January 21st, 2005

me: ooh!

Dublin, Day 3, or "Sit here and contemplate 'Modern Art' or something."

Marco is off work. We wake early and go downstairs to eat a full Irish breakfast. Mmm, bacon and eggs and blood sausage. We'd had an early night the previous evening, going to a nearby pub called The Temple Lounge for excellent burgers and okay Guinness on the recommendation of our B&B's friendly proprietor, Seamus. So we're fairly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We walk into town.

I take Marco to a little music shop near Temple Bar in search of Christy Moore. Though the shopkeeper doesn't have the album we're looking for, he's happy to play several of Christy Moore's albums for us, as well as The Pogues. I don't think either of us understood the appeal of The Pogues before visiting Ireland and seeing the appropriate cultural context. On Wednesday night, despite our exhaustion, we enjoyed seeing the beginning of a live music set and a lot of happy people hopping maniacally about and singing along at The Auld Dubliner. We buy "Rum, Sodomy & the Lash."

We go to Grafton Street to check out the shopping area. It is mostly uninteresting and overpriced, even with the favorable exchange rate. After a bit of dispirited perambulation around the mall near St. Stephen's Green, we decide to chuck the shopping idea and head for Dublin Castle so Marco can see the Chester Beatty Library and buy a gift for his mom. On the way, we pass through an open-air market. We find a copy of the Christy Moore album we'd wanted ("Live at the Point") and have a brief and disturbing encounter with a guy from Montreal who reminds me of an ex in a bad way, including shallow snobbishness about music and a tendency to name-drop about famous people removed by four of five degrees of separation. Ick.

Marco loves the CBL. I whisk him around the exhibit pointing out my favorite things, since we don't have much time. We eat a snack in the Library's café, which turns out to be superb. I'd stupidly avoided it on Wednesday. In London, the museums and galleries tend to have mediocre food in their cafés. This one serves Persian food and the dessert we have is the pistachio, rose water and honey cake. So good.

We walk to the Old Jameson Distillery to take the tour. The tour itself is predictably cheesy, although it is interesting to argue about the purpose of the triple distillation as well as the difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey. (The main difference is the method of drying the partially germinated barley. In the making of Irish whiskey, it's simply heated, while in the making of Scotch, thick smoke is allowed into the kilns, giving it its characteristic flavor.) I can't stop being amused that our guide is a French girl who is clearly terrified to deviate from the script as she leads us through the model distillery, lest she be asked to extemporize in English. I'm quick to volunteer and there aren't a lot of women on the tour, so I manage to get in on the tasting experience at the end of the tour. Unfortunately for me, Marco doesn't, so I get stuck with three college kids doing a study-abroad program who are a little too excited about being able to drink because they're under 21. They clearly have no idea how old I am. Marco can't stand them so he disappears and leaves me to resist the urge to smack their stupid heads on my own. I receive my Official Taster diploma, down my 35 mL of Powers and go to find Marco. Predictably, his gregarious personality has won over the bartender. There is a row of top-shelf reserve whiskey along the bar with a bunch of empty glasses and a dronkish Marco grinning at me and waving me over. We talk with the bartender until the next tour arrives half an hour later. He thanks us for staying and asking questions. We buy three bottles and trot back to the B&B through a heavy drizzle which we barely notice, bellies warmed by a great deal of whiskey marching around inside them.

We pass a side street and see a restaurant called "Transilvania" tucked away in it. Marco decides we need to eat there. Happily, it turns out to be really good. There are only five or six other patrons and these are chattering in Romanian. Our tall, bottle-blonde waitress doesn't speak much English, but she smilingly points out her favorite items on the menu when we ask. We drink a Romanian cabernet, which is very bright and flowery, and nibble on salami, fresh white cheese and curiously un-salty olives. The main courses include a hefty helping of polenta and sausages, pork and lamb in rich spicy sauces, almost like stew. We talk our time eating and listen to the cheesy band play folk songs on a synthesizer, violin and accordion. It's a lot of quality food for not much money and we congratulate ourselves for deciding to stay north of the Liffey, away from Temple Bar.

Unfortunately, we promptly forget our resolution and head south of the Liffey in search of a good club. The Old Saint John Gogarty is full of very white people who turn almost as one body to stare at my dread-locked head. The Globe is crammed with obnoxious yuppies trying to look better than one another. After several more abortive attempts, we call Julian, Marco's French co-worker, and ask him to recommend a decent place. He decides to rescue us in person. He leads us back north of the Liffey to a strip of clubs including Zanzibar, Spirit (dub/reggae) and a few others. He takes us into Zanzibar, which has vaulted ceilings, a bizarre hybrid African/Indian motif, tons of dance floor space and is at least as long as The Long Room at Trinity. We scope out a good vantage point on the balcony that circles half the dance floor to guzzle our first drinks and then head down to the floor, where we stay, dancing to the mix of pop and hip-hop. It's pretty mainstream, but not irritatingly so. The place is filled with women, lots of whom are on the pull. We note that Irish people seem to be either really attractive or really, really not. More often the latter. Regardless, they smilingly leave us a lot of dance floor space. We slip out when it gets too packed to move.