We decided to grab an economy flight into Dublin to “check it out.” I realized that I didn’t really know anything about Ireland except for St. Patrick’s Day (a celebration which I took part in regularly here at home) and Guinness. I wasn’t prepared for the four-week journey that lay ahead.
Ireland has its own sense of style. Her charm is influenced partly by her somewhat brutal history and partly by the fact that it’s a truly authentic Celtic nation.
Dublin has few glass towers, but it’s a remarkably modern forward-looking city none the less. Most of the city streets are narrow and well used. Hidden down winding corridors and alleyways are dwellings interspersed with restaurants, pubs, unique shops and unexpected historical sites.
Other streets like O’Connell, Henry and Grafton Streets are energetic pedestrian thoroughfares buzzing with buskers, flower-sellers, and performance artists looking for their lucky break. These are Dublin’s shopping hubs where you’ll find high end retailers, along-side cheesy tourist gift stores and eclectic one-off artisan boutiques.
For centuries, the River Liffey has carved its historical presence through Dublin. Pedestrian river walkways, river boat and kayak tours take you past numerous historical bridges such as the 1816 Haypenny Bridge, the 1875 Grattan Bridge and the modern 2009 Samuel Beckett Bridge toward the Grand Canal Docks. Here tenements, warehouses and back streets which rendered the harbour east of the city as unfriendly and unsafe, are being replaced with glass and steel giving way to a modern city as the revitalization of the Dublin dockyards have begun to develop.
With more than 5,000 years of Irish history behind it, Dublin and its environs have more historical sites than you can possibly visit in a lifetime of travel. However, the National Museum of Ireland (free,by the way) with its display of bog bodies, Viking relics and Irish artifacts from the medieval period to the1916 Easter Rising and beyond will help you get an over-view of the tumultuous historical events have shaped this stunning country.
Ireland in general and Dublin in particular has more pubs than you can possibly drink in and more restaurants than you can possibly eat in. When it comes to food, Dublin will surprise you! Sure you can still find traditional dishes such as Irish stew or fish and chips on any menu, but there has been a renaissance on the Irish food scene. A growing movement of artisan food producers along with a farm to fork mindset has earned many an Irish chef the coveted Michelin star.
If you fancy making the rounds of some historic pubs, there are thousands to choose from like McDaid’s for the historical literary types or The Brazen Head Pub Ireland’s oldest; dating back to 1198! And if you’re looking for new and trendy craft brew pubs, you’re never more than a few steps away… Try The Porterhouse with over 11 of their own brews or JW Sweetham offering their own line of craft beers and unique draft from their own micro-brewery.
The Café culture is alive and well in Dublin and a stop at an independently-owned Irish café is an absolute must! You’ll find numerous places to stop and simply watch the world dawdle by. Or, don’t be afraid to engage in friendly chit-chat while you’re appreciating one of Dublin’s finest teas or coffee; the Irish are a sociable lot! They seem to have an inherently cheeky sense of humour that is both sarcastic and endearing. With a twinkle in the eye and clever banter, there is definitely a willingness to discuss cultural and social Irish issues.
While wandering the Dublin streets, we noticed graffiti painted on a wall which proclaimed, “The Future is Ours”! and I’m inclined to believe it, because it’s both optimistic and profound.
NEXT STOP…. Galway’s City Centre; a maze of winding medieval streets and waterways located at the edge of the Wild Atlantic. HOME