By Lynn Strough
With only two days in Dublin, I set out to make the most of it. I’d tried repeatedly to book an affordable hotel, but there didn’t seem to be such a thing available and I’d not found any couch surfs, so I checked out my Air B&B app and was delighted to find an opening with two great guys in their 1930s home, with a cool old tiled fireplace and beautiful backyard deck. Plus, Brian and Oliver gave me lots of travel info, brochures and maps, and even helped me with ideas of where to go when I left Dublin.
I’ve wanted to go to Ireland and Scotland for years and despite the dismal weather predictions, I looked forward after tons of sun and the Mediterranean cultures of southern France, Spain and Italy — a completely different world from Ireland and the UK. It’s my heritage on both sides — great grandparents from Ireland, Scotland and England (plus the Netherlands and Germany, but those will have to wait for another trip), and a Scottish maiden name, Morrison (which I discovered in Ireland as well). I had heard from a friend’s daughter’s Irish boyfriend back in Australia that we Americans ALL seem to have Irish ancestry, so they poke a bit of fun at us for looking for our Irish roots.
First, I walked Henry Street to Grafton, the famous shopping street, which was lined with stores full of shamrock-studded souvenirs, Celtic jewelry, designer clothing and restaurants, pubs and more pubs. In fact, you’ll see charming pubs all over the city.
Buskers filled the street — lots of musicians as well as a very enterprising man with what looked like a little puppet stand but was actually a small stage with a curtain you stuck your head through, which made you look like a leprechaun. The beard even matched my hair.
I ended up in St Stephens Park, a lovely green space with duck ponds and flower gardens where hundreds of people, including many office workers in suits and ties, sat enjoying lunch in the sun (a rare warm day, from what I’ve heard — both Ireland and the UK have had a horribly cold, wet summer).
Growing hungry, I checked what’s nearby on my Trip Advisor app, a very handy tool for travel, and O’Donoughy’s Pub came up, where tourists and locals alike hang out. It’s a dark, cluttered place, a real authentic pub with messages from people all over the world tacked to the walls and basic fare like toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, and creamy pints of Guinness.
As you may know, Guinness is a staple in Ireland, and I read everywhere how good it is for you… that and Irish whiskey.
I stumbled (I mean walked) to Dublin Castle, enjoying the architecture and people-watching along the way, including lots of bridges (one is as wide as it is long) and colorful buildings. In fact, like many cities, one of the best things to do is put on your walking shoes and just see where your feet take you. You never know what sites you’ll see.
I had just enough time left to go to the Beatty library before they closed, to see a special exhibit of ancient illuminated manuscripts from many different religions. It was quite interesting and free (but no photos were allowed inside).
Dinner was at Ireland’s oldest pub, Brazen Head, where there’s a lovely courtyard area outside for warm days like today, and dark, memorabilia-cluttered rooms inside for a cozier ambience. I chatted with a couple of nice Aussie girls at the next table — as I’ve mentioned, traveling solo doesn’t necessarily mean you spend much time alone.
That evening, my host Brian took me to the Ruby Sessions. Every Tuesday night at Doyle’s Pub, four different musical groups each play four songs, and sometimes famous people show up to participate. All of the 6-euro cover charges go to help the homeless in Dublin, so it’s a worthy cause as well. It’s a small, intimate venue, showcasing some amazing talent. Brian said not many tourists know about it; it’s mostly locals — another benefit of staying at an Air B&B. The Irish are all about music, as you’ll see in future posts.
The following day, I spent most of the morning arranging a car rental, as I was told by many that it’s the best way to see Ireland — that the trains and buses are fine if you only want to see the cities, but the small villages and coastal scenery are what drew me here. This is a word of advice to plan ahead. Usually, I do for something like this, but I hadn’t known I’d need to rent a car. At first it looked like I wasn’t even going to get one. They were all booked up, and I also saw that an automatic was about double the cost of a stick shift.
So if you’ve never driven a stick or are rusty, practice up a bit before coming to Europe as that’s mostly what you’ll find. I didn’t dare rent a stick as I haven’t driven one in decades, other than a few days in Europe in the countryside years before. It was just too much to contemplate in addition to driving on the left side of very narrow, winding roads, navigating roundabouts, and other traffic differences I wasn’t even aware of. I finally found a car and I was lucky — it was the last automatic.
When I finally got out of the house, I walked to see the Story of the Irish, a show I’d read about in the airline magazine. It’s quite informative, covering 10,000 years of Irish history in an hour or so, including the potato famine, where people were literally thrown out of their homes and left to starve. It takes the bits of Irish history I learned about in school (which wasn’t much) and stitches them together into a bigger picture. Two nice girls working at the front desk gave me lots of travel advice while I waited for the show to start.
I took a walk to Trinity College after the show, but the last tour of the campus, including viewing the famous Book of Kells, was over. Also, I was too late for the art museum, the cemetery tour and the gardens Brian had told me about. Oh well, can’t do it all.
I returned to my B&B to find Oliver’s brother and sister-in-law and their young son visiting, all at the table having tea. They asked me to join them and switched easily from speaking Irish to English to include me. It was nice being in a real Irish home, as opposed to staying in an impersonal hotel. Give Air B&B a try!
And if you can, spend at least three days in Dublin and have triple the fun!
Lynn is a 50+ free spirit whose incarnations in this life have included graphic designer, children’s book author and illustrator, public speaker, teacher, fine art painter, wine educator in the Napa Valley, and world traveler. Through current circumstances, she has found herself single, without a job or a home, and poised for a great adventure.
“You could consider me homeless and unemployed, but I prefer nomad and self-employed, as I pack up my skills and head off with my small backpack and even smaller savings to circumnavigate the globe (or at least go until the money runs out). Get ready to tag along for the ride…starting now!”
Reprinted with permission