[Leanne Gregg is a writer and the fiction editor of Literary Orphans. In her spare time, you can find her training her two cats to do her chores.]
Ireland: Romantic Honeymoon Spot?
After honeymooning on the cheap in Vegas, my husband and I resolved to treat ourselves to an adventure for our first year anniversary in January. Where did we go, you ask? Some place with sun? Hawaii? Mexico? You hear the Dominican Republic is nice?
You’re precious and obviously don’t know us. We are very pale people. We burn, toast, fry, and blister. It’s not pretty. So, naturally, we decided to pick Ireland, or what have I now re-dubbed “The Original Chicago.”
Neither of us had ever been to Ireland. We imagined a place of rainbows and leprechauns. Flowing rivers of Guinness as far as the eye can see. That is, in fact, mostly true. What we did not imagine, however, was the dull, bone-chilling cold and constant rain. The locals usually asked us, “Oh my god, why are you here?” That was… affirming.
Driving in Ireland: They’re Doing It Wrong
Our plane touched down in Dublin after a grueling overnight flight during which I pretended to sleep in every position you can imagine. From there we motored our way to Kilkenny City in a rental from I’m kidding you not “Dan Dooley Car Rentals.” There was a shamrock on the logo. Yeah, that’s right. From the sound of his name, I like to imagine Mr. Dooley is a little leprechaun who drives a pot of gold with an exhaust pipe that emits only rainbows.
So, here’s a cute story: In Ireland, they drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. Oh, and the rental car was also manual and somehow a Ford Fiesta, which apparently still exist. Luckily, my husband is a superstar driver and acclimated almost immediately. I, on the other hand, spent the bulk of the drive bracing my head between my knees while quietly screaming.
Kilkenny City: A Place of Guinness and Blood Pudding
Kilkenny City is pretty much where the Irish go to drink on the weekend. Pubs everywhere. We settled on imbibing our first Ireland Guinness at a pub that had been around since the 1300s. Part of their origin story includes the line, “We were old when Columbus discovered America, bi-otches.” (This may have been paraphrased by the author of this article.) Oddly enough, it looked like every Irish pub in Chicago. Good job, Chicago.
I’m going to pause here to describe the religion that is Guinness in Ireland. In the U.S., most beer drinkers—snobs and dilettantes alike—can enjoy some o’ the black stuff. American bartenders sling it in “pint glasses” sloppily lapping over the sides. It’s still good though. In Ireland, however, they pour the beer according to a specific method of glass tiling and pausing and refilling. It’s like watching a beer opera. Does all that fuss make it taste better? Yeah, a little. It’s still a Guinness.
So, yeah, Kilkenny, pretty cool. They have a nifty castle there that we toured and shops stocked with various woolen items that I began to hoard. Kilkenny also marked our first Irish breakfast. An Irish breakfast is a magical thing. It includes eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns, black pudding, white pudding, and new arteries. I had heard tell of this meal from afar and was excited, albeit apprehensive to try the black or blood pudding. To an American ear, blood pudding sounds like something a vampire Cosby would whip up in his kitchen. In reality, black pudding is a round disk that looks and tastes like a sausage patty. And it is delicious. Spicy, meaty, exotic. The perfect pairing for fried eggs.
Cork: The Blarney Stone
After Kilkenny we made our way toward Cork, or what I have termed “wet Hell.” It was actually a very nice city, but we suffered the worst weather there and spent a lot of time holed up in our hotel room watching Netflix. We did take advantage of the semi-indoor Jameson tour and Black Rock observatory, which turned out to be a science museum for kids. They have a computer station that sends messages to the stars. Let’s just say if there’s an intergalactic war waged on the Earth in roughly sixty years, Ireland is to blame.
One of the most notable sites near Cork is Blarney Castle, which houses the Blarney Stone. According to legend, whoever kisses the stone will be bestowed with the gift of eloquence. Apparently a lot of Hollywood stars have kissed this stone, but exactly whom was a little hazy. Getting there is really a load of Blarney. It involves climbing steep, crumbling steps straight up, hoisting yourself with a thick rope. With my mild fear of heights I was shaking by the time we got to the top. There we found a sweet old Irish man who told me to sit on his rubber mat and lean over backward to hold an iron bar so my head and half my body was hanging off the side of the castle. Don’t worry, guys, he was holding my knees. Don’t worry. Only a handful of people have died. Don’t worry. You’d never get away with this kind of crap in the U.S. Never.
Dublin: Guinness Storehouse
We puttered through lots of beautiful Irish scenery, including a trip to the Cliffs of Moher and a brief jaunt through Connamera National Park. But you don’t really care about all that, do you? What about the Guinness storehouse? Tell us about that, Leanne. That’s the only thing we have heard of in Ireland. OK, you win.
The Guinness storehouse is a seven-story warehouse with a self-guided audio-visual tour. They keep it interesting by filling the bulk of the first floor with grain and a waterfall for the sole purpose of charging you eighteen euro admission. There were interesting facts, old advertisements, and the option to learn to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and then drink it. We opted to have our complimentary eighteen-euro Guinness in the Gravity Bar to let the pros do the pouring. It is a bar at the top of the building surrounded by windows overlooking Dublin. It made the admission almost worth it. That and sharing a table with some women I was sure were the Spice Girls.
As our trip rounded to a close and we jetted out of Dublin, I left Ireland with a fondness in my heart for the Irish people and their cold, rainy land. Perhaps one day I will return there. In the summer. You know, when I would only need to wear one coat.