Posts Tagged ‘Dublin’
We were totally charmed by Ireland, but for very different reasons than we expected. We thought we would be taken by the Irish landscape—Jeremy loves himself some rolling hills dotted with sheep—but it turns out we were even more taken by the feel of the place. We loved the strong musical culture. We loved the extreme differences between the severe weather and the warm pubs. We loved the people. And most of all, we loved those delicious, frosty pints. All of it conspires to create the most comfortable, cozy atmosphere that keeps you crossing your fingers for lousy weather so you can spend your days in the warm embrace of Ireland’s fantastic pub culture (luckily, the weather delivers, most of the time).
Days spent here: 7 (August 2-9, 2009)
Highlights: We had a good time in all three places that we visited in Ireland, but the most charming moments to us involved a warm pub, jamming musicians, and a delicious pint of Guinness.
Places we would like to visit next time: County Cork
Average daily expenditures (for two people): US$205/day
Prices: No doubt about it, Ireland is expensive. Pub meals are spendier than simple meals in Japan. JAPAN! Accommodation prices are pretty much on par with the rest of Europe (expect to pay between €45-60 for a double ensuite at the budget end of the spectrum), but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. And, of course, a pint of Guinness will put you back about €5—that’s US$7.50 for a pint!
Guidebooks we used: None
Weather: It was cold and rainy in Galway, but pretty pleasant in Dublin. Of course, severe weather makes the pubs seem that much more cozy (after all, you probably wouldn’t want to hang out in a dark pub all day if it was sunny and glorious out), so rain really isn’t that much of a bummer!
Food: Meat and potatoes baby! It’s all about the carvery lunches: you get your choice of meat (usually a roast of beef, lamb, or ham), potatoes, and veggies, all smothered in gravy. It’s like Thanksgiving everyday!
Accommodation: As you would expect, Ireland’s accommodation is on par with the rest of Europe in terms of comfort and cleanliness. Just watch out for the late night partiers in Dublin. Outside of Dublin, homestays and B&B’s are good value—but this type of accommodation is easier to find if you have a car.
Transit: We were very happy with the bus system across the country (having tried both GoBus and CityLink on the Dublin to Galway circuit)—just be sure to book ahead for the cheapest rate. Our one experience with Dublin’s public transport train (DART) was excellent. Once you get out of Dublin, however, you’ll probably want to rent a car to explore some of the Irish countryside. Too bad rental cars are so unreasonably expensive in Ireland!
Culture: The Irish are laid back, funny, and easy to talk to. You know what? I think the photo below says it all:
In short: You really don’t need to try to “see” too much—all the best parts of Ireland are right there in the pub.
I finally started drifting off about 1:30AM, after another night gathered around delicious Guinness pints with our friends Chi-Chi, Conall, and Mariam. A bunch of random musicians had gathered in the pub to spontaneously play some tunes for the benefit of the pub’s patrons, and their music still played in the back of my mind as I thought of all the things we had seen in this enjoyable yet cozy city:
Beautiful Christ Church Cathedral (one short block away from the apartment where we stayed)…
Christ Church Cathedral at night. Creepy!
…the fun but information-light Guinness Brewery tour…
The actual St. James Brewery Gate!
Barrels at the Guinness Brewery. (This was the most interesting part of the Guinness tour—we spent an inordinate amount of time watching historic videos of barrel-makers using primitive tools to cut strips of wood into perfectly sealed, air-tight barrels. Amazing!)
A tender moment, reflected off the mirrored tables of the Guinness brewery’s Sky Bar—your reward for making it through the brewery tour.
…a walk around the grounds of Trinity College, where Conall’s brother Brian so generously acted as our tour guide and we got to see The Book of Kells…
Our 90210 moment at Trinity College. From left to right: Brian, his daughter, Jeremy, Mariam, Conall, and Chi-Chi.
…and our interesting visit of Kilmainham Gaol (that’s how they spell “jail” in Ireland, England, Australia, and New Zealand!), where we learned a ton about Irish history…
A local artist’s installation in one of the prisons’ cells. This piece features a giant tumbleweed that fills up the entire cell—emphasizing the stifling nature of captivity, as tumbleweeds are meant to exist in wide-open spaces.
Dublin is a place that is hard to capture in photos. It’s a place that is more felt (by roaming the streets and soaking up the ambience) than toured, more heard (in the music coming out of the pubs) than seen.
Wandering Dublin’s streets at night, looking for a warm pub and some good music.
On that note…just as we entered into deep sleep—
REEEEEEEEEEEE!!! REEEEEEEEEEEE!!! REEEEEEEEEEEE!!! REEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
Wha? GOOD LORD WHAT IS THAT NOISE?!? That can’t be—is that a FIRE ALARM? At 2:30AM? Jesus, someone turn that off!
Turns out some drunkards in our building pulled the fire alarm. OK, where were we? Oh yes, Dublin is also a place best experienced with friends. There are groups of people wandering the streets all night…in fact, the whole city feels like your friend sometimes—the Irish are the world’s best banterers and everyone seems to have a line or two to start a conversation.
Commemorating our final pint in Dublin with Conall, Mariam, and Chi-Chi.
Speaking of which—
[LOUD MUSIC, MUFFLED SOUNDS OF A PARTY, PEOPLE SHOUTING, HEAVY FOOTSTEPS]
At 4AM, we get another wakeup call, this time from the raucous party going on upstairs. I am wiling to bet that they are the same drunken idiots who pulled the fire alarm. Where are my earplugs?
BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG!!! BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG!!!BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG!!!
OMG, what time is it? 9AM? Why are the bells of Christ Church going off so early? And when is it going to stop? (The answer: whenever you get your hungover butt into that church).
Sigh, just another Saturday night in Dublin…
How we got from Galway to Dublin: We took the GoBus from the western end of the country to Ireland’s eastern capital…for only €10 (approx. US$12.50)! The bus was comfortable, but the real reason why it was so cool—the bus had wi-fi! So fancy! You need to book your trip ahead of time on the internet in order to get this fare…and if you book early enough, you may even make the trip for €5.
Where we slept in Dublin: Since there were 5 of us, we decided to split a 2BR apartment in Christchurch Hall (booked via stayDublin.com), well-located a block away from Christchurch Cathedral. The apartment was clean, well-stocked, and had more room per person than your average Dublin hotel room. At €38 per person, it was a bit spendier than most hostels in Dublin, but it works out well for groups. Just watch out for the bells on Sunday AM and the drunk partiers before that!
Before our friends arrived in Dublin, J and I spent one night in the Jackson Court Hotel. We chose this place for its cheap price (only €50 for a double ensuite, with Irish breakfast included), and we probably should have been curious why the price was so low. Turns out this hotel is also the site of Copper Face Jacks Night Club. The hilarious Wikitravel entry describes it in the following way: “…Known in the fine Dublin phrase as a Meat Market this night out is crammed with people desperate to score and getting more and more willing as they consume more booze.” Read the full entry here (under the “Clubs” subhead). The hotel actually gives you earplugs when you check in. Luckily, our room was located on the top floor, so we weren’t too disturbed by the revelry, but light sleepers beware.
We arrived in Dublin a day before we were to meet our friends Conall, Mariam, and Chi-Chi, so J and I decided to get out of town and head up to the Howth peninsula (about 9 miles north of Dublin) for its famous cliff walk. It seems we got a cosmic payback after all those severe weather days in Galway, because the sun was out and the sky was the most glorious shade of blue during our day in Howth.
In addition to our luck with the weather, it seems our timing was perfect to see this little town on Ireland’s east coast—the peninsula was exploding with wildflowers in shades of sunny yellow and deep magenta.
It took us about 4 hours to walk the entire loop, and we pretty much hiked the entire thing straight since there wasn’t an obvious place to rest on the trail. Needless to say, we were pretty tired by the end of it, but the walk was definitely worth it—what a stunningly beautiful landscape!
Towards the southern end of the Howth cliff walk, you can see sailors and other wind-sport enthusiasts out for the day in Dublin bay.
We were very glad we got out to this corner of Ireland, as Howth let us see a different side of this country than Athlone, Galway, and Dublin. And it always feels good when you earn your pint, doesn’t it?
How we got from Dublin to Howth: We took Dublin’s efficient and affordable DART train up to Howth. We love it when a city’s public transport works well!