We arrived in Dublin at 5am local time, both on about one hour of sleep from the flight. Fueled solely by excitement, Corey and I made our way through customs and out to the bus that would take us downtown. After stepping outside we quickly knew what type of weather we would be facing this weekend. We couldn’t get our jackets out fast enough as the Irish wind cut down to the bones. Although cold, the air was refreshingly crisp and clean. Even in an airport shuttle lot a deep breath reminded me of being in a forest or on top of a mountain.
Jet lagged and weary, Corey and I were dropped downtown around 6am on a Saturday morning. This meant we were the only sorry souls on the street before the sun was up. However, it gave us a chance to see the city at its most vulnerable and peaceful time. As the sun rose, we walked along the main drag on O’Connell Street and over the river to explore an empty Trinity College campus. The dichotomy of historic architecture and modern businesses reminded me only of Boston. Buildings centuries old hold Facebook and Google, statues from 1750 stand in front of shopping malls. But it works. The Dubliners are proud of their history yet remain relevant in a 21st century economy.
Once we picked up some tweed newsboy caps, we were ready for a pint. Mcneill’s Pub near our Airbnb seemed local enough so we stepped inside and back to 1834 when it opened. It went quiet and heads turned as the regulars expected to see a friend but saw American tourists instead. It felt like we had crashed a private party. In fact we had because while we sat another regular came in with a cake for the bartenders birthday. We ordered two pints of Guinness and waited with the impatience of a five year old at an ice cream shop as the nitrogen bubbles settled.
Everyone I’ve spoken to about Dublin has said the Guinness is better than in the states. This is like saying New York pizza is pretty good or southern barbeque is alright. In sync Corey and I hit our glasses, took a sip, and our eyes went wide. I knew this was the greatest beer of my life. Partly due to my bias towards Guinness, it’s already one of my favorites. And partly because the beer siginfied the start of a three week Eurotrip we had been planning for nearly a year. Smooth, creamy, refreshing and chocolately with no bitterness you sometimes get in the states. The adjectives go on but only trying it yourself can explain. We finished and went to another pub for another pint and lunch.
Throughout the day, we faced stereotypical Irish weather of a rotation between clouds, sun and rain. However the Dubliners are undeterred by rain. If you look down and back up everyone will already have rain jackets and umbrellas and carry on with their day. Even though the day began sunny everyone was prepared for the inevitable shower.
After Shepherd’s Pie and another Guinness, we went to the Guinness Storehouse where we learned how to pour a pint and proudly received our certificates. Their Gravity Bar oversees all of Dublin, looking out into a city older than my country. In keeping with the theme, we then went to the Jameson Distillery where we did a tasting and learned about the process of distilling my vote for the best budget whiskey out there. Running solely on whiskey and beer, we crawled back to the Airbnb and slept for nearly twelve hours after surviving day 1 of 20.