Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Dublin Diaries: Day 1 - Monday 19th September 2011

Three years on from a chilly November weekend, we returned to the Irish capital for a brief late summer break. It may be a long way from the boiling temperatures of Turkey, but it didn't matter as we were just lucky and thankful to be there at all.

Weather? Well, the previous week, Ireland and Scotland had been hit by the tail end of a hurricane, and judging by the high winds on our arrival it was taking its time to blow itself out!

One of the best things about a short break in Dublin is that it's a short flight - it takes longer to get to the airport than it does to fly over - and you only need hand luggage, thus avoiding the inconvenience of checking in baggage and all the rip-off of the extra charges involved.

After checking into our hotel, it wasn't long before we headed out into a dry (but still very windy) Monday evening from our base in Dublin 2. If you haven't been to Dublin before, I'd recommend that you are based south of the river, which is within walking distance of all the nightlife, restaurants and shops. Of course there's plenty of these north of the river, where accommodation may also come cheaper, but let's just say it's a bit more "gritty" up there.

South of the river, the main nightlife is centred around the Temple Bar area which is packed with pubs and restaurants from beginning to end. At the weekends this is stag party city and is absolutely jumping....but what's it like on a Monday night? Empty? Deserted? No way! Even on a Monday night in September, it's jumping. And there was a particular buzz in the city that Monday night, after the city's Gaelic football team 'The Dubs' won the national cup final at the weekend. Thousands of fans gathered in Merrion Square to salute their heroes, and we spotted a few of these jubilant fans on the way.

Above: one of the city's most photographed pubs, Temple Bar's very own....Temple Bar.

One of our unfulfilled Dublin ambitions was to get a table in the famous Gallagher's Boxty House, but tonight it was no can do. Nothing changes around here :)

Ireland has been particularly hammered in the current financial recession, and the restaurants in Dublin have had to offer meal deals to get the customers in. 'Early Bird' menus (pre-theatre as we know them) are now commonplace in what is still a massively expensive city. However, there are limited choices on most of these menus so if you're a chicken-eating almost-veggie like myself you end up resorting to the a la carte. But when meals are as good as this one, the money doesn't matter.

One of the best restaurants in Temple Bar is the Quays Restaurant, upstairs from the bustling Quays Bar, and serving some good quality fare to an appreciative clientele of mostly tourists. We were certainly appreciative of our meal and left with our stomachs filled to capacity!

But Dublin being Dublin, you have to try out some of its legendary bars. We managed to fit in a couple before bedtime - one of these being the famous Arlington Hotel near O'Connell Bridge, which puts on a nightly show of Irish music and dancing. The best seats are saved for those who have paid for dinner, but you can still see and hear the show from a more restricted view even if you've just popped in for a Guinness (faithful travelling companion) or a Bulmers Irish cider (me). By the way, why is it Bulmers Irish Cider in Ireland yet it's Magners over here? Just wondered. Anyway we took in some Irish folk music and a bit of Riverdance/Lord of the Dance. Yes it's a tourist trap but so what? It's Dublin after all, soak it up.

Talking of soaking, the rain had come on by this time so we headed to another bar before ending our first day in Dublin. It's good to be back.

Part 2 to follow over the weekend...

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