Saturday was one of the busiest days to date for ILE ’14 with an array of different tours, venues, and adventures spanning a 14-hour period. With the bus arriving at 9 AM, the students and staff had a quick breakfast to help them wake up and get ready for the long day. The first destination of the day was the Guinness brewery located in the center of Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse was a fermentation plant from 1904 to 1988 and is now a seven story visitor experience dedicated to the history and making of the world famous beer. The building itself is craftily designed in the shape of a giant pint. If it was filled with Guinness is would hold 14.3 million pints of Guinness. The seven levels of the building are (In order from ground to top.) Orientation Floor, Brewing, Taste Experience, Guinness Advertising, Pour the Perfect Pint, and the Gravity Bar. Many students returned to the orientation floor to mosey around the retail store with plenty of classic Guinness gifts such as hats, shirts, and pint glasses. Stephen purchased a hat for himself and a few other gifts for family members back home. Stephen had a great time at Guinness, but was disappointed he wasn’t a part of the Pouring a Pint Class.
That class consisted of the five 18-year olds that are a part of the Irish Life Experience: Alex, Brendan, David, Jess, and Kate. These five had a separate experience then those who explored the different levels of the Guinness Brewery and learned about the history and art of a Guinness pint. Alex, Brendan, David, Jess, and Kate went directly to the Pouring Academy to learn how to pour a perfect pint. After the instructor gave a demonstration, the student’s went one by one to pour their own pint. All five completed the task and had a perfect pint with a dozen pictures and a certificate from the brewery declaring their skill. From there, they were guided up to the famous Gravity Bar where they were able to take a little sample of their pints together and enjoy the unbelievable view from the bar. The Gravity Bar is built with full glass windows giving you an almost 360 view of the beautiful city of Dublin. From this height you can see everything from Croke Park to the Wellington monument to Trinity College. They were then joined by the remaining 17 students who climbed to the Gravity Bar to enjoy a soft drink and the spectacular view. The visit to the brewery lasted only about two hours but many students thought this was the best part of the day.
After Guinness, most of the students had free time and were dropped off by the bus on Kildare Street in Dublin. Surveying the bus when we were leaving showed plenty of clothes shopping (Mostly from Penney’s.) and souvenirs as well. While most shopped on the famous Grafton Street and the surrounding blocks, some students stopped by Trinity College where the Book of Kells is kept. Created in 800 AD and is four gospels of the New Testament. The Latin writings are very complex and have decadent illustrations. Stephen was one of the students who visited the Book of Kells and was surprised by the detail and colorfulness of the book. He felt it was ahead of its time and was impressed and honored to be able to see the Book of Kells.
While most of the students and staff were parading around Dublin enjoying its endless line of shops and restaurants, six members of ILE went over across town via taxi to visit the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. Counselors Kate and Ninny were joined by four of the five 18 year olds to check out the Whiskey Distillery. Alex, Brendan, David, and Jess first popped into the gift shop where three purchased gifts for family members back home including t-shirts and chocolates. The tour started with a brief captivating video and was followed by a 45-minute walking tour around the now dormant distillery. Some of the highlights of the tour included the process of triple distilling Jameson Whiskey giving it a uniquely smooth taste. Brendan conversed with the tour guide leading to learn that the only whiskeys distilled more than three times were very expensive and it was not a common practice. Seeing the process step-by-step in a dungeony facility was very cool for the four ILE’ers and the two counselors. Among all the great information about the distilling and aging process, the students were most captivated by the first part of the tour. In the first room they visited, it described the process of buying and storing barley seeds. The barley seeds were a target of local rats which became a big problem for the whiskey makers, so they would have “hired” cats that would chase and kill the rats to stop them from eating the barley. There was one cat that was noted to have killed roughly 30-35 rats a day. This cat impressed the whiskey makers so much that he was stuffed and left in the facility when he passed on. The cat, which died in the 1800’s, remains there today and is in excellent condition. The four students (And two counselors.) snapped a handful of pictures of the cat that was situated above the tour looking down at everyone.
After both tours were done, the four students were asked if they preferred the Guinness tour or the Jameson tour. Jess enjoyed Guinness a little bit better due to the full experience of pouring and testing the Guinness herself and the view from the Gravity Bar. Brendan also seemed to favor the Guinness Brewery and was surprised by the taste of Guinness. He was most interested by the long history of both establishments and has become known to take the most pictures of historical points of each tour. Alex, from Spain, where the drinking age is 18, had never tried a Guinness and also enjoyed the process of pouring the Guinness and becoming certified. He seemed to enjoy the Jameson tour more and definitely was impressed with the cat. And David avoided controversy by stating he preferred milkshakes.
The students then returned to King’s Hospital and immediately ate dinner. They went on to return to their rooms to freshen up and get ready for the “surprise” the staff had prepared for them. All they were told is to wear shoes and warm clothes, which led to most students assuming it would be an outdoor affair. Before the surprise was an excellent sessiun with a great cast of local Irish musicians (Angie’s Brother, “Our Tom” was one of the musicians.) who not only played music for the students, but included details about the instruments they were playing and the history of each. The classic Irish sound had everyone tapping their feet and occasionally clapping to the beat. After a few songs played by the band, they invited members of the ILE to join them. Counselor Casey joined in and led the band in a few Irish tunes that she knew on her fiddle. A few ILE guitarists (Aaron and Brendan) took turns keeping up with the high strung Irish songs and impressed the crowd with their strumming capabilities. For the last two songs, Counselor Casey was joined first by her advanced Irish dancers who woo’ed the crowd with their high flying knees and lightning fast steps. For the second song, Casey was joined by every student as they did the “circle dance” which they had learned in dance class earlier in the week.
The last event of the night was the Hellfire walk high up in the Dublin Mountains. The aforementioned surprise was exciting to most students as we left the dorms around 9:30 PM to get the perfect amount of darkness to combine the beauty of the hills and also leave a little room for some scary stories and sneaking up on each other. Most students and counselors huffed and puffed their way up to the top where they were gifted with a beautiful view of Dublin at night. After dozens of group pictures with the stunning backdrop, some students entered the empty and creepy building at the top of the mountain where you heard screams left and right from scaring each other. The exhausting hike up made the climb down much more appreciated, as they started the descent back to the bus and back to King’s Hospital, but of course, they first needed to take advantage of the darkness to try to scare each other on the way down. The first attempt was made by Miley, Ninny, and Taryn who snuck away from the pack while they were taking pictures and hid behind trees further down the mountain away from the group. After falling/sliding their way behind a couple of trees, they were disappointed when their efforts only lead to a few yelps from the students and counselors. Many kept running ahead trying to hide and scare others, but overall the group is very tough and would be able to survive a real haunted ghost tour.
The students returned to King’s Hospital around 11:30 PM pretty tired and went straight to bed as they prepared for their lie in and Croke Park Tour/Howth Walk the next day.