I know, it’s not for a few more days. But since St. Patty’s falls on a Sunday this year, take some time to start planning your weekend. There are celebrations all over the US (Chicago’s green river is a perennial favorite of mine), but it would be a dream (and possibly a little bit of a nightmare) to celebrate it on the Emerald Isle itself. Here’s a throwback to my day in Dublin…
Get your green on!
Kiss me, I’m Irish. Or at least I was while I was in Ireland. Everyone becomes a little Irish when you’re in the beating heart that is Dublin. The city draws you in, makes you a believer in the spirit and magic that makes the Emerald Isle unique. It’s no one tree hill.
It was a real quick trip (through your wires) there on the way to the UK, but it was a blitz of activity, colors, sounds and sights. From Guinness to U2, the history of the city provides a backbone to a truly intriguing place whose energy pulses at all hours of the day. As an aside, Irish history is very interesting, and not so distantly in the past were the Troubles, a very turbulent period for the Irish in general, it’s worth researching a little before you go.
I had a great time, to say the least. In the words of the magnificent Bono, it was a beautiful day…
Hold me, thrill me, kiss me…
All was quiet…on a rainy weekday when I arrived. I chose to stay North of the river for its relative calm and ease; you’ll sleep like a baby on this side of town. Traditionally this area was the poorer side, but as urbanization happens, it is now full of shops, restaurants, and chains. And you’re not the only one staring at the sun, there’s a huge Spire monument (site of a former pillar that was bombed) in the middle of O’Connell street. Not subtle.
There are multiple airport flyer buses you can take, they move in mysterious ways into town. I had been gone from home for a week at this point, so I was jonesing for some Asian food, so I sought out a local joint. Luckily, Pho Viet was close to the hotel in Dublin’s small Chinatown. It hit the spot, it was not bad at all.
Castle Hotel is a cute as feck former house turned into hotel on Lower Gardiner and O’Connell. O’Connell is one of the main arteries of the city, so catching buses, hop on/hop offs was really easy. Breakfast at the lovingspoon was hearty and Irish, it’ll make you get on your boots and hit the city.
Because I’m a big U2 fan (maybe you can tell), I had to make a point to see the Bonavox store; it’s where his mates christened him Bono. I’m a nerd, I will follow. Did not have time to visit Bono’s childhood home on Cedarwood road, Larry Mullen Jr’s home where it all began or Mount Temple school. Next time.
When traveling, sometimes you can’t make it on your own, but Dublin is a very tourist friendly city. I opted for a hop on/hop off to embrace full tourist mode, basking in the upper deck’s ultraviolet light exposure. There are a bunch, but City Sightseeing is pretty established in a lot of cities, and as I alluded to earlier, the pick up point was really close to my hotel. There’s so much to see, you’ll be running to stand still.
These buses will take you on a several hour loop of town, from the center to where the streets have no name if you just want a ride, but I used it as my transport for the day. Make sure you pay attention though, or else you’ll be stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it.
First stop: Trinity College. If you see ONE thing in Dublin, it’s probably going to be the Book of Kells/the Long Room. Everyone sees this as it is considered Ireland’s most revered national treasure, and it’s worth it. Buying tickets online or in one of the kiosks on campus will save you time. The Book of Kells is four gospels of the New Testament thought to be from 800 AD. The illustrations are gorgeous, a technicolor dream. Upstairs is one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, the long room, built in the early 1700s.
Walk on to Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping drag. Taking this street due south will lead you to Saint Stephen’s Green Park, the main green space in the city. Another U2 fact: only the most privileged Dublinites have the ability to let their sheep graze in this green, and Bono and the Edge have this distinction.
On the edge of the park sits the Little Museum of Dublin, where there’s a small U2 permanent exhibit along with other curiosities. Admission is included in a lot of tour pacakages like GoDublin or the Dublin Card.
Dublin is also known for its extensive list of writers and playwrights. Bram Stroker of Dracula fame lived on Kildare Street, and he and Oscar Wilde fought over the same girl. Bram won, and this is the church where he married her. Ain’t that the sweetest thing?
When you think of Ireland, the first thing you may think of is St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick is the pride and patron saint of Ireland, and his cathedral is the national cathedral for the church of Ireland. Jonathan Swift, of Gulliver’s Travels fame, is buried here.
How you know you are truly in God’s country? There’s a second huge cathedral, Christ Church a stone throw away from St. Patrick’s.
The second thing you might think of is Guinness. Arthur Guinness was a man ahead of his time. An entrepreneur that had big hops and dreams. See what I did there? He basically invented the porter, or at least popularized it. I’m more of a Jameson fan myself, but I couldn’t not go to Guinness storehouse. It’s even better than the real thing.
The top floor features a sweeping view of the whole city that you can enjoy while you sip on your pint. Achtung baby, don’t drink too fast or you might get vertigo at that elevation.
Hop back on the bus to get back into town before your face gets numb. You’ll at some point want to walk over the Ha Penny bridge, which for a period of time was the only bridge connecting the two sides over the River Liffey. See the stones set on both sides, and the love locks linked along the path.
The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub. If you know anything about Irish drinkers, you’ll know the miracle is that it’s still standing.
Boy, I did the not so smart thing and drank before lunch, so my stomach was starting to rattle and hum. I rode the bus back to Temple Bar, the fun district of Dublin. If you’re looking for an all night party, you’ll be wide awake…you’re not sleeping. You’ll see how much of a city of blinding light Dublin can be. It is not quiet, you’ll drink so much you’ll be Dublin over. Here all night, people.
There are LOTS of pubs, discotheques, restaurants and touristy shops abound, a total zoo station. All I wanted was a meat pie. The Pieman Cafe is a great little shop that will satisfy your every desire in that department. So hearty, it’ll soak up any alcohol you imbibe for like days.
Of course you need to snap a pic at the Temple Bar, the (Sunday) bloody (Sunday) red corner is no doubt one of the most recognizable spots in Dub city.
Head to Merrion Square Park where you can hob nob with Oscar Wilde’s statue, and gaze at the multicolored doors on Merrion street. Take a moment of surrender, breathe and take it all in.
For all of the wanderlust that has taken me all over the world, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (but Dublin certainly helped). Good luck of the Irish to ya!
U2 song/album reference count: 40, not too shabby
Listen to: U2, the Corrs, Boyzone, Thin Lizzy, Bell X1, The Script. Dublin rocks, literally.
Souvenirs: anything green or shamrocky? There is Irish kitsch on every corner. Whisky.
Eat & Drink: Guinness, Jameson…is there anything else?