I recently visited Dublin, and did not have many preconceived ideas about the city before visiting. When I pictured Ireland, I imagined a lot of green grass and pubs. As an English teacher, I was aware of the rich literary history of the country, but I admit that I was pretty ignorant about what modern Ireland was like. So, when the opportunity came to visit the Emerald Isle, I flew into the country metaphorically blind. I can tell you that when I first spotted the countryside out of my airplane window, truly I have never seen so many different shades of green.
Cool things about Ireland that I did not expect:
1. They have the best cab drivers in the world. period. They will tell you tales, talk about anything and are great for a laugh.
2.The bus drivers, however, are vicious.
3. Of all the countries I have visited before, Ireland, hands down, is the friendliest and most helpful – even in Dublin.
4. The food was much better than I expected. Lots of fresh seafood and delicious stews.
5. I can listen to anything being said in an Irish accent. Never stopped being charming.
6. At least in Dublin, there were a lot of Italians, and naturally, Italian pastry shops. YES!
7. If you get your coffee at Baker’s, you get a free gourmet chocolate with your purchase. Granted, you just paid the equivalent of $6 for your coffee, but I fell for it every time with delight.
8. I cannot understand a word that anybody from Cork says. When I first heard people from Cork speaking, I thought they were speaking Gaelic.
9. Oliver St. John Grogarty is my new hero. You need to look up this man – he led an epic life we could only dream of.
10. The signs around town are hysterical. Exhibit #1:
Trinity College and the Book of Kells
This was well worth the price of admission. Tour guides were full of knowledge and friendly. We just showed up (no need to book in advance) and tours ran every twenty minutes for 12 euros. You get to walk the cobbled streets where great minds like Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, William Butler Yeats and Samuel Beckett learned their craft. Did you know that Oscar Wilde had a girlfriend?(I thought he was strictly homosexual) He did, but Bram Stoker stole her away and married her.
I asked the tour guide where Oscar Wilde stayed and he told me. Naturally, I tried to break in without much success.
The library, for me, was the most exceptional part of the tour. Unfortunately, my camera’s flash would not cooperate so I could not capture the picture that I felt summed up the feeling of the grand room.
Within the library is the Book of Kells. This is an illuminated book of the four gospels from around 800 AD. It was a treasure and worth the price of admission. Within the collection were other antique manuscripts, as well. It was a fascinating way to spend an afternoon.
Dublin’s Literary Pub Crawl
Guess what? I discovered that Ireland has great cider, as well.
Dublin’s Literary Pub Crawl rotates between several historical pubs noted for famous political and literary patrons, and you will be enlightened, entertained and yes, drunk by the end of it. Two tour guides entertain you with history, song and reenactments from famous plays. We began with an Irish drinking song and had to join in the chorus. An unforgettable way to start a very unique pub crawl.
We began at The Duke, after singing our song and watching a scene from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
over a pint.
Next stop was O’Neills. I fell in love with the interior of this pub and its amazing menu – they have their own charcuterie section. I ended up returning here to eat a few days later.
I do recall having difficulty with the old fashioned toilet at O’Neill’s. I suppose that is why I took a photo of it (or maybe it was the pints talking)
O’Neill’s also had great vintage Guinness signs on display:
We made a pit stop at the famous statue of Molly Malone. I found her dress (or lack of it) rather impressive 🙂
Next stop was The Old Stand – significant for its connection to Michael Collins. Turns out he had offices in the rooms above the bar with plans to escape over the rooftops when the pub patrons gave the word.
Finally, we wrapped up at Davy Byrne’s, a favorite of James Joyce and featured in his novels. The pub has a different vibe – the decor is art deco and priceless Impressionism paintings adorn the walls. It was a truly beautiful atmosphere and a perfect setting for a New Year’s eve party. I would love to return to this pub again someday.
I found a stock photo of the interior to give you an idea of the feel inside.
Dublin Writer’s Museum
Finally, I would recommend the Dublin Writer’s Museum.
It was a very cheap tour, but contained great first editions, personal notes and artifacts from Dublin’s amazing literary history: Samuel Beckett, Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Elizabeth Bowen and many others. The building was gorgeous and a quiet reprieve from the bustle of the city. They had an excellent gift shop, as well.
More to follow, soon.