Tag Archives: Julia Le

Painting the Town Black

28 Oct

Arthur’s Day Thursday, 26th Sept. 2013

 From all the hype about Arthur’s Day, you wouldn’t guess that the holiday that had just gained unofficially established itself in ’09 to commemorate no other than Mister Arthur Guinness himself.  This annual music and culture festival basically take the form of a smaller scale St. Patrick’s Day celebration set in the Fall. Musicians and bands make appearances at surprise venues in the city, and this year the line up included The Script, Janelle Monae and Emeli Sande amongst many other well-known artists.

If I were to describe this year’s Arthur’s Day in a word or two, it’s description would easily be categorized as “utter insanity.” Even that is an understatement. There has never been a more chaotic night here since I’ve been in Dublin like this, as I felt the city had turned upside down. The streets of the city center were swamped with quite a mix of younger and older crowds alike; people were exerting their alcohol highs far more openly than usual, and it was out of control. Temple Bar created a claustrophobic atmosphere filled with people stumbling with half filled pints in hand; small side streets were packed with people huddling to catch glimpses of bands playing; fights erupted on every corner with bouncers chasing after troublesome drunkards; and people were falling and laughing into the middle of traffic. Yellow cabs queued for miles throughout all the main streets. It was crazy.

Guinness Storehouse Friday, 27th Sept. 2013


Just one day after the celebration of Arthur’s Day, I took a trip to the Guinness Storehouse to learn about the history of this famous Irish liquor. The Storehouse itself is the world’s largest Guinness pint glass shaped structure, a seven story building that if filled, would hold 14.3 million pints of the world famous “black stuff.”

The Storehouse used to be a fully functional Fermentation Plant from 1904 to 1988 for the St. James Gate Brewery, when the fermentation plant was moved to a new location near the River Liffey. The Storehouse takes its visitors on a self-guided tour of 250 years of history — each floor exploring different aspects of the iconic brand, bringing its visitors behind the scenes.

The format of the Storehouse is so impeccably designed, as it tells the brand’s story through its structured interior design and architecture. With quotes and facts lining the walls and floors, everything ebbed cleanly into the next section of the exhibit; the building itself made the tour an interactive experience, and made the world of Guinness truly come to life.


The Ground Floor, “Orientation/Ingredients,” holds the famous 9,000 year lease signed 31st Dec. 1759 by the man, Arthur Guinness, himself. As I stepped into the first exhibit room, I was introduced to the four ingredients of Guinness: water, barley, hops and yeast learned their origins and each of the elements in their rawest forms.

The First Floor, “Brewing. Cooperage/Transport,” brings visitors through the process, which the beer is created, the different machinery used for brewing and the different forms of transportation used through centuries. First the barley is malted, roasted, milled, mixed & mashed with hot water. Then the liquid mix is filtered & boiled with hops, and then yeast is added for fermentation to begin. Lastly, the beer clarified, matured and prepared for packaging to shipped to different pubs and bars across the globe.Image

On the Second Floor, “Taste Experience,” or as I like to remember it as the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Experience,” led a group to a brightly lit white room containing four short columns, each containing the scent of each of the four ingredients. Each column wafted with the distinct aroma of each ingredient, the vapor spilling over and disappearing over the floor. After we learned to properly recognize the smells of each ingredient, we moved on the Tasting room where we learned how to properly taste Guinness. Inhale, fill your mouth with the Guinness, and exhale as you swallow.

On the Third Floor, “Guinness Advertising,” one of my favorite parts of the tour, visitors explore media and marketing of the brand throughout the decades displayed on televisions corresponding to the time period, with the first commercial premiering in 1929. I also got to star in my own Guinness ad, by striking a pose on a set.

On the Fourth Floor, “The Guinness Academy,” I learned the art of pouring the perfect pint and had the opportunity to pour my own. Since we were at a sort of time crunch, we skipped over the Fifth Floor and nonexistent Sixth Floor up the glass elevator all the way to the top at the Seventh Floor; The Gravity Bar concluded our tour with a 360 degree view of Dublin on a beautiful sunny day.

Through the seven floors of the Storehouse, each section told a bit about Guinness; a facet of its story was held in each tier, which concluded, lastly, with a panoramic view of the vast population that enjoys the drink. As I enjoyed my pint in the Gravity Bar overlooking cityscape, I could only reflect on the impact of the brand on a consumer empire that stretched far beyond the horizon.

-Julia Le


O’Connell & Glasnevin Cemetery

13 Oct

IMG_4748 IMG_4759On 11th October 2013, I had visited Glasnevin Cemetery, the only cemetery in the world which houses a museum on its burial grounds.

Having lived in Dublin for just over a month now, it hadn’t taken long for me to notice how much of Ireland’s rich history remains a very integral part of modern society and the daily lives of its people.

O’Connell, a name so commonly known and mentioned, references more than navigation of the city; catching the bus from the city centre on O’Connell Street, I was about to see the extent to which this famous figure had left his mark on Irish history. For a man whose prominence in history is incomparable in Ireland, Daniel O’Connell (“the emancipator” or “the liberator”) was an Irish nationalist of the 19th century who had led the Catholic Emancipation for Ireland by peace, thus opening opportunity for not only religious toleration within Ireland, but also the opportunity for Catholics to better integrate themselves into society. With the Catholic Emancipation marking the end to the Penal Laws, Catholics were now able to engage in such liberties as earning a degree at a higher institute of learning, improve themselves in the workforce, practice politics and law and inherit land.

O’Connell was so highly regarded for his works that monarchs from all over the world wanted his autograph, which he solely granted to those who he felt ruled justly (the czar of Russia during that time was denied.) He, himself, was viewed at a status comparable to a king for bestowing this type of unification to the people of Ireland.

What O’Connell envisioned was a burial ground at which both Irish Catholics and Protestants could have their dead buried in dignity as the people of Ireland.

In 1832, Daniel O’Connell established a cemetery on 9 acres for the burial of the people of Ireland, now open to anyone of any and no religion. Today the cemetery is home to 1.5 million graves, 800 thousand of which are unmarked. The unmarked graves are often of those unable to afford headstones — many of which were Famine victims.

At the centre of the cemetery, a tower marks Daniel O’Connell’s grave. His tomb, designed fit for a king, is made of Kilkenny Black Marble and Limestone as a protective case over his casket. The ceilings were adorned with traditional Celtic design; in the corner lies a smaller room inset with the remains of some of his family members. The walls surrounding the tomb are decorated by important dates in his life, and on one wall, his last words read: “My body to Ireland, my heart to Rome and my soul to heaven.” [He had passed away on a pilgrimage to Rome.]

Before leaving his burial site, for a drop of good luck, I followed the legend and touched the casket of Daniel O’Connell.

Glasnevin Cemetery is a burial site, which commemorates people from all varying and conflicting religious and political spectrums, backgrounds and stories; it echoes O’Connell’s voice of resonating peace, and unification in the name of Ireland.

Julia Le

In the West of Ireland

30 Sep

Day 1 Over the River Shannon

On Thursday, 19 September 2013, we departed the city of Dublin to the west coast of Ireland County Galway in the province of Connacht. As I looked out the window toward an ever-changing landscape, I watched as three hours transformed the charming Dublin cityscape to a lusher, greener panorama. The endless green cascading over the gentle hills seemed like that of a picture – the intense beauty blocked by a glass pane. The sunshine bathed each blade of grass in a glow that made me feel that the beautiful weather was truly due to the luck of the Irish. This was the vision of Ireland always swirled in my mind. This was it.


When we arrived into Galway and settled into our hostel, “Snoozles,” the city felt quiet, deserted almost. It felt like that of a small town, smaller than Dublin. The city centre comprised of mainly a single street speckled sparsely with musicians. The nightlife was nothing of much excitement, but the sites we would see the following days would make up for the disappointment tenfold.

Day 2 County Galway


On Friday, first on our itinerary were the Aran Islands at Kilronan, Inis Mor. During the ferry ride to the island, I hadn’t known what to expect; I only knew that the islands were home of the infamous traditional Irish wool sweaters.

On the island, dividing up plots of green, little stone walls marked boundaries everywhere of varying sizes. These remains of a dark time during the 17th century established the dauntingly tangible reality of the Potato Famine. Due to the famine, the island, originally home to about three thousand people, had its population whittled down so severely, that still today, only nine hundred inhabitants live on the island.

Seacht Teampaill, or the Seven Churches dating back to 8th century. An astounding site, rich in history and religious significance, the site was transformed into cemetery over the years as an Irish token toward preserving their cultural heritage. (Our guide noted half-jokingly that the waitlist to have one’s children buried in these grounds are so competitive that it can be compared to how parents in the States strive to get their children into colleges.). Celtic crosses sprouted from each head of the graves, decorated with rose bushes and personal remembrances. The story behind the Celtic Cross especially piqued my interest as it revealed how closely religion and history are so intertwined in Irish culture.


Dun Aengus, one of Ireland’s most infamous pre-historic forts brought us back in time to the period in which the people that came before the Celts were in existence. The structure of the stone fort set on the cliffs was truly stunning. As there were no railings or evidence of modern contamination, I felt so enclosed by the beauty of nature; I sat on the cliffs hanging over the edge overlooking the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of meters below.Image

Day 3 County Clare

As the sun set on Friday evening, it did not seem to rise in the morning as we embarked to the Cliffs of Moher.  A thick fog settled over the cliffs, and what was supposed to be a sight even more spectacular than that of Dun Aengus was instead suffocated by a blinding grey.


At the Aillwee Caves, I was awestruck by stalagmites and stalactites, and water formations. We were beneath a large mass of land in a cave once completely flooded and kept secret for thirty years after its discovery.


Day 4

Before we left the west of Ireland, I had the chance to view Ireland from above, walk clockwise around a Fairy Fort and make a wish and visit so many incredible historical sites that some only see in National Geographic.


A Dolmen

– Julia Le

Celtic Torcs

16 Sep


The image above depicts Celtic Torcs from the Later Bronze Age from 1200 -1000 BC displayed at The National Museum of Ireland. 

As I walked through the archways of the National Museum of Ireland into the main sector of the museum, I felt I had entered into a sea of gold. A great number of metallic forms and jewelry gleamed from within the glass cases. But, aside from the brilliance of the metals, I was most intrigued by the style and technique in which the metals were rendered and how they developed as a result of the cultural changes in Irish history.

Particularly what caught my eye as something quite unique were these large golden loops, formed by delicately twisted ropes – very simplistic but equally grandiose. These loops, more formerly called “Celtic Torcs” seemed to me both aesthetically striking and historically significant as a reflection of its era of origin. This period in Irish history, known as the Bronze Age, occurred circa 2500 BC as advances were made in metal working, and Ireland’s wealth had increased as a result of a newly founded source of gold (although analysts cannot appear to trace the origins of the gold.) Although usually made of gold, bronze or silver; iron and other metals as well as wood were used for the creation of torcs.

A torc is characterized as a metal ring produced from a single band of metal, or multiple strands twisted together to form a more intricate design, with an opening in the front. Different styles of torcs included the “twisted ribbon” in which a flat strip of gold is twirled into a helix shape, and the use of various strands intertwined to form a rope-like effect. During this period, the twisting of metal cylindrical strands or ribbons became the most common technique in the creation of torcs. Torcs came in a variation of sizes; from more delicate trinkets to larger ornate rings, although most often worn on the neck, torcs were also worn as arm bands or bracelets, placed on the waist, or used to adorn statues and other ceremonious articles.

Also prevalent in other European cultures, the torc is worn to signify high social status and nobility. Other similar artifacts included the Lunulas – the gold-plate crescent shaped necklaces —  and the vast collection of weaponry, ornaments, shrines and tools crafted with a variation of alloys. The introduction of different stones and materials such as enamel were also paired with the more intricate designs. During the Bronze Age, the advances made in metal work were greatly heightened, and thus paved the way for further innovation in metal works for centuries to follow.

-Julia Le