I have been working on a draft of this for literally months – I can’t quite figure out how I want to format it, and then I keep thinking “why bother posting it?” because it had been so long since I went there. But I will soldier on and give it a go.
Okay, throwback Thursday to Dublin! Firstly, my Dublin trip was in October of 2013, so nearly a year and a half ago, which is AGES, and the past five years I’ve been remarkably bad with keeping up my diary (shocking, isn’t it?), so I am mainly relying on my memory (ooer) and old pictures (thanks, Facebook) to recount this trip.
So, October of 2013, back when I was still living in Italy, my pals and I decided to take an extended weekend trip to Dublin. Why Dublin? Lots of reasons! One: They used the Euro so we wouldn’t have to deal with currency exchange (you think I am joking but you underestimate our laziness). Two: We heard good things (everyone is friendly! You’ll get a break from speaking Italian! Full Irish breakfast! Beer!). Three: We had some friends there to visit. Four: I’ve always wanted to go, which is pretty much the best reason ever for trips.
I went into this trip knowing pretty much nothing about Dublin and Ireland, which was a new thing for me. Usually when I travel somewhere, I already have a pretty thorough knowledge of the history (I mean, as an art history teacher in Italy, I had to). My friends had been there before, though, and I have to admit, it was kind of exciting going in blind. Every attraction and site was appealing because I didn’t go in knowing there was a set list of things I wanted to see.
River Liffey, Dublin.
With that in mind, I’m just going to talk a little bit about the big touristy attractions we DID do, and some of the parks we went to, and some of the food (our motto is and always will be “Eat your way through [city here]”).
Now, one thing I do in preparation of almost every trip is google something. A specific something. Specifically, “most haunted places in X.” Why? I don’t know. Because I love ghost stories, despite being a serious skeptic. (And I do mean serious. I honestly don’t believe ghosts exist. But I have seen every single episode of Ghost Hunters. SO ADDICTING).
So Kilmainham Gaol popped up. Kilmainham Gaol played a daunting role in Irish history and the struggle for Irish independence from its construction in the late 18th century until it was decommissioned in 1924. Overcrowded and with ghastly conditions (especially during the famine, when there was a massive influx of prisoners charged with stealing food and begging), it held men, women, and children (the youngest prisoner recorded was 7 years old). It’s history is fascinating and heartbreaking – here’s a link for the official guidebook, which will give you a much better sense of the history and importance of the site than I can. (Like I said, I went into the trip, and still am but now to a slightly lesser degree, woefully ignorant to Irish history).
We hopped on a bus, battled stormy weather, and went on a tour with the most delightful, informative, pleasant tour guide ever. I wish I remembered his name, but I don’t. I’m the worst. After taking a peek around the museum, our tour began. The building itself is an imposing structure (…duh, Em, it is a jail), and the bleak weather outside seemed particularly appropriate. The tour was engaging and very informative. If you’re a history buff, regardless of what your preferred era is, I would definitely recommend it. Fact of the matter is, history becomes a lot more real when you’re on-site.
Also, I did not see a single ghost, and thus my belief that ghosts don’t exist continues on unchallenged.
So that same day after our jailhouse tour, we decided we needed to do something to lighten the mood. Touring the Guinness Storehouse seemed like the logical follow-up to the Kilmainham Gaol tour. Yes, sure, it is a bit touristy. Okay, very touristy. But we were in Dublin AS tourists, dammit, and we wanted to enjoy a pint from the Gravity Bar while enjoying a great view of Dublin!
We shelled out the 16 euros and carried on our merry way. While it was touristy, it was truthfully a lot of fun. I personally got a sort of amusement-park-meet-Rainforest-Cafe-but-with-beer vibe. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve done a number of brewery tours before (Steven’s Point Brewery!) but this one was designed more as an interactive museum. Huge displays explaining the history of brewing, the technicalities of how beer is made, how it’s stored and transported, and Guinness’s tradition of advertising and marketing.
Learning beer facts at the Guinness Storehouse.
We even took a little detour to participate in a demonstration about how to properly taste a Guinness.
By the time we reached the Gravity Bar at the top floor, we were more than ready for a rest and a pint. Fair warning: we got to the top in the evening and it was nearing closing time, so the bar was absolutely packed. We had to throw elbows to get our beer, and then circle like vultures to find a little bench to squeeze onto. The nighttime view of Dublin, though, was pretty awesome, despite the clouds.
St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square
St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
While our jail tour and Guinness day was drizzly, wet, and windy – basically the perfect weather for haunted jails and breweries – we did get some sunny days, and took advantage of it! We soaked in the sun and the greenery at St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square. St. Stephen’s Green, one of the city’s largest, was just delightful to walk around in. It was open. It was, as one might guess, very green. There were swans. There was art. It was lovely.
We also checked out Merrion Square – we had heard about the Oscar Wilde statue there, and wanted to see it in person. It was everything we were hoping for.
Merrion Square in general was also super cool to walk around – a bit more wooded, the winding paths made it seem like we were walking in a jungle, completely closed off from the surrounding city.
Lastly, but not leastly, food! We ate at quite a few different places while we were there, enjoyed a full Irish breakfast (seriously, guys, black pudding is delicious and underrated), drank beer. There are two places that really stick out when I think back to our food there, so I’ll just stick to those.
The first is Bank on College Green. This was actually the first place we went (after our hotel) when we landed. We were exhausted and hungry and cold, so maaaybe that made it seem more magical than it was, but still! It was beautiful inside, and we felt fancy, but the prices were reasonable. Determined to stick to regionalish food, I ordered bangers and mash, and it did not disappoint.
Delicious, delicious porridge. Note the cream and honey. And fruit. Also present but not pictures: Irish breakfast tea.
The other place we ate that really stuck out to me was a cafe/restaurant called Avoca. The cafe is actually part of a store – it’s on the top floor. While you might not think that a cafe perched on top of a mini department store is worth checking out, this one totally is. We went there twice for breakfast/brunch, and both times it was amazing. So amazing I even took pictures of the food.
Well, that wraps up my extremely delayed and probably poorly-remembered recap of my Dublin trip. Til next time!