Where to start… Oh yea, we just landed in Dublin, and no, the runway is not filled with empty beer bottles as depicted in that Family Guy episode. It’s 9:30am and we have the next 10 days to get in as much site and sound of this lovely country as humanly possible. Our ride to Hucks Mum’s house was truly the short twenty-minutes described by our taxi driver and we quickly discovered that this would always be the case. Comically, the standard reply when asking for directions would be, “Oh, it’s just twenty-minutes away,” regardless of distance. Our destination this morning was to Ballinteer, just outside Dublin city center.
I have found confusion and anxiety to sometimes be part of planning a trip to a foreign country; I mean, look at what you invest in before the plane even leaves the ground: coordinating airfares, schedules, time off, reservations, transportation, not to mention the overabundance of recommendations for must sees, where to stay, and what to eat. We decided to keep this trip to our taste and pace it as we would enjoy. Ireland is guaranteed to be a treasure of a holiday anyway, whether you’re plowing through at the speed of light or crawling along a leaf like a caterpillar (last analogy, compliments of a rugby commentator).
So having established on this particular trip that we would take it easy and enjoy, as it felt right, we opted to rent a car on our third day into the holiday- in an effort to be at the mercy of only ourselves. My last solo trip to Ireland in 2007 was the scream through style covering many miles and counties by bus, but for this particular voyage, I was hoping for a little more “get into the culture” style of holiday. And that is exactly what we had starting with a homemade Fry-up served 5 minutes after walking through Mums’ front door.
Food was actually of interest on this trip and we traveled along each day tallying items off our hit list as they were consumed, and sometimes just simply devoured. The first item on the list should go without saying, but it was Guinness. The factory is in Dublin city center- so you may want to add that to your list of city center adventures along with Kilmainham Jail, which is definitely worth a tour and just a short distance from the Guinness Brewery. There are obviously tons of places to see and things to do in Dublin, but at the end of the day, Grafton Street-the Wonderland is where we found ourselves for Irish-style entertainment.
So back to the hit list- In terms of foods that require chewing, they were the traditional Fry-up (done) that includes a plateful of sausage (bangers), rashers (Irish bacon), eggs- over easy, beans, roasted tomato, and brown bread. There are variations of what is put on the plate, but it is sure to be an Atkins meal, no doubt. Refer to it as the Traditional Irish Breakfast when ordering off of a menu. Fish & Chips are definitely a must and one of the food items I had wanted to revisit throughout the week. Leo Burdocks is considered one of the countries best chip houses, so give ‘em a try. It was our last stop on Grafton Street on Thursday night that we ran into an unexpected surprise, and found simple pleasure in over-indulging in a Dublin original stew called Coddle. The stew is made with bangers, rashers, and onions- cooking the mixture for more than a day to blend the simple ingredients into a very tasty meal. Now, believe this or not, but Turkish Donor Kebabs and curry were really the top of the list! The Irish love their curry! And, I must say, those chicken, shrimp, and beef curry dishes we tried were both delicious and different- definitely worth trying the Irish version. The donor kebab- words can’t even describe the delight in covering ourselves with this treat. It is said that you have to buy two, one to go ahead and just dump all over yourself and the next to actually eat; they are somewhat messy if you haven’t put that together. Anyway, we were successful by all counts I am proud to say as I sit here starving myself in retribution for the five additional pounds that snuck their way back home with me- I mean, on me.
Our idea to rent a car was to take in the countryside and make stops as we pleased, but getting around by train or bus is incredibly easy and especially necessary when going into city center itself. Heck, it’s just a twenty-minute train ride on the Daniel Day or Jerry Lee Luas - as nicknamed by the locals, anyway (Luas is Irish for speed). Opting to rent a car went a couple of ways for us over the course of this holiday. First requiring a little (or a lot) of practice in staying on the right (or wrong) side of the road and controlling the vehicle from what many countries call the passenger seat. No relaxation for the passenger in this case though, as the above scenario requires the concentration and detail of both “drivers.” Being desperately lost at only one point in the entire journey however, did not leave us regretting the decision to drive ourselves. The freedom of the car allowed us to explore some fantastic and mystic countryside that made for a very relaxing and enjoyable stay.
Getting lost was more than an entertaining adventure itself anyway. The instructions on how easy it was to get to our desired destination (home) went something like this ‘just go down the road and turn right at the second roundabout, then go to the end of the road and take a left until you get to THE garage, which sounded more like “carriage” to me, and wallah, there you are’. Well, the roundabouts seem about half mile around and I think that that is where we went wrong- we lost count of the roundabouts. It was after passing the same pink building three times that we reluctantly conceded to what may seem an obvious state of lost-hood, and went into their parking lot. It turns out that delightful little pink building was a cozy pub called Delaney’s. We first walked into the lounge side of the pub; the side of the establishment for families and dining that originated back in the day when women and children were not allowed in the pub. The public phone was in the bar, so we traipsed back through the snug (a snug in an Irish pub is a small room, which holds around eight people who have immediate access to the bartender for ready pints). The bar is the traditional section, usually where the ole’ guys hang. No music or entertainment on this side (stay in the lounge for that). It was in the less-ole’ days that women were allowed to come into the bar side, but still not allowed to sit at the bar. I had previously thought that this side of the bar notoriously was dull and drab. That is until the day we found ourselves lost
Confusion quickly set in as Huck was using the public phone in the corner trying to get proper directions and a roomful of more than six eager fella’s sitting on a long bench against the back wall were giving me directions (no one even knew the address we were going to, including ourselves) who each took turns more-or-less repeating what was just previously said. By this point, I had ordered a pint and was just bobbing my head as though I understood any of it. It was when Huck’s brother walked into the pub that the wall of direction-givers erupted with recognition and laughter. We were at his home pub! Lucky find I guess. But what is most important about telling this part of the story is to articulate the friendly, helpful people of Ireland. That is whether a stranger or an employee at an establishment you are at- the customer service is second to none!
A short trip to Skerries early in the week left us well rested and rather chilled out. We stayed at the Carroll’s Pierhouse Hotel where we were treated with such overwhelming enthusiasm and effort to make our stay comfortable that we stayed an extra night. It was rather cold outside but we did get some walking around the village, visited a castle, and heard some traditional Irish entertainment in the local pub. Most of the pubs have at least one fireplace going so cozy comfort was not difficult to achieve.
Dublin City itself is where we spent the least amount of time, surprising I know, but it certainly is worth passing forward some good old-fashioned Roll Joints we hit. Our trip into town that day started on a bus that deposited us in front of The Bleeding Horse where I was hoping to meet Yvonne and Flo that I had met there two years ago on my solo trip. We hadn’t swapped contact information; I was just hoping they might be there. I wasn’t even completely sure that I would be able to recognize them or they would remember me, but felt fairly certain that I would see them there. I was right, they walked in the door about 15 minutes after we got there and we had a couple of pints with them and caught up on the day. What a hoot! The Bleeding Horse was established in 1649 and is considered one of the most historical pubs in Dublin. I love wandering around upstairs- it’s so old that you feel you might turn a corner and run smack dab into a wayward Viking or group of shenanigans from years past.
After our good-byes and stop-by-agains, we headed down the hill from Camden Street and stopped in a nice corner pub called The Stag’s Head on Dame Street, a true Dublin tradition with live music and good Guinness. The place was packed on a Thursday evening with what would seem an after work crowd, if you use suits and heels to base your assumption on, anyway. It was loud, busy, and great fun. Here we met several people from around the world and even one from Oregon, my hometown! Huck ran into a childhood friend called Derek who is actually the day time bartender, so make sure to ask for him. So as you can see we were not short for company here. I couldn’t go back to Dublin without visiting O’Neill’s Bar & Restaurant on Suffolk Street around the corner from the famous Trinity College. It was here that I went after a short nap on the lawn of Trinity College during my first visit to Ireland. And no, I wasn’t napping because of the Guinness! The trip from the west coast of America to Ireland is quite a long one and deposits you smack dab in the middle of activity at the charming hour of 0900 when your hotel won’t let you check in until after 3pm. Anyway, it was here that I met up with a group of football partiers who were in town for the notorious annual Gaelic football match at the famous Croke Park. I had picked the right weekend to come to town that trip- for sure! It is at O’Neill’s that you will find the common Irish-style restaurant where you might feel like your back in school yourself. Grab a tray, saunter down a lengthy bar of displayed food, and let a chef personalize a plate just for you. The food is really very good, hot, and satisfying. Don’t let yourself be swayed from trying out their fare that is served all day and night, and certainly make sure to add a pint from their large selection of ales, lagers and stouts.
And last, but not least, Kehoe’s on south Anne Street, actually called John Kehoe’s bar because he lived above the bar until his death a few years ago. It is a Dubliner favorite as you will find, and is also where you go for the best pint of Guinness in Dublin. Like most pubs in Ireland, it is a maze of social nooks and crannies that obviously entertains many. Another food item that is always good between pints of Guinness is a donor kebab. On Anne Street, and just across the street from Kehoe’s, is a kebab joint considered the McDonald’s of kebab joints, called Abrakebabra’s. We couldn’t go through a Roll of city center without marking that food item off of our must-eats list. As I am enjoying my kebab immensely, Huck tells me it’s not the best in Dublin, but they’re everywhere and pretty cheap. The best is probably Zaytoon kebabs on the corner of Temple Bar. Just down from The Bleeding Horse is Momo’s Kebab House (cheapest) on Aungier. I guess we weren’t thinking of food then…
The next day we drove south and found ourselves in County Wicklow where we walked around a large monastic city of ancient times called Glendalough. It was beautiful and made me realize that my next trip to Ireland might be a true backpacking adventure where we will certainly see more of this beautiful and majestic country. We have a short clip at the end where I try to actually say the word monastic (attempting to repeat the park host’s pronunciation) with not much success, but at least you can see and feel some of the beauty for yourself.
Have a great stay in Ireland and let us know what you find for must-do adventure and mystery.
Cheers and Happy Rolling!
By the way, if you want to golf in Ireland and also want to golf in the oldest golf club house in the world- that’s right the “WORLD” ( I know that’s a lot of golf’s in the one sentence ) check out Ardglass Golf Club in County Down, Ireland- “FOUR”.
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