We made it to Dublin but it was a little later than planned. Here’s what was on our initial itinerary for our two days in Dublin:
The Book of Kells and the Old Library
Pat Liddy’s walking tour
The HOHO (hop on, hop off) Bus
Christ Church or St Patrick’s Cathedral
The Guinness Storehouse
A ghost walk
What actually happened was a little different and reminded me how important it is to be flexible when you travel. Thanks to a malfunctioning cargo door, we landed back in New York 45 minutes after we took off. A couple of hours later, we had a new plane and were finally on our way. Instead of landing around 7 am, we landed around 10. The other wrench in our plan was that there was a protest march against a new tax on water that basically shut down all of the transportation options in the city center. Because of our delayed arrival, I knew we would have to make some changes. What follows is what we actually did while in Dublin.
We breezed through customs in about 15 minutes, stopped at an ATM to get some Euros and followed the signs for the Aircoach. We decided to take this bus into the city since it had a stop a block from our hotel, only took about 10 minutes longer than a taxi and was less expensive. It had big, comfy seats and wifi so we could send emails back home letting family know that we had landed safely. It was an easy ride into the city and we made the quick walk to our hotel.
What it is: A Dublin landmark hotel established in 1824, across from St Stephen's Green
Because I travel for work and typically stay at Marriott hotels, I had enough reward points banked to stay at The Shelbourne. This is one of the nicest hotels that I have been to; not only is it luxurious but the "old-world" touches put it into a league of its own. Like the uniformed doormen with top hats, the beautiful chandeliers and the intricate ceilings. Every employee that we came across was very gracious and made us feel at home. For example, we spent our first and last nights here and the uniformed doormen remembered us when we came back a week later. The food and coffee at breakfast was delicious and plentiful. If I had known that it was the last good coffee I would have while in Ireland, I would have enjoyed it more. We had an amazing room that overlooked St Stephen's Green, was nicely decorated, and most importantly, had really comfortable beds! I was sorry to leave and hope that I have the chance to come back one day.
Although our room wasn't ready when we arrived, they were glad to take our luggage and offered us a place to freshen up. At this point, we were hungry so we headed out to find some lunch and revise our schedule.
A restaurant on my go-to list happened to be about a block from our hotel, so we headed there for lunch. Hatch & Sons is a cozy little place that serves local food beyond Guinness Stew. Sabrina and I both had a Blaas, which is soft roll. Mine was with roast ham, cheddar cheese, relish, tomato and rapeseed mayo and hers was with beef, coolea (a cheese similar to Gouda), onion relish and rapeseed mayo. They were both very good sandwiches and were exactly what we needed.
While we ate, we talked about our itinerary. We had lost 3-4 hours because of our flight delay. We had missed the time for the walk that we wanted to do so that was obviously out. We also decided not to go to Newgrange and instead spend the rest of the time we had in Dublin. I'm sorry that I didn't get to see Newgrange because it is such a unique, historic place, but we made the right choice for us at the time. The revised plan was to head to the Book of Kells, do the HOHO bus, visit Christ Cathedral and get a sim card for my phone before heading to dinner. Little did we know that we would end up needing a revised, revised plan!
What it is: An ancient book of gospels, written around 800 A.D. on calfskin
We left Hatch & Sons and walked the few blocks to the Trinity College campus, where the Book of Kells is housed. This exhibit was interesting and it's incredible that they have these books intact. And really, to call them books doesn't do them justice because really, they are works of art. However, for some reason Sabrina and I were both really underwhelmed. As much as I could appreciate what I was seeing, I felt like I was ticking a box – been there, done that. However, as soon as we left that display room and walked into the Long Room where the Old Library is, I was gobsmacked! I personally love books and old libraries and this is one of the most amazing rooms that I have ever seen. The only negative was that the books were roped off - I was dying to get my hands on them! The pictures do not do this justice – it was simply stunning.
There was a HOHO bus stop right outside the college, and that's where we headed. First, there was a Tesco across the street and I wanted to stop and get a sim card for my iPhone. Tesco's are all over Ireland - they are mini grocery stores that also have their own mobile service. Their plan worked the best for me with data, texts and phone calls and it was much less than adding an International plan to my US service would have been.
This was a necessary housekeeping stop, but the time that it took to get this done was just enough for the big water protest march to come into the city. There were thousands of people marching though the streets and causing enough of a disruption that it literally shut down all transportation in the city center, including the HOHO bus, for hours. Time to revise our revised plan. We decided to go to the Guinness Storehouse instead and started walking in that direction, hoping to catch a cab. Unfortunately, we didn't come across an empty one and ended up walking the mile and a half.
The Guinness Storehouse
What it is: A self-guided tour of the old brewery. It’s on the same site as the new brewery but no production happens here any longer.
The highlights of this tour for me were getting a picture of the Guinness gate, the view from the Gravity Bar and learning how to correctly taste a Guinness. However, at over €16 for the discounted online ticket, I felt it was overpriced, even if that does include a pint. Because it’s self-guided, you read the information about the brewing process, which can get boring. I also didn’t think the displays were great. And while the Gravity Bar did have a great view, it was super crowded. If I had to do it again, I’d skip this and spend the money on a few pints in a real pub.
During this trip, we ended up running into a lot of the same people. This was the first instance - while we were waiting in line for the tasting, one of the flight attendants and the pilots from our flight were in the line next to us!
At this point, it was about 5:30 and we were hungry and getting tired. We decided to head to dinner and luckily, since it was early, we were able to get in to the place that I wanted.
The Singing Taxi
What it is: See the video below
So this is not really a sight but it's definitely worth a mention. We took our first taxi leaving the Guinness Storehouse and ended up in Colm Skelly's taxi. I hope he doesn't mind the mention here but not only was he very nice and chatty (something most Dublin drivers have in common), he was a singer on top of it. We loved every second of this trip. If you happen to see his taxi while in Dublin, catch it. You won't be disappointed!
The Sussex is a great little bistro above a neighborhood pub. When we got in around 6:30, it was pretty quiet but by the time we left at 8, there wasn't an empty table. This is a very nicely decorated restaurant with dark wood floors and comfortable seating. The service was excellent - I think because the waiter noticed that we were jetlagged, he was especially kind to us. However, the most important thing about a restaurant is its food and the food here was locally sourced and very good. I started with a polenta dish with roasted tomato, goat cheese and greens while Sabrina had the roasted vegetable soup. For dinner, I had the fish of the day, which was a perfectly cooked sea bream served with lentil ragout and Sabrina went with the sirloin steak with fries. The Sussex, like most restaurants in Ireland, serve brown bread with the meal. This was the first place that I had it and the best tasting brown bread that I have had. It is also where my obsession with brown bread started!
After dinner, we walked back to our hotel and were in bed, passed out by 9 pm. Things didn't go as we had planned this day, but despite that, it ended up being a great start to our trip. Next week, I'll finish how we spent our time in Dublin.