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Six days in Dublin

After final pack-up and getting both bags down the stairs (as quietly as I could), I rounded the corner, and began a mild climb towards the Athlone train station. Immediate issue was that the trains were full, even at 9am, and the machine wouldn’t issue a ticket. Appealing to a station staff, I got a ticket and joined a good crowd to board the train to the capital. While waiting, two Americans with bicycles heading to the northwest and I chatted about touristing in Ireland. The train was near full, with many, particularly the women, wearing cowboy hats and boots: Garth Brooks was in Dublin for two weekends and 5 concerts playing to a capacity crowd of 80,000 each, and would be performing that Sunday evening. My seat mate and I talked the entire trip in - she was on the way to visit her daughter - and the person whose reserved seat I was in let me stay and found a nearby seat.

By the time the train reached the terminus, the weather had changed from light drizzle to full on rain. The taxi rank was a lengthy queue, and my lodgings weren’t too far, I thought. Once I got onto the sidewalk paralleling the Liffey, it was pretty much a straight shot. Wearing the yellow Lands End slicker I’d had since my 2017 bike ride along the Danube, I pushed the big roller and pulled the smaller guy, discovering that the waterproofing had been washed out and rain soaked through.

At my hotel, the Georg Frederick Handel, the room wasn’t ready, and I had a tour appointment to skip the line at Jameson’s Distillery and Guinness about an hour and a half later anyway.

Crossing the river, I verified the Jameson’s starting place and went across a plaza to Oscar’s where I had fish and chips (and couldn’t swap the mussy peas for a salad) with a berry fizz (no michelada option.) Fortified, I headed into the distillery tour entrance and joined a group of 19 for the production tour.

The Jameson’s tour begins on the ground floor with a taste of their standard, at-every-bar whiskey, after which we climbed a flight of stairs and watched a movie detailing the distillation process, and the aging in barrels. Our guide was a very young Irishman, who flitted about (the label I attached to him was “twink”) who then minced his scripted pitch for three tastes: the standard (again), crested and black barrel. Per my notes, nothing special.

Returning to the ground level, we were given time to roam the sales floor, where I made two purchases: a waterproof windbreaker (forest green, hooded, rolled tight into a small sack) and my hat pin souvenir. Bonding with Mike and Mandy from Boise, we three joined the procession through the streets of Dublin and across the river to the Guinness St James Gate. Our route took us by The Brazen Head, which also claims to be Ireland’s oldest pub. [Pubs have kitchens, bars do not.]

At Guiness, the tour is a production worthy of Disney: seven floors of dioramas, displays, interactive options. However, for your complementary pint of the bitter ale, you must climb (or use the lift) to the top floor for the view as well. While I didn’t test for certification, I learned that to pull a pint is a two step process. The initial step introduces the nitrogen, filling the glass so the foam head gets about an inch from the top. One hundred nineteen and a half seconds later (as the cloudiness rises to the inch of head), the handle is pushed in the opposite direction and the glass is topped off with just ale. [Guinness also sends out maintenance staff monthly to clean the draft hoses and fixtures to ensure a consistent flavor quality.]

Information is on floors 2-6, except 5 where food is available. The store selling everything Guinness is on the ground floor. There I picked up chocolate bars, my hat pin, and a triple sample pack of 50ml bottles of RedBreast whiskey (which I held onto until the transatlantic cruise.)

Heading back to the hotel, after walking past Christ Church Cathedral, I stopped at the Bull and Castle, around the corner from Handel’s. I was rebuffed for a table for dinner, so left and checked into my room. Enough floor space to leave the large suitcase open, a decent bathroom with counter space for the toiletry kit, I was pleased. Leaving unpacking until Monday evening, I headed back to the restaurant, where they had a table for me in the bar. Brews of Glaway Hooker and O’Hara stout; green Nocellara olives and Perello picante (from Sicily) and smoked almonds to start. An 8 ounce burger, with Crowe’s smoked bacon, cheddar; a salad and chips. No notes in the journal, but I’m pretty sure the burger was well done, there wasn’t enough cheese to really taste it (or its flavor was too subtle,) and the chips made a second pass to become crispy.

My room had a window facing out onto the street above the entrance. At a nearby shop I was able to get a trio of bananas. WIth a bit of time before crashing, I walked to locate the laundromat, where I’d drop about a month’s dirty laundry later in the week. Finished for the day (and readying for an early tour start the following morning, the watch reported 13, 814 steps.

Day 2

Up at 6:30, out at 7, I headed down to the Westin, planning on getting coffee when I arrived. However, not a shop within a couple of blocks. A van, driven by our guide Jackie, left with 28 tourists to cross the country. After a rest break midway,we first headed into Limerick. Knowing I’d return later in my travels, I was happy to visit King John’s Castle, albeit our guide gave us too little time to explore.

Enroute again, we arrived below the Cliffs of Moher to get onto an hour ferry ride which cruised along the base of the cliffs.

On our return, we went into Russell’s where I had a bowl of seafood chowder (for our table to taste), the fish curry and a Murphy’s red. I was seated with a family group of 5 - parents (Victoria and Mike, both my age) and three siblings (Annie, Kate and brother) traveling from St Louis without their partners. Excellent curry.

Before rejoining the van, I snagged a Writer’s Tea pot stilled whiskey “Method and Madness” which mellowed our the bumpy ride up the Burren to walk a portion of the Cliffs.

Our ride back was met with drizzle. Jackie took delight in getting us to the Barack Obama rest stop where we used the facilities, and picked up snacks and a beverage.

Finishing up at the Westin, I strolled back to Handel’s, and I just headed to the room and crashed; 11,148 steps.

Day 3

Tuesday morning, and another tour, but a more reasonable pickup time.

Driver Matt collected his group at the Molly Malone statue and we were soon off into the Wicklow mountains with a dozen of us. I managed to snag a coffee beforehand, and enjoyed the scenery as we rolled along secondary roads.

After dropping off a quartet of women at the stables, we proceeded to Powerscourt, a huge, elegant “castle” that is a residence, resort, and restaurant.

The estate has several formal gardens, which I wandered, with an eventual goal of getting to the distillery before our appointed pickup time. As the only patron, I was able to sample three of their Fercullen whiskeys: the 8yo, a blend; a 16yo of 90% grain, plus corn, aged in bourbon barrels; and a limited edition blend with 20+yo malt aged in bourbon barrels with 4 years more in Amarone barrels, which turned out to be my favorite.

Having collected the riders, the rest joined Matt in the van and we rolled down to the nearby village of Enniskerry to a bistro called Poppies, where I had a shepherd's pie with celery and corn salad, after getting a take-away beer at the pub around the corner (and a second for Barb of Oregon.) Onward, we made a few brief photo stops, with one longer at some bridge where lovers united in a film.

Coming into the valley, we passed several of the Guinness Lakes, apparently the source of the water used at the brewery.

Arriving at Glendalough, Matt gave a short talk on the history of the monastery and St Kevin’s Cross. Set loose, I located the ruins of the cathedral and began my photo taking.

St Peter and St Paul Cathedral (ruins), Glendalough

Once sated, I toured around more of the site, before heading into the inn for a pint of St Kevin’s red for the ride back.

I was allowed to speak, and offered the icon of St Kevin that I’d received at the Orthodox monastery in greater Boston in June. A religious woman from northwest Georgia who attends an Orthodox church was pleased to accept, especially since her parish priest is named Kevin.

Matt regaled us with his own version of the history of Ireland (the Irish were first at everything, apparently) as he drove us back to Dublin. After returning most to the Malone statue square, he offered to drop me closer to the hotel.

Dropping the camera in the room, I set out back to the laundry, and confirmed that I could drop off at opening time the next morning and collect before they closed. Returning, I stopped at the Ivy for a double of Trelling Small Batch, a local whiskey. My notes end abruptly, but I have pictures of fried zucchini strips and a seafood curry.

My dinner appointment with my cousin Mary was that evening, and I remember having a pleasant time together. After walking her to the bus stop and seeing her board, I headed back to my hotel. Emails indicated a new rendezvous location for the afternoon tour the following day, and when I went to backup the day’s photos, I had to make more space.I did note that I had 12,865 steps for the day before I crashed for the night, probably after collecting all my dirty laundry into my small roller and a pair of sacks.

Day 4

Without rushing, I was out of the hotel and pulling bags of dirty clothes through town to the laundry: they indicated it would be ready by 4, although I knew I’d be touring until 5:30. Next stop on my agenda was the Pro-cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Pro-cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dublin

This RC church is on the north side of the Liffey, so I crossed the river and continued the walk to its location. Looking more like a court building than a church, six solid columns create a porch with steps to the entry. Similar thick columns support the vault over the nave, and the dome at the crossing. I found the interior to be dark, perhaps with the contribution of a cloudy sky outside, but minimal clerestory windows and smaller side aisle windows kept the mood somber.

The lantern at the center of the gilded dome didn’t really admit much light either. Smaller side altars have more ornamentation than the white altar table at the center of the sanctuary. The organ pipes were in the loft over the entry doors; the loft was locked to my attempt to climb there.

Returning to the south of the river, I walked past the Dublin Castle on my way to the national cathedral. A CoI site, St Patrick’s Cathedral has a large park space to one side.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Somewhat typical for larger Anglican cathedrals, there is an admission charge which includes the use of an audio guide. Arriving as daily Eucharist was scheduled, I took a break and attended the service. Ornate, I spent my time getting pictures and admiring the bronze memorials, the colorful glass, the elaborate carvings.

Back outside, another 5 minutes trying to find good angles before heading to the “inside the walls” Anglican cathedral, Christ Church. Perhaps 5 minutes later and nearing 2, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to do it justice before I had my next tour.

Besides, I could have lunch. Stopping at The Bankers in Dublin 2, I opted for a 5 Lamps red ale, water, and a Beef and Guinness pie. You usually can’t go wrong with pie, and this time it was confirmed. I then headed off for Trinity College. The guide, Roger, arrived just at the appointed time (the rest of us had been milling around for 5-10 minutes. Because 6 more were expected, we spent another 30 minutes waiting on stragglers who never showed up. (Some went to the wrong entrance and started without the guide.)

My notes read, “A bit full of himself with none of the self-deprecating humor I’ve encountered frequently on this trip”, which pretty much sums up my reaction to Roger. He had his own version of history, disliked correct answers (not just mine), he was in IT and graduated from Trinity in ‘83. His information on the College was spot on, as well as his insights on the Book of Kells. However, the exhibits for the Books of Kells, Armagh and Durrow provided much more insight into these illuminated (and stunning) manuscripts. His introduction to the library was dark, and he pretty much blew off Brian Boru’s harp, focusing on Guinness and the Irish government’s symbolic uses.

From there we walked to the castle, where he pontificated for 5 minutes on the chapel and touched on the history of the structure (now a rebuilt administrative structure) before ending and leaving. Most of us expected to at least enter the castle, rather than be left overlooking a garden to its rear. I hope others also left a negative review on TripAdvisor.

The time was about 90 minutes before the laundry closed, so I headed there. I couldn’t find my ticket, but fortunately had taken a picture: my surname was entered as Cok, hence some confusion in searching the database. Wheeling and lugging clean clothes back to the hotel, I was pleased to know I’d have perhaps another 4 weeks before having to do that again.

My new t-shirt from Iceland (with the Eimwerk Distillery logo) wasn’t included, so I headed back - I’d ask that it be hung to dry rather than risk shrinkage in a dryer. Unlabelled, the young man admitted to confusion once I’d left. I folded it up and put it into the string bag with my journal and headed to dinner. French food had been calling my name, so I decided to try Trocadero. With no draft beer at the bar, I had an evening with wine accompaniments. An Exhib’ rose from Cap d’Agde to start with a chicken liver pate: Armagnac puree with white soda bread. A Guigal Cotes du Rhone matched well with a roast rack of Wicklow lamb, champ mash and red wine au jus, and a rocket salad. The pate was awesome, and I noted that the lamb shanks were cooked to perfection.

While dining I began talking with a couple from Brisbane who were on their way to Rome to meet up with friends and their daughter. One topic was the reactions we’d noticed following the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II. We found that the older one was, the more forgiving of the foibles of the Royal family. However, we agreed she was an excellent example of a British citizen dedicated to her role and duty to the UK and Commonwealth.

Returning, I stopped by Christ Church Cathedral to try taking a few night shots - not a terrific effort, I at least would continue to try as the trip progressed. Back in the room, with clean clothes now filling the roller on the floor, I recorded 18,196 steps. No wonder I was tired.

Day 5

Slept “late” (past 8:30) with the expectation to visit the neighboring cathedral, which didn’t open until 10. My original itinerary had me making a day trip to Trim and Navan, which I’d accomplished while I had the car rental. Not one to just hang out in a hotel room, I hit the street and walked down to the tourist office to inquire about the VAT refund process. [As it turns out, VAT is refunded for physical purchases carried in the luggage on departing the UK or EU, at a sum above a certain level, which I will probably never achieve.] Stopping in a local coffee shop, I got a latte and a scone from a young man who originated in Guadalajara. Mexican Independence Day, I wished him a good holiday. At the nearby pharmacy I was able to get hydrogen peroxide to clean my sleep apnea mouth gear (should do this once a month) and an expectorant (runny nose and light hacking cough due to allergies). After dropping my purchases off with half the scone in the room, I headed to the cathedral.

Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (also known as Christ Church Cathedral), Dublin

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (also known as Christ Church Cathedral) is the CoI inside the old city walls, and serves as the seat of the Anglican bishop for Dublin. Historically the oldest of the three in the Irish capital, it predates the Dissolution. Across the street/footbridge is Dublinia, an exhibit of the history of the city, which is an add-on to the cathedral entrance fee.

I spent 3 hours wandering, first on my own, then with the included audio guide. I went down into the crypt, across to the exhibits. The historic building is intriguing. The crypt included a mummified cat and rat, found during excavations, as well as silver from the treasury and examples of clerical vestments and robes.

Across the street, in the rooms of the former bishop’s residence were dioramas reconstructing the history of Dublin from the Viking times through the seventeenth century. Videos, wall text and models augmented the physical models, and were included in interactive activities for visitors of all ages. There is a small gift shop with some interesting items, but I found a larger, more comprehensive source once I returned to the street.

Lunch beckoned, and I selected the Copper Alley Bistro. A grilled cajun chicken salad met my protein and roughage requirements: a chicken breast, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, lettuce, green beans, broccoli, avocado and red onion with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I’d learned to request minimal red onion, since most of the salads I’d had previously in Ireland had been loaded with the sliced, bitter-tart gremlins. (Don’t get me wrong, but a few onions can go a long way.) They added beets when they removed the onions!

The next event on my itinerary was a distillery tour, at 4pm, so I had time to return to the room and drop off stuff. The Dublin Liberties Distillery is up near St Patrick’s, and given my regular disorientation, I allowed a half hour for the 15 minute walk. After several wrong turns (despite Google Maps), I arrived about 5 minutes early. My guide was Kevin, a young, small, heavily inked and pierced Dubliner who greeted me with a cordial.

Made of “almost whiskey”, it is clear, 20% ABV, and mixed with honey - in my book: too sweet, but pleasant. The tour lasts 40 minutes, while similar to most modern distilleries, included more historical references to the Liberties district, and to Murder’s Row. Offered two tastings while walking through the plant, I was able to try 3 more options, whiskeys which were older, but not produced at Dublin Liberties Distillery.

Leaving Kevin, I headed to Christ Church for Evensong. Inevitably, I sat with a female couple behind me who felt the need to converse during the organ prelude - about tourism business, no less. I would have expected better sense and manners from a professional. The choir was 16 voices (10 female, 6 men) with the organ understated when accompanying the choir. I found the prayers calming, the sermon apt with a blend of the readings from Jeremiah and Romans.

Returning to the room and being able to make a phone call on the hotel’s wifi, I spoke with Alan, my roofmate in Florida, regarding the email from the HOA about an assessment to accelerate the roof replacement reserve. I really didn’t get answers, so then emailed the treasurer (whose reply, just the presentation as an attachment, proved to be unusable, so I had no information on which to base a preference.)

Leaving the hotel, I wandered, finally walking into the last eatery at the end of a street: Taste Cafe. Starting with a can of Handsome Jack, an IPA from Hope Brewery, my starter was “prime chicken wings”: Asian with hoisin and lime BBQ sauce. A beef and blue cheese burger, without the portobello mushroom accompanied by Satay saucy fries proved to be a mistake - I would hopefully avoid burgers (again) in the future, as it was seriously well done.

Afterwards, back at the room, I finished writing the next blog, leaving it to spell check and proof, as well as select photos. (Google Documents spell check is poor, and only seems to work if connected to the Internet.) The watch reported 9571 steps.

Day 6

Planned as laundry day, I awoke to a fully open and unplanned day in Dublin. I started with the mundane but necessary: I went online to the credit card banks and determined my obligations, and then went to my bank to remit payments. (I needed to do this earlier in the week, as checking on Friday meant payments received Monday, and the balances never hit zero.)

Wanting to know how my proposed walk to the train station on Saturday would pan out, I made the 30 minute straight shot along the Liffey. At the station I collected a ticket for Carlow, being advised I could reserve a seat through a phone call. Passing a post office, I checked on what could be included in an international package (yes to chocolate, no to alcohol).

Crossing the Liffey, I headed to the National Museum.

With several exhibits to view, I opted for two: history of the military from 1500 to the present, and geology of Ireland. Several international student groups moved more quickly through the rooms, quite loud and boisterous, not using inside voices.

Back to the streets, I crossed the river and wound up at Roe and Co, a distillery near the Guinness warehouse, where I booked a 1pm tour. Mark led the group, came across as attentive, albeit on a programmed script.

The tour culminated with making a whiskey cocktail, which involved a step with vigorous shaking - not something the recovering broken elbow liked. With a pair of Americans, we walked up the street a few blocks to Pearce Lyons, the fourth distillery (of five in Dublin) which offered distillery tours. Housed in a former church, the repurposing was delightful. The tour included 4 tastings. There is a “whiskey passport” - a tourist promotion whereby 5 stamps would earn you a pin.

Strolling back towards the hotel, I passed the RC church of St Augustine and St John the Baptist. Poking my head (and camera) in, I found it intriguing enough to do a full circuit. The church has some stunning windows, and an elaborately carved altar and reredos.

Further down the road was St Audoen’s, the only remaining medieval parish church in Dublin. Simple, with natural walls and etched organ pipes, the building was filled with a strong spiritual sense, a love of God that has happened there for centuries.

Heading back to the hotel, I walked into Darkey Kelly’s Pub which is around the corner from the Handel. They have whiskey barrels on the sidewalk for Teeling, the fifth Dublin distillery (I had been to 4 of the 5). Starting my liquid evening, a Teeling single malt 12yo, followed by a Tyrconnell 10yo Old Madeira Finish, which I had with crisps (potato chips). Continuing my stay, I ordered a shot of the “whiskey of the week”, McConnell’s 5 sherry cask (Belfast distillery) to accompany the beef stew with mashed potatoes and Guinness that I picked for dinner.

A nightcap of Dunviller’s PX 12yo sent me out to pack, tipping the three musicians who had been entertaining the crowd with Irish songs. Later than previous nights, I missed much of the ambient street noises as I recorded 10,172 steps.

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