Just a short 5 hours and some change – that’s all it took for us to arrive to the Emerald Isle from Boston. We flew in over a thick cloud cover, but once we landed it was bright and sunny. We deplaned and made ourselves comfortable in the Customs line, which took about 45 minutes. I’ve stood in line longer – ahem, Bangkok – but I was less disciplined with the weight in my bag this trip, so my shoulders began to feel the repercussions. In my defense, I packed for colder weather, which tends to be a little heavier than the tanks and leggings with which I prefer to travel! Once through customs we exited the airport. The bright sun and a sudden brisk breeze of cold air briefly startled me out of my jet lag. The sunglasses I’d put away with little expectation of having to retrieve them from the depths of my purse quickly made their way back to my face.
We hopped an Airlink Express bus, and to my delight I had immediate access to quality wi-fi. Into the city center – er, should I say “centre” – we went, and soon we were dropped off a few blocks from our hotel. We walked along the River Liffey until we turned into the Temple Bar neighborhood, quickly finding The Parliament Hotel. Justin and I were not a far cry from zombies at this point. The great thing about a 5 hr, 13 min flight is that it’s not a long flight. The bad thing, is there is little time for sleeping. We left Boston at 9:30pm and I only got about 2-3 hours of sleep before it was time to start our day over. Upon checking in to the hotel, we were informed it would be another hour before our room would be ready. We reluctantly dropped our bags off and strolled down the sidewalk in search of a bite to eat. Cranky and tired, I was an easy sell when I saw an American Diner with a pancake on the menu. We walked in and took our seats in a big red booth and proceeded to eat a minimally desirable breakfast as 50’s rock and roll blared from the speakers.
Nearly 45 minutes later, we took a chance and returned to the hotel. We were happy to find the room was ready. It was only a matter of moments between unlocking the door and passing out on the bed before us…
Two (maybe three?) hours later we awoke mostly refreshed and ready to take on what little day lay before us. After surveying the time and our interests, we opted for the nearby Guinness Brewery. We mapped the brewery on our phones and then set out into the city to find it.
Purchasing our tickets online last minute, we strolled right into the brewery and were able to start a little early. Having never been on a brewery tour, I didn’t know what to expect, but Justin exclaimed: “This display puts all other distillery/brewery/winery tours to shame.” I had to assume he was right. The brewery was well designed with 7 floors, in the shape of a pint of Guinness. As we climbed closer to the top, we learned about Guinness history, the brewing process, and advertising concepts over the years. We then reached the Gravity Bar at the very top where we were provided a free pint of Guinness and panoramic views of Dublin. Just below us was the actual brewery with Phoenix Park in the background.
I’ve always declared myself not a beer drinker. However, I’d heard the Guinness in Ireland is much more fresh, and therefore tastes much better than that which you can consume in the US. Having never had a Guinness at home, I can’t confirm or deny the truth to that rumor. However, I can tell you that it was really good! Perhaps it was the circumstance, sitting atop Dublin peering out into the Wicklow Mountains from where the water used for brewing flows. Perhaps I was just really parched for an ice cold beverage. Either way, it was an enjoyable experience. As we walked down the stairs to the gift shop, I remembered my conversation with the husband of a very sick patient five days ago while I was at work. He told me of his Irish roots, the Gaelic phrase he popped off to a bus driver when he was last there, thus receiving a scolding from his wife. I’d only known her to be sweet as pie with a smile that would light up the room, but it sounds like she was a bit sassy at times. As we parted that day, tears in our eyes, he said, “Have a Guinness for me.” I replied, “I’ll have two.”
The Dublin afternoon had grown cooler as we imbibed, and I put my jacket on for our walk back. Just a block from our hotel we stumbled upon a little pub, Darkey Kelly’s. They had a “Whiskey of the Day” advertised out front, which easily persuaded Justin to grab a seat. We walked through the bar as live music played. Every seat was occupied, but as we neared the back of the room, we found there was another room behind it. Soon we found ourselves in the very back on an outdoor patio. A couple was just finishing up and offered their table to us. We sat down and proceeded to have a delicious meal – me with my first fish & chips of the trip, and Justin with a pot roast. The Whiskey of the Day did not disappoint, but quite unfortunately neither of us can remember the name of it!
We retired to the hotel room and easily resumed our nap from earlier. At midnight I awoke to a very active Dublin. The room did not have air conditioning, so we slept with the windows open. As I gradually awoke, I heard Whitney Houston wanting to dance with somebody. Then Madonna was being a Material Girl. Soon after, Karma Chameleon. Fortunately, I was able to drift back to sleep… 80’s lullabies.
We awoke the next morning, but still feeling jet lagged and dehydrated, we were in no hurry to get out of bed. Our only motivation: breakfast was almost over. We made ourselves presentable and trudged downstairs to the adjoining pub where we enjoyed a full Irish breakfast. The plate was piled full of sausage, ham, hash browns, mystery patties (which I later learned to be white pudding and black pudding), fried tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and baked beans. AND COFFEE!
Fed and caffeinated, we bought our Hop On Hop Off tickets online. We determined this would be the best way to get around the city and see the major sights, since we were limited on time. I purchased the tickets, only to receive an email notifying us we had to print off the reservation confirmation and go to “one of the following offices” to pick up our tickets. Below: no offices listed. I pulled up their website on my phone and ran back up to the room to call them… only to find the phone wasn’t functional. I ran back downstairs and asked to use the phone behind the desk. The woman behind the counter graciously obliged and dialed the number for me. I spoke to the representative on the phone who advised me there is one office, and we had to come to it. I got off the phone and asked the receptionist if she could print off our reservation confirmation. Again, she was very helpful and printed it off. She then asked if they were requiring us to go to the office and I confirmed it. She then informed us we could’ve just bought a ticket from the driver… at the bus stop immediately outside the hotel doors. My expression produced an empathetic, yet mostly amused smirk on her face. As we set out for our 15 min walk, I acknowledged a theme…
Before long we approached the DoDublin main office and expediently received our bright green Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) cards. Just outside the office was a bright green double decker tour bus. We “hopped on” and found our place in the last remaining seats up top. We rode around Dublin learning little tidbits about the city and seeing several historical and cultural sights. The website boasts “entertaining drivers,” however, ours was not. He mostly played a recording and every now and then chimed in to reprimand people for being too loud. It was two buses later when I realized how entertaining the driver could be. The driver of our last bus was inappropriate and crude, but absolutely hysterical, and if we’d had more time I’d have insisted we spend the day riding with him, solely for entertainment value!
Our first “hop off” was at Trinity College – my number one for the day. As we stepped off the bus, we were informed this was the side entrance. We began walking only to find no entrances at all. I pulled out one of many maps I’d collected in our brief time in Dublin and learned the entrance was immediately behind us. At this point we’d already walked halfway around the campus, so we chalked it up to adventure and kept walking toward a different entrance. Finally entering the campus, we walked through the campus admiring its history and beauty.
We reached our ultimate destination, the Trinity College Library, which houses the Book Of Kells. This is the Latin manuscript containing the four Gospels of the New Testament and was written by monks in the ninth century. It is an Irish National Treasure, and well known for the meticulous calligraphy and pigmentation used. It is so elaborate, it is believed to have been more for a display rather than a book for reading.
After learning about and viewing the Book of Kells, as well as other important historical books of the time, we entered the famous Long Room of the Trinity College Library.
Exiting Trinity College was much easier than entering, and we found our way to the closest DoDublin stop, just across the street. Our next stop was Dublin Castle. We opted for the quicker, cheaper self-guided tour, which included the castle grounds and state rooms. The information was interesting. I particularly enjoyed the displays related to fashion, hair and makeup of the time. It was common for individuals to bathe one time every few months! Bathing more frequently was discouraged! Lice were rampant, and makeup contained alarming amounts of lead… which led to some untimely deaths. Syphilis was also a contributor. When teeth rotted, dentists would just grab teeth from recently deceased prisoners and screw them into the vacant spot. It was preferable, however, to receive teeth from more accomplished individuals who’d passed, if able.
We exited the castle grounds to find… our hotel. Yes, that’s right! The Dublin Castle was a stone’s throw from our hotel steps. Imagine, I’m sitting on the hotel steps, I pick up a stone and throw it, and it lands at the castle. Seriously… I’ve got to step up my travel game.
We walked back over to the bus stop (reminder: immediately outside our hotel) and hopped the next bus to Teeling Distillery. This was the bus with the entertaining driver and we laughed all the way to the distillery. No recordings here – the driver was a one man comedy show, and had everyone’s attention. He dropped us off, reminding us it was only a tasting and not to drink “the entire bottle of whiskey, ye alcoholics.”
In contrast to the Guinness tour, the Teelings tour was guided. Admittedly, I enjoyed listening to the Irish accent for the hour, and found it to be a great learning experience – much of the tour compounding what I’d learned at Guinness the day before. We learned about the history of Irish whiskey – a one time thriving business was completely eliminated due to civil war, politics and United States prohibition. In the 20th century, a resurgence occurred and now is a thriving business once more. Previously a gentleman’s beverage, statistics show female and male imbibers are about 50/50 now. This is believed to be one of the factors helping the whiskey industry thrive again. Teelings is new in the business, but they’re off to a good start. The tour and subsequent whiskey tasting was a blast, and a great way to end our day of activities in Dublin.
On our walk back to Temple Bar for dinner, we stopped at Christchurch, believed to have been erected in 1030. We took a peek inside and walked the perimeter to admire the various styles of architecture, combined due to centuries of repeated restorations.
All toured out for the day, we walked deep into the Temple Bar neighborhood to see none other than The Temple Bar. Though it would’ve been nice to grab a drink or bite to eat, everyone else had the same idea. The iconic red facade was strangely complimented by the pastel flowers surrounding it. I took a brief walk inside to find an unusual collection of small rooms, each filled to the brim with happy patrons singing and dancing and laughing with one another. What else would I have found?
We walked back to the Storehouse Pub, which we’d previously passed. It grabbed my attention at the time with traditional Irish music flowing from the entrance. Up the steps, into the bar, we were immediately shown to a small table on the second floor, which was perfect for our weary bodies. Seated away from the congested bar, music easily heard but not too loud to enjoy, we placed our orders and enjoyed our last night in Dublin.