Top of the morning to ya!
Do people even say that?
No, that is just the stereotype.
OK so you guessed it! I am in Ireland. And so far the stereotypes of ye Irish – leprechauns, drunken Irish people lurking about, folklore dancing – have yet to be seen or encountered with (my fingers are still crossed for the dancing leprechauns). The only thing that has lived up to the stereotype is the larrikin behaviour and friendliness of the people. Oh and although not overly a big fan, Guinness actually tastes a lot better in Ireland too (It must be the key home ingredient of Irish love).
Let’s just say that the Republic of Ireland has taken me by surprise – I did not expect to be so smitten with the country and its spectacular landscapes, interesting architecture, people, the way of life and unexpectedly, the food.
Now I have to admit, this whirlwind planned one day trip to Dublin has now been extended. I forfeited my flight well, because I could. You see, as of late, well actually the past year, I have learnt to embrace the idea of winging it completely and taking it as it comes. Pretty much I had come to visit my dear Brazillian friend Bia whom I met in Latvia last year and this was the only time we could meet up. In the last few months alone, I have now purposely missed two flights (I spontaneously went to Belgium for a few days) and now, with the intention of just staying one night in Dublin, it has now turned into four.
I would like to sum up Dublin in one word; quaint. Dublin has a colourful history and it is clearly evident when walking along the streets of this vibrant capital. When there is cobblestone streets aplenty, a rich history showcased through medieval and Georgian era heritage sites, canals running through the heart of the city and gritty street art bringing colour to the streets, you know that it is the type of place that oozes allure and eccentric character. I love the fact it is a big city yet it feels like you are strolling through a village because the accelerated pace of typical capital city life just isn’t present. It is slow paced and laid back. Now that is the ultimate Irish charm.
So when in Dublin and with a few days to spare, what shall one do? Here I will give you an insight into how I spent my time in Dublin and why I highly recommend you visiting one of my new (and ever growing list) of favourite cities.
Walk Idiot Walk
Forget the big buses, wander inner city Dublin by doing a free walking tour that visits the main attractions of Dublin. A great way to explore the city without paying a hefty price tag as it works by tip basis so those guides really work for your hard earned coin to give you an enjoyable yet engaging tour and they pretty much cover those key ‘To Do’ attractions if you are the type of person that wants to do the ultimate tourist thing. Architectural highlights include strolling past Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral.
Big Day Out – Wicklow Mountains National Park
Ok so you want to escape the city and check out what Ireland is also known for, amazing scenery. An hours’ trip to the east coast and you will arrive at Wicklow Mountains National Park. It will make you feel like you are second guessing yourself if you were in the Canadian wilderness of the Rockies region and that is definitely a good thing as both demonstrate the magical handicraft of Mother Nature.
There are many trails you can venture in the woods but the holy grail is casually strolling to Glendalough Valley with its lakes and its stunning mountainous backdrop. Also something eerie in the mix is the church ruins surrounded by an old graveyard which I strangely find so fascinating due to the peaceful and tranquil surroundings of the forestry plantations.
Possibly the most famous Irish export of them all, Guinness! Yes a tourist trap but a fun gimmick too! Even if you are not a fan of the reddish black stout, a trip to the storehouse is a must do as it is quite possibly the most interesting beer museum of them all (sorry Heineken in Amsterdam).
Housed in famously the biggest pint glass in the world, this storehouse boasts seven stories of interactive exhibits and showcases its brewing heritage in the mix. Some of the exhibits felt like you were in an adults version of Harry Potter as you had picture frames come to life and talking to you as you walked through the storehouse. I found the advertising section of the storehouse to be the most enjoyable as it was interesting to see how Guinness has marketed itself throughout the years. Plus you are able to have fun in the photo booths supplied and be superimposed in their old school advertising. A tasting and a free pint (of course) is included and better yet, you get to enjoy it from the top of the roof top of the storehouse while observing a 360 view of Dublin.
The most intriguing part of this site, in the heart of the St. James’s Brewing estate and the centrepiece of biggest pint glass of them all, is the 9000 year old lease signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759 for the once four acre brewery site. Sadly the lease isn’t valid anymore as the site is now 50 acres and Guinness owns the land! Talk about expansion!
Bring out the nerd in you and get college envy by checking out the impressive grounds of Trinity College. Founded in 1592, this is Ireland’s oldest and most renowned college with graduates including playwright Oscar Wilde and philosopher Edmund Burke. Now if your a Harry Potter fan, a visit to the Trinity College Dublin Library is a must as some of the scenes from the movie franchise were filmed here – Remember the impressive ‘Long Room’ anyone?
Take Me Out
The hive of all activity (and a goldmine for tourists) is the famed hotspot Temple Bar. No, its not just a singular bar (that is what I thought too), it is an area filled with many typical Irish bars, vintage stores, cultural centres and street art literally giving colour and character to every street corner.
What surprised me is how good the Dublin nightlife is. There was more to do than just doing the obvious things when going out like downing drinks – there is so much variety going on around the area.
The Irish love to have a good Craic (don’t mind the pun there) and stand up comedy nights are a popular thing to do early on in the week. I headed over to the popular bar Stag’s Head in the Temple Bar area for a laugh or two. I got three. The laughs are free and the events survive off donations which I think after you spend a night laughing, you would think it very much all the gold coins in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Still with the Stags Head, if having a laugh is not your thing (why so serious?) then head upstairs to a singalong community ukulele night. This is a thing! Every Tuesday night in this cosy upstairs area, all walks of life, the young, the old and the ukulele enthusiasts get together to have a singalong while strumming on their small cords singing classics as well as covering the pop songs of the modern day. This will certainly bring out the hipster in all of us!
Many of the Irish Bars in the area also feature traditional Irish dancing. I got a small introduction to it at O’Neills Bar & Restaurant where not only did I have the absolute best seafood chowder of my life, I got to see some live music and Irish dancing right before my very eyes and free of course! This place also serves up amazing traditional Irish meals such as steak and Guinness casserole, traditional Irish stew amongst other hearty delights so if you are a foodie and not wanting to break the bank, this is the place to be!
A local decided to take me to a bar that he thought I may like which was quite different to the typical wooden and the cosy feeling of the usual Irish bars in the city area. I was taken to Cassidys, a place that lived and breathed alternativeness and hipsterness and yes, he was right, I really did feel like I was in my element. The bar comprised of a few rooms and made you feel like you were at someone’s house due to its lounge room feel and mixed table and chair decor – someone must have had fun at various thrift stores around town!
With your good looks and your Irish charm, Dublin, you had me and you can have me again any day!