Source: Nancy Noble, pressherald.com
Sunday, Aug 28th, 2011
Dublin was really an afterthought. The focus of the trip was England, but we flew Aer Lingus from Boston and it stops in Dublin before landing at Heathrow Airport.
Dwayne, our travel agent, said, “Well, for not much more money, you can stay overnight in Dublin.”
That thought was too tempting to pass by. My husband, who is half-Irish, didn’t take much convincing. I thought this would be a nice reward for him, for humoring me on my desire to spend my 50th birthday in England. He had never been to Ireland, and looked forward to this bonus trip after our nine-day tour of England with good friends. We decided to extend our vacation for two nights, so we could enjoy a full day in Dublin.
Just a plug for Aer Lingus, which reinforced my faith in flying after years of American flights that charged for every single thing and were generally unpleasant and uncomfortable.
On Aer Lingus, the national airline of Ireland, we flew in comfort, with very few bumps along the way. A hot meal was served (included in the price of the ticket), and we could watch movies and listen to music free of charge (with the screen in the back of the seat in front of us). No being nickeled and dimed on everything.
On the other hand, shipping luggage was $50, so we made sure we could fit everything into two small pieces of carry-on luggage.
At Dublin we exited the airport after having our passports stamped, and found the bus that took us right downtown. Our driver pointed us in the direction of Fleet Street in the Temple Bar neighborhood. Once we found the Fleet Street Hotel, an elevator took us up to the reception desk where we checked in.
Our room was very basic, but clean and comfortable, with a nice tiled bathroom. Our window looked out on the alleyway. The hotel was undergoing renovation, so all sorts of strange noises emitted through the hallways during the day, and workmen were buzzing about here and there. Not an issue, really, as we were out and about most of the day.
Arriving mid-day, we had all afternoon to explore Dublin, starting with lunch. We found a Cornish pasty take-out place in the midst of Temple Bar, our busy thriving neighborhood, and sat on benches overlooking the Liffey River enjoying these lovely meat and potato pies.
This gave us fortification as we walked towards the Christchurch Cathedral (1030), and then the Dublin Castle (1228), which had wonderful gardens. Michael relaxed there while I popped into the Chester Beatty Library, which had a lovely exhibit of Henri Matisse art books (free to the public).
We also visited an interesting and different type of museum — the Revenue Museum, with all sorts of interesting smuggling tidbits (also free to the public). By then we were in need of sustenance, so we wandered back toward Temple Bar.
We found Temple Bar Pub, where Michael enjoyed his first Guinness, and I had a tasty Irish coffee.
After napping back at the hotel, we ventured out again and had a late dinner at Fitzgerald’s Pub — Michael had fish and chips and I had a tuna melt (with sweet corn, my new favorite combination, which is prevalent in the UK). We hit one more pub — Oliver St. John Gogerty — full of American tourists, unfortunately. The first song we heard was John Denver’s “Country Roads” and the last was “Mama Mia” by Abba — no thanks.
The next morning we ventured out on the busy streets, full of commuters, and found a small market near the river where we could sit outside enjoying a cappuccino and pastries.
Then we walked to Trinity College, home of the Book of Kells, and then to the National Library, which had some wonderful exhibits on the printed word in Ireland, including “Yeats: the Life and Work of William Butler Yeats,” and “Tall Tales & Deadly Drawings: Stories for Boys & Girls at the National Library.”
Across from the library was the National Museum of Ireland (archaeology branch), which was quite busy with students and tourists. My favorite exhibits there were on Celtic art and also one about the Faddan More Psalter, an 8th-century illuminated vellum manuscript that was found in a bog in County Tipperary in 2006.
Both the library and the museum were free to the public, in contrast to the viewing of the Book of Kells, which was about $13.
We bought a sandwich at an upscale deli and enjoyed it in Saint Stephen’s Green, a lovely park, before walking back to the hotel by way of Grafton Street, a busy pedestrian-only street, full of lovely shops and flower markets.
We napped, and then headed out again — this time we found our favorite pub yet, the Auld Dubliner. A talented musician, Robin James Hurt was performing — ah, at last an authentic Irish musician. We enjoyed his music so much we purchased a CD. I had a Bailey’s cheesecake, so was feeling very happy. We weren’t very hungry after that so for dinner we just had a slice of pizza from “Apache Pizza” (an Irish chain), sitting by the river.
Our final morning was lovely, with blue skies and big puffy clouds. This time we explored more of the area across the river, walking along the wide boulevard of O’Connell Street to the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial garden dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom.” It was located near the Dublin Writer’s Museum, which looked interesting, but our time was short, so we walked back to our hotel, gathered our bags, checked out, found our bus and headed back to the airport.
When we arrived back home in Portland, before catching the ferry home, we decided to ease ourselves back into life back home gently by having dinner at Ri Ra, an Irish pub near the ferry terminal. As we left the crowded restaurant I said to Michael, “I bet we are the only ones in that pub that woke up in Ireland this morning!”
Dublin truly feels like just a short hop across the Atlantic, especially with the comfort of Aer Lingus, where you almost feel like you’re immediately in Ireland, once you get on the plane. This short layover really whetted our appetite for seeing more of Ireland.
Nancy Noble is an archivist and cataloger at the Maine Historical Society who lives on Long Island.
IF YOU GO
AER LINGUS is at http://www.aerlingus.com.
BUS FROM AIRPORT to downtown Dublin: The blue Aircoach travels directly from Dublin International Airport to O’Connell Street. Journey times vary between 25 and 45 minutes. Prices are about $10 one-way and $17 round-trip.
ACCOMMODATION: Fleet Street Hotel (www.fleethoteltemplebar.com). Our room was about $164 for two nights, about $82 a night.