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Dublin - Part 1

The Big City of Dublin is the second road trip report and as is probably befitting of the largest city on the Island of Ireland, it rates two blogs (and probably more in the future).

I say the “Big City” of Dublin half tongue in cheek. Dublin has the feel of a major metropolitan city with the sophistication of large worldly city, but much friendlier than most. The reality is that Dublin is about the size of Austin, TX. The urban area of Dublin is at 525,000 people and 1.8 million people in the wider metro area. Austin has 800,000 in the urban area and 1.7 million in the wider metro area. Of course like most European cities, Dublin has a richer architecture and mass transit (subject of the second Dublin blog) than most American cities its size. The city center has a vibrancy and intensity that is a couple of notches up from the rest of “laid back” Ireland. At one point Dublin was the 2nd largest city in the English Empire. Today it is the capital of the Republic of Ireland that consists of about 4.5 million people (about the size of the wider San Francisco Bay Area). Dublin and Ireland have had quite an effect on world culture and history given the relatively small size.

On this trip we hit three touristy spots, sampled some of the shopping areas, and put several things on our list for our next trip.

First the touristy spots; you will notice some pattern here…I like a drink or two and I am fascinated by history, particularly political history.

Our first touristy stop was the Guinness Storehouse. The price of admission when purchased on-line in advance was € 13 (14.40 without on-line purchase). The tour was pretty good, but the architecture of the building was very fascinating. The tour is self guided for this price, but you get to sample a Guinness along the way and finish up with a free (or “included” as my wife likes to say) pint at the end of the tour at the Gravity Bar. For the cynics, this is a €14 beer, but I thought the well-done tour and the view from the Gravity Bar made it mostly worth the price. We had a very rare, very sunny day in Dublin, and the view from the Gravity Bar was fantastic. I was told this is the tallest viewing area in Dublin.

Our third touristy stop was the Jameson Distillery; another touristy destination that I would repeat with guests. The tour costs about €11.70 Euro when bought on-line the previous day (this is a 10% discount). Of course they had a bar in the lobby of the building where guests can enjoy a Jameson in several different ways while waiting for their tour to start. I had the Irish Coffee…a great way to ease into the tour. The tour starts with an interesting movie and then gives you a guided walking tour of a replica of how the distillery looked and operated prior to its move to the Cork area in the 70’s.

Jameson Distillery

A hint to those who like their whiskey, sit towards the front of the theatre and quickly volunteer when the tour guide asks for volunteers for a whiskey tasting. I did and it was a lot of fun. The tasting is Scotch (Johnny Walker Black), American Whiskey (Jack Daniels Black) and Jameson…of course Jameson wins every time…but the panel got to express their opinions…I am now certified as an official whiskey taster…this was in addition to the Jameson drink everyone receives at the end of the tour. I was very happy when we left the premises.

While waiting for the tour we found out about Irish Nights. This happens at the Distillery April thru October on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. It includes a drink (Jameson of course), cash bar, the tour, a 4 course dinner and Irish music and dancing. This has been added to our Dublin to do list. Probably a little touristy, but it looks like a good value and would be great for those tourists who are trying to cram all of Ireland into a week or less. We are waiting for our first guests to arrive to try this out.

So have you figured out that I like Barley?...Roasted Barley and Barley malt for Guinness and Roasted Barley for Jameson…or is it the alcohol????

Our second stop was quite a bit more serious, but a must see for those who are trying to figure out the political history of Ireland…very confusing. We visited the Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced jail). The jail was opened in 1796 and closed in 1924.

Scenes of Dublin

Part of what has made Irish political history confusing to me, is that there were over a century of unsuccessful rebellions against the English followed by the Easter Uprising of 1916 that started a war of independence, followed by the “Irish Free State”(1922-1937) that was overthrown by a Civil War, followed by the Republic of Ireland in 1937. The current government of Ireland (not Northern Ireland that is part of the United Kingdom) is the Republic of Ireland.

Almost every significant Irish Nationalist leader has been imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, although only 15% of the prisoners were political prisoners. Many of the imprisoned leaders were executed at this site. The wounds from this period do not appear to be completely healed. During the time of the “Irish Free State” several Irish political prisoners were also imprisoned and executed here. As part of the restoration agreement, this is not mentioned; although we were given a clue about this in a cryptic statement from the tour guide.

The price of entry was €6 for a guided tour. A good value if you are interested in the history of Ireland. You can take the Luas red line from the city center.

We sampled many of the shopping areas of Dublin during our trip. As in most European cities Dublin has pedestrian malls with no car traffic for the shopping and bar districts. Temple Bar is a bar district and a little touristy…Grafton street is a nice shopping area off of Saint Stephen’s Green and the O’Connell and Henry Street areas were also nice places to shop, eat, drink and “hang”. These are on either side of the River Liffey that has several scenic bridges and buildings to adorn it. A historical and interesting bridge is a pedestrian bridge called the Ha’Penny Bridge. Strolling through these areas is fun, relaxing and well worth the time. Plenty of places for coffee or tea, pastries, and of course Guinness.

We stayed at a B&B in town on a street that is pretty centrally located called Lower Gardiner Street. I would call most of the places on this street, “Student Accommodations”. The rooms are clean, but worn, and in converted old houses. They all come with an “Irish Breakfast” that is not for the health food fanatics. This is fried egg, sausage, bacon (Canadian style), toast, and beans if you want them. It comes with 1 glass of juice and coffee or tea. No fruit, no veg,...there is a limited selection of cereal with whole milk. The Irish are not early risers. The breakfast at our B&B was not served until 8:30. We have experienced 9:00 as the earliest breakfast. If you were at the pub until at least midnight and you are on vacation, why would you want to eat earlier? Our room was €67 per night for the two of us. I’m sure we could have spent 2 or 3X the price at the Hilton or other international chain…but then again, our hotel was not even close to luxurious.

Our To Do List for Dublin includes:

- Jameson Distillery Irish Nights

- The literary Pub Crawl (visit haunts of famous local authors with guides who are “in chararcter”)

- Trinity College Library

- Saint Patrick Cathedral

- National Gallery (European art)

- Phoenix Park

- Brazen Head (oldest pub in Ireland)

Stay tuned for a 2nd blog on Dublin mass transit and getting around in Ireland.

See you in the Pub!

Jet Lag Jack

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