December 20th, 2009
Somehow, someway, through the divinity of our good Lord, I ended up having to spend two nights in Dublin on my way home to the U.S. for the Holidays due to weather delays. Although my Irish heritage was pleased, my body was not and I was cursing Aer Lingus and the crummy conditions in Europe and New York.
After being held on the plane for five hours (yes, FIVE hours) we were told that the next possible day we could get back to the States was not the following day but rather two days later. The ground staff shuffled us to the airport hotel, equipped us with meal vouchers and wished us well. Normally, airlines are not liable when weather is to blame and this generous response must have been the tidings of the season or, as we later experienced, an incentive to boost the Irish economy.
After one night in the airport hotel, which incidentally had no heat, we decided to make the most of our final 24-hours in Dublin. We moved into a better hotel, centrally located in the city and set about touring as much of the small Irish capital as possible. Shockingly, we were blessed with crisp sunny weather, and thus exploring the easily walkable downtown area of Dublin was more enjoyable than ever.
- The very pretty and peaceful park of St. Stephan’s Green
We chose to stay at the charming, Merrion Hotel located right across from the government buildings and nearby St. Stephan’s Green. The Georgian, brick facade of the hotel is warm and welcoming, particularly when festooned for the holidays.
First, we strolled through Merrion Park where we came upon a rather curious statue of Oscar Wilde. As you can see, I was quite taken with his slouchy pose and attempted to lie aside him. Alas the statue, unlike me, defies gravity.
Afterward, we walked up the hill towards Dublin’s prettiest park, St. Stephen’s Green (pictured above) and marveled at the cleanliness of the area. The stroll through the park let us out at the very top of Grafton Street, Dubin’s populated commercial thoroughfare.
As you can imagine, the street was humming with people on gift hunts while storefronts featured screaming, holiday bargains. We allowed ourselves to get swept into the stream of the crowd, content to aimlessly gaze around.
We stopped for lunch at a great spot, found randomly (although it is, embarrassingly, right across the street from the Tourist office) called O’Neills.
Although it looks small from the outside, it’s actually quite enormous inside with two different types of meals offered – hot and cold. I opted for a make-your-own sandwich and was pleasantly surprised by the result. We sat at a table that had its own private beer tap. which, of course, was the real hit.
After lunch my wonderful cousin Geoff rang and arranged to meet us at one of his favorite pubs, Davy Byrnes, located on the other side of Grafton.
The pub is one of Dublin’s most famous on account of its references in Joyce’s Ulysses. Geoff told us that even though it can be a bit of a ‘tourist-trap’, it remains popular among Dubliners. After yet another pint, (The bartender kindly poured me a mini-pint, known locally as a French Guinness due to the French complaint that a full pint of Guinness is too heavy), we moved onto the Temple Bar area, Dublin’s famous pub-crawl area and favorite spot for Hen and Stag Parties.
We trudged past the many eateries (fast food joints and inexpensive restaurants), headshops and bars, landing finally at the area’s most iconic bar, the Temple Bar Pub – another spot Geoff declared, ‘a must’.
More than 160 years old, the pub is a definite gathering place with live music and multiple spots to sit, eat and of course, drink. (The pub has won the Irish Music Pub of the Year award for the last seven years in a row). We enjoyed more pints and were glad to have music in the background. And as our cabdriver later explained, you can’t have a few pints of Guinness without a proper singsong.
Later, Geoff took us on a fabulously detailed tour of Trinity College, his Alma-mater. Unfortunately a few of the buildings were closed, namely the dining hall which is purported to look like Hogwarts from Harry Potter, but, having Geoff’s narrative of his years as a student alongside the tour was fantastic.
The college’s unique location, tucked within the center of the city, is a source of estimable pride and is truly special. The gated walls around the college protect the inner sanctum and allow it to thrive as a remarkably undisturbed and private environment. It feels like a true shelter within the city.
Exiting the quietude of Trinity College, we were shocked at how the city’s buzz was instantly upon us again. We bid our goodbyes and headed back to our cozy “Garden view room” at the Merrion. Despite the somewhat fuddy looking bed and the ugly yellow cast of light in the picture below, the room was fresh and clean while the bathroom was generously sized (for a garden view room in Europe, no less) and bedecked in marble.
We very much enjoyed the Merrion and the hospitality from the staff was worth noting. This pic below exists because the kindly doorman insisted on taking it, saying “a pretty lass like myself must also be in photos”. What a charmer!