Monday, May 14, 2012

Visiting Ireland: Dublin Days

St. Stephen's Green in Dublin. All photos by me!

Oh friends, how do you even begin to recap a two-week trip? If I had to use one word to describe Ireland, it would be: gasp. Everything is beautiful — beautifully dreary, beautifully colorful, beautifully rustic. It's not hard to understand why so many people are captivated by its simple palette of vivid green hills, clear blue waters, gray stone walls and creamy woolly sheep and stucco houses. For those of us with Irish heritage, it stirs something deep within, and for someone like me who grew up in Appalachia, it was amazing to see how the lines connecting that community to its ancestors are so strong.

I figured it would be best to divide the trip into recaps of the different regions we visited, beginning with the east today, in Dublin. For more pics and details of our trip, click below!

We landed on a Thursday morning. I was insisting I didn't want to nap, but when our hotel told us our room wouldn't be ready for hours ( took about 4 hours), I ended up napping in a lounge chair. Luckily, the Brooks Hotel was beautiful and comfy, with an amazing breakfast spread, good bar and helpful concierge. While vacation is all about sightseeing, it's also nice to have a comfy place to watch weird British cooking/dating game shows.

I fell in love with this caretaker's cottage in St. Stephen's Green.

On our first full day, we went to Trinity College, where we saw the Book of Kells (some German woman totally hogged the view, so I can't honestly say my mind was blown) and the famous library, which is my dream room and looks like Hogwarts:

Picture from here.

We went over to the beautiful Merrion Square Park, in the Victorian area of town, which was my favorite. All of the buildings were just breathtakingly gorgeous, with colorful doors. Oscar Wilde grew up near there, so they have this hilarious statue of him in the park, and a whole tour bus full of people was waiting to pose with him!

 Gorgeous Merrion Park...

And my very favorite door!

We made stops at the National Gallery of Art, which has many gorgeous works by WB Yeats' brother, Jack.

 And the National Archaeology Museum, which has Ireland's most treasured finds, like the Tara Brooch, ancient chalices and swords and even bodies found preserved in bogs!

The beautiful museum was built in the 1890s, and had the rococo trim to prove it!

Ireland has amazing shopping! Grafton Street has cute, hip shops like Monsoon, Reiss, Topshop, River Island and Zara, but I was determined not to buy trendy clothes on this trip. My favorite shopping destination: Powerscourt Centre, an incredible indoor shopping mall of antique stores and boutiques in a converted townhouse. My favorite shops was Article, a hip, modern decor shop with plenty of locally sourced items.

If they would have fit in my suitcase, I would have been taking this cheeky china home!

I also loved this boutique, Bow, which funnily enough had plenty of stuff made in Brooklyn.

 We crossed the street to eat at Grogan's Pub, a gloriously unfussy pub where people go for a pint and not much else. The walls were covered in great paintings, but the menu consisted of one thing: sandwiches. Sean stretched out of his comfort zone and tried a ham-and-cheese! I had a pint of Bulmers Irish Cider (same as Magner's, which is sold in the UK) and a grilled cheese sandwich.

 In my other favorite store, Avoca, which was like an amazing Anthropologie. Avoca is known for its gorgeous woollen products, and its four-story store also has grocery goods, a rooftop garden cafe, kids' clothes and women's clothes. It was gorgeous.

They even sold mix-and-match antique teacups!

 From Avoca, we walked west to the Guinness Storehouse, where the famous stout company has an incredible museum devoted to how the beer is made. It's a very 21st-century experience, with really cool touches like this...

 An indoor waterfall of the water from the Wicklow Mountains that is used to make the beer!

 My appetite wasn't, ahem, stout so I had a half-pint. Perfect amount for me!

 After Guinness, we walked back east to the Temple Bar district, where pubs line the pedestrian streets, giving the area the vibe of Beale Street in Memphis or Bourbon Street in New Orleans. We popped into the famous Temple Bar, but it was overcrowded with tourists, so we hopped over to Farrington's Pub, where Sean joined the locals in watching the Ulster rugby match.

It was great, and ended with a band playing Johnny Cash songs for a patron's stag party. 

All in all, Dublin was a fun, small, manageable city with a vibrant nightlife (seriously, I heard patrons marching home at 4 a.m.) and international cuisine. 

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