On Tour: Seeing a Gig Abroad

At first there’s disappointment. Your favourite band is embarking on an international tour and your city isn’t in the lineup. Or worse, they are coming but it’s already sold out.

But then, an idea strikes you. Gig holiday.

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Bell X1 at Bush Hall in London. Whether emigrants or visitors, half the room was Irish :-)

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of checking the tour dates of a band you really like and picking a city to travel to and see them live.

What appears on the face of it as a simple list of cities and dates in fact is a travel map in waiting probably spanning half of Europe and in each case featuring a great night’s entertainment that you can bank on before you even book.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve had some great ones. U2 in the south of France. The Arcade Fire in London. Radiohead and REM at Glastonbury.

Last month’s acoustic set by Bell X1 at London’s Bush Hall was another sub-category of the genre. Seeing an Irish band you like while living abroad. Dozens of Irish heads and voices were to be seen and heard at the concert, most of them probably living in London. For that evening, Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush might just as easily have been on Wexford Street, Dublin.

But while an expat gig of this sort is not something you do on a whim, as a weekend break abroad from Ireland, a gig holiday simply writes itself. Pick a city where your favourite act is playing that you’re interested in visiting, book flights and accommodation and you’re all set for a great trip.

What’s the coolest gig holiday you’ve been on? Let us know in the comments below.

Sail-Rail-Poolbeg-Lighthouse-Sunny-sm

Sail and Rail: What to Know

On a recent journey between London and Dublin, we decided we wanted to try something a little different and opted to ‘Sail and Rail’, rather than fly as we usually do. The ferry was something we’d never tried before but were keen to experience, and in the end, we were really glad we gave it a go, as it turned out to be a lovely way to travel.

‘Sail and Rail’ encompasses a number of deals offered by several ferry companies and UK train companies, which sell tickets altogether as a package on one itinerary. Depending on when you go, it can work out to as cheap or even cheaper than flying and also presents a unique way of travelling between Britain and Ireland.

Sail-Rail-Poolbeg-Lighthouse-Sunny-sm

How long does Sail & Rail take?

Altogether, our Sail and Rail journey took approximately 8 hours. We departed Euston Station in central London at just after 9am and our train journey to Holyhead in Wales took approximately 3.5 hours. We had about an hour in Holyhead and our ferry departed at around 2pm, arriving to Dublin Port at 5:15pm.

View of Dublin Port from the Stena Line

What is the Sail & Rail experience like?

We found the Sail & Rail experience to be altogether pleasant. The train is quite comfortable and fast (if you wish to reserve specific seats, you must book in advance through National Rail), which I’d definitely recommend doing, especially if you’re travelling in a group of two or more and want to sit together. Your Sail & Rail ticket gets you on board any train heading in the direction of Holyhead, so you can end up on a variety of train companies – we happened to be with Virgin and found the experience cosy enough – there’s a food carriage where you can buy basic sambos and snacks, though we’d suggest stocking up on a few eats before departure.

Stena Line - On Board Lounge

For our trip, we chose to sail with Stena Line, although Irish Ferries do very similar crossings and offer the Sail & Rail package, as well. We’d be tempted to try them next time for comparison’s sake. The Stena Line ferry itself is massive, with several levels. As a foot passenger, you mostly spend time on the lounge level, which consists of several huge lounge areas with a variety of different seats, tables and chairs and plenty of windows on the off chance you get a sunny day for your crossing.

Stena Line- On Board Lounge

There’s a bar serving various alcoholic tipples, a coffee bar and a small cafe counter that does hot meals. There’s also free wifi on board, which worked perfectly for me throughout the duration.

The crossing takes about 3.5 hours and can range from quite smooth to fairly rough, depending on the weather.

Sail & Rail: Need to Know

  • Prices for Sail & Rail vary, depending on the time of year and day. Our tickets were around €180 total for two foot passengers, return.
  • Don’t bother upgrading to the “Stena Plus” service, as the regular class lounge areas are huge and comfy.
  • Take snacks – it’s best to pick up snacks either in London or Dublin before departure, as Holyhead has precious few eating options and the on-board cafe, while convenient, has a fairly limited menu.
  • Beware the weather – poor weather conditions on the Irish Sea can often cause cancelled or delayed ferries, so keep an eye on the weather and consider flying during the winter months.
  • Seasickness can be a problem in poorer weather, so if you suffer from it, bring along some seasickness tablets just in case.
  • Don’t count on Holyhead – the ferry terminal at Holyhead is nearly bare of amenities (there is one tiny snack stand) and, in bad weather, can be a cold and fairly uncomfortable place to spend time. The town of Holyhead is a short, bracing walk from the terminal and boasts a couple of pubs, a supermarket and little else.

Holyhead Ferry Terminal

In the end, we found Sail & Rail to be a really relaxing way to travel. While it certainly takes longer than flying, you benefit from no luggage restrictions, a huge relaxing lounge and train carriage, dining options, etc. We also found the lack of airport bustle to be a wonderful reprieve, so if you aren’t crunched for time or are looking for a budget transportation option between Ireland and the UK, Sail & Rail is a great choice.

Hayes Bar in Glandore, West Cork Ireland

Ireland’s Best Hidden Pubs: Hayes Bar

Today, I am here to tell you about Hayes Bar in Glandore. There are some pubs so good, so desperately good, that you almost don’t want to write about them. You almost want to keep them secret so that they are not run down by the tourist droves and then you can go back anytime you like.

But alas, that would be neither fair to the publican nor to the public. So, we are on a new mission to out some of Ireland’s best hidden bars. Those lovely, secret places that it seems like only the few and proud have actually found.

Hidden Delight: Hayes Bar

Hayes Bar in Glandore, West Cork Ireland

Hayes’ Bar is not what one would call easy to find. Nor is it particularly convenient, unless you happen to be spending a very cosy if uneventful weekend in the achingly scenic village of Glandore in West Cork. There is one road in, and one road out, buffered on one side by the pristine waters of Glandore Harbour – considered one of Ireland’s most picturesque sea inlets.

Glandore Harbour West Cork Ireland

Hayes’ Bar overlooks Glandore Harbour. In good weather (which, admittedly, West Cork gets more of than most of the rest of Ireland), there is plenty of picnic table seating at which to gaze out over the Gulf Stream-warmed waters and ponder life and poetry. In colder weather, the tiny interior of the pub is warmed by an open coal fire and gourmet sambos and soups.

Hayes Bar in Glandore, West Cork Ireland - Interior

Run by proprietress Ada Hayes, who is many days found tending bar and customers herself, they’ve kept the bar in the family. Various family members or friends from the nearby villages can also be often found either working at the bar or drinking in the bar, or some combination of both. But Hayes Bar remains utterly friendly to visitors – it’s the kind of place you’ll walk in and always get a warm welcome, no matter where you’re from.

Hayes Bar in Glandore is closed in the off-season from approximately October-late April or May.

Know of another great hidden pub we should feature? Tell us about it in the comments below!

O'Donoghue's, Suffolk Street, Dublin

Cheap pints for all

Publin comes to town, paving the way for cheap drinks in Dublin’s Fair City. We interview founder John Geraghty about how he came up with the site and his favourite pubs.

One thing I have always begrudged Dublin is how expensive pints can be here. If €4.50 is roughly average for a pint in Dublin, you’ll find that’s the top end (£3.75) for most typical pubs in London. London!

Enter Publin. More than just a catchy name, this genius website is attempting to catalogue all the pubs in Dublin by price scale and features, as well as offering reviews and photos, a series of brilliantly-crafted, do-it-yourself pub crawls and recession-friendly specials offered by the pubs themselves. Publin.ie

If you follow Publin’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, you’ll get the heads up on these specials as they come in, making it quite easy to plan a night out on the cheap.

Here at IrishJaunt, we have been loving Publin since it appeared late last year. So, we decided to chat with the mastermind behind it all, John Geraghty, about Publin, being a pub crawl guide and the perfect pint of Guinness.

For starters, can you tell us a little bit about the people behind Publin?
Well, at present, Publin is just one person. My name is John Geraghty, I’m 26 and….I love pubs! I was a pub crawl tour guide for two years and I also visit them in a personal capacity from time to time. I came up with the idea for Publin around a year and a half ago and finally launched it last December. It’s an opportunity for me personally to work on something I really love and I also get a lot of satisfaction from helping people have a good night out while getting value for money.

John Geraghty of Publin.ie

Publin mastermind John Geraghty

What gave you the idea to start Publin?
I can’t recall an exact time that I came up with the idea or why, it just came to me over a period of time. It’s a fairly obvious idea for a website, especially in Dublin, and I guess I’m the only one that has put the time into keeping an updated price list for the whole city. When I was working as a tour guide I was always conscious of how expensive a city Dublin was for tourists coming here and I’m quite a frugal person myself. So, I decided to put something together to show people the options open to them in terms of price without sacrificing the quality of their holiday.

Using Publin, you could easily end up saving €15 on your night out. That’s the price of a nice meal. It was something that I knew I myself would use, so naturally I had a bit of passion for what I was doing and I knew there would be a market for it, which there is.

How many pubs do you currently have listed on the site?
We have around 210 pubs listed, 165 of those having a full price list, and we also have a list of more than 500 drinks specials covering all of those pubs.

Are you expecting lots more?
We are indeed! There’s plenty more in the city centre to list, but we’re also starting to creep out into more suburban areas close to the city. A lot of people don’t go into town when they have a good pub or bar so close to home, so we’re going to start trying to list those, too. I just have to be confident that we can keep track of our existing pubs before moving on to others. Once we have a strict rota in place, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we can at least double the amount of pubs we have listed.

There is space for people to “join” Publin. What does membership involve?
At the moment, membership allows you to rate and comment upon pubs, as well as mark them as a favourite for quick reference. In the future we’re going to make membership a bit more interactive, so you can create your own pub crawls and interact with other members on a forum and messaging system.

You’ve got a great selection of pub crawls on the site. Who puts these together and how?
I’m never one to sit still on a night out. I love changing venues and getting a taste for what is going on around the city. I don’t like to confine myself to one place unless I have to. With that in mind, I started creating geographically based and themed pub crawls. The geographically based ones are quite easy to do – they’re usually a long stretch of road like ‘the Baggot mile’, or a loop around Trinity College I call ‘the Trinity Ring’.

The themed ones are far more fun to come up with, as they require a bit of research. A few examples are the Harry Potter crawl, film crawl, James Joyce crawl, and the cheap craft beer crawl. The film pub crawl lists pubs where scenes from famous movies were filmed. These being Educating Rita, Michael Collins, The Commitments, A Fistful of Dollars, and many more. If there’s a hot topic in the news, I try to make a crawl based on that. The list keeps growing and it’s a lot of fun to play around with.

Mulligans, Poolbeg Street, Dublin

Mulligans of Poolbeg Street: the best pint of Guinness? Photo: William Murphy

Isn’t it a great perk to have to go out drinking for your job?
Too right it is! Any time I’m out for drinks with friends, I have a chance to do ‘research’. I can take down the prices, take a few photos or tweet something live from the venue. If you’re so willing to work after hours, it’s not really a job! I like to get a good spread of pubs too, so I never go to the same place too much. The down side is that everyone expects me to choose the next venue. I’m not that decisive!

I noticed you have iPhone and Android apps in the works. What can we expect from these?
I’m really looking forward to having the apps out and working. Not just for users, but for myself too! The apps will have a list of bars with individual pages for each showing their prices, a full drinks list consisting of over 160 pubs, a deal list, a Twitter feed (very important, because here we list deals that are for one night only), and a comprehensive map that will tell you where your nearest pubs are. I should say that these, at first, will only be beta apps and that more comprehensive and pretty ones will be on the way in a few months’ time. As we’re still a small website and we don’t have huge resources, we’re doing this alone, and so the product will be functional but can only get better. I’m learning Android and iOS app development, so we’ll have it mastered in no time.

What should we look out for on the Publin website in the coming months?
We’ll have new sections, new pubs, and increased details of pubs. We’ll be able to tell you where has wifi, pool tables, dart boards, function rooms, fire places, craft beers, gluten-free beers, beer gardens and much more. We already have lists for pool tables, beer gardens and others, but we’ll be making them far more comprehensive. Our list of deals stands at over 500 at the moment, but I’ll be expecting that to grow in a big way before the summer hits. In short- expand, expand, expand!

You list a lot of pubs offering drinks specials, both on Publin.ie and on your social media channels. Isn’t there a law against happy hours in Ireland? How do these work?
So far as I’m aware ,you’re right in saying that happy hours aren’t allowed, but most specials offered by pubs are over the course of the night and only on specific drinks. There’s no free-for-alls where prices are slashed 70% for only 60 minutes. It’s a lot more reserved that than. Most deals would be 2-for-1 cocktails on Thursday nights, a mixer and a spirit for €5 or selected pints for €3.50. Nobody goes mad with their deals and they’re mostly quite responsible. In many countries paying €3.50 for a pint would be considered expensive, so I don’t think we’re going off the rails here!

It’s the pubs’ responsibility to set prices that they think will get customers through the door, and we’re just providing that information. There’s nothing that we list that could be considered outrageous and, even though most of what we do is to show value, we would think twice about listing anything that we considered dangerous or irresponsible.

O'Donoghue's, Suffolk Street, Dublin

O'Donoghue's of Suffolk Street: a Publin favourite. Photo: Chris Friese

Do you have any personal favourite pubs?
Most pubs that I have a fondness for are because I’ve got good memories associated with them, but here’s a few that I’m very fond of. The Cobblestone in Smithfield, Dice Bar Smithfield, O’Donoghue’s on Suffolk Street, Black Sheep on Capel Street, Mulligans of Poolbeg Street, the George Bernard Shaw on Wexford Street and Bowes Lounge.

Which pubs would you recommend for visitors wanting to get a really authentic Dublin pub-going experience?
I think these would be a good starting point and you would be most likely to meet Irish people and tourists alike here: Cobblestone Smithfield, Kehoe’s off Grafton Street, O’Donoghue’s on Baggot Street, The Long Hall on George’s Street, Against the Grain on Wexford Street (to taste some real Irish craft beers) and O’Neill’s on Suffolk Street. I think that’s a good start, and if you’re still standing after those, come back to me and I’ll give you some more.

Do you think there really is such a thing as the best pint of Guinness in the city and, if so, where is it?
I’ve heard all sorts of rumours about Guinness giving the best kegs to a certain few pubs around the city, and I’d well believe those rumours. Conventional wisdom suggests the best pints can be found in the Long Hall on George’s Street, Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street, Toner’s on Baggot Street (they have a sign outside saying that a member of the Dubliners band proclaimed it the best pint of Guinness in Dublin).

We’ve started a Guinness rating system on the site, so hopefully we’ll be able to put the argument to rest once and for all.  I maintain that the best Guinness I’ve ever had was at the bottom of a mountain in Letterfrack, Co. Galway. So smooth and just generally perfect. I don’t know much about the brewing process, but after drinking it for a few years you tend to know after the first sip whether it’s a good one or not. You’ll just have to judge for yourself!

Thanks again, John! We’ll be onto you for a pub crawl tour soon enough!

Photo: Garry Knight

Worst St. Patrick’s Day photos…of animals?

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Well…almost. But here at IrishJaunt, it takes very little to put us into celebratory mode and just thinking about all those well-deserved pints of Guinness this weekend has got me feeling pretty festive.

To that end, I decided to have some fun.

So, I started scouring Flickr for the best St. Patrick’s Day photos from around the world. I ran across some interesting pictures but, as I went, I began seeing a strange and unnerving trend. It seems there is a dark world out there where people dress up their pets for Paddy’s Day and post them all over the interweb. It was all much too disturbing not to share, so I offer here some of the worst St. Patrick’s Day photos of animals for you all to see and… enjoy? Fear? Laugh at?

Whatever. I hope you have a drink in your hand for these. Sláinte!

Photo: Matthew Roberts

Photo: Dee Doucette

Photo: Ishikawa Ken

Photo: Flickr user _rockinfree

Photo: Flickr user barriebarrie

Photo: Flickr user theq47

Photo: Flickr user dharmabumx

Photo: Flickr user lumag00

Photo: Talk Radio News Service

Photo: Jenn and Jon

Photo: Flickr user Sister72

Photo: Humane Society of Greater Rochester

Photo: donnaidhe_sidhe

Photo: Kevin Oliver

Photo: Smithsonian's National Zoo

Photo: Troy B. Thompson

Photo: Logan Ingalls

Photo: Gary Elrod

 

Photo: Garry Knight

Photo: Stacy Lynn Baum

Photo: Eric n6oim

St. Patrick's Festival 2008

Surviving Paddy’s Day with your sanity

St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t always so manic. Believe it or not, at one time, it was quite a reserved holiday when mammies went to church and everyone else stayed in bed. In fact, from the time that the Irish Bank Holiday Act of 1903 made Paddy’s Day an official public holiday up until the 1970s, drinking was outlawed.

Photo: Flickr user LenDog64

Photo: LenDog64

Imagine that. St. Patrick’s Day with no drink.

Anyway, the holiday really properly took off first in America when a bunch of paddies marched through the streets of New York on March 17, 1762. In the 1960s, Chicago started dying the river green. In the 1970s, the St. Patrick’s Day drinking ban was repealed in Ireland, and in the 1990s, the first proper St. Patrick’s Day Festival was held in Dublin.

St. Patrick’s Day may be manic, but we here at IrishJaunt are not. We believe in keeping our sanity while still hopefully enjoying ourselves and we’ve got a few tips on how you can avoid coming home missing a limb (or a liver) but still enjoying St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland this 2012 to the fullest.

St. Patrick’s Day Survival Tips

*Early bird. The parade in Dublin for the official St. Patrick’s Festival is always mobbed. Many start queuing up early in the morning to get a good standing point.

*Plan your route. You need a plan for the whole day, starting from where you’re standing for the parade to which pubs or activities you plan to hit later.

*Pick a prime spot. The beginnings and ends of the parade routes are generally the least crowded. Here’s a handy map of the Dublin parade route.

*Avoid the city centre pubs. Whether you’re celebrating in Dublin or the countryside, you’ll want to avoid pubs in major town centres. These will all be packed. Instead, opt for lesser known pubs, locals and neighbourhood or country pubs. They’ll still be packed, but you might have a hope of getting in the door.

*Don’t overdrink
. I wish this went without saying, but it doesn’t. Don’t start drinking too early. Pace yourself. Order half pints. Do a round of water or fizzy drinks. Hydrate and, for feck’s sake, eat something.
While you’re at it, pack in snacks. I am serious! Bring some fruit, cereal bars or even crisps! Anything to soak up some of that alcohol.

St. Patrick's Festival 2008

Photo: William Murphy

*Getting a seat: Getting a seat in a pub on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland requires special powers. You probably won’t get one. It is highly unlikely. In fact, if you even get in the door of the pub, I will be surprised. However, there is one golden rule – if you get a seat, keep it. Do not move. Don’t even go to the toilets because you may never see it again.

*Bring a small number of reinforcements
. Keeping your group small means you’ll be able to squeeze into those three-seater pub tables no one wants because they’re there with four hundred of their frat boy friends from Arkansas.

*Respect your barman
. This should probably go at the top of the list. You don’t need to tip him. He’ll probably roll his eyes if you do. But give him respect. Speak to him in human tones. Order gentlemanly drinks – not shots of Irish Car Bomb. Have small bills and change. And don’t order four hundred drinks at once.

*Get cash
. There is not going to be a single ATM in Ireland with money in it on St. Patrick’s Day. Stock up on loads of cash beforehand. Keep it in your shoe or somewhere safe (preferably not one of those bum bags) and avoid using credit and debit cards to pay for drinks at the bar.

*Go to a cultural event.
The St. Patrick’s Festival organisers go out of their way to make Paddy’s Day more than just drinking. This year, the programme of events includes a whole slew of cultural goings-on, including walking tours, céilí (Irish dance parties), orchestral performances, architectural tours, boat races and lots of kids activities.

Courtesy photo

Falling in love with Dublin

Finding love amidst the manic backdrop of Dublin City can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, but this Valentine’s Day, the Temple Bar Cultural Trust is teaming up with dozens of local businesses around the city to help you fall in love with Dublin…and just maybe find love yourself.

Courtesy photo

On February 14 from noon to midnight, spots around the city will open their doors to romance for the aptly named event, A Date with Dublin. The programme of events will include everything from photography exhibits to speed dating and choral music performances.

If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a partner, the two of you can participate in a truly unique art exhibition curated by the Gallery of Photography. Vintage-style partners’ portraits  will be taken from 1-4pm and then displayed on a screen in Meeting House Square later in the evening. Places are limited, so contact info@galleryofphotography.ie to reserve your free spot.

There are also a number of film and theatre screenings going on throughout the evening that couples or friends might want to partake in together. Films to be shown in Meeting House Square the evening of, for example, include Casablanca and Once.

Gutter Bookshop Dublin

While many of the events are open to all for a celebration of love in all its forms, some are aimed at people looking for romance. Our friends over at the Gutter Bookshop are hosting an event just for awkward culture vultures looking for love: bookworm speed dating! Get to know other literary-minded singles in a fast five minutes each and maybe come away with the new Mr. or Mrs. You (or if not, a great story and perhaps some new friends!). It’s on from 6:30-8pm for free and there’s no need to book in advance.

ETA: The Gutter folks have just informed me that this speed dating event is actually a book match event, so you won’t be meeting people – you’ll be meeting their experts who will match you up with your perfect book!

If you’re currently out of couplehood or looking to give Valentine’s the aul’ two fingers, one option is the truly unique “Love Sucks” at Project Arts Centre. A king of live-action art game created by the artists from Make and Do, two different games will have you meeting new people through smartphone ice breaker activities and silly antics of faux seduction.

For more info and a full programme of events, visit the Temple Bar Cultural Trust’s website.