Pub City: Dublin
We’ve enjoyed our visit to Dublin. Quite a contrast to the rest of our trip to Ireland. It’s urban of course, also very vibrant, lively, modern and young.
Let me start by sharing the weekend we were in town featured the convergence of the two biggest sporting events in Ireland, a semi-final for Irish Football on Saturday and a Hurling (sorta like a rugby, lacrosse mash-up) match on Sunday. Both games in Dublin and the entire country psyched-up. It’s been fun to follow and try to understand.
There are literally pubs everywhere. What surprised me was the famous Temple Bar section (medieval part of town encompassing quite a few blocks) resembled the vibe of Bourbon Street. Music of every possible origin could be heard from street performers as well as all the pubs. Within minutes I heard standards by Sinatra, Beatles, “Stand by Me” and even my old childhood favorite, “Volare” among others. I guess I expected it to be more Irish and not so westernized. It did smell better than the French quarter, but then we were there on the early side.
The pubs I wanted to visit were not in the Temple Bar area, and we did track down several. We stopped in the famous O’Donoghues and listened to some great local Celtic music, and the Stag’s Head on tiny Dame Lane; but my favorite was Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest Pub, in operation since 1198. It was charming and had a series of rooms, nooks and crannies with tables as well as a patio area and live Celtic music. Even though I’ve said the city is young, you see all ages in the pubs and the musicians playing the typical Celtic music are all across the age spectrum. For a typical Irish dinner we tried the Hairy Lemon pub and were not disappointed.
You certainly don’t need to sign up for one of the many pub crawls in this town. I think anyone young would love it here and we saw lots of Europeans (including Spaniards), in their 20s and 30s, as well as a few bachelorette groups.
The top of my list was to see the Book of Kells and Old Library at Trinity College and both proved amazing. The library was built in 1712 and houses 200,000 of their oldest books. It seemed so appropriate for this city, which so many legendary writers called home. Sitting there and looking at all those manuscripts made me wonder if future generations will even know what a book looks and feels like.
Made by monks in AD 806, the beautifully ornamental Book of Kells contains the four gospels. The detail, craftsmanship and talent that are evident is awe-inspiring. It’s no wonder it’s Ireland’s national treasure.
The city is very walkable, but because we wanted to see a couple of far-flung spots we used a hop-on bus service as our taxi, catching a ride from Trinity College out to Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) for a tour and insightful lesson in Irish political history.
We were staying in a hotel on St. Stephen’s Green, a wonderful 22-acre inner-city park. When you enter the gates you are transported into a tranquil, peaceful world with no signs of city life. All-in-all Dublin is a very nice city, just enough culture, interesting history and a lot of fun.
And so, to the Irish people, we say “go raibh maith agat” (thank you), and we head home.