I just completed a four day trip to Dublin in which I had a thoroughly good time with Siggy and laid some ghosts to rest in relation to a thoroughly miserable day trip I had to the city about fifteen years ago with an ex-girlfriend. Here is the first of four post-dated posts I will be doing (not counting supporting foodie posts), enjoy…
Siggy and I woke up at stupid o’clock to get to the airport for the 6:30am flight which was one of the shortest flights I’ve ever had (if you discount a helicopter ride I once had over Silverstone racetrack). Dublin airport was a lot bigger than I imagined it would be and we had a long walk around from where we entered to the baggage reclaim area and then passport control. The airport has some of the slowest travelators I have ever seen – it was actually quicker to walk alongside them, than stand still on them.
We got a return bus ticket for 10 Euro from the desk inside the airport lobby. The bus trip was very slow because of the morning traffic and it felt like it would take as long to get from airport to city centre as it did to get from East Midlands to Dublin airport. Dublin’s tourism effort started on the bus with a video screen suggesting places to visit and bus tours. One was the Ghost Bus. IMO they’d missed a trick not calling it Ghost Bus Tours and using the Ghostbusters theme tune.
We ditched our one big bag at reception in the hotel (here’s my TripAdvisor review of the hotel) and then headed off to Ann’s Bakery for breakfast. A certain amount of TripAdvisor research had gone into the planning the journey and that included making a list of good places to eat. On the way we saw the Spire of Dublin on O’Connell Street which is amazingly tall and acted as a good landmark for us.
It was erected in place of a Nelson’s column which was destroyed in 1966 by some naughty people to commemorate the Easter Rising. At Ann’s Bakery, a simple Irish cooked breakfast and a hot mug of tea was just what I needed to wake up.
Then we walked over Ha’penny Bridge and worked our way through the Temple Bar area to find Trinity College. After admiring the architecture, despite the awful weather and the fact that Dublin seemed to have a lot of building and roadworks going on (a good sign that the economy is doing okay I guess) we paid the entrance fee to see the Book of Kells. Last time I visited, it was a Monday and I was sorely disappointed to find (at least back then) that the exhibition wasn’t open on Mondays.
The information panels and other small exhibits prior to seeing two of the four tomes that make up the Book were largely ignored by us. It didn’t help that some little boys were buggering about annoyingly. So we perhaps didn’t get our money’s worth before we saw the books. One book was open on an impressive page of illustrated text, the other was a little underwhelming to be honest. The security guard told me that they turn the pages once every three months. I felt lucky that at least one of the books was showing some interesting illustrations.
The we went to the Long Room which is a big library full of old books on high shelves which wouldn’t be out of place in a Harry Potter movie. The room oozed history and moved people to whispers. Siggy had to fight back her cough which has been troubling her over the last few weeks. The warm dry air after the damp coldness of outside perhaps wasn’t helping. It was very cold for pretty much the whole four days and raining on and off most days. This first day was actually not too bad in terms of rain and we had wrapped up warm.
We went to the Art Cafe in a nearby university building for some furiously strong cappuccinos. Luckily a big jug of milk was available to let you water your drinks down. Having got our levels of caffeine and liquid up to acceptable levels we ventured back out into the cold and wandered past the national museums and government buildings on Kildare Street on the way to St Stephen’s Green. I almost got told off by a security guard when I stepped over some unseen boundary in an effort to get a good photo of some of the architecture but I was quick enough to avoid a slapped wrist.
The Green was the unexpected focal point of the Easter Rising in 1916 and while several guides kept reminding us of the fact there is little to indicate its historic importance today. We missed the famine sculpture first time around and also failed to find the Little Museum of Dublin due to some unusually poor map reading on my part – I blame the early start. These mistakes were rectified the following day.
We walked back to the hotel to check in and have a quick power nap before heading to The Church (a converted church) for a late lunch. It used to be St Mary’s which explains some of the street names around – Mary’s Street which becomes Henry Street towards the spire and in the opposite direction links to Mary’s Lane.
Then we took a reasonably long and meandering walk to the Guinness Storehouse. This was the second of two must-see visits (the first being The Book of Kells) that laid ghosts to rest. Previously, all those years ago, I got lost and had to turn back.
The highlight of the Guinness Storehouse certainly isn’t the 20 Euro admission fee or the 35 Euro price tag on their tee-shirts. The highlight is of course having a free pint of the black stuff in the Gravity Bar with great views of the city. It’s not like The Shard in London in terms of the vista, but the information panels helped to explain what we were looking at and it was cool to see how tall the spire is near our hotel.
Inside the Storehouse are displays on everything you need to know about Guinness and its history. There’s also a fun section on the promotional items and marketing campaigns over the years. A classic from my youth was the fish on a bicycle that they had recreated for the exhibition:
My feet were aching and it had started to properly rain so we got a taxi back to the hotel. We got lots of recommendations for places to go and eat from the taxi driver, some of which we followed. In the hotel bar, we had a free coffee and tea as part of our room package and the smallest pot of chili nuts ever for 2 Euro.
For dinner we kept it local and went to a nearby Thai restaurant called Koh Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge and then over to the Temple Bar area to find a pub which wasn’t full of rowdy people.
We ended up at the Ha’penny Bridge Inn which was relatively quiet and surprise surprise on a corner near the Ha’penny Bridge and had some more Guinness. The Guinness by the way does taste less bitter and smoother than you can get in the UK. This might be aided by the convivial atmosphere and the ubiquitous traditional folk music that plays either over the jukeboxes or via a real live band, but i don’t think it’s a figment of our imaginations.