Given everything going on with the virus spread recently, whether that’s classes being moved online or cancelled, work resorting to telecommuting, kids staying home, or your business being forced to close due to government restrictions, the whole situation may feel very surreal. With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, I decided to share my short visit to Dublin, Ireland in February a few years back – also a surreal experience.
Anyone familiar with standby travel understands the lack of time to plan a trip, and the adventure of traveling for a short period of time…in this case only a matter of about 28 hours! My friend and I got off the plane in Dublin and let me tell you, everything really is greener is Ireland. Once we de-boarded, we searched for a hotel deal and found the airport Hilton hotel with a rate of $75/night! We were blown away by this and decided to take it while depending on the buses to get us in and out of the city…the double-decker buses that is.
We arrived early in the morning, so while it was too early to check in, we ventured into the city with our bags. With a limited amount of time, we went with the intention of seeing whatever we could. We explored the streets for a while, ending up in a few antique stores. If you are from the United States and you get the chance to travel to Europe, please do yourself a favor and check out one of these shops. Everything over there is so much older than most things we have here at home. We also checked out a few of the must-see places like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, an amazingly beautiful contribution that left me speechless for a minute. What I found most interesting about its history was that the structure had merged government and religion during times of war to serve as a meeting location and as a hospital.
For a late lunch we stumbled into a corner cafe, tired from carrying our bags and racing around the city all morning. And being from Ohio, cold weather usually isn’t an issue for us, but it was nice to warm up for a bit after being outside in 40 degree F misty weather for three or four hours. After a sturdy soup and sandwich from a cafe similar to Tiller & Grain (I can’t manage to remember the actual location in which we ate), we rode the bus back to the hotel to check in and sit for a minute only to come across an amazing find in the hotel room…cable TV offering the nature channel in Gaelic!
We hoped to get to the Guiness factory for a tour late that afternoon, but realized we weren’t going to have enough time to get back to the city. So we scratched that and decided to look through the local grocery store, one of my favorite activities when traveling. There was a Tesco right behind the bus stop which seemed to be the American equivalent of a Walmart/Sam’s Club/Costco combination. My favorite part was the bakery section (of course) with something that took me off guard: fresh loaves of bread sitting out in the open air for shoppers to take and put in a bag to buy. That is something I never see back at home. Everything is always well packaged and sealed. The beer section also offered lots of new brands I had never heard of or seen before.
The evening took us back into the city for dinner at Bruxelles off of Grafton St., and a night out on the town. With stomachs full of meat and potatoes, our first stop was the infamous Temple Bar! This place was SO COOL! I understand it’s touristy, but ignoring the sheer amount of people inside, the atmosphere inside was so cheery and inviting with good company, great brew, and live music tying everything together. Lots of time was spent swaying with the crowd singing classic Irish pub songs and more popular songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Check out a short clip below!
Once we had enough of the crowds, we retired to a more low-key establishment also offering live music (see the second video clip above of “Wonderwall”). This place looked like a popular hangout for local football fans to gather…you know, when a pandemic isn’t canceling all sporting events. One last comment on the alcohol I will throw in simply to confirm, is yes, Guinness is better in Ireland. It has a deeper, richer flavor. That’s all I can say about it though as I am not an avid beer drinker nor critiquer.
One challenge of traveling cheaply is having to learn the public transportation systems in the city. We had processed what bus routes and what stops we needed to use, however, we first made the mistake of taking the bus in the wrong direction. So after making it to the suburbs on the other side of the city, we scraped up enough change for the bus fee and waited 20 minutes for the next bus before we could correct ourselves. After getting deeper into downtown, we then failed to realize that the buses stopped running at 11pm. Needless to say, we were not prepared for that, and got kicked off in the middle of downtown as that was the driver’s last stop for the night. Thankfully, we live in the modern world and were well acquainted with modern technology and convenience, so we ordered an Uber. BUT, carpool services like Uber and Lyft are heavily regulated by the government in Ireland, so our only choice was a $50 Uber Black ride in a fancy car. That was a long night with little sleep from the red-eye plane ride the morning before, but after some time and some unexpected expenses, we made it safely to the hotel and you can imagine we slept like rocks that night.
With the 28 hours coming to an end after we awoke in the morning, we grabbed breakfast at the hotel before heading to the airport. This was honestly some of the best food we had on the trip as the slightly-pricey, non-continental breakfast for about $20 included fresh meats, fruits, jams, smoked salmon, and out-of-this-world European breads, cheese, and coffee. Well worth the money after such a long night just hours before. I even ventured to try black pudding, the Irish version of blood sausage also offered on the buffet. I am more familiar with the Polish version, Kiszka, and still enjoy this sausage more than the black pudding.
So, yes, this trip indeed felt surreal as we got off our six hour overnight flight, traipsed around the city all day and all night, and woke up the next morning just to hop back on a plane. I have to admit, there are parts that are a blur to me, especially during transit. The whole situation was comparable to a movie montage effect where it may fast forward through transit just to come into focus for the main attraction, then go back out of focus as the camera rushes down city streets and refocuses for the next attraction. That is how the entire trip felt to me! Anyway, I will cut this off before it gets too long. While you may be stuck inside for the next week or so, I recommend taking the chance to check out Guinness’ St. Patrick’s Day commercial here. They really hit home.
“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” – Saint Augustine