Category Archives: Dublin

Dublin: Day 2

We woke up early the next morning because check-out was at 10:30. I quickly braved the hostel shower, which turned out to be a power shower (love!). We checked out and hopped onto on of those open topped double decker tour busses that take you around the city. Fortunately for us, February isn’t prime tourist season so we got to sit on top for the whole thing. The first stop: Guinness brewery. Because who doesn’t love a pint of Guinness at half ten in the morning?

The history of the Guinness Storehouse was interesting but I won’t bore you with the details. Essentially, if you’ve been to one brewery than you’ve been to them all. I think I’ve only been to one brewery before and it was with my grandparent’s of all people. At least they bought me chocolate because I didn’t/don’t like beer. What was cool was the view of Dublin from the top.

After Guinness we hopped back on the bus, with an alarming number of Americans (insert Ryan rolling his eyes), and headed over to Christchurch Cathedral. I won’t bore you with the history of this either, mainly because I don’t know it. Neither Ryan nor myself were keen on paying 9 euro to get in, so we didn’t. There were some neat Celtic crosses in the barred off grounds and after a quick peek around and some talk of scaling the fence to get into the grave yard we hopped back on the bus to take us to Príosún Chill Mhaighneann, or, for those of you who aren’t up on your Irish, Kilmainham Goal, although that’s not much easier to say, is it? Basically it’s the Dublin county jail which was home to just about every important person in Irish history, to the glee of the British and much to the chagrin of the IRA.

This was by far my favourite place we saw and we had an awesome tour guide. The jail itself has been featured in a lot of films because it can be used to represent any jail from the time period. To name a few: The Italian Job and In the Name of the Father, neither of which I’ve seen. Apparently it’s great for acoustics as well; U2 have recorded in the East Wing (pictured below).

We made our last stop at Phoenix Park which is home to the Dublin Zoo, a whole bunch of reindeer, and a monument to the Duke of Wellington (because the world really needs an infinite amount of phallic symbols as monuments apparently). It was a bit scary climbing to the top of the steps on the monument because they are really slanted on purpose for some annoying reason.

Before we caught the coach to the airport we had “Dublin’s Best Burger” and oooh was it good. Should have took a picture of that as well but I had gotten in to my “crazy need food mood” (Ryan’s words). And the sweet potato fries were to die for.

I was surprised with our little impromptu visit to Dublin. It was relaxed, friendly, and leisurely, all the things that London is admittedly not. The bus drivers, hostel staff, were all amazingly friendly and my only regret is that we did not plan the trip for an extra day so that we could have gone out into another part of the country like Cork or Galway. Dublin was teeming with Americans most studying at Trinity or there on holiday and the Irish were so welcoming to them/us like the British have never been towards “those damn yanks.”

I didn’t return to London with any shamrock paraphernalia but I did return with a fondness for Ireland that so many other Americans inherently have, and a postcard of the busty Miss Molly Malone. All in all, Ireland has been swiftly moved over to my “Places I need to visit again” list and I cannot wait.

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Dublin: Day 1

I’d be lying if I said that Ireland was one of those places I absolutely needed to see before I die, and lying is not a good way to start of anything. Growing up, the local Catholic Church hosted an “Irish Fest” once a year, which I never quite understood to be honest, being that the Church itself was named after St. Catherine of Siena.  Siena as in Italy, according to the Village Pizza box anyway.

I hated going for numerous reasons: I didn’t want my name put in glitter onto a felt shamrock, I couldn’t drink beer which was the main reason the grown-ups went, I wasn’t to keen on Irish dancing, and man oh man if I had to sit through listening to Brigid’s Cross play for one more year in a row at my Mom’s insistence… You get the point (sorry Mom). American culture has an undeniable fondness for the Irish, which I didn’t grasp at a young age. In fact, the yearly assault of shamrocks, leprechauns, and Brigid’s Cross were almost enough to move Ireland into my “Yeah right, how cliché” travel list along with St. Patrick’s Day and the Chicago River being dyed green. Thankfully I got to experience the real Ireland which I’m pleased to say did not have any leprechauns and a surprising shortage of shamrocks.

We arrived in Dublin after an early flight from London’s Stansted. Call me blessed but I did not fly on the lovely Ryan Air, or any budget airline for that matter, until this trip and I quickly vowed never to do it again. Honestly, what are you paying for if you don’t get a complimentary drink, bag of pretzels, and at the very least a seat assignment? I love the British but have never been able to understand their fondness for queuing: over an hour ahead of time, for a flight that lasts approximately 55 minutes. See here where simple seat assignments would come in handy? Revolutionary, I’m telling you.

After landing were quickly and easily whisked off into the centre of the city. Dublin is not much as far as aesthetics go. After living in London for two years Dublin at first glance left a lot to be desired. It is however much more amenable than London. While we were waiting for our 2:00 check in at the hostel we had a walk around. Unbeknownst to us we walked almost the whole of Dublin in around 3 hours. It’s so small that you can walk across it in about 30 minutes flat if you wanted.

Walking along the River Liffey we came upon the Famine Memorial. This was the first sight of public art that gave me a shiver up my spine. The figures of slender, starving people and a dog stand taller than the people walking by next to them and the expressions on their faces are enough to make you feel sick to your stomach. This memorial however only commemorates 600 out of more than a million that died during An Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger.

As the history goes, the memorial commemorates the 1849 Doolaugh Walk in which 600 people from the town of Louisburgh walked 15 miles one way in hopes of food that was rumored to be given out by the landlord. They walked through the night to Delphi and when they got there had to wait until mid-day to see the landlord. He offered them no food and they embarked on the 15 mile journey back to Louisburgh, most collapsing and dying on the side of the road on the way back.  Another landlord during the Great Hunger Denis Mahon, realized that the peasants working his land did not grow even one third of the food needed to sustain themselves so he spent the four thousand pounds to send them to Canada.  Walking through Dublin I could see the history of Ireland alive and thoroughly remembered.

We made our way to O’Connell Street, which is one of the main shopping areas and home to “the Spire.”  “What is the spire?” You may ask. Well, the Spire is the most remarkably insignificant thing your guidebook will ever tell you to search out. The historical statues leading up to it on either side are fair enough but why the Spire? It is, at its most complex, a pole sticking up into the sky. At night the top of it lights up which is the really only neat thing about it, but even that is done only so planes don’t run into it.  I could see how it could prove useful for both Dubliners and tourists alike stumbling home or back to the hostel after a night at the pub, but other than that, I don’t get it. Apparently there was something nicer there until the IRA blew it up in 1966. So now we can thank them for “the Spire” and also the fact that there are no public garbage cans to be found anywhere in central London.

By now we were exhausted so we headed back towards Trinity College Dublin where our hostel was, checked in, had a bit of a lie down, and went off in search of food. The British and the Irish alike are not acclaimed for their food by most. I, however, love it. Meat and mashed potatoes? Everything covered in gravy? How can you go wrong? I settled into Irish beef with Guinness stew and some creamy mashed potatoes and hot squishy carrots. I really should have documented this meal with a photo, but certain someones (Ryan) think it’s weird when people take pictures of their food.

We made it back to the hostel and fell asleep watching, quite honestly, the most annoying show ever created, The Weakest Link. British style.  Goodbye.