Guinness Storehouse visit

Sad that we missed out on our previous Guinness appointment due to Delta and JFK airport but we are glad we get a make up session on St Patricks Day. After a bizarre morning we can use some beers in our life.

We decide to head down to the Guinness Storehouse early to eat a late lunch since all the restaurants will be either packed or not serving food near where we watched the parade.

We eat at one of the on-site restaurants. The food is nothing to rave about but at least we are no longer hungry.

The can’t reschedule us for the same experience we had booked because it is totally sold out until my friend leaves and only offered once a day. But they do offer us tickets to pretty much every other experience that they have. We have a scheduled time but they don’t seem to be strict on that as long as you have a ticket for the experience you are in line for.
We soon learn we will be drinking lots of Guinness today. We have three tickets for events that will give us full pints of beer and on top of that we get to have a sample of Guinness.

We start with the learning how to pour a Guinness at GUINNESS ACADEMY. Guinness is not always my beer of choice but I have had enough of them to know there is a special way to pour them. Our beer instructor takes us through a very fast instruction. It is obvious there is something we are missing. We discover that most people arrive here after visiting the complete museum before hand whereas the people at the entrance erroneously told us to come directly to the 4th floor to start our special experiences. We get through our own pours, gain our certificate and decide to take our recently poured beers downstairs to start our way through the museum. This is where we have our first full pint given to us.

Guinness is no longer brewed here but we learn about the history, chemistry, etc.

After the tour we do part 2 of our experience, we have a beer sampling. A guide takes us throw the flavors we experience in the beer.

Part 3 is the STOUTIE experience where we have our faces printed on a pint we then drink. This is pint number 2.

We stop into a bar to watch an Irish band play for a little while. We haven’t heard much Irish music since we’ve been in town. The bars we have visited thus far play mostly covers. We stay awhile to enjoy.

Finally we visit the Gravity bar up top for an additional free pint. The bar has beautiful views of the city. We chat with some former locals who are back in town to watch the upcoming Rugby match. They tell us only tourists watch the St Patricks Parade because it is crap.

We make one more stop and then call it a day. Tomorrow we plan to wander around Dublin and sightsee locally.

Arrived in Dublin

I check out of my hotel in Belfast and head to Dublin today but first I head out to see the peace wall that I missed earlier. Thank goodness I still wake up very early so I can go out and sightsee before I need to leave. My sleep schedule is not so great for pub visits but opportune to seeing sights during the day.

The peace wall is the barricade that separated the two fighting groups of Ireland in the middle of Belfast to help foster “peace”. Before the mid-90’s this country was torn in pieces by constant violence. I am going to try to simplify it and I’ll probably get it a little wrong but basically it is between the British loyalists or Protestants (Ireland used to be ruled completely by Britain) and the Irish Separatists or Catholics. Ireland was technically declared independent in 1922 but I guess Britain wasn’t totally out of the picture and it caused factions to form. Northern Ireland remained loyal to the crown for the most part while Southern Ireland wanted to remain independent. This morning I walked down to the peace wall, which still exists, to see the art and written messages promoting peace and unity. There is talk of bringing the wall down but this particular wall is still up for now; perhaps so they never forget the past and they don’t repeat it. I learn later that I should have booked a black taxi tour to get a real feel for the history. I have another reason to return.

I had planned to take the 20 something minute walk to the train station to catch my train to Dublin but then it starts raining, then it develops into sleet and snow. I take an Uber instead. The train is on time and even the basic car seat I purchased is pretty comfortable, although it was never quite clear if I am in the right class. I have flash backs of getting kicked out of first class in Spain. I don’t get comfortable until we move and I see train staff walking by not caring about which ticket I have.

It’s ice snowing

My hotel is a little distance from the train station in Dublin so I Uber again (Ubers are taxis by the way). It starts pouring, sleeting, and snowing just like Belfast. The weather has seemed to follow me here.

After hotel check in I decide to waste no time and sneak off to an last minute tasting at the distillery around the corner. The triangle shaped area I am staying is called “The Liberties”. It used to have the highest concentration of Dublin whisky distilleries. Irish whiskeys where thriving in the 19th century, people couldn’t get enough of them. Three things happened in the early 1900’s to change that: Irish independence, prohibition in the USA, and the Irish ignoring new technologies in the industry. All the existing distilleries closed in Dublin by the 1970’s (some moved operations elsewhere and stayed alive). In 2015, Teeling Whisky Distillery became the first new distillery to open in Dublin in 125 years. A distant relative once had a distillery not far from where the current location is so basically whisky is in their blood. I purchased the tasting where I try 3 different whiskies. Each had their own merits. My favorite being Single Grain Irish Whisky. The other tasting included a special cocktail that I also want to try so I purchase one at the bar after our official tasting. Now that I am all liquored up I decide I need dinner.

I wander around town in the evening. I go by all the temple bars. I notice teenagers lining up for blocks for some concert of a band I have never hear of. They seem to be wildly popular though.

I make reservations to try boxty – a local dish.

I get to the area early so pop into a pub where a person is performing Irish tunes and contemporary covers. I remember to order half a pint this time. Seems to be perfect for me lately for a quick drink.

Boxty is ok. I was expecting a life changing experience but it was just good. The meat was more tender than I expected so I liked that.

No late night drinks for me so I head back to the hotel for the night. I am meeting my friend tomorrow.

Ha’Penny Bridge

Te Papa Museum

I am still in Wellington New Zealand for one more day. I have heard good things about the Te Papa Museum so that is today’s destination.

First I stop for a fancy breakfast and coffee.

The museum is in walking distance from my hotel so I stroll around town on the way there.

I am obsessed with these crossing lights. The stop is a man and the go is a lady. I am the weirdo taking pictures of the walk signal.

Te Papa museum is by the water.

The first section I visit is the Nature section, or the section dedicated to things natural to New Zealand such as volcanos, earthquakes and birds and other wildlife.

I am obsessed with this slimy sucker, something out of a science fiction movie.

And of course I have to check out the kiwis, birds I still have not seen alive.

And some bigger dumb birds with little or no arms.

The star of this exhibit is the humongous squid. It is what nightmares are made of.

It’s the biggest colossal squid ever caught! 

There is a very impressive Maori exhibit. (For the most part photos are not allowed inside). I learned many things about the Pacific peoples who came to inhabit New Zealand. I even tried to learn some new words

Rongomaraeroa Te Marae (communal meeting place)

I loved the section that contained portraits of Maori tattoos. The exhibit explained the meaning behind the tattoos. They were beautiful to see.

Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa

The modern art exhibit bursts with color.

While at the Weta Workshop yesterday I heard our guide mention the Gallipoli exhibit at the Te Papa. The workshop is responsible for designing the characters from this exhibit that shows the struggle troops from New Zealand dealt with during World War I.

It is also at this museum that I learn that I can probably never immigrate to New Zealand due to my “advanced age”. Maybe I’ll end up in a highly desired employment someday or some cute kiwi wants to help give me citizenship 😉

After the museum I stop at Mr Go’s restaurant for some Asian dishes.

I wander some more around town.

And stop for one last beer at Fortune Favours at their nice upstairs taproom.

It is back to the hotel for me to pack up and get back on the road tomorrow. I head next to Rotorua.

Heading to Wellington

Today I am crossing over to the North Island of New Zealand.

The transportation mode of choice is the ferry. I still have my campervan so I pay for a special ticket to transfer my car as well.

I arrive very early but it ended up being futile because we wait quite a while until the ferry arrives, in fact it is actually running late today.

Finally the cars are let on. I am directed to park. I am supposed to turn off some sort of security alarm on my van but I can’t figure it out. I hope it goes ok anyway.

I lock up my van and bring some things to occupy me during the ride (3.5 hours). I explore the ferry a bit then find a nice and quiet place to hang out inside for my ride. I do order lunch on board but it isn’t that spectacular to write about.

Once I exit the ferry in Wellington it doesn’t take me long to drive to my hotel for the next couple nights, Capital View Motor Inn Motel. This is a planned hotel stay to break up my van nights (I will have more unplanned hotel stays as you will see later).

The hotel room is decent and has a kitchen which I don’t get to use too much except for breakfast and such. My only concern is parking my campervan. Since the hotel is in the city, I knew to plan in advance for this by asking the hotel if they had a space that would hold my van. They reserved a spot for me but it is very small. Fortunately I am able to get the van in there and squeeze my body out past the brick wall on one side (It would have been much easier if the car on the other side gave me more space). It is stressful but all is well. I don’t plan on moving it the next couple days.

I don’t have much time to settle in since I made a reservation at Weta Workshop this afternoon. I only recently before my trip even learned about Weta Workshop. Weta is the group of artists that craft all kinds of imaginative character renderings – such as Lord of the Rings. One can book a tour to see their facility.

While waiting for my tour to begin I look around the shop.

The tour takes us to a couple different rooms, each talking about another area of design. One has posters from all the movies and shows the group has worked on. The resume is impressive.

Most of the tour did not allow photos but we did come to a section where we were introduced to an artist and his construction methods; we were allowed to take photos in that room.

I ended up booking a second tour, not knowing what the second tour actually was. It ended up being a tour of the Thunderbird’s miniature sets. I have never seen the show but it is very interesting how the sets are designed and filmed.

The set designers use everyday things in the construction of the sets.

After my visit I take an uber back into the main city area to order dinner.

I end up at an outdoor cafe where I get my Haloumi fix once more – Southern Cross Garden Bar Restaurant.

Green pea falafel patty, shredded cos, Zany Zeus halloumi, beetroot relish, avocado dressing & spring onion

It is still early so I head down to HeyDay Beer Co to try a flight.

Their sample pours seem kind of large. I feel like I am getting a good deal.

After that it is back to the hotel for the evening.

Last days of Melbourne

As I said before I am loving my time in Melbourne. Keeping in with the theme I am keeping my visit casual and at times lazy. I need the downtime during travel but it always comes with guilt that I didn’t see and do all the things I could have during my stay.

I spend some time wandering around the neighborhood I am staying in.

My apartment building

I once again walk by the large church of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

I walk by the building below and admire the metal terraces. I would have loved to see the inside.

Tasma Terrace

The Old Treasury Building

I also visit the museum in The Old Treasury Building.

City then and now

I view an informative exhibit of aborigines during the gold rush.

I enjoyed the exbibit of Wayward women of Victoria. The exhibit features some women from the turn of the century 1900 who didn’t fit in the moral standards of the time: some are criminals, some are just trying to survive.

Koorie Heritage Trust

Later I walk over to the aboriginal museum Koorie Heritage Trust. It is a small museum but highlights some of the aboriginal history in Victoria.

Melbourne has a replica of the fearless girl statue!

The new Star Wars movie has just be released at the theaters. I decide to head to the nearby theater for a viewing. They sell craft cocktails at the theatre concession.

After the movie I wander around some more local neighborhoods. This time I wander through Fitzroy which is nearby my apartment. It has the same feel as my Collingwood but doesn’t contain as much new construction.

I see housing created out of what seems like shipping crates.

More fun row homes.

And more street art.

I stop at a couple more breweries as time allows.

The first brewery is Fixation Brewing Co. I sip my beer and watch the large dog at the table next to me continually tangle himself with the leash around the chairs.

Molly Rose Brewing is a small brewery where I sneak in one glass before closing.

At some point I end up in a grocery store where I educate myself about the difference between pasta sauce (tomato sauce) and tomato sauce (ketup).

I head back and pack up. The next day I am heading to Sydney. I am taking the skybus to the airport once more but I arrive early for my ride so I wander around the train station for a bit before I catch my flight.

Soon I am on my plane with a nice bottle of wine. See you in Sydney!