Monday, September 2, 2013

Thoughts on Drinking and Gaming in Dublin

I'm an American.  I like to visit places.  Here is my perspective on my recent trip to Dublin, Ireland, from a gamer and drinking standpoint.

First off, and foremost, if you think you might pack up your sweetie and head to central Florida for a week of vacation, rethink that.  For the same price you can visit and stay in the center of Dublin, and have a way better time.  If you can't leave the U for lack of a passport, then come to Portland Maine instead, and you can have a "Irish Lite" vacation.

First off, gaming.  Don't think you can have a good time doing it as a casual traveling gamer.  Although (as posted before) there is a GW store in the heart of Dublin just off the Haypenney Bridge, the store is small, no adjacent pub, and although for some reason they are open late on Thursdays, they are not open after 6 PM on weekends.  Take this as a suggestion...someone needs to open a gaming pub in the heart of Dublin.  Seriously folks, the foot traffic in front of GW's store is immense...and most of it is immediately after the store closes every day, in the heart of the shopping/college/trendy/tourist district.  If that store's sales are poor, it is because the manager needs to get some feedback or a pink slip from GW UK...

Enough about GW!  Your sweetie would kill you if you took her to Dublin to play games!

When we got to Dublin via Boston, we arrived in the morning.  Jetlagged.  Had lot about 5 hours of sleep time just in the time changes.  We paid up front at the airport for a 3-day bus pass, which gives us a trip straight to downtown, hop-on-hop-off bus and municipal bus service solid for 72 hours, all through the tourist district.  We'd also paid a but extra for our hotel room so we could check in at 8 AM.  So we did, and napped till afternoon. Overall, we spent the next three days doing museums and sights all morning, pub for lunch, sights and walking and tours all afternoon, then a pub, then rest, then evenings out til late at a pub or taven with "trad" music and dancing. 

Two notable places come to mind that would make it great to head to Dublin.  The Guinness plant, and the Jamison museum.

The hop-on bus (double decker no less) takes you (by a certifiably insane driver) up Dublin's streets to the Guinness plant.  There you can get off the bus for a tour.  We'd also purchased a pass that gave us three days of free entry and priority service and benefits to Dublin's main attractions and museums.  Your entry ticket includes one free pint of Guinness.  On arrival at Guinness, you enter the basement of a 7+ storey building that used to be a warehouse.  In the basement, with the pass, we skipped the line to move up to entry - and you have a museum attraction/store/bar/restaurant focused on how Guinness is made, delivered, advertised, poured, and enjoyed!  It was awesome and not to be missed.  Around the 4th floor, there is a special location with its own line, where you are trained to pour Guinness, and on completion, get a group photo, and certification that you can in fact, pour their pint correctly following their multi-step procedure.  Ultimately, on the top floor, is a glass-walled bar with a 360-degree view of all of Dublin, from the mountain where the water for Guinness is obtained, out to the sea.  Overall, it is a great way to spend the afternoon, especially when it is raining (like it seems to do every afternoon). Guinness is made from barley, not wheat or other grains used for more common beers.  So yes, I got certified, and so did my wife.  Later in our trip that certification paid off when we visited a tavern elsewhere in Ireland and she went behind the bar and poured all the pints we needed!

The hop-on bus also stops as an attraction at the former location of the Jamison Distillery.  Former, because at some point Jamison moved out of Dublin to a state-of-the-art distillery elsewhere.  Eventually they opened a museum/tasting room/store/tavern complex on the former Distillery ground.  This attraction, though smaller than Guinness, is more exclusive (only so many people per day), and entry also provides you with a free taste of Jamison at the end of the tour (but you can buy as many hits of Jamison or cocktails as you want before your tour begins).  Interestingly, Jamison Whiskey also has Barley as its prime ingredient (not corn like some American whiskeys).  Your get to learn all about Jamisons (beginning with a movie), and mid-tour they ask for volunteers.  Volunteer!  At the end of the tour in the tasting room, volunteers get not only the free whiskey, they get to compare it to Scotch Whiskey and American Whiskey, for a total of 4 drinks....remember you took the bus here....

Overall, the only things we did NOT get into at Dublin in 72 hours was the military museum, or any museum that really explained the history of Ireland vs it's split from the UK.  We got ton on Irish pre-history throughout the trip though.

Overall, remember a major thing for your trip.  Pubs and taverns also typically have food (although some do not).  For every pint, eat some food.  It makes the trip much more memorable (I learned that trick from the Russians, but that is a story for another day). 

When in Dublin hunt down the Brazen Head pub, it is the oldest pub there (from the 1100's), food is awesome, and service was great!  Look for the old Quiet Man movie poster in the corner of one of the tavern rooms. 

The NEXT time I get to Dublin, I'll be looking to get on one of the pub tours that just takes you to the places where the Irish writers and poets all hung out.  And definitely a return to Gogard's pub in Temple Bar. 

Nuff said. Go there. 

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