DUBLIN: It’s true. In Ireland, “the local” isn’t a person. It’s the pub. But which pub? Is it the one where the sessions finish around dawn, or is it the spot your B&B host said has the best beer? At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Whatever pub you pop into, it’ll be the real thing. The real pints, the real chat and the real regulars.
The Black Stuff:
Panoramic views. The Gravity Bar at Guinness Storehouse is like a glass bird’s nest, with views stretching from rooftops to parkland and to mountains. You’ll have to get through the Storehouse’s seven storeys first, taste and smell what goes into the world’s most famous stout. Then learn the secret to pouring the perfect pint.
Irish people are naturally gregarious and talkative and will happily chat with total strangers. Keep it casual is the best advice when meeting people and there is plenty to discuss when it comes to Ireland’s weather.
Celebrating New Year’s in Dublin is quite unique. I can’t think of any other place that could compromise perfectly between a big city celebration and still have that cosy feel to it. The pubs where crowded with cheerful Dubliners, drinking Guinness and enjoying life. The highlight of the evening was definitely the unforgettable New Year’s concert at College Green in the heart of Dublin. With the sound of the electric Irish band Kodaline the start of 2015 could hardly have been better.
Ireland is recognized for its landscapes and seascapes, the buzz of its cities, and the warmth of its people. Now visitors are coming for our food and drink too. And that’s hardly surprising. For Ireland has a natural, honest approach to food. Thanks to mild climate, clean seas, the mountain mists, the turf fires and the small, green fields and then served the food simply, and fresh as can be. You can visit producers, take part in food festivals, to learn traditional skills or simply join in the chat at the bakery, on the quayside or at the bar. Ireland believes in small, visitors believe in local and we believe in personal.
Lunch and dinner:
The Pig’s Ear, Nassau Street. I describe this as “an Irish restaurant serving good, honest Irish fare with a modern touch”. Their typical menu is particularly striking because every single item has an Irish name or an Irish twist to it.
It may be the name of a place or supplier, a particular method, or a traditional dish – from tea-soaked prunes to smoked gubbeen cream, and from Gold River Farm Beetroot to Mourne Crab Mayonnaise and Lough Erne Shepherd’s Pie.
See for free:
Dublin’s galleries and museums have priceless treasures – and you can visit them for free. Gaze at a stunning Bronze Age gold collar in the National Museum, including a Caravaggio masterpiece, The Talking of Christ. The National Gallery has a collection that includes Van Gogh, Monet, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck and Irish expressionist Jack B Yeats. Stare into the artistic chaos of Francis Bacon’s Studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery and try to visit the Irish Museum of Modern Art. All without spending a penny.
I found the best place for a time out along the River Liffey. From any bridge the city’s water-edged catwalk of architecture unfolds, and remember what poet Seamus Heaney said: “The Vikings coming sniffing up the Liffey”. After all, Dublin is a Viking city – friendly as a village and intimate as an Irish pub.
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Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Dublin is well connected with airlines, such as Ryanair ryanair.com Aer Lingus, aerlingus.com, CityJet cityjet.com, Flybe flybe.com and BA. Dublin airport is 12km north of the centre. There is 24-hour Aircoach shuttle aircoach.ie provides a handy alternative running every 10 minutes at peak times with stops throughout the city; €7 one-way, €6 if booked online. A taxi will cost about €25 one-way.
Stay: I stayed at The Brooks Hotel in Drury Street. Upon checking in I found the staff extremely friendly and forthcoming. My room was also of a high standard and large in size, the bed however was not that comfortable. The breakfast was also of a good standard with a variety of healthy options and also the traditional choices. There are a lot of positive things about the Hotel but the best thing is the location. If you want to be where it happens in Dublin, The Brooks Hotel is perfect.
Eat: Gallagher’s Boxty House, Temple Bar. Located in Temple Bar, popular with tourists and committed to authenticity and quality: “a place where there is a strong connection with the country, our culture, and our history”. The menu features lots of traditional Irish dishes such as turf-smoked salmon, Atlantic seafood chowder, Paddy Smith’s corned beef, and Irish stew, with the eponymous Boxty – a potato pancake – the star of the show.
Play: Temple Bar TradFest (28 Jan – 1 Feb) is a festival of mostly free events showcasing traditional and folk music in iconic locations. At Temple Bar, once a Viking stronghold, you are literally walking in history.
Mini Guide: It is a saying; “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. Gerry, who’s seen all 32 counties explains: “Packing for Irish weather can be summed up in one word: layers. T-shirts, light sweaters, a good waterproof jacket, a waterproof hat, and good walking/hiking shoes.”