SirTrips-a-lot in Ireland.
Recently, I had the good fortune to visit Ireland on holiday. I would recommend Ireland to anyone and personally, I wish that I would have visited sooner. If you have never been to Ireland, you definitely should go because it is a wonderful place with an interesting culture, history, and a plethora of beautiful natural landscapes.
Starting Point: Dublin. Dublin is not only the capital of Ireland (Republic of), it is also the largest city and metropolitan area in the country. Over two million people live in the city or its environs. Dublin is served by a beautiful and modern airport that is located north of the city. Aer Lingus, the national carrier, has direct service to many destinations in central Europe as well as north America. Dublin has an extensive public bus system, and there are a limited number of street car lines, but no subway. Taxis are also readily available almost anywhere in the city day or night. If you need to take the bus from the airport into the city, you should be aware that the city buses are the cheapest and take the longest to get to the center because of the traffic congestion and the number of stops, but there are many coach lines that are express service to the center for about twice the amount of the city bus one way. If you travel with the city bus, it is best to purchase a ticket from the machines at the airport because the bus drivers do not accept bills and you must have exact change.
Dublin is a vibrant city with many different attractions. The city center is crowded with tourists and locals alike. Traffic congestion is a big problem in Dublin as the cars, delivery vehicles, and buses all compete for the limited space on the narrow streets; by the way, they drive on the left side of the street, so it is a good thing that at the crosswalks that they tell you to look right for oncoming traffic. If you are planning to travel in the city you should consider getting a Leap Card, that is a bus pass available at most grocery stores, post offices, and other retail establishments. You can get a three or five day unlimited pass, and then you can reload the card with money after the unlimited travel has expired. The five day pass costs 30 EUR.
Pubs galore. Naturally, you will want to visit one or twelve of Dublin’s wonderful pubs. You cannot walk more than a few hundred meters without seeing a new one. The atmosphere is always friendly and inviting and the food and beer are delicious. You cannot visit Dublin, or Ireland for that matter, without having at least one pint of Guinness. If you do not like beer, or you do not like stouts, do not worry, they have plenty of different beers to choose from at most pubs, including ales, and lagers from all over the globe. Be ready to open your wallet, a pint of beer is usually 5-6 EUR. You should probably avoid the Temple Bar unless you cannot live without visiting the most packed tourist pub in Dublin. In the Temple Bar section of Dublin, there are literally hundreds of Pubs and all of them are pretty good so do not be afraid to explore. I personally liked the Porter House, which is a brew pub near Trinity College. They make their own beer, so no Guinness on tap, and the food was great. Another nice pub was the Long Stone, a viking themed pub.
Places not to miss. Of course, you have to visit O’Connell Street in the center of the city. This is one of the main shopping districts in the city. This is also the location of the Dublin Spire. There are shops of every description. Do not forget to visit the GPO (General Post Office) site of the 1916 Easter Rising. Dublin Castle is also worth the visit. It is the former seat of power for the English Lord Governors prior to Irish independence, and now it is the formal location for the swearing in of the heads of state and where formal state affairs are held. The castle is a whole complex of buildings including, a church, gardens and the castle itself. If you go, you should try to visit on a Wednesday, because admission is free. Saint Stephen’s Green is the best known park in Dublin. Wonderful verdant grass, trees, a small lake, and many different birds, it holds a certain charm for the Dubs and tourists alike. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is also a great place to see. The admission is only 3 EUR, which is really a bargain considering that you can wait and get the guided tour at no extra cost. Jonathan Swift is interned there. Trinity College is also worth a visit. The guided tour is 13 EUR, which is a little steep, but it also allows you to see the Trinity Library, which is really impressive, as well as admission to The Book of Kells, an illuminated copy of the Bible from the middle ages. Inside the Trinity College Library is the Buru Harp, the symbol of Ireland.
The tour of the Guinness Brewery, is actually a tour of the old Guinness warehouse, and costs 29 EUR; the brewery itself is located on the banks of the Liffey and is not open to the public. I did not take the tour because I found the price to be a bit exorbitant. The Jameson Distillery also has tours for 16 EUR, which I also found too pricey. Do not worry, you can find official Guinness merchandise in every souvenir shop in Dublin, and there is no shortage of those.
I found it particularly helpful that all the public buses in Dublin have free Wifi. In fact, there were not many places in Dublin that do not have free Wifi. This is really nice because it can help you orient yourself with GPS enabled phones.
Come back next week for a further review of other places visited in Ireland, namely Galway, Kilkenny, Howth, and County Wicklow.