In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first learned to appreciate stout beers. Guinness, to be exact.
I've never been particularly adept at distinguishing the nuances and flavors of different beers, which might explain why I can so easily appreciate Guinness. A thick, dark stout, with a creamy head.
It's incredibly easy to tell a Guinness from any other beer. A proper pint is like a meal unto itself. And in Ireland, I was all too happy to get my fill.
My introduction to Guinness began at the source, St. James Gate Brewery.
The date was August 18, 1998, and the cost of a self-guided tour with student discount was just $4.50.
The brewery tour included a pint at the end, which made it worth the admission.
The actual tour itself? Not so interesting, but the gift shops were filled with those wonderful, old advertisements which continue to adorn traditional Irish pubs around the world.
Later that night, I paid a visit to Temple Bar, the epicenter of Dublin's nightlife, at least back then.
There were two main pub crawls to choose from – a literary one, and a musical one. As much as I enjoyed James Joyce in high school, I opted for the musical pub crawl.
The crawl was lead by Anthony, who played the guitar and bodhran, and Nell, a pretty young lass who played the fiddle.
Together, our merry band visited three pubs. In each new venue, we drank pints of Guinness and tried our best to sing along to the traditional Irish songs.
By the end, I was sufficiently intoxicated to drop $15 on a signed CD.
As touristy as the pub crawl might sound, it was a highlight of my two-week jaunt through Ireland.
During the rest of my stay in the country, I looked for every opportunity to hang out in pubs, drink Guinness (and later Kilkenny), and listen to the trad music.
Ireland was the last country I visited on my first backpacking trip to Europe, and I toted home a can of Guinness and Jameson whiskey from Dublin as a reminder of the experience.
I declared to my parents, upon my arrival back in the States, a desire to have been born Irish.
Like Italy, I always imagined I'd have gotten back to Ireland again a lot sooner. It was costly then, and it's only become more expensive in recent years.