Recently I had the chance to add my 51st country to my list of countries visited. The beautifully green and incredibly hospitable country of Ireland was my destination and it did not let me down. I visited Limerick, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Adare and, of course, Dublin.
At 44-square miles and a population of just over 500,000 (as of 2011) it’s far from a large capital city, yet it has so much to offer. From history to architecture, from food to music, from museums to theatre, Dublin’s got it all. During my four days there, I had the opportunity to experience some of the fun Dublin has to offer.
I began with the “Hop on Hop off Bus Tour” offered by Dublin Bus Tours. This pass allowed me to experience two routes; the original route with 24 stops around the city which lasts approximately 90-minutes if you choose to neither hop-off or hop-on, as well as the Docklands Route which has nine throughout a 25-minute tour through the Dockland’s area (I never got to the Docklands Route as the main city kept me so busy). The buses offer some live commentary by drivers as well as recorded commentary in 10 different languages (bring your earbuds). My chosen location for my first hop-off was the Dublin Writers Museum.
Situated in a magnificent 18th century mansion, the Dublin Writers Museum was opened in 1991 in order to celebrate the great literary history of Ireland. The lives of well-known Irish writers such as James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, among others are profiled here. It’s a fascinating narrative, not just of Irish literature, but of Irish history as many of these famous, and not-so-famous, were persecuted for the truth in their writing and their lifestyles as well as their participation in rebellions. This is a fascinating museum which will help you better understand Irish literature as well as the writers of these great works.
Inspired by these great Irish writers I head over to Trinity College, the alma mater of many of them, to see the Book of Kells. Founded in 1592, Trinity is known for producing some of the greatest writers in history and has housed the 1,200 year-old Book of Kells since 1653, which has been on public display since the mid-19th century and attracts over 500,000 visitors a year. Written by Irish Monks, the Book of Kells’ 680 pages of vellum contain the Latin texts of the Four Gospels. As far as Trinity College goes, short tours of the campus conducted by students are offered through their website and, in the summer, they also offer dorm-rooms for visitors to rent.
Next, I make a quick stop at St. Stephen’s Green which, at 22 acres is considered Europe’s largest square. Its beautiful landscaping of flowers, shrubs, trees, waterfalls and ponds is a nice break to get back to nature during a day of touring historical sites. I pop on over to Grafton Street for a little shopping break before hopping back onto the bus to head over to the Guinness Storehouse.
Ireland’s number-one visitor attraction, this massive seven-story building has housed this brew since 1759 and is a former Guinness fermentation plant which has been remodeled into the shape of a giant pint of Guinness. Your tour begins in the Atrium where you’ll notice a document housed under glass in the floor. This is the 9,000 year lease on the former St. James Gate Brewery signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759. You’ll continue your self-guided tour through the various levels of the building during which you’ll learn about the ingredients, brewing process, transportation of the brew, advertising, and pouring the perfect pint. Throughout the tour, the scent of hops permeates the air. On the fourth floor, you’ll have the chance to pull your own pint. This is an art-form as one reason for the special taste of Guinness in Ireland (it really does taste different here) is due to the way it’s poured. The Guinness Ambassadors will teach you the six-steps required to “pull” the perfect Guinness in order to form their signature foamy head. Once you reach the top floor of the Guinness Storehouse, you’re rewarded, not just with a 360 degree view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar, but also with a free pint of Guinness. The Guinness Storehouse is more than a brewery, it’s part of the Irish history.
I ended the day with a wonderful dinner at Café en Seine. Located on Dawson Street, in the heart of Georgian Dublin, the French inspired restaurant and nightclub has a three-story atrium surrounded by glass-paneled ceilings, 40 foot trees, enormous art nouveau glass lanterns, and statues among its many stunning features. The menu offers a variety of moderately-priced entrées (I had the fish stew topped with a puff pastry) along with well-priced cocktails which you’ll enjoy surrounded by beautiful surroundings. You can stay and listen to music and dance the night away.
Day one of exploring Dublin helped me to really understand this city. Coming up soon, I’ll tell you how day two made me fall in love with this place.
Adult tickets for Dublin Bus Tours “Hop on Hop off Bus Tour” can be purchased for €19 and they’ll throw in a second day free. If you book it online you’ll get an extra 15% off. Website https://www.dublinsightseeing.ie/index.aspx
Dublin Writers Museum admission – €7.50 which includes an audio tour. Website http://www.writersmuseum.com/
The Book of Kells at Trinity College – admission €9. Website http://www.tcd.ie/Library/bookofkells/book-of-kells/
St. Stephen’s Green website http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/dublin/ststephensgreen/
The Guinness Storehouse Tickets – €18. 10% discount if you book online. Website http://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/Index.aspx
Café en Seine website http://www.cafeenseine.ie/index.php/about/
All prices are for adults and were valid at time of article publication September 2014.
Thanks to Visit Dublin for their assistance in helping me explore their wonderful city. http://www.visitdublin.com/