Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ireland, For The Record, Did You Know?


The Guinness Book Of Records was started by a manager at St James Gate that wanted to settle an argument about which bird flew the fastest. Today, it contains all sorts of interesting facts about things we would normally not think about.


birds_-_peregrine_falcon_closeupThe World’s Fastest Bird

The Peregrine Falcon






Did you know that the world's largest pizza was 140 feet across? Mama, Mia!

I just hope the winner of the argument at least won a case of Guinness or a slice of pizza.

Ireland, Would You Drink With These Guys?


The Guinness Brewery at St James Gate in Dublin is such a huge part Ireland's history that is not only popular with regular tourists but with visiting dignitaries and famous people as well.


IMG_6091During my visit, I am fortunate that I get to share a pint with a few cool guys.

I wonder, if you got the chance to have a drink with anyone of them would you?



Or what famous or infamous person would you like to share your Guinness with even if it is a stretch or you have to tell a fish story to say that you did so.



Ireland, A Proper Tour Ending


I could spend many hours at the Guinness Brewery and still feel like I have not spent enough time. As I ride the elevator to the top floor bar, I am thinking what a nice way to finish my tour, overlooking Dublin.


IMG_6098This afternoon the skies are clear as I take in a panoramic view of Dublin from a few hundred feet above it.






IMG_6103A mellow soundtrack is playing and along with the still in place holiday decorations this bar is hopping.

Pints and pints of Guinness are being poured as we all take in the atmosphere and beautiful views of the city.





IMG_6097The Guinness Brewery At St James Gate


I follow step one, listen then watch as the creamy head forms, step two. A touch of the glass and the temperature seems just right, (we'll skip step four, no swirling for you) then it's what I know you have being waiting for, the taste.

Now open wide! Wow, wasn't that refreshing? And it's good for you, Guinness.



Ireland, Dublin A Taste Experience



IMG_6094From an early age as a kid growing up in The Bahamas I have known about the uniqueness of Guinness. At that time, it was touted to have many benefits including medical ones and was considered more of a status beverage, always above drinking beer.


As I continue my tour of the Guinness Brewery at St James Gate in Dublin, I have flashback fond memories of Guinness, Cadbury, Oval-tine, McVities Coconut Cream Biscuits (Cookies) and many other British made products that were a part of my childhood.



IMG_6088Entering an area of the self guided tour I get a personal experience of the product that I always thought had an interesting appeal. I watch and participate as a Guinness employee professionally explains the five steps to enjoying a proper poured pint.



The First step is to listen for the gases as your drink is being poured. Second, you look for the ionic Guinness surge which comes from the separation of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gases.



SAM_1615The creamy head is formed when the gases are completely separated as the heavier carbon dioxide sinks to the bottom.






Third, is touch for temperature of the glass. Guinness is stored at 9C and served at 6C. If theses temperatures are not respected you can lose as much as 50% of the drink's flavor.

Fourth, is smell which requires a swirling of the glass. Unfortunately, I am not a good swirler and require a little assistance. On the other hand, I have no problem smelling the roasted barley that is a part of what gives Guinness it's distinctive taste.

The Fifth step which for most of us comes before the others is taste. However, this is not as simple as chugging a gulp or two. No, this requires “Retro-Nasal Breathing” and “Swirling”.

With a mouthful of Guinness, you breathe in, swirl it around in your mouth (I'm much better at this since no wrist action is involved) and as you swallow it, breathe out through your nose. If done properly you can taste the hops and barely at different parts of your mouth.

I am not sure that I have this step down and I am not ashamed to take more lessons if necessary. At the end of the tour I will get to opportunity to practice what I have learned and maybe I'll give you the chance to do so as well.


IMG_6096For now, I'll just pass on something else I have just learned.

Guinness is not brown in color but dark ruby red.






Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ireland, Behind St James Gate


IMG_6112No trip to Dublin would be complete without a visit to one of it's most worldwide recognized landmark.

At one time the entrance to the old walled city, St James Gate since 1759 has been the home of the Guinness brewery.


On a tour of the brewery, I learn about the four ingredients plus one that are combined in a secret formula to make Guinness famous. Imported Barley and Hops, Water from the surrounding Wicklow Mountains and A National Treasure, Sir Arthur's Yeast which is stored in a vault here, give us the Irish stout that is enjoyed around the world.


IMG_6086However, none of this works without the Brew Master considered here as the 5th ingredient.

It is said that without Sir Arthur, The First Brew Master, there would be no Guinness. He will always be held in high regard for his fine brewing craftsmanship.




Like drinking a pint or two of Guinness, you don't have to be in a hurry to visit St. James Gates as the brewery is going to be here for at least another 8,000 years or so.


IMG_6096However, when you visit you may discover an unknown fact about Guinness.

It's color is not brown but …....





Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ireland, Dublin Hop On Hop Off



SAM_1634Just steps from the Arlington Hotel Temple Bar where I am staying, I get on the first Hop-On, Hop-Off bus that arrives at Stop 10.

This happens to be “The Red Bus”. For E$17 I purchase not only a tour ticket but also a single fare ticket for a ride to the airport.



The bus tour covers a lot of interesting sites from Kilmainham Jail where the famous Irish nationalist Robert Emmet was hanged and beheaded in 1803 to Phoenix Park where the Irish President resides.

For me, the most important stop on the tour is Stop 14 where a man at one time lived with his wife and twenty one children in the mid eighteen century. Once the entrance to the old walled city, St James Gate since 1759 has been the home of the Guinness Brewery and will be so for less say the next 8,747 years.




Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ireland, Dublin At Night


After traveling from Belfast by bus, I arrive in Dublin with just enough time for a short night walk and exploration of the city. Across the street from the Dublin Airport Hilton where I am staying, I board another bus for about a thirty minute ride into the City Centre.



SAM_1607It's about 11pm as I leave the bus on Nassau Street near Trinity College. There is not much going on in the city at this hour and the streets are relatively empty.





An occasional light rain is falling light which adds a bit of character to the chilled evening air and somewhere down the street loud vocals and strumming guitars can be heard over the distant city noise of passing buses and cars.



SAM_1622Following the sound, I find myself at Oneills where there is live traditional Irish music everyday.







SAM_1615Another perfect pour and I am enjoying another pint of Guinness as I listen to a couple of musicians entertain us with fun and upbeat songs. Back on the streets, I cannot help but feeling good about being here as the now wet streets reflect the colorful holiday decorations.






Even the Bank Of Ireland is beautifully lit up and decorated in the holiday spirit.








Down O'Connell Street a huge multi lighted Christmas tree is the center piece of the holiday decor although some of the side street decorations are just as amazing.




SAM_1625O’Connell Street




SAM_1631Crossing a canal bridge, I am reminded of being in Amsterdam but with a lot more colors than red being reflected of the calm waters below.







SAM_1627What should have been a short visit to the city has been extended so long that I miss the last bus back to my hotel.

Instead of about a E$3 fare for a bus, it is now going to be about E$15 to get back to my bed.




As luck would have it, I end up with cab driver that helps me lay out my plans for tomorrow and gives me another education on Irish Whiskey.

If you visit his house and he offers you whiskey take it on the rocks. If you want it mixed with something like soda then he is not going to give you his best stuff. They say the only thing you should put into whiskey if you want to kind of reduce it's power is water.

Although I am a Jose Cuervo kind of a guy, I'll drink to that!




Thursday, February 9, 2012

United Kingdom, Driving The Coastal Causeway Route



SAM_1556The howling wind makes for great scenery and white capped crashing waves as I begin my early morning drive from Port Stuart to Belfast along The Coastal Causeway Route.






SAM_1564With stops at places like Dunluce Castle, The Giants Causeway along with a fun bouncing adventure at Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, this is a drive everyone should get the opportunity to make.






SAM_1602Northern Ireland's coastline is beautiful and a visit there is one trip you won't soon forget.








United Kingdom, Belfast After Dark Nightlife


It's about midnight and I think my first night in Ireland is about to come to a close as I am nursing my last pint of Guinness at The Glory Hole Bar. As the crowd has now thinned out, I get an opportunity to interact with some of the employees and get a good lesson about Irish Whiskeys.



IMG_5969The Glory Hole claims to have the largest selection of them in Ireland and I see no reason not to believe them especially if I can get free samples.





Although there are no customers to be served, I also get the chance to be a pretend bartender which for me is an honor. With a bar now filled with empty glasses, I am just lucky I am not asked to be a pretend bus boy as well.



SAM_1538The Glory Hole Bar At Closing Time



Surprisingly, The Glory Hole Bar closes at midnight but I am quick to be told that the nightlife in Belfast is still alive and kicking. A short taxi ride and I am back near City Hall headed down an almost dark alley echoing a muted spanking sound.




SAM_1552A L$5.00 cover charge and I have entered Thompsons an after hour night club that soon fills up.

With a DJ pumping out a continuous high energy sound, my first night in Ireland does not end until the early morning.






Thompson'sWhat a blast!









Thursday, February 2, 2012

United Kingdom, Scenic Coastal Northern Ireland



IMG_5987I wake up to a mellow orange morning sky and the soothing sounds of crashing waves along Ireland's Northern coastline.






IMG_5999A fresh cup of almost too hot tea along with a couple of scones from a local cafe, Morelli's and I am ready to begin my drive back towards Belfast.







IMG_6002Beautiful Northern Ireland Golf Course



Although a stiff wind is blowing, I am impressed and at the same time jealous of a few golfers that are up early and playing at a beautiful course along the coast. The wind adds to the chill in the air but for now also makes the skies clear and the crashing waves spectacular.



IMG_6005This route once had many castles and forts and the remains of a few can still seen as if just perilously hanging on the edge of the coastal cliffs.




The wind and weather has been brutal to them over the years but even in their decayed state it is easy to imagine their once glorious days.




IMG_6012Old Bushmills Distillery



Old Bushmills, the world's oldest licensed whiskey distillery is also along this route and offers guided tours for an admission charge.

However, unfortunate for my taste buds but fortunate for my liver they are closed on New Year's Day. Even using my best charm I am not able to squeeze even a drop of it from the ground staff that is on duty.

Oh laddies, what a shame!



IMG_6018Ireland's top tourist attraction, The Giant's Causeway is my next stop. Here, you can see the unusual six sided basalt columns that make this a UNESCO World Heritage site.




Unfortunately, an off shore winter storm makes my visit here short. The howling wind now makes the moist air bitter cold along with the falling snow and sleet.



IMG_6023Continuing south the weather improves as I enjoy more stunning scenery along The Causeway Coastal Route.








IMG_6003Northern Ireland Coastal Landscape



Green rolling hills sprinkled with snow along with grazing farm lands contrast nicely with the jagged coastline and wide white surf waves crashing against it.



IMG_6029At Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, I walk across a 72 feet deep chasm that has me feeling like I am doing a tight rope act.

The views below are nerve racking as the rope bridge gently sways back and forth.






IMG_6059Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge



Looking out to sea, the Scottish coast can be seen in the distance. Leaving the bridge and taking a scenic detour back gives even more sensational views of the area.



IMG_6060This afternoon, I am also fortunate that a passing storm has left behind a beautiful rainbow and a pot of gold just off shore for me to enjoy.





Driving The Causeway Coastal Route requires more time than I have given it as I must now make my way back to Belfast to catch a bus to Dublin. Although, I am told even the summers are still rather cool here, this is a trip that I am sure is even more amazing during that time of the year.






I leave The Causeway Coastal Route at Carrickfergus where at a harbor the boats are so small and cute, I am looking for the controls to maneuver them around like I did when I was a kid.


IMG_6072Wait, I am still a kid. At least at heart, anyway.

Mom, mom, can I please have a quarter?