Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dublin City Tour

Today was all about Dublin. We got on the Hop on Hop Off Dublin tour and basically hit up two major sights- The Guinness Brewery and Kilmainham Gaol. We got on the bus and rode it directly to the Brewery because we had plans to meet everyone there at 11am. Give or take a few people, we started the tour which was impressive and took a couple of hours.

Back in 2000 during my last trip to Dublin, I did the Guinness tour and it was nothing nothing nothing like the one we went on today. This was a massively impressive experience. The building consists of nine floors, seven are part of the actual tour. It’s an interactive tour where you can learn all about the brewing process by reading a step by step account and then you can also watch it on little videos. I put together a photo album just about the Guinness Brewery including the videos that you can check out here and below:

As part of the tour, you get a complimentary Guinness that’s available at the very top of the Brewery inside the Gravity Bar, which has a 360* view of the city. This tour was eight days into the trip, which meant eight days of drinking Guinness…I’m sad to say that by the time I reached the top, I could barely drink my Guinness. I had enough to know that it was a damn fine pint, but I couldn’t finish the whole thing! We all ended up at the top, had (some of) our free drink and then headed back down. Of course we snapped some shots, including my mom’s first Guinness!

The tour was really incredible. Regardless of if you like Guinness or not, I think you’d be crazy to not be blown away by the presentation and the actual building. It’s absolutely worth a stop if you’re in Dublin.

Next up was a tour of Kilmainham Gaol. A friend of mine who grew up in Ireland told me it was a must see on the trip. And since we had to make some decisions about what we were going to be able to fit in, this was what we decided on. Kilmainham is a former prison located in Dublin, which is now a museum. It has been run since the mid-1980s by the Office of Public Works (my mom asked our guide Marcus what OPW stood for).

This tour was also fascinating, but it was also freezing and so we literally felt like we were being held prisoner. But we still learned a lot. Lifted right from Wikipedia: Kilmainham Gaol has played an important part in Irish history, as many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and some executed in the jail. The jail has also been used as a set for several films.
When it was first built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol was originally run by the Grand Jury for County Dublin. Over the 140 years it served as a prison, its cells held many of the most famous people involved in the campaign for Irish independence. The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were held and executed here.

Marcus also told us how children were arrested for petty theft, like stealing a wheel off a car, or taking someone else’s bread. He also pointed out that almost every teenager currently in Dublin would probably be thrown in jail if the same rules applied now  Due to overcrowding at one point, many prisoners were shipped over to Australia for imprisonment and because they were poor and had no money they basically stayed there when and if they got out of jail. Prisoners were give one four-inch candle to last for two weeks. There was no heat. I mean it just sounded terrible.

Visually, Kilmainham Gaol is a beautiful building. It was eerie to be walking through the jail. Marcus was so good at explaining things that I felt really present to the horror that once filled that place.

We also learned about The Great Famine, which started in 1845 and lasted as late as 1852 in some parts of the country. And I’ll have to admit that this was probably the easiest and best explanation I’ve ever heard about the topic. A lot of the Irish farmers were paying their British landowners with crop they were growing on their land. So when the potatoes started rotting (something they refer to as late blight) and the Irish people couldn’t eat their own potatoes, they started eating the crop. Back then, this was considered stealing as they were eating property that belonged technically to their British landowners. This is how many of the Irish people ended up at Kilmainham Gaol (and how it was something we learned during the tour). But the Famine is also responsible for the death of approximately one million people due to starvation and disease and another million or so people emigrated as a result of the famine.

It was a sobering (and freezing) tour, but it was also very educational.

Our prison faces

After jail we hopped back on the bus and had just enough time before we made an early dinner. It was funny to see how different the energy of the group was from when we all first met up a week ago. When we were done with dinner, we dragged ourselves to one last pub for one last drink where we all continued to yawn at the table, barely finish our drink and slowly head back to the Grafton Guest House to turn in for the night.

Everyone leaves tomorrow and I’ll have one more day on my own in Dublin which will most likely be spent relaxing. It’s been an amazing trip with everyone, but it’s also been exhausting on some levels to try and coordinate the plans for 12 – 16 people at any given time. We’ve had so much fun and seen so much of the country though and it’s been such a special experience to share it with so many people that I love!


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