… where the girls are so pretty…. Well by reading this article you might come up with an explanation, why the beginning of this traditional Irish song (Molly Malone) comes to me easily. So I finally had the chance to visit Dublin with knowledgeable guidance and have come to the following conclusions:
- Ireland really is the green country – rarely have I seen such wonderful nature being wild and calm at the same time.
- Dublin has much more history, than one could inhale in as little time and is a picturesque city with an atmosphere of pulsating life.
- The Irish really know how to party! Not just the pubs (and the Irish pubs I have seen across the world do not have much in common with pubs in Ireland) are fabulous places, but especially the open and hearty folks in Ireland create this very special atmosphere.
But let me go into some detail – I will try not to be too exuberant, even though I really had a most wonderful time in Dublin and will definitely be back.
Knowing me, you probably guessed that the choice of accommodation was made quite deliberately. We did stay at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin – right across from the Parliament Buildings (actually a lot was going on there. In case you are interested, you may want to catch up on the Irish Times). The Merrion is one of two fine hotels in Dublin´s city center. The second one being the Shelbourne right across from St. Stephen´s Green, but I will come to all these sites and the Shelbourne´s bar later on. Let me say that the Merrion is an exquisite place to lay one´s head. Made up of four houses on Merrion Square up Merrion Street the hotel alone holds some fine historic secrets. Besides the cultural aspects the Hotel also offers one of Dublin´s best restaurants and bars (The Cellar Restaurant and the Cellar Bar) both taking the visitor into beautifully refurbished but still antique basement levels of the old mansions. Of the two competing hotels the Merrion is certainly more low key and discrete, where the Shelbourne is the place to be seen. We were very happy to stay at the Merrion and go to the Shelbourne for the party ;-).
After this long introduction, let I will share the little sightseeing we did. St. Stephen´s Green is Dublin´s “Central Park” and the sunny (not very Irish) weather made a stroll though the Green an inviting experience. Right across from the main entrance to St. Stephen Green we entered Grafton Street. This extensive pedestrian area is home to all major consume temples but also shows off some very Irish experiences. Many street musicians (Buskers) give the street a very special flair. We did stop for some excellent blues played on an antique guitar and a string quartet playing Mozart. The latter was situated in front Dublin´s historic department store – Brown Thomas – which is still the place for in style shopping. At the end of Grafton Street we crossed over into Trinity College. This fine university loaded with history is also the keep for “The Book of Kells”. For the longest time the Roman Catholic church did not appreciate Catholics attending Tinity College. Only in 1970 did the Archbishop of Dublin lift this policy. On the way back to the hotel we did pass the Kilkenny Design Shop which is definitely the place to go shopping the Irish way without being confronted with touristic crap too much. A short trip to the other side of the river Liffey (in search of a place to eat) brought us into the Italian Quarter – definitely the smallest little Italy I had the pleasure of visiting so far. Going back over the river I simply had to stop to take in the smell of the Guinness factory (which I had no time to visit yet). Back across the river we did stroll Temple Bar and visited a famous pub, which you will read about later on.
Before I go into describing my pub and restaurant experience (I did have to lose three kilos after returning), I first want to tell you about a little trip we took outside of Dublin. We went to Skerries – a most beautiful little town on the seaside (see video). We made our way to Skerries with DART and had a great view of the subsiding city of Dublin and the beginning of a wild and wide countryside while on the train ride. Skerries has a beautiful sea front harbor with a nice row of pubs ranging from classical to stylish. From the town of Skerries we went to visit Ardgillan Castle and Estate. This wide terrain on the hillside with an amazing view of the sea holds a huge park, a domain with a wide variety of gardens and Ardgillan castle itself. Within the castle I had a chance to see an exhibition of antique photographs. This collection of pictures effectively demonstrates that catching emotion and atmosphere in a picture is not a question of photographic equipment, but the question of a good photographer. As I saw in the local schedule there are many events at Ardgillan ranging from rock concerts to art exhibitions and gardening courses. Conclusively I can say that the original planner of Ardgilla castle had the best of taste when choosing the location and the architecture.
Now the part you probably were waiting for…. Eating, drinking and all the rest. First of all let me tell you again, that Irish Pubs in Ireland and Irish Pubs in the rest of the world do not have much in common – first of all I never saw any leprechaun while I was in a pub in Ireland. And to make a point right away, the ones in Ireland are at the top of the list. I had the chance to visit Doheny and Nesbitt´s right around the corner from our hotel. This is a place where you can meet politicians just as well as real estate agents and shop clerks. The Guinness was great a little hint for those of us involved in testosterone level maximizing: it is not suitable for a MAN to order a glass of Guinness, you will have to go for a pint! Another great pub experience was The Palace on Fleet Street in Temple Bar. The Palace is a real social gathering place where you can walk in on your own and not be lonely for the rest of the evening. We were there with “the clan” and still had a good chat with everybody else. The Palace is located in the main tourist area of Dublin, yet it is about as traditional as it can get (except that they do not sell cans of sardines or the like, which is supposed to be a trait of classical Irish country pubs (either that or running an undertaker business beside the pouring of ale). The famous O’Neills on Suffolk Street certainly once was a great pub, but is a little sleazy these days. We also went out of the city center and visited Harry Byrnes which is an incredibly huge place but still has this cozy and friendly atmosphere. Besides the pubs we did a little high class mingling at the bar of the Shelbourne hotel, which is definitely the place to be seen in Dublin. Despite all news about recession the Champaign was flowing freely in this place and there were no signs of the sources running dry. A good snack can be found in Bewleys on Grafton Street – definitely worth a visit if you want to see stain glass windows without visiting a church or if you have a sweet tooth. We did have breakfast in several times at a little crepe place right across from Trinity College, which you will definitely not find in any guide to Dublin. If you are into crepes or bagels this place is worth a visit. For the fine food I can recommend a visit to the Merrion´s Cellar Restaurant or – even better – Bentleys Oyster Bar & Grill right beside the Shelbourne. This is the “home” of Richard Corrigan – a chef you will find in many recommendations for fine cuisine today. So I guess you now know how these three extra kilos came into existence…. I ran off two of them so far.
Well guys, all I can say: Dublin definitely is worth a trip (definitely better with people who know their way around) and definitely a city that will see me again.