One of the things I love about London is being able to zip over to another country for a weekend! I’d love to know how many countries (let alone cities) you can get to within 2 hours by plane, train or even car from London?! Suffice to say a lot more, a tad closer (and cheaper!) than Australia!
For the August bank holiday weekend, we did just that! Our first visit to the Emerald Isle with a long weekend in Dublin. Being a bank holiday, travelling Ryan Air and out of Stansted airport, we were expecting the worst, but we sailed through security, with no delays either end. It was probably one of the easiest airport check-ins we’ve had! Made even better on the return by the open borders Common Travel Area agreement between the UK and Ireland meaning we didn’t even have to go through immigration! Now that’s a bonus!
When we arrived, when asked what we were doing in Dublin, the security officer laughed and said, “you do know the Pope is in town this weekend, don’t you?!”. We laughed back and carried on, thinking he was most likely joking with us, but when we googled, sure enough, of all weekends, the Pope had decided to crash our weekend in Dublin!!!
At least the Pope was unlikely to be at one of the 750 pubs in Dublin county, and with that number to choose from, it was a given that we’d test out a few (and have a few pints of Guinness in the process)!! Trying to steer clear of the tourist areas we made a beeline in the opposite direction of Temple Bar, but I think most of the places we went were still more geared to tourists than locals. Our faves were O’Donoghue’s on Merrion Row, the Cobblestone (‘a drinking pub with a music problem’) and the Stag’s Head (where we met a lovely couple who used to live in Oz for 6 years and spent the night chatting with them, even though it was a Sunday night and they had to work the next day!!).
We didn’t arrive until quite late on the Friday night, so after finding our Airbnb, although we were tempted to find the nearest pub, we thought we should get a decent night’s sleep. Well slept and refreshed, on Saturday we made our way to Trinity College to explore the grounds of this historic university established in 1592 where the likes of Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett studied. The big drawcard is the Old Library with the Book of Kells (“world’s most famous medieval manuscript from the 9th century, a richly decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ”). I was more interested in the beautiful Long Room. At 65 metres long, lined with marbled busts on either side and two levels of shelves filled with 200,000 of the library’s oldest books, it’s marketed as “one of the most impressive libraries in the world”, and it is!
We also checked out the lovely St Stephen’s Green, and Merrion Square with its homes with many a blue “such and such lived here” plaques, and the statue of Oscar Wilde, Ha’Penny bridge, then detoured to the Teeling Distillery for a few tasters of whiskey before heading to the Guinness Storehouse. I was a bit unsure of the self-guided tour at first, but it was very well done. As well as the regular exhibits on how beer is made etc etc, there was a multisensory tasting experience room (where you breathe in vapour of the 4 main ingredients before a little guided taste), a floor dedicated to the world of Guinness advertising (they’ve had some great campaigns), and a section teaching the art of perfecting the Guinness pour. We finished with a pint (included in the ticket price) in the 7th floor Gravity Bar with views across the city. I tried, but couldn’t stomach my full pint (so lucky Mikey got two!). Supposedly it tastes best at the source! I’ve heard adding blackcurrant (or Tia Maria) is the trick!? Cheers to you Arthur Guinness!
We had planned to go to the huge Phoenix Park the next day, but as soon as we heard the Pope was giving a mass there with a crowd of half a million people expected (when Dublin itself only has a population of that same amount!) we decided to flee the city! We caught the DART to a lovely little seaside village of Howth. After an indulgent seafood lunch at Beshoffs sitting at the bar watching the chef do his thing (and giving us a free plate of prawns and tasters of scampi!), we waited for the rain to clear then did the coastal walk atop the heath strewn cliffs to the headland and summit with Dublin bay and Baily Lighthouse in the background, and of course an obligatory pint or two at The Summit Inn.
We were feeling a bit sorry for ourselves on our last day (we shouldn’t have had that final round of whiskey shots with our new friends at the Stag’s Head the night before!), so decided to take it easy. We took a look at the not overly impressive Dublin Castle, made up for by a really interesting permanent exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library called Arts of the Book. I especially liked the old atlases, and the display of Western book-bindings (some of which reminded me of an old set of books that my grandpa used to own). We then ventured North of the Liffey to check out the Spire and statues along O’Connell Street, followed by the Buskers along pedestrianised Grafton Street, an icecream at Murphys (Dingle gin, seasalt and Irish brown bread flavours – yum), and a few final pints before heading back to the airport.
I’ve been noticing more and more lately that whenever I write about a holiday or weekend away, it’s far more about the travel than about anything ostomy related. To be honest, most of the time I struggle to find anything much ostomy related to say. I guess that’s good right?! I’ve written lots of posts on ostomy travel tips, but mainly, I travel and live life and my ostomy doesn’t impact that. It’s there, but it’s not. It’s about the travel, not the ostomy! I don’t want to focus on my stoma just for the sake of it, and I have always dreamed of being a travel journalist or writing for Lonely Planet! There’ll always be GYBO (get your belly out) photos to be taken though!
We really enjoyed our first little taster of Ireland – Dublin has all the good things a city needs without feeling like a big city. The friendly people, green spaces, walkable streets, history, scenery and of course the banter and beers will definitely draw us back. We can’t wait to visit again soon and explore the rest of what Ireland has to offer.