The Dublin recap

24 Jan

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As you may be aware, I recently took a short jaunt across the pond to Dublin, Ireland for a vacation. As you may also be aware, you are incredibly curious as to how it went and would love to read all about it.

I’ve chosen to report on my trip using the answers to ten questions my dad emailed me upon my return: most fun thing we did, best meal, most expensive activity, most unusual thing we saw, best city, best moment, best accommodations, any “I love the US” moments, any “I hate the US” moments, and something we wanted to do but didn’t have time. My answers to these queries, revised and expanded from my original response to my dad, are below, and should give those parties interested in how my vacation went (which, to repeat, is all of you; stop fighting me on this) a decent recap.

Quick background: my special lady friend and I spent five days in Ireland last week. We reserved a hotel for the first two nights, but upon our departure had no set agenda, no planned itinerary and no further hotel reservations beyond the first two nights. So you could say our plans were a bit up in the air.

1. Most Fun Thing We Did.

This one’s tough, because we didn’t technically “do” much touristy stuff. It just isn’t our scene. For the most part, we ambled down streets of Dublin and soaked in the culture. We stopped in corner pubs, walked around parks, shopped in little stores (mostly her), ate at different restaurants. We walked pretty much all day, every day. But if I were forced to submit an answer, I suppose it’d be this: our hotel was attached to this amazing little bar called Turks Head, the interior of which was designed using Gaudi inspiration – basically broken glass design artwork on the columns, bar rails, walls, etc. My friend Kyle and I had briefly stopped in Turks Head a year ago while in Dublin, and I remembered wanting to make a return visit. It was by pure, joyful happenstance that our hotel was connected to it. So, most every night on our way home, we stopped in there for drinks. We chatted about whatever random subject came up and basically just chilled out (and drank, and drank…). One time, on my way back from the bathroom I arrived to our table to see some dude chatting Danielle up. She happily introduced him to me and he abruptly left about twenty seconds later. It was pretty classic.

So, in a pinch, that’d be my pick. Turks Head. It remains my favorite bar on the planet, and I’m happy we stopped in so often.

 

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2. Best Meal.

Because I’m an incredibly lucky person (also see: hotel/bar anecdote above), right before we left for Dublin I was told by my boss that she would treat the two of us out to a fancy dinner while in Ireland. However, because she knows me, there were monetary restrictions put in place. Smart lady. We found a tiny, quiet bistro called Kitty’s in the southeast section of Dublin near Trinity College.

It’s actually a funny story how we found the place. We originally made reservations at a spot called Alex, an ostensibly nice restaurant, through the dining guide in our hotel room. We arrived and saw that it was in the lobby of a different hotel, incredibly nice but empty save for the sad bastard jazz band strumming their little instruments in the corner. This was a polar opposite atmosphere from our ideal, but we sat down and took a gander at the menu anyway. Seeing nothing I liked, I glanced up to see Danielle trying her damndest to put on a “this is going to be fun!” face that wasn’t working in the least. She was wearing the same look you get when a family member gives you a snowflake sweater for Christmas. A plastic smile and frozen eyes.

So, just as our waiter was setting down our basket of bread, I shouted in an entirely too-loud voice, “No! Don’t set that down! I am sorry but we have to leave seriously man really sorry but we just have to take off have a good night” and we sprinted out the place and down the street. A few blocks later, we happened upon Kitty’s and strolled in.

Once there, we dined on, in order: red wine, bread, antipasto, filet mignon, sea bass, brownie, ice cream, white russian. The meal was excellent.

3. Most Expensive Activity.

Actually, besides the dinners, the most expensive thing we did was visit the Guinness Brewery. Factoring in the horseshit exchange rate, the tour totaled about $16 per person. $32 total. So that can pretty much explain how cheap everything else was that we did.

 

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4. Most Unusual Thing We Saw.

Dublin is a pretty normal city, unlike Barcelona and a few other of the freak-harboring spots overseas, so there wasn’t a whole lot outside the norm. That said, my answer would probably be the people and their fashion choices. It’s not that everyone dressed crazy in any way, but every person had such a distinct, personal style. I remember sitting on a bench in a mall while Danielle was leafing through the clearance rack at a nearby store, and seeing four teenagers walk by. One was dressed preppy-like with a white collared shirt under a sweater, one had on a full-length trench coat with a scarf around his neck, one had the traditional new-generation punk look (with a military-style jacket, tight t-shirt, tight jeans and Chuck Taylors), and the fourth kid was simply dressed in a full Puma sweatsuit. It was strange, such individual styles coming from high school buddies. In the US, teenagers all look fairly homogenous, wearing whatever is in style that day and mostly afraid to branch out too far from the trends. People are bolder out there, more individual, which is really cool to see.

5. Best City.

We stayed in Dublin pretty much the entire time, so this is an easy answer. However, if I may expand my answer for particular reason, during one of our last days we took a train out to Howth, a peninsula town right on the Irish Sea about 30 minutes northeast of Dublin. It was a quiet little village, with a lighthouse right on the water and a few pubs, restaurants and shops on a road along the coast. We walked to the lighthouse, around the streets, then strolled through a farmers’ market they had going on that day. I bought some candy from some foreign lady, which was delicious. All told, Howth was a nice town, very classic looking, and we had a fun afternoon. But it was nothing compared to Dublin.

6. Best Moment.

That would have to be when, while walking around St. Stephen’s Green, a historic public park, I got down on one knee and asked Danielle’s hand in marriage. We are now engaged.

Kidding, obviously.

She totally said no.

OK, seriously. We stopped in a bar after our dinner at Kitty’s; it was a standard basement nightclub with a huge wooden square bar giving way to a crowded dance floor in the back. Most of the music was crappy-yet-awesome American stuff – Guns N Roses, Journey, etc – but the refreshingly diverse crowd was partying like the armageddon was on its way.

There was a group of middle-aged women in the middle of the dance floor, hopping around like middle-aged women are wont to do, hopelessly offbeat but apparently not giving a shit.

There were twentysomething kids, just hammered, stumbling around all over the place; on the fringes of the dance floor, around the bar, with the old ladies, etc.
There was a group of guys in the middle of the dance floor that looked to be teammates or something; bumping into each other and spilling their drinks and screaming the lyrics and whatnot. They could have been soccer hooligans, but I may just be surmising that because I wanted to type the word hooligans.

dublin-2.jpgWe stood near the dance floor, watching all these different people, and laughed at all the giddy lunatics. We also danced a bit, which was hilarious because we are not any good at it (“we” meaning “she”; I’m great). At one point this group of girls walked over to us and asked if we could watch their coats while they danced. This does not happen in America. We said sure and they bounced out to the dance floor. All in all it was just a funny moment that illuminated the best aspects of being overseas. The diverse group of people, the happiness, the huge amount of drunk (yet rarely belligerently so) people, the inherent trust, the comfort in behaving any way you want without the worry of being judged for it, the universal appeal to American music … I miss it already.

7. Best Accommodations.

We stayed in the same hotel the whole time, Paramount Hotel, right in the heart of the Temple Bar district. It was the perfect location because Temple Bar is centrally located, there are dozens of nearby bars, but also, obviously, because of the establishment to which it’s attached.

8. “I Love The US” Moment.

After flying back home and arriving at our hotel in Chicago (we had a one-day layover). Just the basics of appreciating actual television beyond the Ireland offerings of three BBC channels and Lifetime, the regular electrical outlets, the refreshing lack of the appalling exchange rate, and just generally being back home. There were no moments during this trip that made me miss America – unlike my last experience overseas (just making that reference made my mom burst into tears).

9. “I Hate The US” Moment.

During our first night, Danielle and I struck up a friendly conversation with two Irish guys, and the topic naturally turned over to the differences between our two countries. I’ll admit, I was a bit dismayed to learn that Ireland has free paid healthcare, no matter the expense and no matter the person – it is even free for non-citizens of the country, including visitors like us. I understand the potential pitfalls of socialized medicine and the real-life concerns of overuse, over-dependence, tax expenses, yada yada yada … but it struck me as particularly shameful that I, as a US citizen, would be better cared-for were I to get injured in a foreign land rather than my own damn country. I was simply ashamed; I can’t think of a better word to describe it.

10. Something We Wanted To Do But Didn’t Have Time.

It would have been nice to visit every pub in the city of Dublin, but to achieve that goal we probably would have had to visit ten bars a day for approximately the next three months. They are EVERYwhere, each one with more charming character than the last. Put in another way: the lamest bar we visited in Dublin would be one of my favorite spots back home.

Beyond that goal, it would have been nice to take a few more day trips to the surrounding towns. We heard great things about Wicklow, Bray, Cork, etc, and all are just a short train ride away, but we didn’t have time to visit them all. Maybe next trip.

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One Response to “The Dublin recap”

  1. D January 25, 2008 at 12:26 pm #

    Are you honestly trying to pretend I am not featured in that nightclub pic? You said I looked nice that night. “hopelessly offbeat but apparently not giving a shit” please…the ladies and I tore that place up. Sadly yes, all it took was my name in print to finally post. Great recap. Perfect trip. Also sweet were the fish and chips (obvs) and creepy sea creatures at the market in Howth.

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