Guinness 5 conference: Dublin 08

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of Ireland  , County Dublin,
Friday, June 20, 2008

This is not an epic of exploration and adventure on faraway shores, or a chronicle of heroic sporting endeavour, nor vivid account of one great city's cultural tours. It's simply a tale of five men, battling obstacle and element in search of Dublin's drinking dens, and about 300 pints of what they call black gold in this part of the world - the one and only Guinness.

The first twenty of those pints slipped down unobtrusively at a Baggott St folk music bar the Friday evening of our arrival in Dublin (a shame we were sitting right next to the unnecessarily amplified folk musician, but anyway). Lloyd had jetted in all the way from Melbourne for a conference on, of all things, the experience of first year university students, whilst Dave the birthday boy came from London, and Tom had picked me up in a groovy VW campervan in Edinburgh, before flying Clown Air to the Emerald Isle's capital. It was long time no see for some, and so two days of shenanigans had begun.

As I've done previously and completely accidentally elsewhere (Amsterdam, ten years ago), our visit coincided with the annual Gay Pride festival. It didn't have the leather-clad impact of it's Dutch cousin, but we didn't let that or the torrential rain falling that morning rain on our parade, because soon after a greasy brunch we picked the most salubrious pub on the main drag, the Bank Hotel, and set about some more serious Guinness consumption.

As the name suggests it was a centre-of-town, high street bank branch, and a grand old place it remains now it's been converted to more liquid purposes. A towering and ornately finished arched roof ensures a steady stream of random passers-by nipping in for a quick photo and the giant safes guarding the loos are an interesting accompaniment in the basement. Pleasant surrounds to add to our tally. Fortunately the rain petered out some time after the floats had passed us by, so we left these secure confines with further beer-hunting in mind.

Next stop was Temple Bar, the spiritual centre of a town where the tourists come primarily to get loaded. It's pretty cute down this way, but the prices are exorbitant when you're investing serious funds in black gold, so across the stinking Liffey (that's what the locals call it) we headed and into the northern half of the city.

Their southern brothers say this is most definitely the wrong side of the tracks, but due to more teeming rain and five rampant thirsts to slake, we ducked into an anonymous dive a block from the river and settled in for the afternoon. It took a while to get a beer here as management had to forcefully eject a noisy and disrespectful patron just after our 3pm arrival (no, it wasn't one of our band of merry men), but after that the beers flowed thick and fast until late that evening, whilst we sat and pondered the meaning of Irish life and the hideous but strangely compelling mosaic on the far wall. It might have been the beer goggles talking but that wall looked a helluva lot better just before we left. Fortunately (for us anyway, certainly not the restaurant staff) we managed to find an Italian restaurant to feed us after 11pm - or our finish in the wee hours would have been even more shambolic.

Somehow others were up by 10 the next morning, so as the weather started to turn for the better we tried to be a little touristy and cultural. Not drinking anything other than Guinness for the past 48 hours got the better of us - such a persistent consumption of the viscous fermented beverage saw our ill-prepared stomachs churning and roiling in their attempts to digest litres of the toxic stuff. Roaming a little aimlessly in this state, some appreciated the Georgian terraces of Baggot St, the gardens of St Stephens Green and the strangely shaped castle precinct a little more that others, but finally we staggered into a fittingly ramshackle local pub and made ourselves comfortable for one final session before heading home.

It took me many days to recover from this short trip, but recover I did with a couple more tall tales under my belt. Dublin is not a pretty city, but the people and heaving nightlife are certainly great craic. Many thanks to Dave, Lloyd, Tom and Alex for the many medicinal Guinness' we enjoyed and sometimes endured. I'll look forward to coming back one day to explore further afield in Ireland.
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