My trip to the “Fatherland” last weekend was short but sweet. I left my apartment in Bologna at 6:30 AM and arrived in Dublin at around 1:30 on Friday and then left my friend’s apartment at 4:45 AM Sunday and got back to Bologna around 1:30, so it was a very quick preview of Ireland’s capital. After being in Italy for a couple of months, it was a weird experience setting foot in Dublin. Between the language (I relished hearing Italians in the grocery store as they were the ones speaking a foreign language and not me for once) and also the look of the city, I felt like I was in a European Boston. To me, Dublin seemed to me like a perfect mix of Boston and London in Ireland. There were lots of bars, cool coffee shops, and restaurants, and I’d love to explore some more for a bit longer next time.
1.) Bar hopping–On Friday night, Brianna and I checked out a couple of Dublin’s famous bars. We started out at The Stag’s Head, a bar one of my friends recommended from when he studied abroad in Trinity. It was really crowded, and we squeezed into its tiny basement where there was a band playing some folky, dance music. We had a hard time scoping out a spot so we didn’t linger, but it was a good first stop.
Next, we trekked into the Temple Bar area, passing through the actual Temple Bar, which is a labyrinth more or less, and ended up at The Auld Dubliner. We both got a pint and stayed here for a while. The band was playing “Cotton-Eyed Joe” when we got in, so that seemed to be a sign that we had no choice but to stay. It was a really fun environment, and we managed to find somewhere to sit for a while even though it was so crowded.
Our last major stop of the night was to Mercantile, a salsa club my friend has brought her guests to when showing them Dublin. I’d never been to anything like this before, so I was just sort of laughing the whole time because people were really into it.
Bar hopping was probably my favorite part of my visit. Bologna’s Via Zamboni and Via del Pratello are both big bar and club streets, but Dublin is both of these areas combined four times over. So many people of all ages are out, hopping from bar to bar, there’s live music everywhere, and it was a really fun experience (although beers in Dublin are more expensive than those in Bologna). Dublin is also really pretty at night, so it’s a side of the city definitely not to be missed.
2.) Grafton Street–Brianna and I walked up and down Grafton Street a number of times while getting around Dublin, and while it’s the main tourist drag loaded with shops and chain restaurants, it’s a really fun area. Street performers vie for tips, sand sculptors make dogs and puppies on the sidewalk, and it was all decorated for Christmas with lights lining the way. We grabbed burgers for lunch when I got there on Friday at The Counter which isn’t too far from Grafton Street. They have great, made-to-order burgers, fries, and shakes, but it is pricier overall. Note, The Counter is a chain but a good one at that!
3.) St. Patrick’s Cathedral–After meeting up with my neighbor who is studying business at Trinity, we went to visit Dublin’s cathedrals. I loved St. Patrick’s with its high, stone ceilings, beautiful stained glass (some of which resembled that of Sainte Chapelle in Paris). The floors are also really pretty and seemed particularly Irish to me for some reason. I found this cathedral to be prettier than Christ Church.
4.)Trinity College–Trinity’s campus is probably the prettiest part of Dublin that I saw. The ground is made up of all of these small, uneven stones, the lawns are bright green and perfectly manicured, and the gray buildings are made of beautiful stone and some are covered in ivy. I tried taking pictures of the campus over and over again, but nothing really did it justice, so you’ll have to take my word for it and go to Dublin to see for yourself. Trinity also rents out dorms to visitors over the summer months, so you can stay right on the campus during your visit.
5.) Book of Kells and the Long Room–Freshman year of Bowdoin, I took an English class on Chaucer which I really didn’t like at the time but it’s come back time and again to prove to me that I learned something, like when I saw astrolabes at the British Museum, whenever there have been classical references in another literature class, or whenever studying illuminated manuscripts. While Chaucer was English and not Irish, knowing a thing or two about old school manuscripts made visiting the famous Book of Kells even more rewarding. The manuscript is impressively detailed and merits a good bit of time spent closely observing it. After checking out the book, you pass through the Long Room, an incredible, wooden, collegiate and historic feeling hall of the library. Currently, there’s an exhibit about children’s books and mythology which is interesting, but the room itself steals the show. If you go, make sure to present your student ID and if visiting a Trinity student, you get in for free.
Another highlight of the weekend was cooking Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night, and I think we both surprised ourselves with our ability to do it. The only stop that was a bit disappointing was the Guinness Storehouse: after paying a 14 euro admission fee you only watch videos about the beer’s production and then have pint in the Gravity Bar (I toured Magic Hat Brewery a few years ago and it was a lot more interesting as you actually get to see the factory). At any rate, I’ll have to make the trip back to Dublin to check out more pubs, get to the Writer’s Museum, and try coffee at Bewley’s.