it to the second-to-top floor and spotted some BBers. They instructed me to head up to Gravity Bar - the top level of the Storehouse to grab my pint of Guinness and to take in the 360 degree views of Dublin. I wandered mindlessly past a long line and asked the girl at the lift how to get up to the top as she wasn’t letting me into the lift. She said that the line was people waiting to go up, but if you “just look lost and walk through there, you’ll be able to go straight up.” Looking lost is a Sasha speciality! I donned my best “I wonder what’s in here” face and pushed into the queue heading up to Gravity Bar.

Lots of BritBounders were congregated up here, so I went to the bar and ordered my pint. Before my first sip, I insisted on a photo with the drink - this was to be my first ever Guinness and I had insisted that I wanted to experience it in Ireland. 

Sip.
Not bad!
Sips again.

Before my first sip!

Still going down ok. I could get used to this! I was pleasantly surprised - I expected to instantly hate it but I found it quite nice and oddly refreshing (maybe I was just thirsty?). I congregated with the others and we sipped and drank and laughed - and became increasingly drunker. It was almost lunch time and we were all drinking Guinness directly onto an empty stomach - it certainly went straight to my head. We gave ourselves Guinness moustaches and posed for many a photo.

I had heard it said that Guinness in Ireland tastes different to Guinness everywhere else. There are two reasons for this. One: the water, as mentioned above, is pure and clean Irish water. Two: the gas used to push the beer through the lines. In the rest of the world, it is carbon dioxide. In Ireland, they use nitrus oxide - this then has an affect on the flavour.
Now that I have had an Irish Guinness, I will need to test this theory.

Powering through our Guinness!

I was about an inch from the bottom of the glass when it became a bit of a struggle. Guinness is a like a meal - it is thick, and you could almost eat it with knife and fork. It tastes a bit like vegemite, for those who haven’t tried it. It’s a drink. Like, a drink drink. It knows who’s boss. So about an inch from the bottom, finishing it was an endurance event - it had gone a little warm and I was full and my eye sight was legitimately blurry. I wasn’t the only one, so, bottoms up! we decided it was time to go to the pub for lunch.

First pub we went to wasn’t serving for some time, and a few of us were keen to experience the ceili, or Irish social dances. We found another pub (the service was appalling, but I did have an Irish coffee to keep myself awake..and drunk). 

We rushed to the meeting point and made our way to the ceili (pronounced kayley). A road had been blocked off and a stage set up with dances instructing us on the moves. We laughed and danced and jigged until we could hardly breathe, bumping each other and into strangers - watching those around us who actually knew the steps in awe. Too soon it ended and we went back to our room to collapse.
Kailey, Sally and myself popped into a few kitsch stores on the way back to see if there were any other green accessories we could purchase for the big day on the morrow. I hung back and ended up buying a shamrock scarf and a little shamrock pin to add to my brooch collection.

Back at the hostel, it was time to find my new room. The new room now being room 420. The gentleman gave me specific instructions on how to find the room, instructions to which I was not listening, so I nodded and thanked him and walked in the general direction he waved his hand. The lift only went up to level 3. I stood, finger hovering over the button, deciding I’d wander around and try to figure this out by myself. Room 420 was through two doors, across a stairwell and then up a flight of stairs. It was the only room on level 4, and I do think they were having a laugh calling it that.

There were no bunk beds in the room, but beds laid out in rows like a hospital. In the middle of the room, an intense match of beer pong was being played. I was exhausted, the Guinness finally catching up with me, and so I collapsed onto a spare bed. It wasn’t long before we learnt that liquor would be difficult to purchase on the morrow - not until midday in pubs and not until 4pm in supermarkets - and so a few of us went to the local store to stock up on breakfast beverages.

Note: You will likely need to show your passport if you are trying to buy liquor in Ireland. They wouldn’t accept my drivers licence, strangely enough. I don't know if this was because it was the lead up to St Patrick's Day or a year-round occurrence. Luckily Kailey had hers and we were able to purchase all the requirements for breakfast mimosas and Jacks 'n coke and thus we were set for a drunken morning.

For now, though, it was time to get ready to head out into the night and again see some of Ireland’s night life in Temple Bar. Temple Bar is an area, not an actual bar. I was still struggling from a slight hangover a la the night before, and was feeling rather desperately tired. Our first stop was a very hot loft space in The Long Stone (I thought it said Long Scone..) before moving onto another more alternative bar. I wasn’t really feeling it and so left shortly after - going home, yet again, via Maccas. 

***

I shall continue St Paddy’s in the next one
xx