Dublin, Dublin, Dublin. What a wonderful city you are. I had been looking forward to my little trip to the Emerald Isle for months, and it most certainly did not disappoint.
Arriving bleary eyed and yawning early in the morning, I was delighted to be greeted by blue skies and bright sun. The weekend was off to an excellent start! The journey from the airport to the city centre was really easy, the Airlink 747 bus can be picked up right outside Terminal 1. It costs €6 for a single to the centre, or €10 for a return which is valid for three months.
First stop was the hostel we were staying at. Being too early to check in we wanted some place to drop our bags before heading off to get something to fill our hungry bellies. Isaac’s Hostel was our abode of choice and luckily enough it was located just around the corner from the bus station. So far, so easy.
The hostel staff were friendly and greeted us with warm smiles and open arms. They say Irish hospitality is good, and our welcome did not disappoint. Emerging from the warm hostel into the chilly November air we took a walk along Talbot Street. The hostel is conveniently located next to a pub, the Robert Reade bar and cafe, although we fancied taking a little wander and stretching out our travel-weary limbs.
It wasn’t long before we came across a decent looking place called O’Shea’s Hotel. Needless to say, being the first drinking establishment of the weekend that we’d set foot in, my travel partner and I indulged ourselves in an obligatory pint of Guinness. Ahhhhhh. The food here was good and the portion sizes pretty enormous! I ordered bangers and mash and was presented with a steaming mound of creamy mashed potatoes, three fat, sizzling pork and leek sausages, all smothered in a rich onion gravy. Ireland is not a ‘cheap’ country to travel by any means, and Dublin is no exception. Over the course of the weekend we found that a decent-sized pub meal such as this would set you back anywhere between €10-€13. Not dirt cheap at all, but for food this tasty and portions this generous it certainly wouldn’t do the bank balance too much harm.
As it was a gorgeous sunny, crisp afternoon we decided to take a little walk around the city and see what it had to offer. Dublin is Ireland’s capital city and is bursting with life and hustle and bustle. If, like me, you enjoy wandering around a new place and taking in all the sights and sounds on offer, Dublin is for you. It’s a city made up of charming little back streets, cosy corners, quaint houses and of course, that vein of life that runs through the heart of the city, the River Liffey.
An afternoon of wandering prompted another well deserved rest, caffeine was a-calling us and we chanced upon a cute little cafe that welcomed us with a warm hug out of the chill. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Did these people do anything other than eat and drink? We-el, yes we did, but we also did a fair bit of eating and drinking too, so brace yourselves for some more foodie bits and pieces coming up! Mochaland Cafe was the name of the coffee shop we stopped off at, and it is highly recommended. The surroundings are homely and unpretentious and the service warm and friendly. The best bit though, was the tea. Now, I am something of a tea addict. I enjoy a good brew and I take it seriously. This is something that my non-British friends find quite amusing, and my Aussie mates in particular seem to find it hilarious. Well be amused, because the tea here is delicious! I am well and truly converted to the delights of Irish Breakfast tea. The lovely sunset views over the city and the wall to wall windows meant excellent people-watching opportunities too, and made that lovely brew taste all the sweeter.
Hiking and a-Jigging
After a quiet night we arose early and traipsed wearily downstairs for the complimentary breakfast. Breakfast was a simple affair of toast, jam and butter, hard boiled eggs, cereals, fruit juice and tea and coffee, but it did the job and set us up for our hiking mission.
We made the short walk to the nearby Connolly station and took the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) down the coast to the seaside town of Bray. We wanted to get out of the city and explore the surrounding hills a little bit and Bray, with it’s coastal cliff-walk to the next town of Greystones, fitted the bill perfectly. A single trip from Connolly – Bray cost just under €4 and the journey took approximately 40 minutes. If you are interested in exploring the areas around Dublin the DART is definitely recommended. Services are frequent (Bray – Dublin every 30 minutes) and the fare isn’t too expensive. If it’s hiking opportunities in particular that you are looking for, I found this website on walks and hikes in the Wicklow/Dublin area very useful.
The path along the coast from Bray – Greystones is about 5.5 km long (roughly 3.5 miles for us Brits and Americans) and took us about 2 hours. It could probably be done quicker in the warm summer months. What with it being Autumn the path was pretty sodden and we spent a fair bit of time having to leap over puddles, or indeed streams, of rain water. The damp didn’t ruin the views at all though, if anything the clifftop scenery was enhanced by the dramatically cloudy skies. The most charming feature of the walk, I think, was trying to catch a glimpse of the train as it sped along the track above the waves crashing on the rocks. Alas, I was too slow to capture a photo of the train emerging from the tunnel!
Greystones is a lovely little town and, although small, is a pleasant enough place to while away an afternoon after an invigorating hike. We stopped off for a pub lunch, and wandered around the harbour and main street. Probably my favourite place in Greystones was the lovely little bookshop we stumbled across. Just up from the DART station and across from the shopping centre was a delightful little haven of books. The staff were friendly and it was the perfect warm little hidey-hole to peruse the shelves while waiting for our train to depart. Trains to Dublin from Greystones are not as frequent as from Bray, departing every hour rather than every 30 minutes. The fare back was around €5.50 for a one way ticket.
Well, that was about it for the hiking part, next for the jigging part! Whether you’re traveling or not, Saturday night is party night! We got ourselves back to the hostel, scrubbed down from our muddy walk and set out to sample what Dublin had to offer on a Saturday evening. We headed towards Temple Bar, which is essentially the pedestrianised drinking area of Dublin, with a view to finding some tasty food and a lively establishment to keep us entertained. We didn’t quite make it that far however, before we stumbled across a lovely looking little Tapas place. We entered Bach 16, located at yes, you guessed it 16 Bachelors Walk, and received a friendly welcome from the attentive staff. The ambiance was lovely, and the Christmas decorations (although slightly early?) certainly made this beautiful little find all the more cosy.
Bach 16’s website boasts for one to ‘Call in for a glass of the best wine in Dublin!’. Now, I am no wine buff, but I have to say this is probably not a bad shout! We were recommended the Horgelus Cotes de Gascogne, Sauvignon Blanc by our knowledgeable waiter, which google tells me is a light white wine with grapefruit flavours. Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know that it tasted ruddy fantastic! It went beautifully with the chorizo and chicken spinach salad I ordered, and equally so with the roasted red pepper stuffed with goats cheese and pine nuts. The meal here was excellent, and just what we needed after a long day hiking. The dessert menu, though small, was sinfully appetising and the triple chocolate mousse is highly recommended for any chocoholic! Perhaps the best part was the window seat and watching the Saturday evening revelers go by. Everybody looked like they were having a really good time – the tourists, the locals, the older couples, the young sweethearts all sauntered along smiling in the crisp evening air – swap an Irish accent for some French ooh la la and one could imagine oneself in Paris!
Taking an after dinner stroll in an attempt to shift some of the thousand-odd calories we’d just consumed we walked along the Liffey and across the Ha’penny Bridge into the beating heart of Dublin’s nightlife, Temple Bar. Not really being ones for expensive tourist traps, we wandered around in a non-committed manner, not quite sure which rowdy, crowded bar to go into. Now, don’t get me wrong, Temple Bar is an attraction in itself. It is expensive and it is busy, but it’s worth a look all the same.
Our indecisiveness was soon hurried along by the opening of the heavens and we dived into the closest bar we could find. We entered some trendy bar beneath a wall painted with famous Irish musicians, aptly entitled ‘The Wall of Fame’. The drinks were expensive, the seating scarce and the possibility of the crowding dislodging the perfectly groomed beard or moustache of a nearby hipster seemed to be a genuine threat. Ah, perhaps I’m too critical. The bar (which for the life of me I cannot remember the name of…that say it all?), was fine really. But it could have been in any metropolitan European city, and we certainly did not come all the way to Dublin for ‘samey’ trendy bars. Out we stumbled despondently, intent on wandering back to the hostel.
It was in this downcast frame of mind that we happened to pass by our favourite haunt O’Shea’s again. Ahh one more pint for the road? Why not. Well our bank balance thanked us a lot more for the prices in here, and our sense of fun was none too displeased either! We were more than happy to discover a live band playing and settled in with our drinks to watch the show. It wasn’t for long that we were permitted to sit and quietly contemplate the music, oh no! The clientele were lively (presumably local) and soon had us, and everyone else in the bar, up on their feet and dancing the night away! The band, if you’re interested, are called The Quarter Mile, and you can purchase their music on Itunes. They are fantastic live, the CD really doesn’t do them justice. If you get the chance to go see them, do it!
Sunday is Guinness Day
Well, as if we hadn’t had enough of the black stuff already, Sunday was the day we made the mandatory pilgrimage of any visit to Dublin; a trip to the Guinness Storehouse. I know, I know…I said I don’t like touristy things. But when you travel there are some places you can’t not visit, aren’t there? New York – Statue of Liberty, London – Buckingham Palace, Paris – Eiffel Tower, Dublin – Guinness Storehouse! The tour was very informative and being spread over multiple levels with interactive features stopped it from being dry or boring.
Highlights of the self guided tour were definitely the ‘Guinness Academy’ where the friendly staff will happily teach you how to pour the perfect pint of the black beverage, and learning what my travel companion and I had been wondering all weekend: how to say ‘cheers’ in the Irish language. It’s ‘Sláinte!’, FYI. The mini-tasting session was also fun and informative. The Storehouse experience is not only about how Guinness is made, but also tells you all about the history of the drink, the Guinness family and their philanthropy, even the history of world-wide Guinness exportation. Did you know an oak barrel made by the Guinness coopers to transport Guinness all over the world (back when oak barrels were used) could last up to 10 years?! Fascinating stuff.
The real gem of the experience, the pièce de résistance if you will, was the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse. As we sidled up to the top floor with our self-poured pints the sun broke through the clouds and we were greeted with gorgeous panoramic views of the beautiful city of Dublin. Beyond the city limits the mountains were just visible through the lifting mist and yellow autumn sunshine. Maybe it was the stunning views, maybe it was the giddy heights, or perhaps it was simply the effect of the day’s first pint on a small breakfast but something struck me up there. Watching the sun glisten off the rooftops and highlight the swirls of rising mist I realised there’s just something about Dublin. It’s a fantastic, friendly, lively city where you just can’t help but walk around with an idiotic grin on your face. Maybe there’s something in the air that makes it so special. My money’s on the magic ingredient being in the water there though – and maybe that’s why the Guinness tastes so darn good!