In my last blog I mentioned early retirement and the opportunities to travel that might open up with all this “free” time! Well, taking myself seriously, Mr B and I took ourselves off to the fair city of Dublin, Ireland. Primarily, it was to see the great Billy Joel in concert at the Aviva stadium, but we decided to make a long weekend out of it – Billy was epic by the way!
We took a flight with Aer Lingus from Manchester early Friday morning. Priority security and boarding (together with cabin bags only – am I getting good at capsule packing or what!) made the flight so much easier and stress less. And before we had chance to settle into our seats we were landing and through customs and out into the sunshine. We took the 757 bus into the city (I would recommend this mode of transport – 7 euro for a single journey and the stops are regular and the trip comes with a map to see where you need to get off.) Our hotel – The Hilton Garden City – was happy to take our bags and store them until the room was ready later. So, bag free we set off to explore – but first breakfast!
There is so much to see and do that we didn’t actually have time to see everything (hence another trip is being planned!) and it is hard to bring the list down to just 5 things - but here are my top5ofeverything tips for things to do in Dublin:
Walk – everything is within walking distance.
Shopping – of course
And I haven’t even mentioned the Guinness Warehouse, Jameson Whiskey nor the Emigration museum. And a “Lonely Planet” guidebook was compulsive reading before, during and after the trip. The only flaw in the whole weekend was the French Air Traffic Controllers strike which meant that our evening flight home on Sunday was cancelled and we had to fly home at 2.30pm – right in the middle of the England -v- Tunisia game at the World Cup – poor Mr B!!
1. Walk: Our hotel was on the River Liffey on the north bank, so we crossed one of the many bridges and using the map we had, followed the roads down to Merrion Sq. where we turned right along Nassau Street. We eventually ended up at St Stephens Green (my guide book says it’s the most popular and best loved of the city’s green spaces and in the sunshine, I can see why) where there is an open-air gallery all along the railings.
We admired the art work and spent time conversing with the artists before going into the park. Look out for the boards which are at regular intervals and give an insight into the turbulent and often violent history of the city particularly in 1916. Fascinating. Try the ice cream (I have Ferrero Rocher flavour – to die for!) from Gino’s just at the top of Grafton Street – go out through the main entrance (Fusilier’s Arch) and you can’t miss it.
You will need a comfortable pair of shoes to deal with the miles that you will clock up – my trusty fit-bit told me I walked over 14,000 steps on Friday!
2. Trinity College (Ireland’s most prestigious university): worth a view.
Go in through the main entrance at the other end of Grafton Street rather than the side entrance as it is more spectacular. The entrance is free, and you can walk around the beautiful grounds. We arrived on graduation day, so it was packed full of students and (relieved) proud students.
We sat on the steps and watched people for a good half an hour before taking lots more photographs. There are walking tours and you can go into the Old Library and see the Book of Kells but we arrived on the wrong day! Next time!
3. Shopping – of course! South of the river, both Dawson Street and Grafton Street were resplendent in the sunshine (I know I keep mentioning it, but it was ideal weather for sightseeing. And talk to the locals and they laugh and tell you it’s rare!) There are the usual stores and the independents and Mr B was grateful that we only had cabin bags so no room to buy anything! Next time!!! North of the river try Henry Street and Liffey Street for a further array of shops and stores and street performers and places to eat and drink. The bars were often decked with hanging baskets which required more photographs and more patience from Mr B!
4. Temple Bar- On Saturday morning we walked from our hotel past the Customs House, along the quays to Halfpenny Bridge – but before you cross it turn right and you will find the most amazing donut shop – Boston Donuts – delicious!
Then cross the bridge and go through the arch into Temple Bar. Bars and people and cobbled streets and restaurants and open markets and galleries and street performers. A different atmosphere and the most touristy part of the city, but it is well worth a visit. And do not miss a walk around (and maybe lunch) at Dollard and Co. in Wellington Quay – a food hall that is all wicker hampers, dry-aged meats and artisan cheeses.
5. Dublin Castle: A settlement has been on this sight since 1204 and a bit of history never hurt anyone! We took the self-guide tour (7 euro) and found ourselves in the same room at the same time as a guided tour so “listened in” to the very entertaining guide. It’s not a big castle as castles go but it was an enjoyable and interesting couple of hours.
The main highlights of a great weekend and there are so many other delights I could have written about – we had breakfast at Carluccio’s in Dawson St on Sunday morning. We had tapas and home-made beer on the Ely Quay Friday night, we drank coffee and ate cake. It was a wonderful city with warm and friendly natives and I cannot wait to return there – soon.