This is the story of our Ladies weekend in Dublin, in May 2014. It was just myself, my Mum, and some family friends, all of which were aged in their 40s-50s, and me only 28!! However this was by no means a Saga holiday – these ladies know how to PARTY! I even struggled to keep up with them at some points.
We flew from Edinburgh Airport and took advantage of the airport lounge, which I highly recommend if you’re planning a few drinks or nibbles before flying. It usually costs around £18pp, although if you shop around online there are often discounts to be had – and my Mum, being the bargain hunting expert, managed to get it much cheaper for us!
We arrived in Dublin around dinner time, and grabbed a taxi from the rank outside the airport. The taxi driver, Paul, was trying to woo us with all the usual banter and chatter. I don’t know if I just hadn’t had enough to drink to enjoy his garbage chat, but it just seemed to me as if he was trying far too hard. Perhaps he fancied one of the ladies, or perhaps he thought if he spoke to us long enough we wouldn’t mind paying €37 for the 15 minute cab ride.
Our hotel was in the Smithfield area of Dublin, quite a trendy/studenty looking part of town, with lots of street art and sculptures, which I enjoy very much. We basically just threw the bags into the room, had a quick change and freshen up, and headed over to the Cobblestones bar, across from the hotel.
There was a live band on, and the place was mobbed so it took ages to get a drink. Almost immediately we got into a conversation with a couple of Swedish guys from Malmo. They were quite impressed that I’d heard of it, but that’s only because I’m sure they played either Rangers or Celtic in the UEFA cup a few years back.
We stayed for a few drinks, and then decided to jump on a tram to the Temple Bar area. We asked a guy which stop to get off, and he said that we could follow him as long as we didn’t walk right beside him – very bizarre!
We arrived in Temple Bar Street, and the place was absolutely BUZZING! Never before had I seen Dublin as busy as this, although my previous trips had always been earlier in the year, around February time. Walking up the street brought back the same sort of anticipation I used to get as a kid walking into the funfair, smelling the candyfloss for the first time and hearing the music and screams on the Waltzers. Only this time I was hearing squeals of excited hen parties rushing by.
Our first stop was the Temple bar itself – I love almost getting lost in what seems like a maze of rooms, especially after a few pints of Guinness. Plus the open air sections are always handy for the smokers. We shimmied our way through the crowd watching the live band in the front room, and managed to find a space somewhere in one of the middle sections. Almost immediately I was surrounded by a group of guys, asking me to choose who was the most attractive.
I was a bit taken aback when almost immediately a group of guys swarmed around me and demanded to know who was the best looking. I seemed to get quite a lot of male attention over the course of the weekend, not sure if there was something in the air, or perhaps it was just that pints of Guinness were flowing, as I never seem to get chatted up back home…
It turns out the group of guys were on a stag party, and the guy I picked as the most attractive was the stag – never mind! Not that it mattered anyway; it was all just a bit of fun. The group were all posh university boys, and the one that seemed to take a particular shine for me was dressed in a blazer and boat shoes – soooo not my type! Nice enough fella though. He worked in the city in London, and I said that we should definitely meet up for a drink next week as I was heading down for a training course for work, but of course I knew it would never happen.
The next guy to approach me was actually already walking through to the bar with another girl, who he promptly ditched as soon as he saw me. I felt a bit sorry for the girl, especially since I wasn’t even interested in the guy, but it was comical really. Everyone else seemed to have a good laugh about it anyway! When I told him I was Scottish he told me he had family in the Southside of Glasgow who he would be visiting next month, and he could come and see me at the same time – again, never going to happen!
Finally, we got talking to a couple of very smart looking guys in suits who had been in Dublin for a wedding, but had ditched the wedding to come out and party instead! Immediately I just assumed that it was a gay wedding, and so the two guys must be gay. I’ve no idea why – turns out they weren’t gay at all! They were great fun though, and we had a few drinks with them before moving on to the next bar.
By this point I’d already had quite a few pints of Guinness, so decided to switch back to beer which I normally drink at home. But it just didn’t taste as good. When in Rome do as the Romans do, as they say – so when in Ireland, drink Guinness!
We tried The Quays bar next, but it was so busy with another live band that you could hardly move. Plus the music wasn’t really my taste – Mumford and Sons and Bastille – bleugh! We just stayed for one drink and then left. We grabbed some chips and cheese from a street stall and then just jumped in a taxi back to the hotel. I wasn’t really ready for bed yet, so Ros and I went back over to the Cobblestones for another drink – we made it just in time for last orders. The pub was almost empty now, just a group of Americans at the bar who we got talking to. I asked them if they thought the landlord looked like Bill Clinton, which they thought was hilarious! He really did, he had the same big square face. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos. We decided to call it a night after that, so we were still reasonably fresh for the following day
We awoke to some bad news that Karen, one of our close family friends had passed away – she had terminal lung cancer and had been in the hospice for almost a week, so it was expected that she could go at any time, but it was still a shock to hear that she had died – she was only 48.
We were all feeling a little down when we went for breakfast at O’Shea’s Bar, just a five minute walk from our hotel. We’d passed it in the taxi the previous night and it looked really lively so we thought we’d do some reconnaissance and check it out for later. We ordered a round of drinks and did a toast to Karen, and resolved that today would be fun-filled and full of laughs, as that’s what she would have wanted.
The first Guinness went down a treat, so I’d definitely be sticking to that for the day. Plus my hangover wasn’t too bad – if you want a really sore head then go ahead and mix your drinks. But I always try to just find something that I like, and stick to it. We ended up having 3 drinks just with breakfast, as some were drinking vodkas and so it took us to the third round do co-ordinate so that everyone finished at the same time, and nobody was sitting empty. Good job I got a full breakfast to soak it all up!
We made the short journey across the road to the Brazen Head, reportedly Ireland’s oldest pub and a regular haunt of the author James Joyce. When we first went in the place was swarming with American tourists, but they quickly cleared out and we discovered that the place was actually quite charming with lots of little rooms adjoining the main area. There was also an old fashioned telephone box in the foyer area which we posed in for photos until someone farted and it was time for a sharp exit! (Harp Irish Lager reference, for those who remember the TV advert from the 1980s)
We headed back to the Temple Bar area and I insisted on walking rather than getting the tram as I was determined to see more than just the inside of pubs. The walk was actually quite nice after a few pints of Guinness, and we just followed the River Liffey all the way along. We decided to try the Quays again since we didn’t get to experience much of it last night, and when we arrived the band were just setting up, which was ideal.
The vibe in the afternoon was so much better than the previous evening – I don’t know if that’s me just getting old now, but I much prefer afternoon drinking than evening. We ended up staying in the same pub for the rest of the day, and I’m pretty sure we spoke to EVERYONE in there. These are just a few of the people I can remember talking to:
– A handsome red-haired man from Cologne, on who I decided to try out some of my high school German, but he had absolutely no idea what I was trying to say! Perhaps “Ich habe ein kaninchen (I have a rabbit)” Isn’t really the best way to start a conversation.
– An Italian man with an AMAZING beard.
– A woman called Liz, who I think was the local nutter – We had a dance to Kings of Leon, and she kept on telling me that she “thinks with her heart, not her head.” My mum ended up telling her to go away, as she thought she fancied me!
– An African man with whom I got into a deep and meaningful debate about Scottish independence.
– The two (not gay) guys from last night, who I learned are called Lindsay and Richard. I spent most of the afternoon with them until Richard went home with a lady in a tracksuit!
– An off duty Garda policeman, who had the loveliest smile I’ve ever seen.
These are just the people I can remember – everything became a blur around 5pm…
One of the disadvantages of drinking Guinness all day, especially on an empty stomach, is that you end up a little worse for wear. I can’t remember what time we left the pub at, but by this point I was starving and would have eaten anything that was put in front of me. I suggested a little Mexican place we went to last time which was amazing, but my Mum had it in her head that she wanted noodles, so instead of just grabbing them from a takeaway, we ended up in some sort of Mongolian restaurant. (If anyone’s ever been to Khublai Khan’s in Glasgow or Edinburgh then you’ll get the idea)
The concept was that you went up and helped yourself to any combination of (unrefrigerated) meats, vegetables, noodles and spices, and placed them (uncooked) into a tiny little bowl. Then you had to stand in a queue for 15 minutes and wait until a guy barbecued them for you, and placed them (now cooked) back into your bowl (that had previously contained uncooked meat).
There were also bowls of rice sitting on the table that were already there when we arrived at the restaurant, and for all we knew they could have been sitting out all day. It certainly looked as if they had. Safe to say nobody touched the rice! Thankfully none of us got food poisoning, but we left still hungry after such a tiny little portion, and were each €15 lighter for the pleasure.
We jumped in a taxi back to O’Shea’s bar, where we were earlier for breakfast. And for some reason my Mum kept asking the taxi driver to smell her fingers, in a phony Irish accent – “Smell my fingers. They smell like CUUURRREEE!) Not long after that she fell asleep in the pub! I was pretty exhausted myself, so decided to call it a night.
I woke up quite fresh the next day, which is more than can be said for those who decided to stay out. They had a few more drinks in O’Shea’s before heading back to the Brazen Head and then the Cobblestones! So I’m really glad I decided to have an early night.
We took the tram back into the city centre again – I noticed a sticker on the ticket machine which said “You are Beautiful” which made me feel quite happy inside. It’s always nice to be paid a compliment, even if it is only from a ticket machine! We got off and walked across the Ha’penny Bridge, and I noticed lots of padlocks with lovers’ initials on them. I hadn’t noticed them the previous day when we crossed the bridge – must have been too drunk!
We headed to Gogarty’s in anticipation of a lovely breakfast – however we had some bother communicating what we actually wanted to the foreign waitress. One of our group was after a toastie, which we didn’t think would be a problem. The waitress explained that they had sandwiches (sweeches), but no toasties. When we asked if the sandwich could be toasted, her reply was a straight up – NO. We are still a bit confused by this response – here’s us thinking that every pub kitchen comes equipped with a grill, but hey-ho. You know how it is when you have your mind set on something, and nothing else will do – so we ended up just ordering drinks, and decided to try somewhere else for food. So yet again, we ended up with a pint Guinness for breakfast!
We ended up in some greasy spoon café, which nobody really wanted, but by this point we were too hungry to wander around anymore. I ordered a savoury omelette, and was expecting at least some cheese, possibly some onions or mushrooms, and was left feeling more than underwhelmed when my plain egg omelette arrived. I wolfed it down anyway in order to soak up the alcohol, and washed it down with yet another pint of Guinness.
We decided to have a little bit of a wander around the area, as yesterday we hadn’t really seen much apart from the inside of pubs, so today I was determined to do a bit more exploring. I managed to take a few arty-farty snaps of some architecture and wall murals, and there was also some sort of “Latvia day” taking place with lots of street food, market stalls and dance displays. This was great for about ten minutes, before we got fed up of people dancing in our way, so we just hit the pub again.
It didn’t take us long to get drunk again with the less than fulfilling breakfast – I’ve no idea how many pints of Guinness I actually consumed over the course of the weekend, but it must have been somewhere between 30-35 over the 3 days, which is pretty good going for a petite 5’3’’ lady.
One of the advantages of drinking Guinness all day was that we didn’t notice (or care!) when successive bands came into the pub and played an almost identical set-list to the previous band. Inevitably it would contain Irish Rover, Dirty Old Town, Molly Malone, The Fields of Athenry… Or anything else stereotypically Irish that you can think of, which is obviously to try and entice the tourists. It’s probably our own fault to be honest for staying in the same pub all day – I’m sure they were expecting that most customers would just have a few drinks then move on!!
We met Lindsay and Richard again, who were both wearing denim shirts; and guess what I was wearing – also a denim shirt. TEAM DENIM!!! We spent most of the afternoon chatting with them, and were having such good fun that we lost all track of time. Before we knew it, it was time to leave for the airport, so we quickly grabbed some chips and cheese and posed for a few photographs beside our favourite street bench, which we last visited in 2005 – can you spot the difference?
We jumped in a taxi and headed back to the hotel quickly to grab our suitcases, before heading back to the airport. Our taxi driver this time was the lovely Carl, who quoted us a price about €17 – much cheaper than Paul from the first day!! When we pulled up to the hotel, guess who was there waiting on us – it was Paul, who had been so keen to come back for us again (and rip us off again). Quick-thinking, Carl jotted down his plate number and radioed in to report him – what a hero!!
While we were inside the hotel I was gutted to find out that we’d only just missed the one and only Shane MacGowan – one of my childhood heroes – who was walking up the street past the hotel. The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York was one of the first songs I can remember from Top of the Pops as a kid, and I used to dance along to it with my Dad, while pretending to be Kirsty MacColl.
We were actually running slightly late for our flight, so Carl zoomed along to the airport at top speed. He had the tunes turned right up on the radio, and he even had a disco light inside the taxi, so even at the very end of our trip we were still having a party! We posed for some photos with Carl, before running inside the airport to catch our flight home. What an amazing weekend.
The hangover on Monday wasn’t so great though!