Welcome to my corner……of the world! It’s a great pleasure to join The Travel Mechanic team as a monthly guest blogger! I invite you to travel along with me through my blog articles and many pictures. My love for travel started at a very early age through the wonderful opportunity to live, grow up and go to school in England. The experience was life-changing, and it was the catalyst for my long-time passion of exploring the beautiful and interesting places that other people call home.
I’m not sure if that’s due to the Irish optimism, love of life and good times or if it’s because of the approximately 1000 pubs in the city and surrounding area. Whichever it is, you will find a combination of interesting history, culture and traditional foods and drinks. Let’s say you have just three days to spend there — what do you do? With some advance planning, you will absorb the multifaceted vibe of Dublin. Here are a few travel tips.
Stay in a city center hotel if at all possible. Location is important and since Dublin is a very walkable city, you will be able to take advantage of that if you choose a central location. The city is divided by the river Liffey and I find that the south side of the river has a more lively atmosphere. There are many hotels and B&Bs in every price point, so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs. My own favorite is The Shelbourne Hotel because if its proximity to St. Stephen’s Green, a beautiful park in the city center, and because of the hotel’s unique historical significance. It is where the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922. The hotel is also very proud that many notable people have stayed there including Princess Grace of Monaco. When I win the lottery, I’m going to stay in the Princess Grace Suite!
Visit some of the most important and well-known historical and cultural sites. The most renowned exhibit is the Book of Kells, the magnificent work of art created by monks in the 9th century. As an artistic creation it is a masterpiece, and it is kept in a beautiful permanent exhibit in the Old Library at Trinity College.
If possible, inquire in advance for tickets at the Dublin Visitor Centre or the Irish Tourist Board since this is probably the most visited attraction in Dublin. While you are at Trinity College, spend a little time in the Long Room, an impressive chamber housing approximately 200,000 of the library’s oldest volumes. Its size will astound you! Dublin Castle is both the site of a Viking fort and has long been used as a government center. It is still in use today, and you will get an inside perspective of Ireland’s complex history on a tour of the castle. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is most interesting for the fact that the poet and author, Jonathon Swift, (think Gulliver’s Travels) was Dean there in the 18th century. What do I think is the most fascinating cultural site in Dublin? It’s the Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate! There is a beautifully constructed museum which shows the process of the manufacture of “porter”, and your tour ends with a visit to the Gravity Bar where you can have your own “pint” and admire the great city views from the 7th floor. I’ll share my “Aha Moment” while visiting an exhibit at the storehouse when I realized “Oh my goodness, THAT Guinness Book of World Records!” Once again, there’s more to Guinness than a drink! Throughout the city, you will see a unique architectural feature of the 18th century Dublin townhouses – the elaborate and brightly-colored Georgian doors. They have become so
well-known that they have their own souvenir posters and calendars.
Here’s my insider tip for visiting Dublin – get a 24-hour Hop-On, Hop-Off bus pass. Buy it at about 3pm and ride around so that you get an overview of the city. The next morning, get back on the bus and stop at the places that are interesting to you. You will even be able to go to the Guinness Storehouse which really is not in walking distance to the city center.
Absorb the vibe and life of the city. I mentioned my preference for the south side of the Liffey. That’s where you’ll find Grafton Street, the main shopping area and pedestrian-walking street, which stretches from Saint Stephen’s Green to Trinity College. Grafton Street and its side streets are full of pubs. In Ireland, a pub is a place where you can get everything from a cup of tea to a whiskey. You can also get a reasonably-priced lunch or dinner. One of my husband Alan’s favorites is the “toastie, a small sandwich (grilled cheese Irish style!). A lunch feature at some pubs is the Carvery Lunch which is actually a very large meal including a choice of several meats or fish, potatoes and lots of vegetables. The plate is served at a buffet counter and you tell the server what you would like on your plate. Believe me, that can be your meal for the day and it’s the best value around.
The south side is also where you’ll find the Temple Bar area, a vibrant street which seems to be a continuous celebration in progress. Yes, it is anchored by THE Temple Bar, a Dublin institution. You might be surprised that the pub is actually quite small.
However, the area is full of restaurants where you will find traditional Irish food — try The Boxty House — and pubs where, even if you are alone, you won’t be for long if you just take a seat at the bar! You will find there’s plenty of good “Craic” — that’s the conversation and entertainment! I once saw a sign that read “An Irish pub is much more than a place to get a drink.” That’s true on so many levels, and it’s particularly true in Dublin where many of the renowned Irish authors spent hours conversing and working. In fact, there is a Literary Pub Crawl tour which starts at The Duke, my favorite Dublin pub (Picture to the right). If you stop in, tell the owner, Tom Gilligan, that you’re friends of Jane and Alan Meagher from Virginia! (A personal note on our old Irish surname — it’s pronounced “Marr”- and it’s only when we are in Ireland that we hear it pronounced correctly!)
The Best of the Rest that I love about Dublin: Delicious soups that are always served with brown bread; a cup of tea that’s served with a biscuit; flower stands dotting Grafton Street;
stunning and creative floral arrangements in the hotel lobby; street artists, particularly mimes; the warmth of the Irish people and their affection for Americans. Most have American relatives and might easily ask you “Would you know my cousin, Kevin O’Neill, in Baltimore?” That’s for real — and they’d be very pleased if you said that you had met him once or twice!! It’s the Irish way! On your visit to Dublin, even if you’re not Irish by birth, you’ll leave with an Irish heart!