A Return to Dublin
I have done a lot of return trips lately – something the old me would have hated and immediately turned down in favor of newer destinations; however, the part of my traveling that has changed in recent years is that I don’t just want to go to new countries or cities or continents to say I have been there, I want to go where I want to go. Does it matter if I have been there before? Not anymore.
Dublin is one of those cities I was happy to return to. As my first visit was only four years ago, there was enough distance between my last trip, but not too much at the same time. Everything I had done and seen was still fresh, I recognized where I was in the city and felt comfortable walking around without a map. The sun was shining much more brightly than my last visit, and as the locals poured out onto the sidewalks and city parks, Dublin came to life in a new way than I had not seen previously.
As for what we saw, it was mostly the same. The benefit of returning to a place where you have already been is that you usually get to peel the onion back another layer and experience a less touristy, more authentic side of the city; however, I was traveling with a Dublin-newbie and having loved everything I did on my first trip to Ireland’s capital, I was convinced he had to experience those same things to get the right feel for the city.
What was different this time was though was that I did a little more research before our arrival. Having loved Kilmainham Gaol the first time around, but not having a solid understanding of Irish history, I feel like I missed some of the symbolism. This time, prior to departing Boston, we watched Wind That Shakes the Barley, a dramatic look at the Irish War for Independence which took place from 1919-1921 and was then followed by distressing civil war. The movie is incredibly authentic and allows for a much better understanding of why many of the Irish rebels were housed in Kilmainham Gaol. It also caused Max and I to do a lot more research leading up to our trip. Also, Aer Lingus was playing Michael Collins on our way to Ireland. While Michael Collins is a little more “Hollywood” than Wind That Shakes the Barley, it nonetheless allows you a deeper understanding of this period of history as well as the people who shaped the Republic of Ireland we see today.
We also still did the Guinness Tour, but having done the self-guided tour previously, I knew Max would want to skip certain parts of it and get to the part when they give you a free Guinness at the top and you can take pictures in the 360 degree bar. I went back to St. Patrick’s Cathedral again, but this time went for Mass so we could revel in the full beauty of it without being overcrowded by tourists. We also learned that by doing this, you can stay inside after the Mass and visit for free. And Trinity College and Book of Kells were still a must. Founded in 1592, and Ireland’s top ranking university, it is a place where Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett have studied and still retains the old world charm of a storied institution. This time, however, our good friends over at AT and Z, recommended we take the student-led tour of Trinity College, which greatly added to my understanding of the university from my first visit when we had just strolled on our own.
Despite the “core four” Dublin sightseeing attractions which I wanted Max to experience, we did fit in a couple of different things! Last visit, I did not get to fully enjoy the Temple Bar area so we made a point not to make dinner reservations one night so we could bar hop and take in the atmosphere. This gave us time to check out O’Donoghue’s, Temple Bar, Stag’s Head, Auld Dubliner and finish at O’Neills for a proper Irish dinner, fantastic live music and even a little step dancing.
Our friends over at AT and Z also recommended two places which had not been on our radar the first time around. One was our fabulous Saturday night dinner at The Winding Stair, housed in an old bookstore and named literally after its winding staircase, as well as the unparalleled Murphy’s Ice Cream with fun flavors such as Dingle Sea Salt, Brown Bread and Irish Coffee. My Irish colleague gave me a host of recommendations for places throughout Ireland and while we thoroughly enjoyed to pre-dinner drinks at the Horseshoe Bar at the Shelburne Hotel, her most important recommendation was to try the raspberry scones at Queen of Tarts. I highly recommend anyone going to Dublin does the same!
All in all it was a fabulous return to a lively city! I do not think it will be my last visit either. And next time when we return, we will do things more things that one does on a true second visit to a city like finally getting to the Dublin Writer’s Museum and the Jameson Distillery.
Have you been to Dublin? What are some of your favorite things you have done in the city?