I loved Dublin and found it to be such a clean, friendly city that felt like a more manageable, easier to navigate London.
Day # 1: We arrived bleary after a red-eye and before checking into our beloved Merrion Hotel decided on breakfast at The Shelbourne which gets a lot of buzz for its location on St. Stephen’s Green, and its history – it was founded in 1824! We had an enjoyable, albeit jet-lagged breakfast and I was happy we were staying around the corner at the quieter, cozier Merrion. On our first afternoon/evening, we paced ourselves and meandered through Merrion Square and the festive streets in the Temple Bar area where rowdy crowds were celebrating after a big Gaelic football game. Dad was thirsty and ready for the pint of Guinness he had been talking about since we boarded the plane. We stopped at the Stag’s Head Pub and who knew I actually like Guinness? It’s smoother and lighter than I remembered. Fun fact from my days at Pop-Up video – a pint of Guinness has so many nutrients in it that it can keep you alive for 12 days… After pints, we stumbled upon L’Gueuleton, a cozy restaurant with hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and ambient candle light that several Irish friends recommended. I loved the grilled broccoli salad and Hake (white fish) with calamari ratatouille. I was starving and on a windy, chilly night it was not only delicious and hearty, yet clean somehow. After dinner we poked our heads into The Secret Bar that is just upstairs. It looked like an ideal spot for a nightcap, but as it was our first night in Ireland we opted out and strolled back to our fluffy beds that awaited.
Day #2 On our first full day in Dublin, we were adventurous indeed! After an incredible breakfast spread at The Merrion, we borrowed their very modern (and surprisingly heavy) bikes and took Dublin by storm doing our best to stay on the left side of the road and not get side swiped on the narrow streets. Our first stop was St. Patrick’s Catherdral, where we got an Irish history lesson– did you know that Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels was the dean of the Cathedral?
Our second stop was the Kilmainham Goal (prison), which I’m glad we visited on our first day in Ireland as the prison played a significant role in the country’s history. Many of Ireland’s political leaders were imprisoned and executed here by the British and later by the Irish Free State. On a lighter note(!!), the café had an excellent vegetable soup with homemade brown soda bread – even the jails/museums in Ireland have delicious food!
Dad was adamant about getting to the Guinness storefront with ample time to enjoy our “complimentary” pints that accompany a ticket purchase. Guinness has definitely capitalized on creating an interactive museum that teaches fans how the beer is made. Touristy for sure, but interesting and fun. After our pints, we had an even more harrowing ride back to the Merrion… I’m not entirely sure I would recommend biking the city. After arriving back at the Merrion by the skin of our teeth, we walked down to Lower Baggot street to L’Ecrivan where we had a delicious dinner in a modern, warm atmosphere. Highlights were the Portoguese white wine Martina helped us select and seafood dishes that were fresh and light. The Merrion bar for a nightcap before bed was lovely.
Day #3: After another decadent breakfast, we thoroughly enjoyed seeing more of The Merrion with Garrett Power and learning about the impressive art collection featured around the hotel. We chatted with Chef Edward who told us a little more about what exactly goes into the Irish breakfast staple “black pudding,” – let’s just say it involves sausage and cooked blood– needless to say, it was not one of my breakfast staples while in Ireland!
After our behind the scenes look at the Merrion, we walked to Trinity College where we saw the old library and walked through The Book of Kells exhibit which gets a lot of hype. The exhibit is worth seeing, but checking out the college and old library were more interesting and nostalgic being around all the university students bustling around between classes…
The jet-lag kicked in so we headed to the National Gallery for cappuccinos and another vegetable soup sampling – we were very impressed with ALL the soups we had in Ireland. Then visited the works of Caravaggio, Pissario, Yeats, and many others. We appreciated beautiful gardens and vibrant flowers in Merrion Square before heading back to one of the fireplaces at the Merrion for their impressive Art Tea. A swim and a run were in order, before heading to Nesbitt & Doheny’s, one of the local pubs around the corner apparently where a lot of the politicians go because of its close proximity to the government buildings. For dinner we headed to Patrick Guilbaud, Ireland’s 3-starred Michelin restaurant. A culinary experience in itself, but heavy, expensive and not necessarily my favorite restaurant in Dublin. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a fantastic dinner in Ireland!
More to come on the rolling hills and small towns in Ireland that we ventured out to see after three days in the big city…!