I’ve travelled to Dublin alone this weekend. I should probably point out that I’m not planning on completing the entire 30 Dates Challenge on my own, and have already roped in the Coincidental Dater to travel to the second foreign date location with me next month. However, I have no problems jumping on a plane on my own, or spending a couple of days in a city completely solo.
However, as most of my Irish friends live all around the globe, I decided to keep myself as busy as possible whilst in Dublin, by organising a second blind date. It also meant that I had a back-up, in case Mr Dublin didn’t show up.
Enter Sherlock, my date for Saturday afternoon and evening.
I’ve called him Sherlock, first because Mr Dublin already nabbed the ‘traditional’ name, I’ll be giving each of my 30 City dates! And secondly, because he bore a definite resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch! So it goes without saying, that my second Irish date, was neither ginger, nor a teeny tiny leprechaun. Sorry, that’s the only stereotypical Irish joke you’ll get out of me, promise!
Sherlock is the cousin of a Dublin-born friend who I met during my first ski season in Whistler. Whilst my friend is now living over in Asia, he was more than happy to set me up on a date, and told his cousin all about my mad challenges, and the blog – which definitely made for an easier start to the date than I had on Friday night!
I’d asked Sherlock if he’d mind going to the Guinness Storehouse as part of the date. Having never been a beer fan, I’ve never drunk a pint of Guinness, and figured that the Guinness Factory itself was the place to down my first pint (more on that one later!). My date was more than accommodating, and when we realized that last entry was at 5pm, we agreed to meet earlier than planned, at the gates of the museum.
The Storehouse is set a little way out of the town centre – not more than a ten minute car journey. It is set in amongst the Guinness Factory, however I quickly realized, it isn’t actually a working part of the factory. Understandably, it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city, and as I stood at the famous gates, surrounded by a large crowd, and staring hopelessly around for a guy on his own, Sherlock approached me with a grin. Apparently I had rather obviously been the girl on the blind date!
We filed inside the museum, and Sherlock revealed he’d also been there on a date the last time he’d visited, some six years beforehand. Whilst he didn’t let on his impressions of the museum, and was very good at letting me make my own mind up, I realised quickly that we had a shared cynicism!
With such an impressive global brand, and years of iconic advertising, there was so much Guinness could have made of the museum. Either an art gallery of advertising through the year, or bars with hundreds of tv adverts playing on repeat in the background. Or, as both of us had apparently expected the first time we’d visited, an actual live factory, where you walk through and see the different stages of the process.
The Guinness Storehouse attempted to do each of these things, but fell short every time. We paid our 16.50 Euros, and filed in, and the first thing we saw was an enormous Guiness souvenir shop. After the shop, was a huge room, empty apart from a massive pile of barley in the middle. Above the barley, giant tv screens showed footage of a field being ploughed. A few farming instruments hung from the wall, and that was all the information contained in the first room of the museum. We then entered a beautiful, and clearly very expensive room, where a waterfall fell over a glass ceiling, representing the water used in the making of Guinness. Yet again, very little information, and simply aesthetically pleasing. From the ‘ingredients’ room, we headed upstairs, to a room full of talking photos (Harry Potter style!). What was a bit odd though, was that all the videos were of actors, some simply pretending to be contemporary barmen, or merchant navyman. And the layout of the room meant the videos were far too close together, you couldn’t hear them very well, and there was a huge queue, the entire way around the room.
Next we headed into a rather hilarious room, full of videos made by the Master Brewer. A man who seemed extremely awkward, and whose hair grew and shrank from one video to the next. In the first video, the poor man had been superimposed in such an odd position on the video, that it looked like he was squatting, prompting a joke between Sherlock and me for the rest of the date, where we would take it in turns to awkwardly adopt the ‘Master Brewer’ position!
It was clear a great deal of money had been spent on every layer of the storehouse, but the attempts at a modern feel fell flat, as there was so little information everywhere we went. Even the videos were ill-timed, so when you walked from one section of the museum to the next, you often missed the first part of the next video.
Rather jaded, we headed up to the second floor floor. The building itself is incredibly beautiful – an original factory building full of iron girders and pipes, which have been painted a gorgeous shade of light blue. However looking up, both Sherlock and I commented on how the view up to the skylight on top seemed cluttered, especially by unnecessary glass panels. We later realized (once we’d read our map of the museum!) that all the glass is because there is a gigantic pint glass in the centre of the museum – the largest in the world, apparently it would hold over 13 million pints.
On the second floor, we went to the Tasting Rooms – which were branded rather like a tacky nightclub. We stood in line, behind a maze of ropes, and were let in by a security guard with an ear piece. ‘The Tasting Rooms’ were highlighted by yellow and red bright lights, and as we walked down a long tunnel into the first room, we genuinely could have been entering a night club.
Flavoured smoke was pumped into the room, spraying out of four table-like hobs in the room, so you could smell the different ingredients of the Guinness. This would apparently increase our experience. An important looking man stood behind a bar, with a Kylie-stlyle head microphone, and talked for a very long time about not all that much, before dishing out our Guiness testers – teeny pint glasses full of Guinness. It was at this point, that Sherlock and I recognized equally defiant characters in one another, and began breaking the Guinness Storehouse rules, firstly by taking not one, but two testers each!
Testers in hand, each pretending to be getting a tester for the other person, we headed into the tasting room. We stepped from a futuristic room of white light and smoke, into a dark cabin-like room, full of wooden ornaments, paintings of Arthur Guinness and his family, and specially designed artistic wooden plinths to rest our testers on.
A woman, also wearing a head mic, went through an elaborate spiel, getting us to hold our elbows out dramatically before tasting, and then asking us to wash the Guinness around our mouths before swallowing. We were asked to think about the different parts of our mouths and tongues, and what tastes they were registering, much like a wine tasting session, before a bell was rung, and we were told to down our testers (I managed one small glass, Sherlock had the other three!) and head back out into the bright Storehouse.
Level Three focused on the branding of Guinness through the years, though the floor seemed rushed. With so many incredible posters, images and films, they could have done a lot. Instead, there was a token wall of posters, not even displayed in frames. One corner of the room had five TVs, showing averts from each of the last five decades, and then there was a lavish cinema area tucked away, however when we went inside, we realized it was only playing two adverts on repeat, and neither was particularly iconic or memorable.
On Level Four we found the ‘Guinness Academy’, where we could redeem our ‘free pint’ token, which we’d been given on entry to the museum. The area was designed so we could ‘pull our perfect pint’. We were sent over to a futuristic-looking bar area, and together with perhaps ten other tourists, shown the two-stage process of pulling a Guinness. Rather ironically, we all got a certificate at the end to say we’d ‘pulled the perfect pint’, though mine looked anything but perfect, as I turned the pump on full blast, rather than turning it off when my glass was full! Ooops!
Deciding we wanted to enjoy our pints up in Gravity – the rooftop bar, which I’d been told had one of the best views of Dublin, we sneaked out of the pint-pulling area. I think we were meant to get in the lift (if we were allowed out of the bar with our drinks at all), because there were definitely signs telling us not to take glasses on the escalators and stairs (which Sherlock brazenly led me up on our way to the top floor).
The views of Dublin from the panoramic bar at the top of the pint glass-shaped museum were beautiful, and seemingly endless, however unfortunately the ‘bar’ had very little feel of a relaxed drinking establishment. So many people were crowded in, drinking their complimentary pints, that you could barely move for splashing yourself with either your own, or someone else’s Guinness, and we couldn’t get anywhere near the glass to actually properly see the views. After five minutes awkwardly hovering towards the centre of the room, we decided to head back down one level, to the food level, and found a nice emptier bar, where they didn’t bat an eye-lid when we walked in still holding our full pints of Guinness. Sherlock managed to move some tables so that we had a decent view out of a beautiful old factory window, out across the city, and he enjoyed his professionally poured pint (he used to be a barman), while I cheated and went and got a Coke (I really don’t like beer! Even in Ireland!)
We expected to be kicked out at six, but it seemed the bars and restaurants were open later than advertised, however as Sherlock had booked a table for dinner at 7, we jumped in a cab and headed to Ballsbridge, a business-like area of the city, to the South of the river, where I happened to be staying. He’d booked a restaurant called Roly’s, and it was spot on. One of the most popular local restaurants, there were a never-ending sea of waiters available to help us, each dressed in a white shirt and bowtie. The service was impeccable, and the food was delicious.
After dinner, we headed across the road to a local bar. An event called The Electric Run had just finished in one of the nearby stadiums, and all the runners, dressed in fluro gear, with glow sticks, and face paint, had congregated on the neighbouring bars. We sat, chatting easily in a lively sports bar, surrounded by revelers who made the place feel like we were in a ski resort, and chatted easily for another hour.
A perfect gent, Sherlock walked me back to my hotel, before catching a taxi to the other side of the city.
The whole feel of the date was a lot more relaxed and fun than my date with Mr Dublin. Because Sherlock was fully aware of the blog and the challenge, he was just up for a laugh, and happy to pose for photos, or take photos for me. He was super flexible with timing, and where to meet up, and it just made for a really easy, fun afternoon.
Bring on Destination Two next month … Amsterdam, with my trusted companion, The Coincidental Dater!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
Date Location – Dublin, Ireland
Date Referee – A friend of mine from Whistler – Sherlock’s cousin (though he did tell me that everyone in Ireland are cousins!)
The Date Lasted – 7 hours
The Date Ended – Again, I was knackered! I’d left my hotel room twelve hours ago, and just wanted to properly chill out for a bit!