By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Dublin! Drinks! Guinness! Irish Whiskey! Rebellion! History! Famine! Where to start in exploring this amazing capital city of the Republic of Ireland? A pub- of course! Boasting or better toasting over 1,000 pubs they are plentiful. Cheers! O‘Neill’s Bar is the perfect place for a quiet pint on our first evening in Dublin. For over 300 years O’Neill’s has warmly welcomed visitors and residents. Sitting at the bar, a friendly Irish couple shares suggestions for sights to see. Ah, a true charming real Irish Pub in the heart of historic Dublin.
Davy Byrnes is Dublin’s most famous pub, thanks to James Joyce’s Ulysses which has immortalized this pub. Dublin’s original gastropub it is over 100 years old. On this hectic Friday evening we enjoy drinks and a light dinner while taking in the excitement of locals and visitors stopping in for a drink. Today, Davy Byrne’s has a classy and fashionable modern décor. Definitely not the traditional Irish pub. For a great lunch and lots of Irish history, get off at Stop 18 on the Dublin Tour Hop On Hop – Off Bus (Green Bus) at Ryan’s Victorian Bar. An establishment of outstanding heritage, character and distinction, Ryan’s is one of Dublin’s original Victorian pubs. Dating back to 1896 with a beautiful rich wood decor, it continues to maintain its roots. Sharing a huge plate of crispy fish and chips accompanied by the local brew, we chat with the bartender and learn how Ryan’s cherishes its legacy. The Irish charm of this Victorian tavern and welcoming staff have us buying tee shirts to remember our fun lunch at this 125 year old Irish Pub.
Our journey on the Irish’s love of drink continues! Stop 13 on the bus tour is the exciting Guinness Storehouse. How did this world famous “black stuff” become so renowned? The state-of the-art Guinness Storehouse, located behind St. James Gate is an amazing glass design. It’s a huge pint shaped atrium! The self-guided tour has us following the “brewer.” to learn how this unique Irish stout, with a little magic, became one of the world’s best-loved beers. Get a certificate for learning how to do a perfect pour on this brew with its foamy head. Taking the elevator to the 360 degree Gravity Bar we sip our cool pint of Guinness while thrilling over the awesome views of Dublin. Now we are true Guinness converts!
Our next lesson in the story of Irish drink is at the fascinating Old Jameson Distillery (Stop No. 20). Located on the original distillery, founded in 1780, we are treated to a terrific guided tour. Utilizing recreated scenes, our guide carefully explains how Irish Whiskey is made plenty of history. We learn each step of mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturing. A generous sampling of this smooth triple distilled whiskey awaits us at the end of the tour in the Jameson Bar. Having volunteered at the start of the tour, Charlene gets to do a “taste test” to compare Jack Daniels (American whiskey distilled only once), Johnny Walker Black (Scotch –distilled twice), and Old Jameson Irish (triple distilled). Old Jameson wins! Triple distillation creates a superb silky smooth Irish Whiskey.
Go Green! Look for the Green Bus! Dublin Tour Hop On – Hop Off picks us up across from our hotel at Stephens Green and provides an excellent and fun tour of the city. The recorded narrative is informative, while the “live” guides add humor and extra depth to the tour. With our two-day pass it is a terrific way to see and learn about this dynamic European city with a charming mix of intriguing history, wonderful shopping, delectable dining, and sensational nightlife. Plan the day as there are 24 exciting stops on this route.
Dublin’s enchanting history is carved in stone of an often troubled past. Around every corner is a story waiting to be told and shared and memorable tales are captured at the Kilmainham Gaol. At Stop No. 15, we step back in time to Ireland’s profound past where this forbidding bastion of punishment and correction operated between 1796 and 1924. Our guide gives a panoramic insight into the most disturbing and inspirational times of Irish history. Amazing stories of patriotism, rebellion, love and passion come to life as we walk through these halls and grounds. Fourteen leaders of the Easter Rising were shot in the Stonebreakers’ Yard where our tour ends. The Rising and their deaths marked a turning point in Irish history and Ireland’s fight for independence. The tour is terrific! We learned not only the history of the jail but also the fight for Irish independence. A “must do!”
With the wide variety of historical and cultural activities, Dublin keeps us busy and we still just get a sampling of this exciting city. St. Patrick’s Cathedral built between 1220 and 1260, is the largest cathedral in Ireland and one of the few building left from the medieval city of Dublin. Today, St. Paticks is the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland where we learn the buildings fascinating history. On our stroll through Temple Bar, Dublin’s Cultural Quarter, we find a wide array of restaurants live music, nightclubs and bars. All located on the narrow cobbled streets running close to the banks of the River Liffy. A must for shoppers is the central shopping area, which runs from O’Connell Street to Grafton Street. Here we find one of the best shopping areas with a large concentration of specialty shops. Even better it is just around the corner from our hotel, The Fitz William. For a relaxing stroll, St. Stephen’s Green is across from the hotel and is Europe’s biggest square with plenty of flowering shrubs, trees, ponds and ducks, all within the city’s center.
Entertainment choices are many but we opt for a play and some Irish music and dance. The Gaiety Theatre has been giving the people of Dublin opera, musicals, drama, revues, comedy, concerts, dance and festivals for 142 years. Considered The Grand Old Lady of South King Street, Gaiety Theatre has remained a vital and ever changing expression of Irish culture and Irish society. Lucky for us it is just around the corner from our hotel. Attending the play – “Famine” by Druid Murphy we are enthralled by this story of Irish emigration; a story both of those who went and those who were left behind during the infamous Irish potato famine.From the dark days to exciting times, our next night is the Merry Ploughboys for some Irish music and dance. With a hearty menu of Irish food, after dinner we thrill in the high energy performance of music and the finale of fantastic Irish dancing.
Where to stay: The Fitzwilliam is an excellent hotel! It is very convenient being across from St. Stephen’s Green and just off Grafton. Getting around Dublin from the Fitzwilliam is so easy! The hotel has a modern decor with very well appointed rooms. They have made great use of the space in the rooms with their clean simple style. The staff is always helpful and accommodating. The concierge gladly assisted with any of our needs for guidance and reservations. The wide array of their breakfast buffet is superb.
If you go:
Dublin Tour Hop On – Hop Off, http://www.dublinsightseeing.ie/citytour.aspx
Tourism Ireland (Be sure to get prepaid passes to avoid long lines at several of the most popular sites.) www.ireland.com
The FitzWilliam Hotel Dublin, 2 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland +353 1 478 7000, www.fitzwilliamhoteldublin.com/