As I traveled around Ireland, there was a constant thread of discussion from locals in whatever town we visited. That discussion was around the issue that Irish people outside of Dublin think Dublin is shite. I was told that in pubs, at food stands, by tour guides, and pretty much everyone I talked with.
As a tourist, I LOVED Dublin.
I get tourism expectation versus local reality. I live in New York City. There are places in NYC I can’t stand (Times Square) and small mom and pop restaurants and dive bars I love. However, when I travel, I’m not afraid to dip my toes in the touristy pool and enjoy whatever I’m told I’ll love.
We landed in Dublin, and I was exhausted. I didn’t sleep on our red eye flight from New York City. It didn’t matter how many sleep aids I took, I couldn’t drift off to sleep. This meant I was groggy, hungry, and cranky when I landed. Even though all I wanted was a nap, whenever I travel far away, I resist the urge to sleep and jump into their time zone. After I showered off the plane yuckiness, my feet hit the streets of Dublin.
As we walked around and got acquainted with Dublin, our first stop was to grab a bite to eat. Leo Burdock is Dublin’s oldest chipper and a Dublin staple. Leo Burdock is a fish and chip shop that’s ever a century old. Famous patrons, such as Naomi Campbell, Nicole Kidman, BB King, Ray Charles, Daniel Day-Lewis, Metallica, Snoop Dogg, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Richard Harris, Conor McGregor, and Bruce Springsteen are listed on the wall. There’s no eating inside the shop, so we walked to nearby Christ Church Cathedral and ate on a park bench on the church grounds.
The Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s top tourist destination. It is a pilgrimage all beer lovers should take. There are seven floors of Guinness’ history within the storehouse. While there, you’ll walk through a Guinness timeline and learn how the beer is made and about those who made it. The best part of the Guinness tour, though, is the Guinness. Visitors learn how to pour the perfect pint and get their face placed in the foam. The top floor provides the best view of Dublin and is a great place to enjoy a pint or two of Guinness.
It was time for another stroll around Dublin. Dublin is a great walking city. There are amazing murals to witness and bits of history written on plaques and signs. We popped into shops and pubs while maneuvering our way around the city. Two lovely art spaces we stepped into were the Icon factory and the nearby Aga Szot Art Studio. We talked to the owner and artists while there. This was my favorite aspect of being a tourist in Ireland. You’ll get great conversation everywhere you go. While in the studio, we learned about Dublin’s changing landscape, where we should eat and drink, and Sinead Connor’s legacy.
After a brief nap in the hotel, I was back on Dublin’s streets. We visited more pubs as we walked around and looked at buildings, statues, and murals. As the evening set in, our stomachs told us it was time for an Irish meal. We sauntered up to the bar inside The Harry Lemon and I ate a delicious Irish stew. Irish stew would be my go-to meal in many Irish pubs. As traditional Irish music played, I enjoyed my meal and a Guinness. Like every pub we visited, chatting with locals, travelers, and staff was enjoyed.
Day one finished, and my body and mind were drained. The night ended early, and I slept off all I needed to before day two arrived.
After an Irish Breakfast, I was back walking the streets of Dublin.
When piecing together the trip to Ireland, I was especially excited about visiting the Book of Kells in the Long Room library at Trinity College. I am a library lover. I am especially a lover of old libraries. If there was a candle that smelled like musty old books, I would have a plethora of them.
Unfortunately for me, the Long Room was amid a book cleaning and most of the shelves were empty. I got to see the Book of Kells, which was a moment. The Book of Kells is a Celtic manuscript of the Four Gospels. It is believed to have been created around 800 AD. Each page includes beautiful artwork and the finest handwriting I’ve ever seen. There are 680 pages in the book. Before we entered the Long Room, we walked through a small museum that chronicled the history and making of the Book of Kells.
Once again, we found ourselves inside a pub. I enjoyed chatting with an elderly gentleman next to me at the bar. Our conversation covered every topic under the sun. Once his pint was drained, he stood up and said in a thick Irish accent, “I’m off on mi journey.” He turned and exited the pub. Once my pint was emptied, I too was off on my journey, which took me to the Black Hat Tattoo Shop.
I’ve long wanted to add a quill to my arm, and since we had recently visited the Book of Kells, it seemed like an appropriate tattoo. As the tattoo artist worked on my arm, I asked if he could have the quill write, “mi journey.” The old man’s words will literally stay with me always.
The next journey in Dublin took us to the Jameson Distillery
Founded in 1780, The Jameson Distillery has seen a lot of Irish history. Our tour guide showcased Irish humor perfectly as he walked us through Jameson’s past, present, and future. At the end of our tour, we took part in a tasting. I purchased my first souvenir at the Jameson Distillery. A nice bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey sits proudly on my shelf.
With Irish whiskey in our bellies, we decided it was time to visit St. Catherine’s Church of Ireland. The church was built in 1185. They rebuilt it in 1760. For anyone that loves church architecture, it’s a lovely place to observe beauty and reflect.
Staying on a religious tour, we walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Founded in 1191, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. For Church History buffs, St. Patrick’s is a great place to learn and witness architectural beauty. Visitors can pay homage to Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and former preacher at the Cathedral. His grave lies within the church. He is buried with Esther Johnson. Swift was Johnson’s mentor and tutor, but their relationship was never defined. Scandalous, if you ask me.
Within St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the Door of Reconciliation. I found the story of two warring families fascinating. One family, fearing defeat sought refuge in the church. With one family ready outside the church, a truce was sought. A hole was cut in the door for the two heads of family to shake hands. Once they did, peace was made.
Can you guess what I did next? If your answer was visit a pub, you are correct.
My favorite Irish moment came while inside O’Neill’s Pub and Kitchen. After our meal, we were getting ready to leave. The music was too good for us to walk out of the pub, so we walked upstairs to see the musician. We had another pint and listened to the artist sing and play. Throughout the night, he asked for requests. At one point, a man walked up to the front and said something to the musician. The guy was drunk, and I had noticed him several times swaying and singing. At one point, I thought he was going to pass out. After the man sat down, the musician said, “I’ve been asked to sing an Irish song.” The man who requested took a seat below the musician, and then the musician began. To my shock, the man sang along with the musician and it turned into an emotion rendition of Ordinary Man. This was the defining moment of my entire Irish journey. After the man sang, I stood up to thank him for the performance. He gave me a tight hug in return.
For those visiting Ireland, don’t knock Dublin. Dublin is full of history, great places to eat and drink, and enjoy architecture. But the best parts of Dublin are the people. When I return to Ireland, and I will, I will spend over two days.
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