The Ireland Diaries: Dublin
"When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart." -- James Joyce
I first fell in love with Dublin back in the winter of 2013, and as a journalist, I was excited to discover that I was in the company of many fellow writers -- Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, C.S. Lewis, and James Joyce, just to name a few -- who also had a love affair with the city.
During my second visit to Dublin, this time for an eight-day summer expedition throughout Ireland from coast-to-coast, I fell in love again.
Like the hustle and bustle of next-door London, Dublin also boasts a lively international dining scene and a buzzing urban crowd. The locals have managed to make the country an energetic global center built on ancient remnants of its past, including a recent revival of the Gaelic language!
Over the next few weeks, I will be documenting my favorite sightseeing spots and delicious cuisine as I travel throughout Ireland. Keep scrolling to check out my top five must-sees in the nation's capital before heading to Kilkenny and the scenic Wicklow Mountains tomorrow for beautiful sights and monuments even older than Egypt's Pyramids of Giza!
You Can't Leave Dublin Without Visiting...
The Original Bewley's Coffee
Our adventures in Dublin began with a much-needed cappuccino and an introduction to the original Bewley's Coffee on St. George's Street. Once the hangout of a few of Ireland's literary greats, the spot offered us a cozy respite from the chill outside and our jet lag.
Nowadays, Bewley's is almost as widespread in Ireland as Starbucks is here in the United States, and we would enjoy it for the most part at every establishment while in the country. To try the coffee and tea closer to home, patrons can sample the brews at California-based chain Java City and Rebecca's Cafe in Boston.
The Oldest Pub in Ireland... Reportedly
For lunch, we headed to what is touted as Ireland's oldest pub, The Brazen Head, for a traditional Irish meal (an indignant cab driver would later inform us that a pub called Sam's in Kilkenny actually deserves this title).
It's impossible not to notice the positioning of medieval architecture and props next to more modern practicalities. Suits of armor were planted in a trendy and very cute outdoor patio featuring an adjoining outside bar, and a whimsical pole with signs signaled towards different cities including London, Cape Town, Sydney, and even the North Pole.
While my sister Jenni and my dad decided to try traditional hearty Irish stews, I went for a classic fish and chips and was pleasantly surprised by the lightness of the batter and the flakiness of the fish.
Getting Lost in Bookshelves at Trinity College
After lunch, we made our way to my favorite spot of the day -- the library at Trinity College, which houses the beautiful hand-painted Book of Kells, believed to be created c. 800 AD, and other ancient tomes.
As a self-proclaimed book lover, you can imagine my excitement when I saw a few of Jonathan Swift's early works and the Brian Boru, also known as the O'Neill harp, which is believed to be one of the three oldest surviving Gaelic harps. We would later find out that this harp is the inspiration behind Guinness's famed logo!
Love Locks on Ha'Penny Bridge
Speaking of which, the thing we were most looking forward to by the end of a long day on our feet was a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. On the way there, we made a detour to Grafton Street and the nearly 200-year-old Ha'Penny Bridge (so named because people crossing them originally had to pay a ha'penny toll).
I couldn't help but have a soft spot for the attached love locks (the city of Dublin, not so much, as they sometimes remove the locks when it gets too crowded). New couples write their names on a padlock, attach it to the bridge, then throw the key into the river with the hope that their love will stand as long as the structure.
Searching For Guinness
A trip down Dublin's famed Grafton Street later (made famous to Americans in Ed Sheeran's catchy "Galway Girl"), we reached the Guinness storehouse and our quest to obtain a free glass of the dark brew after our long day of sightseeing.
A few interesting facts about the spot: All the water in the beer comes from Ireland's Wicklow Mountains, which we planned to drive through the next day. In addition, the factory itself, which was shaped like a Guinness glass, featured seven information-filled stories with the Gravity Bar at the very top, where viewers can get a free pint of Guinness and enjoy a bird's eye view of Dublin.
The highly-anticipated Gravity Bar itself proved to be a bit of a disappointment. While the sky-high establishment certainly boasted panoramic views and a lively bar in the middle serving up countless pints of Guinness, the cloudy day and a congregation of tourists seated in front of every window made it difficult to appreciate the scenery.
That being said, it is a free glass of Guinness, so just be ready to flow with the crowds and mingle with Guinness lovers from all over the world!
Notable Eat of the Day: The Brazen Head * * *
Unfortunately, our jet lag prevented us from trying out a bunch of restaurants the first day, but I couldn't miss out on my favorite traditional Irish staple, fish and chips, as my first meal. And the one at Brazen Head didn't disappoint, with flaky fish and golden batter. Yum!