What a crazy weekend! Our excursion to Ireland was the first real "trip" since making ourselves at home in Scotland and it was a blast. Steve and Terri also went with us to Dublin, and we stayed in the Temple Bar neighborhood -- this is where the partygoers and Guinness drinkers congregate for wild nights and fiddle stomping fun!

We flew Ryan Air, known for its cheap flights but not customer service. They tack on so many fees it's unbelievable... £30 to check a bag, £40 if you didn't print out your boarding pass, £5 to check in online (required), £15 if you don't check in early. The list goes on! But we managed to pack light and cram everything into a small carryon each. After scrutinizing our bags and asking us to place them in the measuring box to be sure they weren't too big, we were on our way.

It was very rainy when we arrived in Dublin so even from the top of our double decker bus, we couldn't make out much. But it didn't dampen our first night in town! We checked into our hotel, The Morgan -- a contemporary four-star stop smack dab in the middle of Temple Bar, a great find by Steve -- took a shot of the Grouse we'd picked up at the airport and headed out for dinner. We decided to keep it simple and went across the street to the Thunderoad Cafe, which turned out to be a very similiar feel to Hard Rock (next door to The Morgan). Why they needed a UK knock-off of a nearby US staple is beyond me, but they had Coors Light on tap and good food!

After dinner, it was time for drinkin' and we hit the cobblestoned street in search of something good. We hadn't made it far when the unmistakable sound of Irish fiddle music floated around the corner to greet our ears. It was like a siren had gone off, Mike's head snapped around and he was already headed in the direction of the sounds before we could even register it! For those of who may not know, my husband LOVES Irish fiddle music and breaks into a jig nearly every time he hears it. There's a good bit of red in his sideburns and his goatee and it certainly came into play in Irishland, he fell in with the locals tossing back Guinness after Guinness and even got into a little "jig war" with a fellow barmate our last night.

We found the door that seemed to be the source of the music, confirmed by the man out front who said "Aye lads, live fiddles upstairs!" It was a small bar with low-rise stools and little wooden tables, a guitar player and two fiddlers. Just what we were looking for, the music was amazing and the ambiance perfect. We stayed as long as we could then spent the rest of the night conducting our own pub crawl...

Saturday was dedicated to our one tourist-attraction stop, the Guinness Factory. We walked to lunch at a chipper (fish and chip shop) called Leo Burdock's that claimed to have the best in town. Turns out they didn't, the cod was fried with the skin on and didn't hold much flavour and because there's no table and chairs (common at chippers everywhere) we balanced our giant meals in hand and ate on the sidewalk. It made for a good picture!

The Guinness Factory was really incredible, a very artistically crafted seven-story structure originally built in 1904 and expanded in 1988 and again in 2000. Giant steel beams serve as the support for the building created in the Chicago school of architecture style and based on the idea of a giant pint glass, which begins in the massive circular atrium and stretches up to the top floor Gravity Bar. According to the web site, if the "pint" was filled it would hold 14.3 million pints of Guinness!

We drank our complimentary pints at the end, looking out from the Gravity Bar onto the entire city of Dublin. It was such a cool moment. I still don't have the buds for Guinness--it tastes liked sweetened motor oil--but Mike and Steve had plenty of it all weekend. It must be the draw of the Irish...

Our last night was spent galavanting around town again with several high points in the evening:

1.) I found Bud Light!!! It was my first one in three months and, as you can see, I was beyond excited.

2.) Finding the most delicious Irish stew oddly served cafeteria-style at one of the coolest pubs around, O'Briens.

3.) Getting a giant helping of more cool live Irish fiddle music at the Oliver St. John Gogarty pub. It's a three-story house of fun!

4.) Mike getting into an impromptu jig contest with a Swedish guy at the pub. Hilarity ensued.

Sunday we got some hair of the dog at Hard Rock and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day on the patio before heading to the airport.

We had tons of fun and really got a feel for the local culture. It was also the first time we'd used Euros in the UK, supposedly Ireland is the only area in the UK that doesn't operate on the pound and it's also very expensive. Some drinks were €11! And after hearing both Scottish and Irish accents firsthand, we can now definitely tell the difference between the two. Now if only to decide where to go for St. Patty's Day...

Fiddles, jigs, fish and chip
Cobblestones, pubs and cheer
Memories made on a Dublin trip
Are best with Irish beer!

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