Another Perfect Day in Dublin
This is a follow-up to my previous article, “The Perfect Day in Dublin.” As I was actually in Dublin for five days, the following are recommendations which you might consider for your next couple of days in Dublin, in addition to what was previously recommended.
Start the day with porridge. Americans will know this as oatmeal, but it’s so much more. I mentioned in the previous article that the Irish sure do know how to pull a Guinness. Well, if there’s one thing they are nearly as good at, it’s porridge. If you’re a coffee drinker and you’d like a cup to accompany your porridge, well, you may be disappointed. They don’t do so well at this and tea might be a better choice.
Now that you have food in your tummy, head on over to Christ Church Cathedral. Christ Church was founded in 1030 and daily services are still conducted here throughout the week. Strongbow, the leader of the Anglo-Normans who captured Dublin in 1170 was buried here in 1176 and, due to the time it took to build as well as various additions, Christ Church contains both rounded Roman arches and pointed Gothic arches. As with many of these historic cathedrals, the main floor contains many chapels and areas to worship. There are plaques and monuments honoring historic and everyday people, but what strikes me are the stained glass windows. They’re phenomenal. You should then head down to the medieval crypt which is, well, all you’d expect a medieval crypt to be. Cool, dark, stone with carvings to decorate and worship. There’s also a video history of Christ Church that I find a bit dull.
Next, walk just down the street to Dublin Castle. You can wander around the inside as well as the gardens on your own. I recommend taking the one-hour guided tour. Some of the highlights on the tour include: the Throne Room (yes, there’s a throne in there), the Picture (Portrait) Gallery, which is the former State Dining Room, and the locations of many official dinners, and St. Patrick’s Hall, where the President of Ireland is inaugurated. If you’re lucky, you’ll also go into the Undercroft, a subterranean chamber which allows you to see the original castle walls and part of a tenth century Viking town defensive bank. During the summer the castle hosts special events including Shakespeare in the Garden. Be sure to check.
Moving on from there, you should make a stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Built by the Normans in 1191, it was rebuilt in the 13th century, and the west tower was rebuilt in 1370 after a fire. St. Patrick is said to have baptized converts to Christianity at a well that once existed alongside the Cathedral. As with the other churches and cathedrals I’ve visited, there are many memorials to people long gone but, again, the beautiful stained glass windows are what stand out. Perhaps it’s the way the sun is shining today but the colors in them are, dare I say, heavenly.
Note that if you’ve taken the “Hop On Hop Off” bus tour as mentioned in the previous Dublin article, you can do all three of these in one stop. If you’re walking, well, they’re really close together.
Feeling pekish (that’s what they call hungry over there)? How about making your way to The Church? I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve already seen two cathedrals and a castle. I just want some lunch.” Well, no worries, The Church is a restaurant! It’s located in an old church building, formerly known as St. Mary’s. Built in 1702, there’s a self-guided tour which provides tidbits of trivia including: Arthur Guinness married his wife Olivia Whitmore here in St. Mary’s; George Frederick Handel, who wrote the Messiah, was a regular visitor and played the organ in St. Mary’s; there were six crypts in the basement in which thirty-two skeletal remains were found during excavation to convert the building. All this and you can also enjoy a nice meal of baked salmon on polenta and relax with a leisurely cappuccino in a beautiful atmosphere.
Now that you’ve got your energy back, how about checking out the Temple Bar District? This historic area – close to the two cathedrals and the castle – offers outdoor cafes, numerous pubs, little shops and, on Saturdays, the Temple Bar Food Market. Held every Saturday from 10am-4:30pm over Food Market traders are on hand to tell you all about their produce, how it was made and the very best way to cook and eat it! While you’re there, check out the National Photographic Archive. When I was there, they had a spectacular exhibit of the Limerick Milk Market, by Gerry Andrews.
Next, make your way to the Old Jameson Distillery. This is where you can take a tour to find out the rich history of the unofficial whiskey of Ireland. You’ll start with a really well done film on the history after which they’ll ask for volunteers. Raise your hand quickly; it’ll come in handy later on. You’ll learn that Jameson’s Irish Whiskey tastes different from the American and Scottish whiskeys due to the fact that it’s distilled three times rather than the one or two of the others, and that it’s not made by burning peat which is why it doesn’t have that smoky taste. Your guide will bring you through various rooms to enhance your understanding of the entire process of making this fine Irish whiskey before bringing you into the tasting room where, if you put your hand up quickly during the volunteer period as I told you to, you’ll be toasting me as well as earning the title of Qualified Whiskey Taster.
Tonight, how about a night at the theatre? I attended a performance of Waiting for Godot (by hometown author Samuel Beckett) at the Smock Alley Theatre. Be sure to check out what’s on at the many theatre’s through Visit Dublin (link below).
A perfect ending to this day would be a visit to Ireland’s oldest Pub. Dating back to 1198, the Brazen Head offers great traditional food, Irish storytelling and live music every night. Past patrons include James Joyce and Jonathan Swift. You can feel the history in this place.
Ig you’re looking for reasonable places to stay that won’t break the budget, I can personally recommend a couple that I stayed at. First – The Eliza Lodge. It’s right in the Temple Bar District which can get noisy at night. I had a quaint and cozy single room which was quite comfortable and, with no windows facing the street (they opened to alleys and fire stairwells), it meant much less noise (I actually enjoyed hearing a Dixieland jazz band playing “When the Saints Go Marching In”).The prices were very reasonable and you can even get a room including breakfast at the restaurant below. I also stayed at The Generator Hostel. This is not the hostel of the 1970’s and 80’s. You’ll find all ages here and a variety of rooms. I had a private room with a private bath overlooking Smithfield Square. It was quiet and comfortable and, as with the Eliza Lodge, offered free internet. There’s a bar downstairs and you can order pizza and other simple foods there. A movie theatre is directly across the square as are a couple of cafes. If you want to go to the Jameson’s Distillery, well, The Generator Hostel is so close that they share a wall.
If you’re thinking about heading to Ireland, be sure to include at least three full days in Dublin, more if you can manage it. You surely won’t run out of things to do.