After swinging past Scotland in our last post, for the next stop in the TwoMenAboutTown EU tour Mrs P and I roared into Dublin for the weekend and although it wasn’t as long as we had originally planned for, we still managed a good 36 hours in the beating heart of Irish city culture. Just because there was so much that we didn’t manage to get to in Ireland, once the credit card has recovered from the beating that is currently underway, Mrs P and I both agree that our collective sights are now set on returning and seeing the rest of the country at a more leisurely pace.
There are a few different versions of the “24/48 hours in Dublin” travel guides out there on the interwebs and I would suggest that you check them out. The two I found most interesting were Nomadic Matt and Earth Trekkers who gave me a few great pointers of what to concentrate on. Generally, I would never normally advocate spending such a limited amount of time in a city – it just doesn’t give you the time to get to experience the unique nature of a place however, with so many trips over the next two years we had to roll with a jam packed weekend’s worth of exploration. Lucky for us, it became quickly apparent that Dublin as a city, while containing several tourist attractions such as the Book of Kells and Kilmainham Gaol (both excellent destinations in their own right), is perhaps one of the better suited city destinations to visit when time is tight. For a capital city its size is not overwhelming for a short stay tourist and it isn’t precisely overrun with must see tourist destinations. Better yet the beating heart of this beautiful city is most strongly felt in the warmth of the welcome from locals in any one of the numerous backstreet boozers or simply by spending time meandering around the streets soaking in the architecture and vibe.
A quick flight in, courtesy of the sardine-packed-but-cheap-as-chips Ryan Air and we were catching the tram in no time. The tram in Dublin is without doubt an amazingly useful transport system – on time, clean, not too busy (so long as you avoid peak times) and reasonably affordable to boot. Given that Dublin isn’t a huge city the two tram lines that run North and South of the river serve it’s residents well. Work has already started to join the two lines together which, when completed will be a fantastic and appreciated addition benefitting residents, students and drunken Westlife lovers alike.
To truly make the best of our day, we planned out our list of must sees and started off with purpose toward the City Hall. Once there we saw a gathering of people which, upon investigation, turned out to be the start of a walking tour. Now, walking tours have long been a favourite of my man SuburbanGent (due to the fact that they give a better opportunity to see a city in more depth than sitting on the top of a bus watching everything go past at thirty miles an hour. Plus they don’t cost as much as the national debt of a small South American Dictatorship, unlike most bus tours I’ve suffered through in my time), but having endured previous tours from ageing guides who were more likely to share their lengthy personal medical history than anything else, I have tended to steer clear in recent years. But this fella looked different. He had a leather jacket and – gasp – a pony tail. I decided that I liked the cut of his jib and so with a flash of inspiration I corralled the Family P and joined the back of the group with the blind confidence of a man who has no idea if the steaming jiffy bag he was just delivered contains a red hot ticket to a weekend of happiness or a fresh dog poo.
I needn’t have worried, Patrick skipped from location to location across the city like a considerably poorer but no less talented, Michael Flatley. He skilfully kept The Child interested and entertained throughout as he quite literally walked us through a potted history of Dublin; from the inhabitation of Ireland by the Vikings, the many and varied disastrous Irish rebellions against the English, the building of Dublin Castle, the deep seated Catholic commitment in the country and the many different uses the residents of Dublin have found for Christ Church Cathedral over the years. Then on to the establishment of Trinity College, founded in 1592 via, of course, one of the most infamous drinking square miles in the world – Temple Bar. Dublin is home to some modern marvels as well. Patrick introduced us to the ‘Spire’, situated next to the river Liffey and at the crossroads of the centre of the city. The Spire is also apparently colloquially known as the Erection at the Intersection, or my particular favourite: The Stiffy at the Liffey! …the things you learn from a local! Now for my top tip – should you ever find yourself in Dublin with a couple of hours to spare, get yourself on one of these tours (they leave 3 times daily from the City Hall). It’s a must. Oh, and did we mention they are FREE? Amazing! And because every single tourist always asks him about bars and restaurants rather than anything else, he’s even created a Google map with a few further recommendations, what more could you ask for?!
But that’s not all. As well as Patrick’s funny, poignant and informative commentary as we moved across Dublin, the Family P. loved his personal touches and Mrs P in particular loved his leather jacket (FYI she wasn’t a huge fan of the pony tail but decided to let it pass). This was clearly our man to talk Brexit.
I cornered him during a break in proceedings to explain what we’re doing and why I was loitering around like a crazy tour guide groupie. It turns out that Patrick wasn’t hugely bothered about Brexit, preferring instead to concentrate on talk of more exciting things such as his travels through Estonia and Eastern Europe. I’ll be sure to get his recommendations for our journey across the Eastern Block next year. Whatever happens back across the Irish sea, Patrick seemed pretty sure that the English will continue to come over to Ireland and the Irish will keep crossing over to England. In other words, life will probably carry on. That sounded like a pretty sensible outlook to me so we left politics and got on with the important business of finding out which is best between the Guinness Store house or the Irish National Whiskey museum (FYI, the answer was the whiskey because it was, from general consensus, more interesting, tasted better and they don’t charge you 20 euro for the privilege of pulling your own pint).
In the evening, the Family P pulled into the F. X. Buckley steakhouse to enjoy some proper Irish hospitality. Mark, the manager did us proud by covering every difficult question thrown at him with sharp wit and a warm demeanour. It wasn’t our first choice if I’m honest but because we didn’t have our usual opportunity to prepare our dinner plans in advance Mark did us proud with off menu surprise requests and some world class banter. F. X. Buckley seems to be a bit of a Dublin institution with the Buckley family owning their own butcher and abattoir which then serve the 5 restaurants and 2 bars that are dotted around the city with some serious quality meat. You can find Mark in the Parkgate Street establishment and while its steak heavy menu is perhaps more US in style than Irish, after a long day tromping around the streets of Dublin there isn’t much more I would rather tuck in to.
After eating, we moved next door to continue the evening late into the night because to come to Dublin without getting into a pub and hearing some proper Irish folk music would be a life chance missed.
You can get to Dublin for next to nothing and when you get there don’t forget to say hello to Patrick and Mark if you can track them down. I assure you they are worth the effort!
Next stop: Croatia!!