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A view of the Liffey River in DublinTuesday 21 March 2006 Becky had been asked to participate in the 27 th meeting of the American Overseas Dietetic Association (AODA) meeting in Dublin. Hugh went along to research Guinness and as the baggage handler. Robin and Steve had never visited Ireland and decided to join us for another RHATT adventure. Becky and Hugh left Houston with a layover and plane change in Newark. As we boarded the aircraft in Newark, the captain informed us that there was a mechanical problem which required deplaneing…he didn’t know how long it would take to fix the problem, but we would be on our way as soon as the leaking aileron was repaired. We returned to the Presidents Club to wait out the repair, but fortunately the problem was quickly solved and we were back on the plane to take off only an hour late.

 

The Stag's Head PubWednesday 22 March 2006 We arrived in Dublin about 8:30 am. Clearing immigration and customs was routine; we found the Aircoach bus at the exit from the terminal and purchased tickets for the ride to Marrion Square. The traffic in Dublin is diabolical…the distance to the airport is not great, but this trip is measured in minutes not miles Anyway we arrived at Marrion Square and quickly found the Alexander Hotel about a block from the bus stop. The weather was beautiful; bright sunshine, gentle breeze and 40 degrees. Fortunately our room was available so we checked in and immediately grabbed a 2 hour nap to recover from the flight over. In the afternoon we toured Grafton Street…the famous pedestrian mall lined with shops; we found lunch in a bistro on Duke Street. We strolled around St. Stevens Green and observed the lovely Georgian houses and buildings surrounding the square. We also found the Dublin Tourist Center where we acquired a much needed city guide book with some maps. We returned to the Alexander to get ready for the evening and then walked to the Stag’s Head for our first round of Guinness in Dublin. The Stag’s Head is a well known venue with wonderful wooden paneling and furnishings; but it’s reputation is founded by serving the best pint of Guinness in Dublin. While I can’t really say it was the best, it certainly was remarkable. From the Stag’s Head we returned to the hotel for the welcoming reception at the Gingerman Pub across the street from the Alexander. Becky enjoyed seeing all of her dietitian friends while Hugh enjoyed meeting people and sampling the Guinness. There was some food served, but we elected to pass on the fried pub grub and left the party about 9:00 to find a restaurant. The concierge directed us to Jacob’s Ladder about a 5 minute walk away. This was an upscale restaurant on Nassau street which served a very nice menu. Becky ordered a baked haddock chowder and Hugh had roasted venison.

 

My Trek 1200 rental bicycleThursday 23 March 2006 Becky and Hugh started the morning with the typical Irish breakfast buffet in the Alexander hotel. The AODA conference began today, Becky made some welcoming remarks at the opening session and Hugh had planned to rent a bicycle and tour the Wicklow hill country west of Dublin. The morning started out with broken clouds and some occasional sunshine…everyone remarked how lucky I was to have such nice weather this early in the Spring. The bike rental shop was out at the University College Dublin (UCD) so I had to take the #10 bus to get there. That was easy enough and finding the bike shop was not too difficult after I checked with a couple of locals. I rented an18 speed Trek 1200; the shop owner suggested a route into the hill country and gave me a map. In the city of Dublin there are excellent bike lanes which are generally respected by the motorist. I followed the N11 south to Bray and then turned inland and started to climb. I continued on to Enniskerry and then towards Roundwood. The road was mostly uphill; a couple of the hills were steep enough to challenge the lowest gear…I found myself wishing for a 3 rd chain ring as I approached to summit. At Roundwood, I notice that the temperature had dropped about 5 degrees, the skies started to darken and the wind really picked up. All of these conditions indicated that it was time to turn around and head back to Enniskerry for lunch. The trip back was a lot easier with the wind to my back and the road downhill. I arrived at the Enniskerry Inn and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and sandwich for lunch; then back on the bike for the home stretch. As I arrived in Bray, the rain started and didn’t quit. I rode the last 10 miles in an Irish mist…wet enough to make the streets slick, but not strong enough to make me abandon the ride. I arrived back at the bike shop after a 60 mile ride a little cold and wet, but happy to have had the chance to see the beautiful country side by bicycle. Becky’s meetings finished about 5:30 and we met some of her colleagues for happy hour and dinner at Foley’s Pub and Restaurant. The Guinness and food were excellent.

 

The Guinness Brewery at St. James GateFriday, 24 March 2006; Becky was presenting at the first session of the morning and had to get an early start; we were the first in line at the breakfast buffet to provide her with as much time as possible to get her presentation ready for the 8:00 session. Hugh enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and waited until the city started to become active about 10:00 in the morning. The weather was very typically Irish…misty, grey and cold, but those conditions don’t seem to impede anyone because the streets were as busy as ever. Hugh started out along Nassau street, stopping at a Celtic music store to buy Irish CD’s for gifts. From Grafton street, he continued in the direction of St. James Gate, the home of Guinness. It’s about a 30 minute walk from Grafton street to St. James Gate which would be a pleasant and interesting walk except it’s not a lot of fun in the Irish mist. The tour of the Guinness Storehouse is an essential visit while in Dublin. It is a self directed tour, but is probably the best and most informative of any brewery tour we have made. The Storehouse is a seven story structure that was built in 1903; each floor has a unique exhibition related to Guinness. The Brewery Bar on the 5 th floor offers a very nice lunch menu and the Gravity Bar on the 7 th floor has a 360 degree panorama of Dublin…probably the best available view of the city. The gift shop has an extensive selection of Guinness wear and souvenirs. I toured the Storehouse for about 3 hours before heading across the Liffey river in search of Hugh’s Bar on Chancery street. Fortunately the rain had stopped and the pub was easy to find; it is reputed to offer traditional Irish music in the evenings. From there I recrossed the river to amble through the Temple Bar district. This is a quaint old part of the city with narrow cobblestone streets; it’s full of bars, restaurants and trendy shops…the Dublin equivalent of Soho. The next stop on the walking tour was Trinity University…returning to the hotel through the university commons was much more pleasant than sharing the sidewalks with the throngs on Nassau street. The final gala for the AODA meeting was later in the evening; all of the guests were to be on the bus by 6:00 pm for the 30 minute ride to Taylor’s Three Rock in the Wicklow foothills. As we arrived we were ushered into an empty bar where the awards for the meeting were presented. Following the presentation, we moved into a dining room which could accommodate 300; this was the venue for dinner and the entertainment. The meal was fine considering the size of the crowd and the service was acceptable as well. The place was definitely a tourist trap because it was full of them. The music was OK, although in my mind wasn’t truly authentic; the Irish dancers on the other hand were quite good.

 

Georgian townhomes along Marrion SquareSaturday, 25 March 2006 This was the final morning of the AODA meeting…Becky had to lead a roundtable discussion which began at 11:00. Robin and Steve arrived from New York about 9:20; Hugh was waiting at the bus stop to guide them to the Alexander Hotel. We dropped the luggage and began a quick orientation of the St. Steven’s Green, Grafton and Trinity University area. We stopped at a coffee shop and then met Becky in the hotel lobby as she completed her responsibilities. By this time, the hotel had prepared their room, so Robin and Steve took a brief pause to prepare for the afternoon’s activities. We started with a walk along the Liffey River towards the Guinness Storehouse. It was a nice walk and gave up time to catch up on recent activities. We arrived at the Storehouse only to find a line wrapped around the block. Not wanting to spend precious time standing in line, we chose to visit the Brazen Head Pub for lunch. After lunch we toured the Temple Bar area and then returned to the Alexander so R&S could have some jet lag recovery time. Later in the evening we walked to Grafton Street to find a restaurant and then back to the hotel to crash for the evening.

 

The RHATT at the Gravity Bar at the Guinness BrewerySunday, 26 March 2006 Our first chance to sleep late…Becky doesn’t have to attend any early meetings. Only a couple of tourist venues are open on Sunday morning…one of those is the Guinness Storehouse which opens at 9:30 in the morning. After breakfast in the hotel dining room we started our walk along the Liffey river to towards the Guinness Storehouse. The distance is a bit more than a mile, but on Sunday morning there weren’t a lot of crowds. We arrived at the entrance to discover no lines and we could immediately begin the tour. The tour is a self guided tour and accurate within its scope…unfortunately the available information falls woefully short of what I was seeking to learn and the personnel available for questions were clueless about the beer making process. At the end of the tour I did manage to get an email address where I can send questions, but I have my doubts as to what secrets they will actually provide. We did enjoy the 7 th floor Gravity Bar with it’s 360 panorama of the city. We made a visit to the gift shop for some souvenirs and then started towards the Book of Kells at Trinity University. Housed in the library at Trinity are the multiple 1000 year old volumes that make up the Book of Kells. These are illuminated manuscripts of the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The exhibition is well done and informative; The long room library above the book of Kells exhibition is a remarkable example of period library stacks;…Robin seemed to have a keener appreciation for the library. From Trinity we walked on to the Dublin Museum of Irish History and Archaelogy…the exhibit on Irish history was finished so we just viewed the gold displays and then popped into the museum café for some nosch and coffee. We returned to the Alexander for a brief rest before the evening crawl through the Temple Bar. We started with happy hour at the Stags Head…this a beautiful pub with heavy wood paneling and copper ceilings not to mention an excellent pint of Guinness. We then continued to the Bad Ass cafe in Temple Bar (a venue where Sinead O’Connor once worked as a waitress), where we had a very animated waiter and an enjoyable meal. The waiter recommended that we visit the Oliver St John Pub to hear authentic Irish music. We found the pub only a block away and discovered the wonderful Irish singing pubs that we had been searching for. The band had a lead guitar and vocalist, banjo, fiddle, drum and bass…they made wonderful music and really got the patrons involved in scene. I think this evening will remain the highlight of the Dublin Tour.

 

Robin and Hugh comparing five whiskeys at the Jameson DistilleryMonday 27 March 2006 The only priority for Monday morning was to get some sleep to recover from the late evening at the Oliver St. John. After breakfast, we walked to the Dublin Castle; we bought tickets for the 11:00 tour and while we were waiting for the tour to begin Becky and Robin managed to get a lot of historical information from the aspiring actress who was selling tickets. The tour was surprisingly interesting as well as informative; we recommend that any visitor to Dublin plan to visit the castle. Next on our morning itinerary was a visit to the Old Jameson Distillery. This is only the site of the original distillery….most has been converted to condominiums and the whiskey is produced in county Cork. The facility is well preserved and the tour is quite interesting. Unlike Guinness, there is a guide to take you through the facility and explain the various phase of the process. The tasting experience was unique to any we had ever done…Robin and Hugh were selected to do a tutored tasting which included three Irish Whiskeys, one Scotch (Johnny Walker Red) and an American whisky (Jack Daniels). All three of the Irish were produced by Jameson. There were two other tasters in this trial…all agreed that the Irish was preferable to the others. The Jack Daniels seemed sweet compared to the others. The Johnny Walker Red was a mediocre Scotch and as such was a close second to the Jameson. A premium single malt would probably have scored higher in my ranking. But the comparison was not only fun and informative, it was also intoxicating! After the tasting, we visited the gift shop where we purchased a 12 year old reserve that is available only at the distillery…it is unique because it is matured in Port wine barrels. After the Jameson tour we walked to Hugh’s Pub for lunch and then continued to the General Post Office to learn about the 1916 Easter Rising. We returned to the Alexander for a brief rest and to check emails and make phone calls before starting out for the final RHATT crawl through Dublin. We returned to Temple Bar and found Fitzsimons Pub and Restaurant. After dinner we returned to the Oliver St. James for another evening of authentic Irish music. The band was not the same as the night before….this one had the lead guitar, the banjo and two pipers (flutes and penny whistles). The music was fun and invigorating but significantly different from the previous evening. Knowing we had an early call to catch our return flight to Houston, we left the pub at a reasonable hour to face the unpleasant task of packing and preparing to return home.

 

O'Connor street near the General Post OfficeTuesday, 28 March 2006 After a quick breakfast, we checked out of the Alexander hotel and took the taxi back to the Dublin Airport. We left with a wonderful experience and a desire to return… Dublin beware the RHATT will be back.

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