My wake up call this morning was 2:15 am so I could be ready for the airport driver who was supposed to pick me up at 3:50 and take me to Heathrow. I didn’t sleep well and was on autopilot this morning when Fernando, my driver, picked me up. Fernando was nice but talkative and I wasn’t really in a chatty mood. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he made me listen to Reba McEntire throughout the duration of the ride. I got to the airport, went through security only to learn that my flight to Dublin was delayed a half hour. It seems the London fog still hadn’t lifted and not only were many flights being delayed but some were getting cancelled. My flight kept getting delayed–an hour, then 2. By the time we took off, the flight was 3 hours late. I had a 2:00 appointment for some connoisseur experience beer tasting at Guinness which I was starting to think might not happen
I waited well over a half hour to go through customs and another half hour to get a taxi. The stars were clearly not aligned in my favor and as Zen about it as I was trying to be, I was exhausted. I also couldn’t believe how warm it was. So many people told me to dress warm. A friend who went in July told me to wear long johns. I settled for a very heavy winter coat which has been nothing but a burden for most of my trip (it came in handy in Edinburgh and York but that’s about it). The weather was quite lovely, though, just something I was not prepared for. I had one jacket and it was bulky.
My cab driver was a hoot. He reminded me of the actor Jonathan Banks but with a thick Irish accent. Throughout the half hour drive, we talked about global warming, Oliver Stone, Bruce Springsteen, Bono’s ego, Sinead O’Connor’s brilliance and what a tortured soul she was, politics, Woodstock, Sweetwater and more. He was the friendliest cab driver I have ever met and I have met many. He has lived all over the world including America. I asked him why he kept coming back to Dublin. He said a few times, “i’m drawn to the misery!” and laughed.
He dropped me off at my hotel in the center of the city where I was greeted by a doorman who would not let me carry my bags. I told him I had a blister in my toe and he got me a bandaid. I told him I couldn’t hear from my left ear since the flight and he got me some qtips. “So this must be that Irish hospitality I have been hearing so much about,” I thought. At this point I was super late for my Guinness tour. I tried to find the hop on hop off bus but construction work had resulted in some of the stops closing down. This was a happening part of town. I saw boutique shops, restaurants, pubs and street performers—everything from dancers to singers to men painted like statues standing absolutely still. It was like a street party and I loved the energy.
I finally found the hop on hop hop off bus which would take me to Guinness. The bus driver was an older gentleman that was like a character from a movie—very animated. He cracked jokes, talked about the city and then slipped me a card with his name on it just before I exited the bus.
I walked into the Guinness brewery which was packed. I explained that I had missed my connoisseur tour. They were nice enough to put me on the list for the next tour later that afternoon. Until then I walked around and did the self-guided tour and attempted to take pictures in the dimly lit room.
I have a confession to make. I have never liked Guinness but I had an opportunity to taste the various kinds of Guinness with this connoisseur experience and wanted to see if my palette had changed much over the years. It certainly had with wine. (I prefer wine to beer and do enjoy my wine tastings). But the Guinness tour was very cool. Everyone who worked there was clearly incredibly passionate about Guinness. I had been on a tour of Sierra Nevada earlier this year in California and that process didn’t seem nearly as intricate as the Guinness brewing process. Generally, anyone can do the connoisseur experience but few actually know about it. I actually recognized one of the people at the connoisseur experience from the airport customs line.
At 4, I went upstairs for my connoisseur tour. There were 5 of us. We were taken into a private bar that smelled like a collage of hops, barley and other ingredients that had penetrated my olfactory senses during the self-guided tour. The woman who took us into the bar talked about Guinness and explained that we would be learning how to taste guinness, how to pour Guinness and how to drink Guinness….and that she did teach. We tried four fresh guinness beers…a draft, a stout, a “foreign” stout and something exclusively available in the UK called Dublin Porter. I must admit that fresh Guinness was quite good —way better than the bottled stuff I had tried in my 20s.. My Jonathan Banks Irish cab driver had told me that it would be too. He also said that the Guinness Brewery was the most popular tourist destination in Dublin.
After the tasting, i went to the top floor sky lounge to catch a glimpse of the Dublin skyline but by this time, the sun had nearly set so I couldn’t see much. I was also supposed to go on a Dublin Ghost Tour but by then the hop on hop off bus had ceased operating and I got lost coming home. My blister foot was killing me, I was exhausted and tomorrow I have to be at a meeting point at 6:50 am to see the Cliffs of Moher. I opted to skip the ghost tour in an attempt to preserve what little energy I have after that airport fiasco.
The Cliffs of Moher meeting destination is in front of the Molly Malone statue which fortunately is very close to my hotel. I walked to the statue just so I knew exactly how to find it in the early hours of the morning. I think I will sleep well tonight. There was a “pillow menu” on my bed which reveals the composition of each of the four luxury pillows on my bed… They all have special names… The Relaxer, the Comforter, the Spiral Loft and The Night Flight. With a pillow ensemble like that, how could I not sleep??
Take a tour of the Guinness Storehouse and get the connoisseur treatment today. We can add the Guinness Connoisseur Experience to any Ireland itinerary.