jameson distillery ireland

It Started with Whiskey and Ended McNasty (Our European Adventure: Day 4&5)

Sunday June 16th, 2019

On an average day I don’t usually have whiskey with my breakfast, but when you’re in Southern Ireland and there is a Jameson Distillery twenty minutes from your hotel, sometimes you find yourself having whiskey for breakfast. Which is why at around 11:30 a.m. our group found ourselves feeling pretty good on our walk down the street in Cork in search of food.

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We’d learned all about the whiskey making process, history, and future, and had been given three samplers of the most popular Scotch whiskey, American whiskey, and Irish whiskey (which won by a landslide) during our tour, and a free full size drink at the end of our tour (which motivated a healthy and thorough perusal of the gift shop) so were feeling lighter as we made our way down the street to find some lunch.

Once we finished lunch, we stepped out into some heavy rain, which, unbeknownst to us, was actually the equivalent of a drippy faucet when compared with what was to come.

We walked, hoods on, talking about where we might stop en route to Belfast, our final Ireland destination. And like any touristy millennial would do, once I was back in our car listening to the Irish rain fall, I googled “castles near me”—which, unfathomably, garnered results.

An hour north, we found Rock of Cashel. It was another incredible feat of architecture and history that simply left us speechless.

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In what might be considered the castle’s “backyard” was a cemetery with headstones both modest and extravagant. Perhaps our least favorite was this grave where it appeared the deceased was inching a little too close to risen.

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Maybe he heard about Chick-Fil-A and asked for once more chance.

The rest of our drive to Belfast, while long and tiring, will forever be defined by the absolutely torrential rain that (sinisterly) welcomed us into Northern Ireland. We all handled it differently: my dad white knuckling the steering wheel, me wide eyeing the road, my mom and sister rotating between nervous laughing and nervous NOT laughing, and my brother sleeping as soundly as he would on a cloud.

When we finally made our way inside Darcy’s—a restaurant my sister found mid-death storm—we undoubtedly looked like we’d been through, well a death storm. We were wet and cold and all nervously laughing in that way that said hey that was crazy, huh? I really and truly thought we were going to die. LOL am I right? Am I crying? Because I feel like I should be crying.

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Yes, hello, we’d like a round of Xanax, please. 

After dinner, we went back to our Airbnb, showered and then fell (bel)fast asleep shortly after.

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Monday June 17th, 2019:

One of my favorite sites in Ireland that is almost impossible to capture in pictures is Giant’s Causeway. (Check out this post to hear about the legend associated with this formation, it’s one of my favorites!) I think the same goes for a lot of natural formations around the world. They are those things you have to see, touch, exist in the same air with to truly appreciate, understand, and ultimately believe that they live in the same world as you.

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We were once again blessed with a beautiful day with the sun shining and some wind that almost (I dare say) felt good as we hiked our way to the top of the red trail to take in another spectacular view.

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As we walked, my mom and I decided that if this whole human thing didn’t work out, we’d gladly come back and live out our lives as Irish cows—the kind who are so cute the owners let them moo around and eat until they die peacefully at pasture, and who somehow communicate that they want their last meal to be Belgian waffles and popcorn…but it’s not weird because we’re just quirky Irish cows.

I mean, come on.

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Once we were successfully awed (and slightly wind blown) we made our way back inside, had a light lunch at the café, and then got on the road back to Belfast.

A great thing about our group of nine is that we are almost always on the same page about our desired touring mode. We all know when to separate and let each other soak in what needed to be soaked in, we have similar touring speeds, and we all agree that we don’t have to take a guided tour just because it is available.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a curious person who loves to learn and especially loves a fun fact to drop in the middle of random conversations, but oftentimes when it comes to museums, exhibits and points of interest, I like to take them at my own speed, ask my own questions and do my own research.

That being said, if there was one tour I wish we could have taken while in Northern Ireland, it would be the Londonderry walking tour that my sister and I took on our trip with Contiki. (I looked it up and you can find that tour here!) To be able to hear from a local about the dark history of the city, and see the optimism in his eyes about its future was absolutely moving.

Having that memory in the back of our minds, we made sure to stop at the Peace Wall that commemorates the struggles of the past (and sadly, still present) and the hopes for the future.

May peace find you, and may you spread it outward from there.

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Here’s a fun fact for you: the Titanic was built in Belfast.

Walking through the Titanic Museum, we learned all about the infamous “ship of dreams”, from it’s humble beginnings in the Harland & Wolff shipyard—which you can see from the museum—in 1909, to the expedition that led to the discovery of its wreck in 1985. It’s amazing how the story never seems to leave you. Even if you’ve seen the movies, read the articles and walked through exhibits like this one, the heartbreak just sticks with you, I think it always will.

From the museum we headed to Pug Ugly’s for dinner. It’s a wonderful establishment that provides you with everything you need on a menu: pizza, beer, macaroni and cheese, and a pug in a top hat. Some recommendations from our table include the Pesto Chicken Club Pizza, the Goat Cheese Fritters, the French Dip sandwich, and the Homemade Burger.

For our last stop of the evening, and our last evening in Ireland, we headed to the oh so intriguingly named pub Filthy McNasty’s. Being a Monday, it was open mic night, and even though our group spent most of our time singing questionable renditions of popular songs, we opted to stay seated and cheers the bravery of others. Then, after a couple rounds of drinks, we walked back to our Airbnb, all nine of us in tow and in harmony—because we were once again singing, probably too loudly for 12:00 a.m. on a Monday.

We were sad to be leaving Ireland. Heartbroken actually. But we were excited for the new cities and new adventures to come. So as we tucked ourselves in and said goodnight, we tried to memorize every detail of our trip thus far. Could the magic follow us across the sea? Here’s hoping.

Whiskey & Kilkenny (Ireland Day #2)

Our first sunrise in Ireland brought in a full day’s worth of activities, the details of which were spelled out in, you guessed it, the schedule, which became known to our group as “the day sheet.”3

At 8:15, we all made our way downstairs to the bus, or “the coach”, where we met our driver for the week, Rob, nicknamed “The Scottish Stallion” for his Scottish heritage and overall incredible demeanor. He greeted us with a friendly smile and a few, thickly accented words we could only pretend to understand that early, welcoming us onto what would become somewhat of a home to us for the next 7 days.

Once we were all loaded, Tim took a seat beside Rob and switched on the coach’s microphone to inform us of a few key points, the first of which was that we would start each morning with our “day song.” It would act as a hybrid between a wake up call and a pump up song, gearing us up for the day ahead. And since we were in Ireland, our day song was, appropriately, full of Irish pride, as well as written and performed by Irish band, The Script.

Each morning would start like this, Tim explained, the conclusion of the song acting somewhat as his introduction to stand up and personally welcome us to the day, go over the day sheet, and undoubtedly crack a few jokes.

First on the day’s agenda was Kilkenny where, should we choose, we could take a bike tour around the city. And even though I’m about as confident on a bike as a cat is on a skateboard, both me and my sister opted in, figuring when in Kilkenny.

In the end, I couldn’t have been more thrilled with our decision. Our bike tour guide—who, yes, I’ve also forgotten the name of, so why not call him Dave—was incredibly lovely. Not only was he passionate about his city and the history found in and around its streets, he also happened to be completely adorable in the reminds-me-of-my-grandpa kind of way and I couldn’t get enough of him. Not to mention, the city was absolutely gorgeous.

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After the bike ride, we had an hour or so before we had to be back on the coach, so me, Natalee, and Sophie, our new friend from Sydney, took a walk down the main street until we found a farmer’s market. From there we would all grab a panini, thus igniting an addiction, as every day after this Natalee and I sought out paninis for lunch no matter where we were. I don’t know what it was (the bread) but there was something about an Irish panini (the bread) that just stole our hearts on the first day, making nothing else sound as good for lunch. I wish I would have written down the name of the booth we grabbed them from so I could give them some much deserved promo. But alas, I had no pen and an empty stomach, making it nearly impossible to bank anything to memory except the taste of the bread, so we’ll just call them “Dave’s Panini’s.” Look them up if you’re ever in Kilkenny.

Once we were back on the coach, we headed to the excursion Natalee had arguably looked forward to the most before arriving: The Jameson Distillery. Being an avid whiskey drinker herself, especially Jameson, she was over the moon when she discovered the distillery tour was offered as part of the trip. In fact, if you ask her, she’d probably tell you it was what ultimately made her click “book.” So you can imagine as we walked through the double doors to find this she was pretty excited:

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Yes, that is a Chandelier made of Jameson bottles.

The tour, while I won’t and can’t go into detail on what it involved, solely because I think it would turn this into a research paper, was incredibly interesting, informative, and ultimately left me wondering: who the hell figured this out? But at the end, when they handed us our free drinks—a cocktail comprised of Jameson and ginger ale which I highly recommend!—I quickly put the question out of my mind. Because no matter how that whiskey got in my glass, I was happy to have it and cheersing errrbody, past and present, who helped get it there.

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From the distillery we made our way to our hotel in Cork, where we made a quick change into dinner clothes before hopping back on the coach for a ride in to town.

On the schedule for dinner that night: Clancy’s.

On the menu for dinner that night: vegetable soup, chicken, ddecf0ced88cca47ff9a9f32330c417bmashed potatoesddecf0ced88cca47ff9a9f32330c417b,  veggies, and for dessert, apple pie.

After dinner, we walked over to the Thomond Bar where I fell in love…with Orchard Thieves, a European cider, which instantly became my go-to drink for the remainder of the trip. I grabbed a pint and took a seat at a table with some new friends, who instantly became closer friends as we spent a solid 30 minutes exchanging pictures of our dogs. We chatted and “awwwed” and tried not to give in on how badly we missed our furry friends, then we made our way over to the bar where we listened to some more live music—probably from a guy named Dave—and eventually walked ourselves home, feeling buzzed and excited and more Irish by the minute.

 
Journey