My mum said let's go to Dublin's 'Fair City' for the day...
And so we did! My mum lives on the outskirts of Dublin and we took the early bus in. We took the opportunity to take lots of photos on our big day out. Upon our return home, I thought why not give my readers some insightful "Dublin in a day" tips. These would include snippets of historical and interesting facts.
So... where did we start our day out? Our bus got into the city at 10 in the morning. It was cold and raining. So, it was a no-brainer that we headed to a cosy cafe to get, wonder of all wonders.....
1) A traditional Irish breakfast
Now, I have a confession to make. When I travel I am reluctant to pay expensive prices and much prefer local haunts. Fortunately, I had done my research on the bus journey into the city. I chose the cafe known as "The Lovingspoon" on North Frederick Street. We were not to be disappointed...
A hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancake, black pudding, homemade bread, beans, two eggs, two sausages, mushrooms, two tomatoes cost 7.50 Euros. Additionally, we had a pot of tea and a Mocha so the total cost was 12.40 Euros. This is a very good price by Dublin standards.
Did you know that Dublin is called the fair city for reasons connected to the wonderful song 'Molly Malone?' The first line of the song goes 'In Dublin's fair city, Where girls are so pretty.' However, let's face it, it is not a particularly fair city when it comes to the cost of eating and drinking out. So, the Lovingspoon cafe was a welcome change from the extortionate prices I'd witnessed on previous visits to Dublin. My mum and I shared the breakfast and it was more than enough for both of us. The most telling measure of the breakfast's success is that we weren't hungry for the rest of the day!
2) The Spire
We then took a 10-minute walk to Henry Street to take a decent photograph of the Spire. If you like your shopping then Henry Street is the place to be. You can pick up some good bargains in the shops here and there are departments stores aplenty. The Spire, itself is located nearby on O'Connell Street. It is one hundred and twenty metres tall, making it by far the tallest structure in the City Centre. At nighttime, the top section is perforated and lit by small LEDs. The Spire has received mixed reviews from Dubliners. It is seen by many as a costly unimpressive mistake. But, if there is one thing that they all agree on. It is the perfect meeting point and because it is so tall you cannot miss it!
3) Talking Statues
Did you know that Dublin has a wealth of statues and some of them talk? You can use your smartphone to swipe a QR code over statues with a blue plaque. If you do this, you will get a 'call back' on your phone. The recordings are based on the lives of such famous figures as Oscar Wilde, the playwright, James Joyce, the author, and James Larkin, the activist. The stories are read by leading Irish actors including Brendan Gleeson, Ruth Negga, and Brenda Fricker. It's a great idea but not totally accessible. When I searched for the scripts of the Talking Statues, they were not to be found online. It is something I can contact Failte Ireland, (the project funders) about.
As we made our way to the Ha'Penny bridge from Henry Street we accidentally came across one of these statues titled "Meeting Place." The statue shows two women, cast in bronze, sitting on a bench having a chat. It is to be found at the southern end and on the west side of Lower Liffey Street close to the Half Penny Bridge. We got talking to a bystander who informed us that these statues are better known as the "Hags with the Bags." How we laughed. Also, in 1988 shortly after the statue was placed, the bronze bag was stolen. It must have weighed a ton!
4) Ha'penny Bridge
Our next stop was Dublin's oldest pedestrian bridge. It was the first bridge to cross the Dublin's central river: The River Liffey. Originally, a toll of half a penny had to be paid using the turnstiles on both sides. A ferry owner called William Walsh had a lease on the bridge for 100 years. The toll was dropped in 1919 and the turnstiles subsequently removed. Its a nice little walk over the bridge from which you can take decent photos of the Liffey.
5) Dublin Castle
A 15-minute walk from the Ha'Penny Bridge took us to Dublin Castle. The entrance to the Castle takes you into the very grand and modern Castle courtyard. It's impressive. We had a quick browse around. It surprised me how modern the buildings looked. I couldn't help thinking that it didn't look like a Castle but that it looked like a Palace!
I discovered from talking to an American tourist that my observations were correct. The Castle developed as a medieval fortress. But, in April 1684, a major fire caused damage to much of the building. There was a rebuilding campaign in the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This saw the Castle transformed into a Georgian Palace. The new building included a suite of grand reception rooms known as the State Apartments.
Parts of the medieval structures survived and can still be explored by visitors today. Throughout the day there are tours. I'm told that only the more expensive guided tour covers the medieval parts which are rather minimal. It's better to check this out in advance to be sure. The State Apartments also have a nice cafe on the ground floor. This overlooks the Castle Gardens.
6) George's Street Arcade
After our speedy Dublin Castle visit, we were at a standstill about our next destination. It was now starting to rain heavily. My mum then came up with a genius moment, "Would you like to visit a market?" My face lit up and of course, I replied, "Yes, let's do that!'. She led the way to George's Street Arcade, a ten minutes walk from the Castle.
If you're looking to buy quality souvenirs then this is the place to go. But, there is much more to this little market arcade than meets the eye. It's a quaint, quirky colourful place: ideal for photo opportunities. It includes cafes, a vintage store, music and vinyl, clothing, jewellery, and ornaments. It was also a cosy and welcoming respite, for us, from the Dublin rain.
7) A pint of the so-called "black stuff"
The afternoon Dublin weather saw a dip in temperature. We headed indoors to O'Neils on Suffolk Street. It was a big and busy pub with the added bonus of an imitation roaring fire. The perfect place to get warm again.
It had been on my mind and then the moment arrived at last! No visit to Dublin is complete without a drink of the so-called "black stuff". Personally, I'm in agreement with the assertion from Guinness drinkers that it tastes better in Ireland than elsewhere.
8) "Hello again, Molly Malone"
Much to my surprise, as we walked out of the pub, there she was. How we had missed seeing her on the way to O'Neills, I do not know. Perhaps it was because we were both rushing to get that magical pint of Guinness!
In my previous visits to Dublin, she had been ever present at the bottom of Grafton Street. Now her temporary home was straight across the road from O'Neills in front of St Andrew's Church Tourist Office on Suffolk Street. As I saw her, I thought to myself, "Hello again, Molly Malone."
The song "Molly Malone" is legendary in Ireland and all over the world. Sadly, Molly's story is complicated and she remains an enigma today. She was a young woman who allegedly sold fish by day, sold her body by night and died young of an undefined fever. But, there is no hard evidence to back up the legend. Speculation aside, Molly must be visited. After all... it's not every day you meet a legendary enigma!
9) St Stephens Green
Don't be deceived by Saint Stephen's Green beautiful park surroundings as it takes you away from the hustle and bustle of city life. You could be thinking, "this is just a simple park". But, this is no ordinary park. This is a park seeped in history. As you walk the outer footpaths of the Green, you will see information boards, statues, and landmarks. These are mainly about the Easter Rising of 1916 and the significance of the setting. It's a fascinating read. As I studied the information boards, I tried to picture the scene as trenches were dug as members of the ICA (Irish Citizen Army) sought to fortify their positions.
Alongside this amazing history, the Green is a visual feast. A footbridge runs down the middle of the 3-acre lake where the ducks and swans glide across. The colours of the park are magical, presenting great photo opportunities. There is a bandstand where musicians play in the Summer. Also, there is a playground to keep the kids entertained.
10) And then we went home with happy hearts and minds but... before we left St Stephen's Green...
I looked around me. I saw many people walking and talking animatedly with smiles on their faces. It had been a regular observation of mine throughout the day. Yes... Dubliners love to talk. There are many cities that I have visited where the pace of life outside is fast and frenetic. There is no time to talk. And as I walked to the Green's exit, I thought to myself - I like this city very much.