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Losing Time in Dublin, Part 1: Beginning at the Pub

Where: Dublin, Ireland
August 22, 2009 at 2:13 PM | by | ()

We've been back in New York a full day now, so I'd better get my thoughts on Dublin down before they fade away like that last pesky hour of jet lag. After all, time in the Irish capital can seem a blur, and not just because of the ever-flowing pints of stout. It's a city of sensory overload, with so much to behold that it takes a concerted effort not to bump into people on the sidewalk. Okay, the Guinness may be a contributing factor, but Dublin impressed us and exceeded our expectations at every turn, and the five days we spent there were as fleeting as they were fun.

(Yes, Jaunted recently published Christine Bord's excellent Dublin Field Trip series, but I guess that means the Emerald Isle is hot this season. Two's a trend, right?)

My wife, Jenn, and I dropped off our two-year-old son, Zachary, with my parents in Virginia and took an Air France red-eye out of Dulles to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, where Jenn bought some gummy candies and French fashion magazines before we connected to Dublin. After the captain announced the dreary weather conditions we were to experience upon landing, the Irish astronomer sitting next to us informed us, sagely, that "you can tell it's summer in Ireland because the rain is warmer."

The Dublin experience began shortly after getting into the taxi, as our Irish driver, Tony, had an opinion on just about everything. For example, when we mentioned how we'd never been to Dublin before, but were big fans of Guinness, he said "Ah, but you've never had Guinness," and then launched into a speech about how Guinness is different in Ireland (a debatable claim, but I wasn't about to interrupt), and how it's poured in two steps (as though we'd never been to an Irish bar in New York), and how you have to wait until your pint is 95% black before taking your first sip, because if you're too anxious, you'll wind up "talking to God on the porcelain phone."

Tony was quite a stitch, and had all sorts of advice for us first-timers. "Don't advertise the fact that you're not Catholic," he warned. "Well, I am Catholic," I replied. "Just not a particularly good one." "Well who is?" he countered, and then made a joke about how they were going to remake the movie The Exorcist, except this time they were going to use the demon to help get the priest out of the boy. He also said that people in Ireland like to joke and make fun of each other a lot, but it's nothing personal, nor are the endless streams of "expleetives" you'll hear coming from the mouths of Dubliners.

It was barely noon when we got to our hotel, the Maldron Cardiff Lane (which I video-reviewed for HotelChatter here), but they were cool at the front desk and let us check into the room early. We hadn't slept worth a hill of beans on the flights, so we took a two-hour nap. Upon waking up, I went out to get coffee and provisions at a nearby shop called Spar (which we'd return to often), and then we set out to explore Dublin for the first time.

We wandered about a bit until we found a pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey, and I took the first of many self portraits (above), but this will be the only one I'll subject you to. Anyway, this is what we look like. It felt like winter outside, very damp and chilly. Over the next five days, we'd experience all four seasons. Continuing on, we passed through the famous Temple Bar district. Being early Friday night, the place was already packed with revelers, and we were glad that our hotel wasn't located there. It's kind of a combination of Bourbon Street and Duval Street. Not quite ready to start drinking, we sat on a bench next to Christ Church Cathedral and pulled out the DK guidebook and Streetwise map and made a plan.

The Brazen Head pub was just around the corner, so we made our way over and found a nice table in their outdoor courtyard. (The rain had stopped, and it felt slightly warmer.) Billed as Ireland's oldest pub, it oozed history, and was filled with a mix of tourists and locals. Okay, probably more of the former, but I did hear plenty of Gaelic accents, and there was a hen party of Irish lasses doing some traditional dance (the one where they don't swing their arms) in one of three main barrooms. We ordered the requisite pints of Guinness and toasted the beginning of our journey. Here is a video of that toast. A big bowl of Irish stew and a plate of assorted cheeses kept us sated, and we wandered back to the hotel with a spring in our jet-lagged steps.

The next morning, we had cappuccinos and sandwiches at a tidy coffee shop called Insomnia near Trinity College and then went to see the famous Book of Kells. The book was beautiful, of course. It's an illuminated book of the four gospels of the New Testament transcribed in Latin by Celtic monks, and it dates back to 800 A.D. But it doesn't take long to look at it, which is why you're allowed to pass through the college's Harry Potter-esque library afterward. Photography was not permitted, but it looks like this and it was really wonderful. It would have been nice to take a seat and flip through the ancient tomes, but they were strictly off limits.

After the museum, we went to Grafton Street, which is one of the main shopping streets south of the River Liffey (and is actually a bit nicer than the Temple Bar), and Jenn dragged me into Marks & Spencer to buy a black jacket which is cute but looks like all her other black jackets but hey what do I know? Then we walked through St. Stephen's Green, a gorgeous city park, and we watched the kids feeding the ducks and posing for pictures in front of the pond. The weather was springlike, and we were feeling irie. Time for a pint.

Continue to Part 2.

[All Photos: Victor Ozols]

Related Stories:
· Losing Time in Dublin, Part 1: Beginning at the Pub [Jaunted]
· Losing Time in Dublin, Part 2: A Tale of Two Menus [Jaunted]
· Losing Time in Dublin, Part 3: A Long Walk to St. James's Gate [Jaunted]
· Losing Time in Dublin, Part 4: Sandcastles, Real Castles, and Thin Lizzy [Jaunted]
· Five Mellow Days in Dublin at the Maldron Cardiff Lane [HotelChatter]
· The Brazen Head [Official Site]
· Dublin Field Trip [Jaunted]

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