In late January/early February we traveled to Dublin so I could speak at a conference. While we were there, we decided to stay a few extra days in the country for some much needed downtime. Graham’s parents had recently been, so they gave us a whole host of recommendations of things to do. It was the dead of winter, not the tourist season, so many things weren’t open. Fine by us! The greatest thing about the non-tourist season is that no one’s there! (We often travel at non-peak times.)
We travel a lot of places where people are nice – I think being nice is basic human nature – but fewer places where people are really warm. (Like run up and give you a hug just for being there warm. Invite you to their house to meet their family and share a meal warm.) The people of Ireland are one of those places where folks are really warm and inviting. When I needed Graham to help me set up for the conference presentation, despite his not having a conference registration, they waved him in as if it were no big deal. Cab drivers were universally helpful, like short-term tour guides. They told us about their families, too! And our host in Cobh was absolutely delightful – she even recorded TV shows she wanted us to see. It was wonderful and just what we needed.
We spent the first few days and last few days of our trip in Dublin. It look us a bit to figure out Dublin, but once we did we ended up extending our trip!
Where to stay
We stayed at the Trinity Capital Hotel because it was relatively cheap for a “4-star” hotel. 4-star is generous unless you upgrade to the “Executive King” (aka the Tara Rooms). They’re more than worth the extra 20EUR per night as they’re superior to the regular King rooms in every way (sqft,
air conditioning, couches, dual sinks, bath, etc.) The hotel decor is very trendy and generally playful.
It’s easier to find good quality food in the country-side, than it is in Dublin, where every place seems to serve touristy pub food. But after a little work, we found
- Fallon & Byrne — Dublin’s equivalent of Draeger’s Market (San Francisco), Central Market (Houston), or Zupan’s (Portland OR). The Farm is a few blocks off of Grafton Street.
- The Farm — Freshly made, organically sourced dishes. Regardless of what you think of organic, we find that restaurants that tout ‘organic’ usually care more about the freshness of their ingredients and the quality of their meals.
The best find, however, was Angela’s and my favorite corner in Dublin: Junior’s Restaurant, Slattery’s Pub, and Paulie’s Pizza. Paulie’s is owned by Juniors. Paulie’s was so good, that we extended our stay in Dublin two more nights so that we could eat at Juniors. We loved those places. Not really fancy. Just solid hole-in-the-wall finds. Slat’s is an awesome pub. No tourists, just locals. Packed to the gills with people every night.
Our trip to Dublin was about professional commitments and much needed relaxation than running around.
4) We liked the Book of Kells and the Long Hall at Trinity College.
5) If you watch Downton Abbey, you’ll like the Georgian house tour at 29 Fitzwilliam
Other Dublin comments:
1) Guinness Storehouse is a big disappointment.
2) We did the Jameson Distillery tour at the plant down in Midleton, Co. Cork. We heard the distillery tour in Dublin is fake, not unlike the Guinness tour.
3) The new Waterford Crystal tour is pretty good, even if you think Waterford for old ladies. The plant was recently reopened by some American investors, and they only do “specialty” pieces, like the superbowl trophy and the people’s choice awards, etc.. So it’s a very intimate tour, i.e. you can interact with the crystal carvers. We had fun.
6) I spent a pleasant afternoon at Cafe en Seine. It’s a beautiful spot when the sun is pouring through the skylights. I hear they have dancing in the evenings.
Anyway, that’s my quick summary. If you guys are planning to get out of the city at all, we spent several days in Cobh, Co. Cork, and can give you recommendations for things to do/places to eat in the Southern part of the country.