Ireland is a country that I’ve always wanted to visit since I was kid. As most people know, Dublin is the capital city and is the most often visited by tourists. Of course going to Ireland, I wanted to visit Dublin, but I was more interested and excited about seeing other parts of Ireland – like the smaller cities and the countryside. But after arriving in downtown Dublin, I was immediately hooked.
The city is divided into North and South by the River Liffey. I think the hotels might be less expensive north of the river because its “not as nice” as the south side. Its true that there are many more attractions south of the river, but I also liked the north. I could recommend staying somewhere near Parnell Square, where you are a few short strides to O’Connell Street.
On Grafton Street its all about human to human marketing. Whether is firemen trying to sell their holiday calendar to raise money for suicide awareness, employees holding picket signs for the store they work to encourage people to come off the main street down to their alley, live street performers play rock music with enthusiasm for the crowds gathered around with their CDs on display and a banner directing viewers to their website and social media sites.
I was shocked by the detail and beauty of the window displays in Thomas Browns, a luxury store. The mannequin in an action post dressed on gold and red surrounded by finery. This makes you want to enter the store and convinces you to spend hundreds of Euro on such pretty items.
Another major shopping area is on Henry Street. Here there seem to be more clothing stores and also shopping malls including Jervis and Ilac Shopping Centers. You could easily spend hours wandering from store to store. This street is longer than Grafton and at the end features The Spire – officially titled the “Monument of Light” – is a stainless steel pin-like monument standing 398 feet tall and looks like its tipping towards you if you look straight up at it.
Of course the Irish are known for thier sweet nature and hospitality. This couldn’t have proved to be more true as a kind Irish fellow sitting in the same row proceeded to chat for the full one and a half hour flight talking about the places to go. He even drew a very realistic map of the country and a road map for the tour across the country (which I will blog about soon). The hotel staff were very friendly, not only did they offer directions and assistance with a smile, but they were happy to talk about where you’re from or what you saw that day too.
Seeing Irish people was all to welcoming for me. The men wore heavy felt jackets often with blue jeans or cordoroy pants and the women also wore blue jeans with runners. It seemed quite popular for the younger ladies to wear their hair in a ballerina bun high on their head and they wore skirts with dark nylons in the cool weather. Like Canadians and Americas, the ladies from teenagers to grandmothers were wearing makeup, which is not often seen on the women living in Belgium. And yes there were quite a few people with lovely red hair.
In Ireland the cars are on the left-hand side of the road and thus the driver sits on the right-hand side of the car (as in the United Kingdom). They also have the double-decker buses, but are more commonly seen painted yellow and blue.
Like in London, there is helpful white paint on the streets reminding you to look right. It was somehow much easier to adjust to the “wrong-sided” driving because Dublin is much smaller than London. After the second day, I was naturally looking in the correct direction before crossing the street.
It was funny to see the people crossing the street on when the pedestrian sign was still red. Why? Because the sign always seems to be red. Dubliners are able to predict when it will turn green and have already crossed the street by the time it does. They also have no problem scooting across the road on a red if there are no cars coming.
Traveller’s tip: If visiting Ireland, its important to remember that not only is the traffic on the left-hand side of the road, but they also use the three-prong electrical plug like in the United Kingdom.
Dinner & drinks
You can get a reasonably priced dinner in any pub/restaurant and the groceries are more affordable than in Brussels. But like Canada, Ireland has much higher prices for alcohol and cigarettes. Based on my observations, I’d have to say that the Irish don’t drink nearly as much as those who live in Belgium. In addition to this, Belgian beer often comes in 7-12% alcohol and in Ireland, its usually around the 5% mark. It was interesting to see that they often had Canadian beer on tap – Coors Light. While it was disturbing to see not one, but three different pregnant women smoking, there were fewer smokers in Dublin and at a minimum of 8 Euro per pack, it makes sense. Although, many still seems to afford the habit.
Trinity College Dublin is an institution with graduates including James Joyse, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, etc. The campus is in the middle of Dublin and is home to the Book of Kells. I took a moment to image what life was like when the famous Irish authors of the 17th century were studying and writing in the city.
Temple Bar area, while it sounds like its full of restaurants and bars, is actually a place with daily markets. I was surprised to find myself walking around the markets with jewelry, handmade hats and mittens, glassware and fairly expensive trinkets. It was an unplanned turned down a street to check it out as I tend to wander around a city without looking at the map the whole time. Then when I checked the map to see which landmark could be visited next, I realized that I had just walked through the Temple Bar area and I was shocked. Just goes to show how little I actually knew about the city itself before visiting it.
Christ Church Cathedral founded c.1028 has a beautiful interior and there is a crypt that can be visited.
Saint Patrick’s Church is The Cathedral is today the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. The building dating from 1220 stands adjacent to the famous well where tradition has it that Saint Patrick baptized converts on his visit to Dublin.
It also seems to be a popular place to take graduation photos. There were many students dressed up in robes with the black cap and their family members were dressed to the nines. Also in the gardens there is a wall with plaques of Ireland’s most famous authors.
This was just a summary of the few days I spent in Dublin. After that I took a road trip where the Emerald Isle can be seen in its full glory (stay tuned).
Have you ever finally visited a city you dreamed of seeing for a long time? What did you think? Did it live up to your expectations or was it even better than you imagined?