Go to Dublin, Ireland
Appropriately enough for the day after St. Paddy’s Day (which involved green beer at a pub called Paddy’s, incidentally) this is the first of three much-delayed posts on my trip with Laur to Dublin. The city was green and warm, and we had fantastic weather for the entire time we were there. It was blue sky and sunshine, which is, according to one lovely lady we met from Swords, pretty uncommon in Dublin in March. We lucked out! Most of these photos are courtesy of Laur’s camera:
Laur took the train from Strasbourg and then flew to Dublin from Paris, and I flew from Vienna and got in half an hour early. This meant that we arrived at the passport check line at the exact same time! Serendipitous. We caught an airport shuttle to our cousin Marty’s apartment, and then we wandered around for half an hour until we found his place because we had not yet acquired a map of Dublin at that late hour. He lives in a really picturesque area of the city called Ballsbridge, which has rows of stately houses and manicured green lawns.
We reunited with Marty and briefly caught each other up on our lives over a glass of red wine, and then we crashed in his living room on the couch and an inflatable mattress that clearly had qualms with staying inflated for the whole night.
Laur and I woke up at 9 a.m., and I discovered that I was literally on the floor, due to the air mattress deflating slowly but surely. But I was still in good spirits, because hey! Dublin! We made our way downtown, which was a pleasant half hour walk, and on the way we passed through Merrion Square Green and saw a fabulous statue of Oscar Wilde lounging on a rock. What a handsome devil:
After a Full Irish breakfast – which included blissfully hot, large coffees – we went to the Tourist Centre to pick up some pamphlets and an awesome map with illustrations of all the buildings in the downtown core. We wandered down Grafton Street, the main shopping street with all of the nice stores on it:
We then went to the beautiful Trinity College campus to see the Book of Kells. This is an illuminated manuscript of the Gospel created by monks in AD 800. The nerdy book-lover part of me was excited, but the artifact itself was kind of a disappointment … these old books are never as flashy as the advertising makes it seem, right?
The trip was not altogether disappointing though, as I was absolutely enthralled by the library called the Long Room, which is filled with 20,000 realllllly old books. It was magical.
We also found out, through the various displays on Irish history throughout the Long Room’s main passageway, that we actually know nothing about Irish history. Go figure.
Next we walked to O’Connell Street, where we took a quick jaunt through the General Post Office. For some reason this was supposed to be a “definite trip highlight,” according to the guide we had, but it was a little … plain and utilitarian after the Long Room. We saw the Spire, a giant needle that sticks straight up and is impressive if you like really tall, no-frills monuments of that sort.
We relaxed in the Garden of Remembrance for a long time, which is a zen-like place that commemorates those who gave their lives fighting for Irish Freedom. We basked in the sunshine while Laur filled me in on her trip she’d taken the week before to Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and Brussels. The garden is actually right across the street from the Dublin Writers’ Museum, which I was planning on going to but it was just too nice out for me to want to go read about Joyce and all those other famous Irish writers.
We did, however, see the James Joyce statue a little while later, so hopefully he forgives me for not going to the Writers’ Museum or any other site dedicated to his writing.
We met Marty by the Molly Malone statue on Grafton Street in the evening, that saucy wench! She’s quite the famous Irish icon, which is why so many Irish pub proprietors in countries that are not Ireland choose to name their establishments after her.
We went to one of Marty’s favourite places, Kehoe’s Pub, where we met a real live Irish man, charming but difficult accent included, and had our first pint of Guinness (the first of many on this trip, as it would turn out). Guinness in Dublin: the first sip is delicious. Even if you profess not to like Guinness, that first sip is almost chocolatey in its richness. Mmm.
Next, we went to Dawson’s Lounge, a bar that professes to be “Probably the smallest pub in the world!”:
Marty went home because he had to work the next day, so Laur and I chilled in the tiny pub whilst getting awkwardly hit on by a large, balding, married man. But such is the typical pub experience, more or less. When the pub closed around midnight, we sought out some Subway and then walked back home, buoyed by lovely Guinness-induced revelry.
We got up early again, and had another delicious Full Irish breakfast at a cute café that had a bunch of “real” Irish people chilling out all morning. As much as I love Vienna, they just aren’t as into the whole “giant breakfast” thing; they’re more into pastries and whatnot for morning foods. We swung by the Tourist Centre again to book our bus tickets to Galway for the next day, and then walked through the beautiful St. Stephen’s Green near the centre of the city.
The next stop was Dublin City Hall, where we perused the random Irish authors book fair that was being held there, and saw the Ha’Penny Bridge, which was built way back in 1816 and is still used as a footbridge by trusting people.
We walked through Dublin Castle and checked out the Chester Beatty Library as well.
We went into Christ Church Cathedral but, in the interest of frugality, we didn’t take a tour of the interior or go into the catacombs, where there is apparently a café! It is beautiful from the outside though:
We also passed on the Viking Museum called “Dublinia,” but we did have the pleasure of seeing a Viking-esque man smoking a cigarette outside of the place, which we figured was probably equivalent to actually going in.
Next we went to The Liberties, another area of the city, and took a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. We learned here that the “fifth ingredient” of Guinness, after the water, yeast, hops and barley, is “Arthur Guinness himself” – take from that what you will, but we read it from a decidedly dirty (and hilarious) perspective.
This joke only got funnier as our complimentary pints of Guinness got consumed. The Gravity Bar, located on the seventh floor of the Storehouse, offered us a great view of the entire city:
As the sun set, we ventured into Temple Bar, a area of the city famous for having myriad pubs and “traditional Irish music” being played all night, every night. We ate at the Porterhouse and drank beer and discussed our nebulous life plans, as so many beer-fueled conversations of twenty-somethings often devolve into.
The entertainment in Temple Bar was already in full swing by 8 p.m., which is great for the tourist schedule – no time to return home to realize how tired one is from walking all day, just more opportunities to drink beer! The street performers, who happened to be on almost every corner we passed, were all busy wailing away on their various instruments for sizable crowds of passersby. After stopping to purchase a few postcards, we stopped in at the bar actually called Temple Bar itself for some more Guinness and Irish music. The bar is iconic in the quarter, and it was packed to the rafters with people having a great time. The highlight of the performance was definitely when the band played “Zombie” by The Cranberries. There was definitely a lot of off-key but zealous singing along by the crowd for that one.
Deciding we were done drinking for the night, we ventured into Leo Burdock’s for some fries. These two photos are awesome:
To our infinite delight, there was a list of celebrities on the wall who’d eaten at Leo’s previously, and it included such hallowed names as “LL Cool J’s Crew” and “Justin Timberlake’s parents.” Clearly, we were in the presence of greatness, and we’d stumbled onto it totally by mistake! The fries were delicious too, so I can see why these celebrities felt the need to eat here. And, there was a shark. ‘Nuff said.
We retired for the night to get some sleep for the next day’s trip to Galway!