Transport in Ireland (I Have a Horse Outside)

It has been a few days since I last posted. Something that has happened this morning has given me the idea of writing about (public) transport in Ireland. Public’ in brackets since, first, I don’t know if it is exactly public, and second, because I will write about other means of transport which are not public too.

This morning I was going to take a bus and it didn’t stop. I waved twice and still it didn’t stop. That made me very angry as I missed the connection. Next bus was in 38 minutes, and then I would have to wait 30 more minutes for the next bus. So an already long daily journey of 1 hour and a half, became more than a 2 hours journey.

So finally I decided to write a complaint letter to Dublin Bus.

I spend 35 euros a week in bus + Luas (tram) in Dublin, around 140 euros per month. It takes me around 3 hours a day for 12 km between X and Y, and 12 more between Y and X. If I went walking, it would take 4 hours, only one more hour than with public transport, and free. If the weather was not so bad in Ireland, I would have a total 1.5 hours commute by bike, half the time of public transport.

It is easy to draw conclusions, right?  For the sum spent in a month just from Mon-Fri I would have unlimited integrated Bus+ Metro + Tram for 3 months in Barcelona (142 €, being cheaper options too). I could even live in the public transport. Get up in the morning and take the metro, go to the other side of the city and take a bus, then cross it again and change to the tram, and so on until midnight. Then, I could take night buses until the metro opened, and so on and so forth.

And lucky me I live in Dublin. If you don’t live in a city, then it’s even worse. When I was living in Clonakilty and had to take a bus to Cork city, it took more than 1 hour for 50 km, and it costed 21 € return. Then you understand why everyone drives here. Although I am not too sure if this it’s like a dog that chases its tail.

Ireland had a better railway network decades ago. According to Wikipedia, by its peak in 1920 Ireland had a 5,600 km route. The current status is only a third of that. In West Cork you can have a nice stroll along the walkway where railways used to be. Before, you could travel from Bantry to Cork by train. Now you have to take a bus which is expensive and has a low frequency.

Or you can buy a car. Or two. It is very common that in each family there are at least two cars.

I had my first and only car in Clonakilty. You need a car if you don’t live in a city. Otherwise you are stuck. My first month in Ireland I was more than stuck. I was completely shshtuck. Before moving to Clon, I was in a beautiful place in the middle of nowhere. The closest village was Kllbritain (population of 324 people), and it wasn’t so close. So I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t take a bus anywhere. I was blocked.

Moving to Clonakilty was a big improvement, but I still needed a car. As I was saying, there I had my first – and only – car. And it was not exactly mine, but that’s another story. It was a fabulous Honda Civic of year 1999. It worked quite well and drove me to Bandon, Rosscarbery, Glandore, Kinsale, Skibbereen, Mizen Head, Goleen and I’d say to Kerry too. Never complained. Or at least not too much. She brought me to Dublin too, but then our lives fell apart. It made no sense to have a car in Dublin (at least by then I thought so) when I had a 20 mins walk to work and city center.

So here I am again, ranting and giving out about Irish (public) transport system. I think the best way to travel in Dublin is by bike. There are quite a lot of bike lanes and, in general, cars are quite careful with cyclists. At least more than in Spain. There is also a Dublin bikes system that works in a similar way like in other European cities. It is quite popular and it is growing.

Regarding the ‘foot transport system’, some people run to work and then they shower and change there. I have done it myself a few times and it is a really good way to start the day. You get to work earlier and fresh. Obviously not all companies have a shower or a gym, but there are many that do. I have never seen it in Barcelona and I think it is something that would benefit the employees and therefore  the companies if they provided these facilities. It is funny too that you see many women that walk to work and they dress with formal office attire but then they have pink runners that they change for high heels shoes when they get to their offices.

Nevertheless, this isn’t the most interesting way to get to places.

You can have a horse.

Yes, you can have a horse. Why do you need a Honda Civic when you can have a horse outside? The Rubberbandits say so, and I completely agree.

No kidding, I have seen horses in Dublin. I’m not saying that it is something that you see every day, but I can say that once I saw one ‘parked’ in a green on my way to IKEA. And some months ago a horse was burnt in Tallaght, Dublin.  These things only happen in Ireland.

This illustrates again what I have mentioned in previous posts. Ireland, but mainly Dublin, is a place with pronounced contrasts where there are very wealthy people and very poor people. Peaceful nice residential areas with big houses and not so nice ones. The same applies to transport. You can see all those young professionals jogging or cycling to work, and then… and then you see a horse parked.

And why not? Considering the prices and the inefficiency of public transport, what the heck, I will have to follow the Rubberbandits’ advise: feck your Dublin Bus, I have a horse outside!



Drinking in Ireland

DebarasDrinking in Ireland, ah, drinking in Ireland. Irish have the reputation of being a nation of good drinkers, we have seen it in many movies and it is a stereotype. The question is: is that true? Yes. Categorically yes. Yes, they are good drinkers. Social life in Ireland, especially rural Ireland, has traditionally been organised around two institutions: the church and the pub. If you go to any place in Ireland with more than two houses and you don’t see at least one church and at least one pub, well, you are not in Ireland.

Since Ireland is still a very rural country compared to other European countries, with a high population of people living in quite isolated areas, the only way they have to interact with other people is going to the pub on Saturdays and to mass on Sundays. As I said before, Irish people are very sociable and they love to talk: about the weather, about the new neighbour, about the new priest, about the government, about Ronan O’Gara, or about their cattle.  And the pub is a welcoming neuralgic meeting point where all kind of different people can gather.

The Pub in Ireland is an institution. There are loads of pubs, and all kind of pubs. Old school, modern, small, big, with live music, without, with TVs and sports, with a piano, with a cosy fireplace, with snooker and darts, with young people, with old people, or with old and young people altogether. I really like old school pubs, with old men drinking their stout at a very slow pace as if time didn’t go by, like characters of  old movies like The Quiet Man or Ryan’s Daughter. A good thing about Irish pubs is the amount of live music for free that you can see. In Dublin you have live music every day in various pubs, and for free. And in the weekend, in every corner of the island, no matter if it’s a city, town or village, you’ll have a good choice of live music, traditional or rock/pop.

However, (there is always some ‘howevers’), alcohol in Ireland is veeeeery expensive, and not only in pubs. An example: a bottle of red wine Sangre de Toro or white Vina Sol, which in Spain are around 4 € in a supermarket, in Ireland cost around 12-13 €, if you are lucky reduced to 9. A 50 cl can of beer in a supermarket won’t cost less than 2 €. And a pint of lager in a pub in Dublin won’t be less than 5 € up to 6 € or more depending on the pub. Stouts like Guinness or Beamish are slightly cheaper, but with the new budget alcohol raise, it’s difficult to pay less than 5 €. Dublin is more expensive than the rest of the country though, so just by travelling out of the city you may be able to find these same pints for up to 1 € less. In short, alcohol is expensive, but if you are not a marathonian alcoholic and just want to have a couple of drinks every now and then and enjoy some good live music, you don’t need to spend more money than you would be spending in Spain. And let’s not forget that a pint equals to 568 ml, which is more than half a litter.

Afterwork drinks are quite popular in Ireland the same way as in other countries like England. It is common that any Thursday or Friday you find suited men and dressed up women having a pint once they finish work at their bank, office, hospital or school. Actually, drinking, and even getting drunk with workmates, is part of the Irish culture as long as you behave to certain extent (‘certain extent’ varies depending on the job, company, group or people). I’ve been realising throughout my 10 years living in Ireland and coming as a visitor that it’s more socially accepted drinking than not drinking. ‘That lad doesn’t drink? Mmmm, something’s wrong with your man’. Exagerating a bit, ‘never trust someone who doesn’t drink’. I love this motto. Did I ever tell you I love Irish people?

Another thing that strikes tourists a bit is the poor variety of beers in a regular pub. People have the image of Ireland as a country of beer. However, this is not Belgium nor Czech Republic. If you go to any pub around the corner, the top lager will be Heineken, maybe Carlsberg, and you’ll have Guinness as stout, maybe Beamish, and Murphy’s too if you are in Cork. You could have Smithwicks ale and a couple more German or Belgian lagers too, but generally speaking, you won’t find an Irish lager. People thus mainly drink, at least in Dublin, Heineken (famous Irish lager from Holland) and Guinness. According to Gerry O’Hara, famous pub owner in Bandon, Co. Cork, the only 100 % Irish beer in his pub, O’Hara’s, was Beamish. All the products would be Irish, including the water. On the other hand, the only Irish thing in Guinness would be the water.  All the rest would be imported from their plants in Africa and other locations. Interesting, right? (Thank you, Gerry, for your knowledge! Greetings to the people of Bandon).

There’s much science about the brewing, especially the stout brewing. Guinness invests a lot of money in training pubs and bar tenders on how to brew Guinness properly. You may think that all Guinness taste the same everywhere, but the taste depends not only on how it is brewed but also on the distance between the taps and the barrels and other factors. So it really hurts me, not to say that it pisses me off, when you go to a pub in Dublin where they will charge you 5 or more euros for a Guinness and they pour it as it was Coca-Cola. No. No and no. Guinness, Beamish or Murphy’s are not Coca-Cola. They are not Heineken nor Carlsberg either. What a normal bar tender will do, or a normal bar tender that has ever drunk a stout will do, is to pour first less than half of the pint and leave it rest. After a few minutes s/he will pour the rest. Don’t get impatient if you are kept waiting for your dear beer. You MUST wait to have a proper stout. And a good stout feels good. Oh yes, it feels good. Especially on a cold rainy day next to the fireplace in your local pub.

So if you like drinking, Ireland is a good place to be. Nobody will look at you with mistrust because you like to drink. You will be fully integrated when you embrace the drinking tradition, the proper nodding gestures as a way of greeting, the ‘How’s it goin’?’ or ‘What’s the craic?’, a ‘Good man yourself’ in the right moment, a ‘Fair play to you’ with a proper diction. That, a few freckles, and an acquired love for GAA and rugby, will make you the perfect newborn Irish person.

This is a list of some of my favourite pubs I have been in Ireland:


Whelan’s: a must in Dublin. Concerts every single day, some for free, some with cover charge. Young and consolidated bands gigs. Any Irish band who is becoming known must have played there.

Against the Grain: just across the street of Whelan’s. Crafted local and international beers. You won’t find Heineken, Carlsberg nor Guinness. A good choice of less known beers.

Bernard Shaw: in Candem St. a more modern kind of pub. It’s a Berlin-wise bar with a two stories bus in the beergarden where you can have a choice of pizzas baked there. There’s a pool and in the summer a ping pong table.

The Lower Deck: in Portobello Harbour, just next door of my previous apartment. This pub is in Dublin but reminds me of a country pub. Owned by Liam, a man from Tipperary, it’s decorated with hurling stuff. They made my Sundays more enjoyable when I heard a loud karaoke from my bed.

International Bar: I like this place off Grafton St. because it’s an interesting mixture of authentic Irish pub with locals and some tourists. Live jazz or blues music almost every day.

O’Donoghues: In Baggot St. I just went a few days ago to this pub. A classic with the reputation of having one of the best Guinness in town. It has an air of authentic old school pub .

Slattery’s: My second home when I worked in Google. Just five minutes away, many Googlers and young professionals gather there for an afterwork pint or to watch rugby in the weekends. Just 5 minutes away from Aviva Stadium, so on match days it’s packed of locals or foreigners having a pre or post match beer.

Smyth’s of Ranelagh: In the rugby ghetto too, where the beautiful people of beautiful Ranelagh go. It’s a nice pub and it’s good to go since it’s mainly Irish young people instead of a more international atmosphere of the center.

McSorley’s: After Smyth’s, the beautiful people of beautiful Ranelagh go to McSorley’s for another pint and a dance. Interesting too.


The Roundy: I like this pub because it made me feel a bit like at home, in Barcelona. It has a small terrace where you can sit while watching passers-bye in Cork center.

The Crane Lane: Great venue for free concerts, it is quite big and either you can sit and have a quite pint or enjoy one of their good concerts.

Bandon, West Cork:

O’Hara’s: The Gateaway of West Cork, an institution in Bandon.  Apparently a quiet and regular pub, Gerry O’Hara is a well of wisdom. He seems reserved at first, but he will introduce you to the locals and the not so locals, like the weekly foreign au pair gathering that he holds in his pub. With two tables of snooker and one of pool, don’t expect him to serve you after the sacred last call, but he might drive you home if he thinks you shouldn’t take the car.


Debarra’s: This is my favourite pub in Ireland. I’ll never stop saying it. Second home for many years for Noel Redding, bass player of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, it holds live music almost every day of the week in 2,000 inhabitants Clonakilty. Trad music and rock concerts, destination of Limerick hen parties on Fridays and Saturdays, a perfect place for a Catalanman in West Cork.

Scannell’s; Another good pub in Clonakilty, especially in the summer, as it has a great outdoors beergarden where barbecues are organised.

Rugby, Poetry and West Cork

Rugby, Poetry and West Cork: why this title? For those who have been in Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Inchydoney beach, Schull, Baltimore or Cape Clear, just to name a few places, you know already that they are really, really inspirational places. Inspirational to play hurling, football, rugby, or inspirational to paint, sing of write poetry, as my friend Isaac Xubin does. Isaac is a rugbyman, poet and West Corkonian in heart, all at the same time. We shared good moments together around 2 years ago when I was living in Co. Cork. West Cork is a place with many musicians, painters and all kind of artists who are looking for beautiful and quiet landscapes to relax and get inspiration. On the other hand, rugby and poetry may be considered by many as opposite poles. However, anyone who follows both things can see a relation, and Isaac is the tangible living proof of such connection.

Rugby is a quite military sport indeed. There are more rules than in soccer, and the tactics and strategy are more organised and rigid. Many players even confess they don’t know all the rules. Simplifying, although there are big skilled stars in rugby the same way as there are in soccer, I wouln’t imagine  a Lionel Messi or Maradona in rugby. Rather a Cristiano Ronaldo (The General according to Joseph Blatter), or a Frank Bekembauer. However, rugby is an epic and beautiful game. Rugby is a brutal sport where you can break every bone that you could break, but at the same time illegal violence and cheating are strongly punished. It promotes noble and fair principles, as of accepting defeat but respecting the rival when celebrating tries or winning. Even the famous Haka is somehow an anthem, dance or cry: a poetical expression in the end. Rugby is therefore a Romantic sport where individual ambitions meet group goals.

Isaac was one of the first friends I made in Ireland. When I was living in Clonakilty, I attended  the seminars organised by UCC Hispanic Department for professors and PhD candidates, and he was a Galician language lecturer there. We connected soon, as I had just started my rugby experience with Bandon Rugby Football Club.  Isaac was a much more experienced player, since he had been playing for many years in Galicia. I had started to play at Bandon RFC thirds, and that was my first rugby experience. I knew that you had to pass the ball backwards and little more. Training was on Friday, and Isaac joined a couple of times. We played a few matches together on Saturdays and Sundays. While I was just given the last 15 minutes of each game due to my lack of experience, Isaac soon impressed the coach, Aidan, and played from the start as a scrum half under the name of a South African player that had left the team in order to be ‘legal’ and be covered by the club insurance. I was a winger, the best position for a newcomer, as you touch the ball just a few times during the match and, basically, what you have to do when you have it is run, run, run.

I always had interest on rugby, but in Spain it is not very popular, or at least as a professional sport. It’s difficult to get to watch a live match on TV unless you go to an Irish pub. Since my days in West Cork, though, I watch it as much as I can Munster, Leinster, Conacht or Ulster matches, and I have been a few times at Aviva Stadium or RDS, even a 6 Nations Ireland-England!

Also, during my time working at Google, I tried to join a team, but during my second training I badly broke my finger and I have two permanent screws and a stitch. I would have liked to continue, but rugby is a sport which is better to learn at the earliest possible stage, like cycling or driving. Not knowing how to play it properly is quite risky, so if you work with your hands, or with your legs, and you are a starter, I would think about it twice. For the time being, I will continue watching it on TV and following Isaac’s rugby blog.

If you follow his stories, you will understand how Rugby, Poetry and West Cork are words that share a story, a space, a color, and a rhythm, and if not always that story has happy endings, there are beautiful things one can learn from being in West Cork, playing rugby, and writing poetry.

Isaac’s blog, ‘Melé a cinco‘ -‘scrum at five’-, is written in Galician, but it can be automatically translated if you use Google Chrome and you click the option ‘Translate page’.