Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Big Booze Ripoff

We all know the stereotype:  "The Irish are big drinkers and whiskey flows out of every tap."  Or how about, "Irish folks are always drinking Guinness in the pub?"  Ever heard that before?  Let's face it, Ireland has a reputation for its alcohol consumption.  Even my co-workers joke about the national problem.  In order to combat this stereotype, the Irish government is discussing legislation to set a minimum price for alcohol to discourage consumption.

What most people don't know is that alcohol in Ireland is really expensive!  I remember going to the Centra (like a 7-11) convenience store my first week here and finding the $3.00 bottom-shelf California grocery store wines like Barefoot and Gallo going for 8 or 9 euro here.  Ireland taxes alcohol so heavily because it is guaranteed revenue.  People are going to drink, no matter what.

In any case, I was really taken aback when I tried to buy a bottle of Irish whiskey here in Ireland.  I thought for sure it would be cheaper than America, since they didn't have to ship it.  Little did I know how much alcohol is taxed here.  Leaving aside the V.A.T. which is now 23%--you still pay a tax on alcohol which is added to the product.  Yes Virginia, that's double taxation.  The tax on stuff like whiskey and gin works out to €39.25 per litre of alcohol in the spirits.

Consider this:  A 700 ml bottle of Bushmills is 40% alcohol.  .7 * .4 * 39.25 =  10.99 euro added to the cost of the bottle.

So, just to show you that alcohol is not free or flowing like water in Ireland, check out my price comparison below.  I was in California this month, and took all these photos within a week of each other.  The California prices are from a Rite-Aid pharmacy, the Irish prices are from a Superquinn market.

 Jamesons whiskey in California costs $18.99.  In Ireland it costs €24.39.  If the exchange rate is 1.30 USD per Euro, then the Irish bottle costs $31.70.

Bombay Sapphire gin in America costs $16.99 and €23.99 in Ireland.  Bushmills whiskey costs $14.99 in America and €24.39 in Ireland.

By the way, I need to mention something about bottle sizes here.  Guess what kids?  The bottles are different between Ireland and America:

In Ireland the bottles are only 700 ml so not only are they charging more but they are giving you less.  It reminds me of how coffee cans have been shrinking over the years.  It used to be that you got a pound of coffee in a can, then they dumbed it down to 14.5 ounces, then 13, then 12... but they left the can the same size.

Thus, a 750 ml bottle of booze like Jagermeister in America will run you $13.99 and a 700 ml bottle of the same is €22.35 in Ireland.  Mein Gott!

So you may be wondering what I did?  Heh heh, I brought back a BIG bottle of Sailor Jerry's.  That's my poison.  It only cost me 22 bucks for an enormous 1.75 litre bottle, (and in Euro that would be €16.74).  Wait... what's that I hear?  A message from the Captain?

Attention Relatives.  Now hear this.  If you are visiting me in Ireland, bring me rum.  That is all.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Why I love Aer Lingus

I have become quite a fan of Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline.  They beat American air carriers hands down.  Not only are the stewardesses nice, but they have a comfortable cabins in clean aircraft and they have reasonable baggage rates.  They don't go out for this bullsh*t of charging a fee for the first checked item like US airlines do.  Aer Lingus starts charging at the second checked bag on long-haul flights.

Here are a few photos detailing our recent--and very pleasant--Aer Lingus flight:

The flight was not crowded.  We were surprised since it seemed like seats were filling up when we purchased out tickets online.  In a way I was kinda sad for them, since an empty seat is lost revenue, but then it also makes for a more pleasant flight.

No really, did I mention that the plane was un-crowded?  This brings me to another feature:  The Seats.  The rows are a decent width apart, and they are a pleasant shamrock green.  How nice.  I was quite impressed to find they are made by Recaro, makers of sporty bucket seats for your Porsche.

Another nice feature about the seats is the crystal clear LCD screen.  Hey, someone up there seems to understand that being stuck on an international flight is kinda boring, and they've tried to make your time spent in-air a little more enjoyable.  For example, they have full albums of music, tv shows, movies on demand, and even games.  Dude, Pink Floyd rocks.

New, efficient Airbus aircraft.  Our plane was new looking and in good nick.  I love these winglets they put on aircraft now.  Yeah sure, the Learjet 28 had them back in 1977 but they seem to have caught on only recently.  Anything to reduce fuel cost and save passengers a few quid is a good thing.

New aircraft seem to be quieter too.  Is it me or is an Airbus 330 about twenty decibels quieter inside than a Boeing 767?

Again, the cool LCD screen on the seatback will tell you where you are with a comprehensive map and ETA display.  We flew over Newfoundland at 40,000 feet.  In other news, there is a place called NUUK!  Hey Moe, wub wub wub!

Now we're just getting silly.  You can play games on your seatback TV, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?  The game is played with a remote control hidden in your armrest.  Ok, for 200 Euros what is the word to describe 12:00 midday?
  • Moon
  • Swoon
  • Noon
  • Poon  ...wait, WTF Aer Lingus??  I'm pretty sure that's a bad word in Europe too.

That's ok... all is forgiven with a snack.  Aer Lingus fed us well.  Flights from Dublin to Chicago include a beverage (bar service available), then dinner, then tea, then water, then a breakfast roll.  Dude, is that a Spife?  Sporks were so like, last century.  Seriously, Aer Lingus rocks.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Stuff I bring back from California

Hi y'all!  My other half and I are back from visiting my family in California for a week.  It was a lovely trip and it was SO cool to see my new niece.  My sister & bro-in-law had a baby back in August and we had not seen Baby 'E' yet.  Anyway, we did all the usual family stuff.  We made chilli and drank zinfandel and had a great time.  I will be posting a few more photos later this week from our California adventure.  However, I find that since moving to Ireland there are a few things I can't get in the store here.  It's funny how you begin to miss the strangest things, like green tabasco, haha.  Anyway, I thought I would post about the things that I bring back to Ireland when I visit Cali.

  • Green Tabasco --  for some reason they don't sell it here.  Irish grocery stores are nearly identical to American ones, (except for maybe a massive selection of tea) and yes Virginia, they do sell Tabasco.  The red kind.  They have bottles of it in the dining hall at work so it is very common.  BUT (and that's a big but) they don't have the green type made with jalapeƱos.  Think of it as a kinder, gentler tabasco.  Me gusta.
  • HotLime -- my mother introduced me to this.  It rocks on Mexican tortilla soup.  The habanero pepper adds a big kick while the lime gives it that LA palm tree flair.  Reminds me of that Don Henley song "Down at the Sunset Grill".  Like, maybe that's what they would serve there.  I am guessing it is also good on soft tacos from the food truck (a.k.a. roach coach).
  • The Pepper Plant Original California Style Hot Pepper Sauce -- whew!  That's a mouthful.  We discovered this at the Lighthouse Cafe in Pacific Grove and I was instantly hooked.  It is great on eggs and hashbrowns.  Again, it's like Tabasco, with a sh*tload of garlic and cracked pepper.  Ooooh lots of pepper.

    • Happy Camper -- My aunt swears by this stuff.  She used to have a crappy customer service job working in I.T. at the University of Madison.  She would get calls all the time from idiots saying, "I broke the Internet" or "My printer can't print.  I'm returning this goddam computer right now unless you make it work."  Sigh.  Happy Camper to the rescue.  The reason I bring it back is because it contains Saint John's Wort and Kava Kava.  Ireland has some strange rules about pharmacy items.  For example, you need a prescription here for Saint John's Wort but every Wal-Mart in America sells it for 7.99 next to the toothpaste.  Oh, but ask an Irish pharmacy for Sudafed and they'll give you boxes of the stuff.  When I asked for Sudafed a drug store in California they scanned my Drivers License and had me sign a form saying that I am not a drug dealer.  Go figure.
    • Korean Ginseng Tea (powder) -- well yes, you can get ginseng here in Ireland.  The Oriental Emporium on Upper Abbey Street sells liquid extract in little vials that you pierce with a tiny plastic straw, but they don't sell the packets of powder that are good for making tea.

      • Benadryl -- again this is a quirk of the Irish pharmacy rules.  They don't sell products containing Diphenhydramine hydrochlorite (an antihistamine) over the counter.  I was surprised that you couldn't get this when I first moved to Ireland.  They sell it at every pharmacy, grocery store and Wal-Mart in California, and most stores have their own generic brand.  By the way, the anti-itch cream is fantastic on bug bites and plant-related incidents.
      • Neosporin -- yes I know, every child has access to this in their medicine cabinet at home, right along with the Snoopy band-aids.  In Ireland they have restrictions on over-the-counter products containing antibiotics.  Sure, they sell something like Neosporin; it is simply a germicidal ointment.