Here is what I have learned about Dublin:
- They are incredibly proud of earning their Independence from England
- Beer is really everywhere
- Donuts are the new cupcakes
Okay, and plenty more too, but I think those nicely sum up our two days in Ireland’s capital city.
To start off our whirlwind trip of Dublin, I booked James and I a walking tour for our first activity. We landed on Tuesday at 8:30 am, arrived at the hotel by 10 am and proceeded to take a two hour nap. Once again, we were on a plane with a SCREAMING toddler who did not at any point take a breath of air or pass out from the exertion of full on temper tantrum in the six hours we flew. It was only ear plugs, noise canceling headphones and Beach Houses’ Depression Cherry that made a few light hours of sleep possible.
Following our nap, we made our way to Avoca, a store filled with wool sweaters, blankets and scarves, as well as a quaint cafe. We headed to eat first. I had Avoca’s take on the Irish breakfast (scrambled eggs, leek pork sausage, bacon, roasted tomato and roasted mushrooms). It was amazing. James ordered a massive burger with Irish cheddar, cabbage and an aioli. We then proceeded to purchase our weight in sweaters, scarves and blankets (oops!) before heading on our walking tour.
We booked the tour with Sandemans New Dublin and were taken on a three hour trek of the city – starting with Dublin Castle, weaving our way through the temple bar (an area, not an actual place, though plenty of places call themselves that because tourist trap), Trinity College and more. We learned a significant amount about Irish history, including Viking rule for a few hundred years, English rule for more than 700 years and eventually the rebellion that brought about Ireland’s independence – the Easter Rebellion of 1916 (it’s also the 100 year anniversary). The 1916 rebellion was a failure but considered the starting point of Ireland’s path to independent in the early 1920s.
Midway through the tour, we stopped at House of Cha, a tea and coffee shop, for a black spicy chai (recommend!). A few folks on the tour opted to drink a Guinness in fifteen minutes instead.
For dinner that evening James and I made reservations at Gallagher Boxty, a potato inspired restaurant. The majority of the menu is gluten free – and it’s a good thing they list allergens everywhere because I would have been super skeptical otherwise! James and I split potato pancakes with syrup and bacon. For dinner I had steak wrapped in a potato pancake with a cream sauce. James had potato dumplings. We split vanilla ice cream with toasted almonds and honey figs for dessert.
Because I’m in Europe, and I have a plethora of delicious wine available, I picked up a bottle of pinot grigio rose to enjoy back at the hotel room. Being crafty, I stored said one in the window sill to keep it chilled. The maid luckily left it there!
The following morning we made our way to Kilmainham Gaol, the famous jail that housed many of the political rebels from 1916 (and then subsequent rebellions until Ireland was granted freedom). We opted to walk versus taking one of the city’s buses, which proved to be an enjoyable adventure. Breakfast however proved to be a bit difficult to track down. Disgusted by the options at my hotel (the usual cold cuts, hard boiled eggs and bread I can’t eat), we stopped at Kaph for lattes. Sadly their only food was pastries, so I ventured on until I found a small grocery store, and to James’ disgust, I proceeded to eat a cold paella in a cup dish.
For seven euros, Kilmainham Gaol includes a guided tour, and we learned about how the jail was a reformist prison (similar to Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania) in which prisoners were subjected to complete silence and solitary confinement. As I mentioned, this is the jail with the political rebels, but the majority of the prisoners committed petty crimes, or more “run of the mill” crimes such as assault, murder, etc. During the potato famine, the jail housed more than 9,000 inmates over the course of one year, vastly over capacity.
The tour lasts about an hour, and there is a well thought out museum that follows, allowing you to view some of the prisoner artifacts, as well as letters, jewelry and clothing from the rebels. Definitely worth a visit, and is conveniently across the street from the National Museum of Modern Art (free but we had plans so weren’t able to go).
Our next stop was Hatch & Sons, an Irish bakery and cafe that boasted to have some solid Irish food (including a very good Irish breakfast). I ordered beef stew and a flourless almond and orange cake. James had smoked salmon on brown bread and a piece of carrot cake. Full to the brim, we headed upstairs to The Little Museum of Dublin which also includes a guided tour of a few rooms filled with Irish artifacts from 1900s – 1990s. It was most definitely a nice summary of Irish history (both political and pop culture), though at this point we didn’t want to hear one more peep about the 1916 rebellion. So we headed over to the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology. Here is where the bog people live (persons who had the unfortunate event of being killed and then thrown into a peet bog, preserving them for thousands of years). I of course found this fascinating while James could have probably gone without seeing this exhibit.
We meandered through the streets of Dublin back to tour hotel, popping into shops and finalizing our journey by a trip to a gourmet grocery store to pick up some goodies one can only find here. The gluten free biscuits are my jam (pun intended?). We cozied up at the hotel in what looks like an Irish grandmother’s living room for a few hours before our dinner at the Pig’s Ear.
The Pig’s Ear is fabulous. Michelin star rated (which doesn’t always mean delicious, but this time it did). The restaurant was cozy, made up of multiple floors and covered with stuffed bunnies and statues of pigs (don’t worry, not stuffed). I had celeriac soup to start, with salmon and cauliflower and a buttermilk custard. James had a lobster crab salad to start, Shepard’s pie made from venison and cheesecake in a jar. I sadly was glutenized – it wasn’t the restaurant’s fault, it was definitely my own and I should have been more wary of something, but sometimes I play chicken with my stomach. And even this didn’t sour my overall opinion of the restaurant. That’s how good it is. I highly recommend it – reservations definitely required!
The remainder of the evening we spent packing our suitcases and preparing for our 4:15 am wake up call.