Thursday, September 27, 2007

The First Pint

The First Pint

Do—DO—pee before you get onto a bus in Dublin City Center. The buses are numerous, but they are not speedy. Once you are on one, you will feel like you could have walked faster, but if you have to pee so badly that you are afraid to breathe, you don’t have much of a choice. The buses are mainly double-deckers, and you can get good views from the upper deck, but, again, if you have to pee worse than when you were 11 years old in the back seat of the car on the Chicago tollway, crying into your pillow, and the only things you can see are rivers and fire hydrants and pubs that probably have toilets, you probably are not enjoying the scenery.

After we left Trinity College, we walked over to St. Stephen’s Green, down a busy shopping thoroughfare. Things started to look familiar, and Pete noticed that it was because we were walking through locations from the charming movie “Once.” Inside the main gate of the Green was the spot where the guitar player caught and wrestled down the junkie who stole his busking money. Trust me, the movie IS charming.

Dublin is buzzing with people. It’s a bit of a shock to the system when you are in the dream state of the early hours of international travel, and the consistent and jumbled drone of humanity was a little overwhelming. I did not come to Ireland to shop, and generally, shopping is not a pastime in which I care to indulge. I was having a bit of an “oh the humanity” moment, and it did not take long for us to decide that we wanted a pint, and that we did not want a pint in Temple Bar or in any of the pubs off the main drags: it was too much input. We settled on a little pub called “Grogan’s Castle,” and seated ourselves at the bar. The lovely bartender, Mary, was humming a lilting tune, there was local art on the walls, and people were calling each other by their first names, eating toasted cheese sandwiches. We were the only tourists in the place, which was what we wanted. We spend plenty of time around Americans in America.

We ordered a pint of Guinness and shot of Powers each.

In Dublin, expect to pay the same amount in numbers for goods and services that you would pay in America. This is not a deal. Two pints and two shots was the same amount of Euros in Dublin that we would hand over in dollars at the Dubliner in St. Paul. Pete looked at me, holding up a pint, and said, smiling, “This is where all our money is going to go.”


It was lovely. Everyone kept going on to me about how I had never had Guinness because I had never had Guinness in Ireland, and it had become a bit wearing. While it was true that this Guinness tasted different and better than the Guinness in America, it was not an experience that blew me away and left me staggering, ready to pack my bags and move. What makes the difference is that they pour it right, they drink it a lot, and you are in Ireland, not down the street from your own house; it’s 4:00, you are on vacation, and it’s time for a pint.

That pint went down successfully and quickly, and it was time for another. It was 4:10. We had meant to have one pint and then head back to the B&B as we had not even been into our room yet, but we were also on vacation, and one was simply not enough. We talked about what else we wanted to do in Dublin and had the cell phone debate.

Before we left, we had decided to buy a cell phone for traveling. It would have cost us around $120 dollars, we would have had the phone for other people to use when they travel overseas, and it would be cheaper than renting one. In Ireland, you don’t buy a plan, you buy time, so there would be no commitment. Our phones were not compatible, so we turned them off in Newark. I had located the store for our purchase, and it was not far from where we sat drinking. We asked each other what we thought about it, and we both wrinkled up our noses and shook our heads: we did not want a cell phone. Sure, we could more easily call ahead to book our rooms, and our cat/house sitters could reach us if they needed to, but then so could everyone else, if we called them even once to check in. It would be nice to have a break from ringing phones. Heavenly, in fact, for me, considering that every time the phone rings, I think I am in trouble.

Another pint later, Pete did not come back from the bathroom. It was nothing biological, it was just that he overheard a group of men talking behind us, and most of their conversation was about music. He pulled up a chair with them and eventually had me move over from the bar. Turned out, these young men were in a band; one of them had lived in Minneapolis; another was a naturalist interested in birdwatching; and the other was wearing a stripey jumper his (now) ex-girlfriend had knitted. We would have a lot to talk about. I found out what road atlas to buy (Ordinance Survey), what bird book to get (Collins), and Pete got some music recommendations.

We also gained a new, and now favorite, phrase. A pint or two into the conversation, I noticed an odor wafting over the scene. Stripey Jumper caught a whiff as well;

“Who opened their lunchbox?” he said.

This was both funny and embarrassing because I knew it was Pete. Pete heard him but was baffled. I don’t know if he was looking for an actual lunchbox, or if he had not understood all the words, but he questioned the phrase. It took a moment, and then I said to him, clearly, “He’s asking who farted.”

I think it was nearing 7:00 when it was either time for another pint or it was time to go. I decided that we really should head back to the B&B and actually check into our room, and we most likely did not need any more pints, considering that we had not slept in over 24 hours and had not eaten since noon. I’m so unreasonable.

We made our way toward the bus stop in that heightened yet hazy drunk-in-daylight state of which I am not too fond, and though I had used the pub loo more than once, the seven or so pints I had consumed seemed to have caught up with me all at once. By the time we reached the bus stop and began our wait, I was dancing in place and whining. Of course, our bus was the seventeenth bus to arrive, and it was packed, the streets were jammed, and we crawled back toward our neighborhood. Painfully. I figured that we could probably stop, have a pint, and get back on the very same bus. We were about six blocks away when I spotted a corner pub which I had noticed on our way in to city center, and which was, of course, painted blazing yellow. I said we had to get out. Now. I could not make it back to the B&B. We went in, Pete ordered two pints, and I limped and skipped to the toilets. The aftermath of this sort of pain and discomfort was one of such great relief, that I don’t remember ever being happier.

We arrived at the guesthouse, fumbling with our bags, trying to work the key, and be quiet and not giggle, even though it was only 8:00. There’s something about staying in a stranger’s house that is a bit odd, and I did not want our host to know that we were wasted. It would be like your parents seeing you come home drunk.

The room was lovely, our things had been brought up, and all was well. But we still needed to eat dinner. We walked down the street to a restaurant that we knew was open and ordered from the odd menu of pub food, Chinese, and curry, as well as two more pints. I think. Pete was so tired that he was actually falling asleep at the table, and the copious amounts of stout were not helping the situation. When he went to the bathroom, I was worried that he would not come back, and I would have to get the waiter to go in and wake him up. Then I worried about how I would get him the three blocks back to the B&B. He returned, however, and we paid successfully and made it home. After a shower, some instant decaff, and a little Sky News, it was bedtime.

Pete still has no idea what he ordered at that restaurant.

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