Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Rocky Road to Dublin: Ireland Day 1

Ireland trip 2014
      A couple of years ago I took a very low-budget trip to Ireland and had the adventure of a lifetime! It was about as low-budget as possible, thanks to my old friend Lauren who invited me to stay with her while she was working as an intern at Dublin City College for a few months – she was even able to help me get a cheaper flight because her dad works with United Airlines!

     The other things that made it such a low-budget trip were 1) we walked nearly everywhere, and 2) almost always shopped in grocery stores for our meals. It's amazing how much of Dublin can be seen on foot! I had not expected it to be so manageable, but I was able to walk from the Grand Canal all the way up to the Dublin Writer's Museum in one afternoon, which are on opposite sides of the city.

My backpack ready for Ireland!     It worked out for me to take the trip in November. One might – quite correctly – guess that it is rather a cold time of year to visit this damp, chilly country. But even in November, Ireland has its own particular charms.

     It was windy, rainy, damp and cold, and without warm clothes I would have been rather miserable, but those same elements are all a part of the Ireland experience, and make every cup of tea and coffee that much more enjoyable! 

     I will never fly standby again, if I can avoid it – at least by myself. It involves too much waiting around and wondering if your name will be called or if you'll have to wait until the next day for the next flight. This would be much more tolerable if there were friends waiting with you. So I would recommend to have travel companions if you choose to fly standby.

     That being said, I did make it on my designated flight, and got to sit next to two very kind older gentlemen. It was an overnight flight, so after the few hours of sleep I was able to snatch we arrived in Dublin. I got a lovely sunrise view of Ireland's west coast!

Watching the sun rise over Ireland.
Watching the sun rise over Ireland.
Definitely a perk of overnight flights.

     It was early afternoon by the time I got out of the airport and hopped on a bus going into the city to meet Lauren. I only brought my new 20x16 rolling suitcase and a small backpack because I like to travel very light, and this came in handy when Lauren and I walked back to her apartment from the bus stop.

      Being that I hadn't had lunch yet, we went straight back out again. It felt like we walked all over Dublin! But really it was mostly shopping on Grafton street... And Lauren surprised me by taking me to a play in the top of Bewley's Oriental Cafe! It was part of my graduation present from her. It was a one-man show about mid-twentieth century Dublin, and it included a delicious discounted lunch of soup with bread.

The picturesque Victorian Bewley's Cafe!
The picturesque Victorian Bewley's Cafe!

Lauren spoiling me at Bewley's
Lauren spoiling me. :)

      We went down to the next floor to have some dessert: an enormous berry scone with coffee and tea. There was something quite Victorian about Bewley's, with all of the dark polished wood and potted palm plants. It has been around since 1840, so that's probably why.

The atmospheric interior of Bewley's.
The atmospheric interior of Bewley's. Including the counter where you can buy tea and scones to bring home!
Soup and bread at Bewley's  
Everywhere we went in Ireland I saw enormous scones!
Everywhere we went in Ireland I saw enormous scones!
I'd say these are proper scones.

     Then we went to the Little Museum of Dublin, and had a very entertaining guide who told us some stories about Dublin's history. Admission is 8 Euros for most visitors, 6 Euros for students. The museum was filled with mementos from Dublin, lots of them from before and during the Easter Rising in 1916 and Irish Independence in 1921, then going all the way up to U2 memorabilia.

The elegant Georgian facade of the Little Museum of Dublin in the daylight.
The elegant Georgian facade of the Little Museum of Dublin in the daylight.

The elegant Georgian facade of the Little Museum of Dublin at night
That delightful green door at night.

A recreation of a room from The Irish Times in the Little Museum of Dublin

     The Museum is right across from St Stephen's Green, so we took a walk through the park there and found the bridge! To me this bridge is famous for appearing in Leap Year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode... ;) But it is certainly beautiful in its own right! During the Museum tour we were told that during the 1916 Rising, members of the ICA (Irish Citizen Army) dug trenches in the Green. The park was so beautiful, that it was hard to imagine such a traumatic struggle taking place there.

Standing on the bridge in St Stephen's Green

      Then we went on to do a little more shopping in Grafton Street. It's almost impossible not to be drawn to this spot because you go out of the arched gate in the corner of the Green straight onto Grafton Street. It's a pedestrian only area, and it's always filled with people, which gives it quite a festive vibe at nearly any time of day! There are several chain clothing stores, a Marks & Spencer clothing and grocery store, restaurants, and Bewley's Oriental Cafe and Butler's Hot Chocolate. Definitely irresistible to this traveler.

I loved Grafton Street!
I loved Grafton Street! It's a bit tourist-y, but not in a commercial way. It's just popular.

     Then we had dinner at the International Cafe that Lauren's church puts on for students. That was great fun! Everyone was friendly and easy to talk to. Many if them are foreign students practicing their English, but there were these two Irish guys who were absolutely hilarious!! The proverbial Irish "gift of gab" is totally an accurate stereotype. There is definitely a higher percentage of witty Irish people than in any other group of people I've encountered.

     Then it was time to trek back through Dublin's unique blend of Georgian and modern buildings to the apartment so I could crash. :) Lauren shared the apartment with two very thoughtful flatmates. One of them even slept on the couch so I could have a bed! It was a spacious apartment for being practically in the middle of the city, and had a pleasant view from the balcony doors. It is located in the southeast part of the main city, sort of between Merrion Square and the Grand Canal Dock Train, and it seems like a fairly decent part of town. During the day I'd feel safe walking around by myself, and it still feels pretty safe if I'm walking with Lauren at night.

On the way back to the apartment.
On the way back to the apartment.
The apartment itself

"It is a very pleasant room!"
Elizabeth Bennet

Can't have an Irish kitchen without an electric kettle...

     Today it was cold!! Windy and cold, but also was sunny. Definitely my kind of weather, although I shall be on the lookout for a warmer coat and some winter accessories to keep out that chilly wind that blows into every crevice that isn't bundled up. That starts to feel distinctly uncomfortable when you're spending hours a day walking in the outdoors. My black raincoat would be sufficient in a California November, but then our winters always were deplorable. Thankfully, Dublin should have a few thrift stores! And, shopping happens to be one of my favorite things to do when I'm traveling.

 Tomorrow: Phoenix Park and tea with the girls!

Thanks for reading!

© Anna Morton 2017

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