A New Year’s coming to Dublin
Gussied up, champagne bubblin’
“Three! Two! One!”
Twenty twelve’s done
Heels on cobblestone- I’m stumblin’
Last week, Joe and I took a bus ride across the country to Ireland’s capital city, Dublin. The hotel we’d booked at a discount rate wasn’t necessarily in the city center, so we ended up riding to the airport and waiting for a hotel shuttle. As we stood waiting in the chilly wind, we got into a heated argument as to which of us does a better King Julian impression, from the movie Madagascar. I ended up winning in a rock-paper-scissors showdown. Looking back, I could have been a little easier on him, especially since it was his birthday. The shuttle arrived and we were soon checking into our warm hotel.
Bus 13 to the city centre was a double decker. Seeing it pull around the corner, you knew you weren’t in Limerick anymore. We stopped in front of Christ Church Cathedral-a massive, intense-looking thing, and walked down the street to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which houses the world’s largest organ and is admired for its choir. There was an older woman taking admission fees at the entrance. We told her we were there for Mass and she let us in for free, but mentioned there was no Mass since it wasn’t a Catholic church. Turns out, it’s part of the Church of Ireland, or Anglican. Though most churches in the country are Catholic, the next largest denomination is the Church of Ireland. So, we found seats and listened to the choir perform; it’s hard to believe that just a handful of voices can completely fill a building to its corners with such enchanting noise. But they did, and it was beautiful. I said a prayer for Joe on his birthday, one for the year behind us, and another for the new year ahead. We left hungry for dinner and stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant-Halleluja!
Two months without Mexican food. Though this is unheard of in the U.S., restaurants just don’t exist in Europe. I’ve found none in Limerick, but I still Google it every once in a while just incase one opens up. Apparently, it’s time for me to start cooking it myself, though it will hardly be the same unless I hang a parrot in the corner of our apartment, put a sombrero on my husband and call him Jose, play mariachi music and find all the right ingredients (our usual shopping at a German grocery chain in Limerick won’t cut it). I think I just decided on a New Year’s Resolution! Well anyway, we found ourselves in that exact atmosphere in downtown Dublin. The family is from Mexico City, and served up a delicious burrito. The fact that they had run out of chips and salsa that day told me we may not be the only Americans in Dublin for the New Year….
Tummies full, we strolled toward the famous area known as Temple Bar and rounding the corner, I immediately knew we’d found it: Bright, vivacious buildings of assorted colors connected along the streets, with twinkle lights and flags draped charmingly from their eves. Uneven cobblestone topped with leisurely pedestrians. Bicycle bells. Spirited chatter. Muffled traditional music pouring out of doors as they swung open and shut. Cigarette smoke, perfume, spilled beer-all intermingled into the fresh crisp, cold air. Young. Old. Men. Women. Locals. Tourists. Lively, yet at the same time, peaceful.
With oodles of pubs to chose from, we ended up at the Old Storehouse and found stools near the entertainment. Two men played, one young lad on bagpipes, one older on guitar- a Dubliners’ classic: Molly Malone…
“Through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!”
Joe and I had no clue what we were singing but joined in with the enthusiastic crowd anyway, “…with cankles! and muscles! and live, a live ho!” I think I’d better work on that. Having Irish blood and all, I should probably know the lyrics to at least Molly Malone and Rattlin’ Bog- another New Year’s Resolution!
The next day was New Year’s Eve. We toured the big city, starting with Trinity College. It was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, as a Protestant college and only began taking Catholics after 1970. The big attraction here, other than it’s beautiful 40-acre campus, is the Book of Kells. Containing the four gospels in Latin, it is a manuscript that is believed to have been the work of some monks who fled to the town of Kells to escape Viking beatings back in the day, like way back in 806. Next we walked through Temple Bar, in daylight this time, and made our way over the Ha’Penny bridge to the Moore Street Market. Last stop was the Guiness Storehouse where we learned all about why Guinness is so amazing. On the first floor, you study the four ingredients: barley, hops, water and yeast. On the second, you find out how it’s all put together and crafted. The third floor is dedicated to Guinness advertisement, which some say is more popular than the beer itself-you know, the famous “lovely day” pelican posters.
That is where I found out how the Guinness Book of World Records came to be: In 1951, the managing director of Guinness Breweries went bird hunting, and later that day in the pub, he found himself in an argument over which was the fastest game bird. A year later, a similar argument took place, and he realized- there must be debates like this taking place in pubs all over Ireland, but no book in the world existed that could settle such arguments. And that is how it all started! As it turns out, the Guinness Book of World Records is the highest selling book behind the Bible and the Koran. And to think I know two people who have been published as record-setters! In 1998, my cousin Johnny set a record for stuffing three regulation-sized hamburgers (including buns and condiments) into his mouth at the same time, and he even appeared on the David Letterman show. My Zumba instructor here in Limerick, James, also set a record- for the fastest tap dancer in the world, having the most taps in one minute, and he appeared on the Regis and Kelly show. Such impressive people I surround myself with! I think if I were to try to set a record it would be for the number of clementine oranges consumed in one day.
Back to beer: On the fourth floor, you get to practice the six steps of pouring a perfect pint of Guinness. Being a detail-oriented individual, I took it seriously and I must say, probably had the most precise pour out of anyone in our group. So, you start by holding the glass with the Guinness symbol facing out, and check to make sure the glass is clean. 2.) Hold the glass at a 45 degree angle. 3.) Place the tap as close to the glass as possible without touching it, pull the handle forward and gradually straighten the glass as you pour (duh, I went to college). Stop when the glass is 3/4 full or in the middle of the harp symbol. (By the way, did you know that the Harp is the National symbol of Ireland, the only country to have a musical instrument as it’s emblem?) 4.) Let it sit on the bar until it’s settled, about 2 minutes- offering anticipation of what’s to come… 5.) Finish by pushing the handle backwards until the head goes just above the top of the glass without spilling over. 6.) Steadily hand the pint to the consumer. I learned recently, that the sign of a good pour is the froth that sticks to the glass as you drink it down. Ours definitely had it…sweet success! The top floor, Gravity Bar, boasts a 360 degree view over Dublin. We walked around the packed bar, enjoying the panorama and pints, and on our way out overheard that “cankles and muscles” song again….
After I had curled my hair and Joe ironed his slacks, and once the McDonalds and champagne had been consumed in our hotel room, we made our way to the New Years Eve party at Fitzsimon’s pub/dance club in Temple Bar. The evening included party hats, Swiss acquaintances, Bulmers cider, a midnight smooch, Gangnam Style, doing the Roger Rabbit in 3-inch heels like usual, changing out of high-heels and into flats by 1 AM (I’ve learned a few things in the last 30 years), late-nite kebabs, and the feeling of a new chapter beginning…
As we begin to consume the 525,949 minutes that make up 2013, my resolution is to try to live each one, as moments. Even if they are spent doing nothing worth writing about, they are precious and deserve attention. I also made a list because now I finally have time to accomplish some things I’ve barely had a chance to even think about the past couple of years…practice yoga daily, write and publish a children’s book, learn how to cook Mexican food, complete a triathlon, make a wedding photo album, learn Irish songs and history, continue to sleep/exercise/eat healthy/all that stuff, go to Africa with Joe and meet his family there, travel Europe, write postcards and mail them, do a detox cleanse. There. Hopefully having put this in print will hold me accountable! I’ll get back to you on my progress in about 515,841 minutes. As for Joe’s resolutions, they are to do well in school and travel with me. The first few minutes of 2013, though slightly foggy, were memorable- and I look forward to discovering what the rest have in store for us and our loved ones…Happy New Year!