There is no way in the world to really do Dublin justice in just 36 hours, but that was all the time we had during our 15 day whirlwind holiday in Ireland. We made the most of the time we had and enjoyed what we did see.
by MilwVon on May 12, 2012
Dublin Castle was original built in 1204 under England's King John as a fortification against the Vikings who had a presence in Dublin for nearly 300 years. Later in the 16th century it became more of a palace than a fortress, serving as the home to England's colonial rule over Ireland including the military and government officials and offices until the time of their surrender to Irish leadership in 1922. Today Dublin Castle serves as an official building where State events including the inauguration of every President of Ireland to date, since her independence in 1922. Foreign dignitaries including Heads of State have come to Dublin Castle. In 2011 England's Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh attended a State Dinner in her honor during that visit.During British rule, kings and queens including Queen Victoria made official visits to Ireland and stayed here as the official Irish Palace to His/Her Majesty. An interesting story is told in the Throne Room about a time when she visited and expressed concern over the dankness of the room decor. Additionally, the throne had been built for the portly King George IV in 1821, making Queen Victoria appear as a small child in the huge chair. The legs were cut down and a special foot stool build so as to accommodate the queen.Much of the power struggle between England and Ireland was discussed and military strategies devised in the offices here. This is also where several of the Irish rebellions including Easter Rising in 1916 took place.Of the original castle, only the Record Tower remains. Also of particular interest is the Bedford Tower, which was built in 1761 and is often considered the center of the grounds. It was from here that the Irish Crown Jewels were stolen in 1907.During the guided tour, many of the State Apartments are visited. Due to fire in 1830 some of the rooms' furnishings were destroyed so today they have been replaced by reproductions. Many of the rooms, however, are furnished with items that are original to the castle/palace. Richly decorated, these rooms feature lavish chandeliers, wall coverings and tapestries, and original portraits and paintings. Today they are used to entertain during official functions of the State.St. Patrick's Hall is perhaps the most significant room today it serves as the location for the Presidential Inauguration. The Picture (or Portrait) Room houses a spectacular collection of original oil paintings of 13 of the British Viceroys who served as political appointees in Ireland in the 19th century.After touring the inside of Dublin Castle, visitors are encouraged to visit the Chapel Royal which is adjacent to the castle property.Dublin Castle is one of the 11 OPW (Office of Pubic Works) Heritage sites that we visited during our 15 days in Ireland. While the outside grounds and the Chapel Royal are open to the public at no fee, there is a charge to enter Dublin Castle and to take the guided tour. (Access inside is only available by guided tour.) If you are planning to visit more than a couple OPW Heritage sites, you would be well served to buy their annual Heritage Card. More information may be obtained at: http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/Info/HeritageCards/.
by MilwVon on May 15, 2012
Once we got checked into our B&B in Malahide, it was time to find supper. I had researched pubs in the seaside harbor village of Malahide and thought Gibneys looked interesting. They are a long-time staple in town, having several food business interests that take up nearly a full block in town. They did not disappoint.This was the first night that I felt like we had eaten bar food and I say that in a good way. After looking through the full menu, David and I both agreed that we didn't really want a big dinner so instead we opted for steak sandwiches. I took mine with the mushrooms only, while he had his with the onions as well as the mushrooms. They used a sirloin steak which was remarkably tender. Served with a side of chips/fries and we were set. David's mom had the fish & chips again. I think she really fell in love with the Irish preparation of cod during our trip, winning the prize for having the most fish & chips meals during our 15 day holiday. I know that had they offered shepherds pie, both of them would have ordered that, but alas, another pub without it on the menu.I remember growing up and having an English live-in nanny type. She frequently made shepherds pie and it was something I used to cook until I married David and he became our primary family chef. I was glad to hear others in Ireland talk about their recipes for the dish. Today I receive an email from Niall of the Aran Islands Hotel who has shared his personal recipe. David and I are looking forward to having that soon!Anyway, back to Gibneys. It was here that the most expensive pint of Guinness was had . . . €4.50. We had seen pricing everywhere from €3.30 and up, although the most common price was €4.00 found at several pubs around Ireland.Our dinner plus beverages (two diet cokes and a pint) came to €38 (or $50). The service was good and typical to most pubs in Ireland. Orders are placed and paid for at the bar, with them bringing your food to you when it's ready. Served piping hot, it was a nice evening meal in a comfortable surrounding.For folks looking for a decent sports pub or traditional music, Gibneys offers a wealth of evening entertainment. To check out what's on their schedule, look them up on the internet: http://www.gibneys.com/whatson.html .We were unable to make it out late at night to take in a bar jam, which is probably the only real regret that I have regarding our trip. Traveling with David's mom, and not wanting to drink and drive really limited the possibilities. Add to that, we were traveling in the early shoulder season when many pubs only have live music on the weekends, and you can see that our opportunities were really limited by the time of year we visited Ireland. Next time, I hope we are able to make it out to take in more of a local nightlife flavor.
I have to admit, when talking about the Guinness Storehouse, I have occasionally referred to it by Freudian slip as Guinness Marketplace. My apologies to all who I may (or might still) offend. It's a relatively innocent and easy thing to do.There were not a lot of "must do/see" things on my husband David's wish list for our vacation in Ireland. The Guinness Storehouse, however, was one of them. As an avid drinker of their brew when he can get it on tap here in the USA, that has become his favorite beer. It was fortunate that their tour facility is conveniently on the Dublin City Hop-On Hop-Off bus line, so I assured him months ago, it would make the final schedule.The Guinness Storehouse is located at St. Jame's Gate in Dublin, occupying seven floors in their industrial factory area. Formerly their fermentation plant (until 1988) they have done an outstanding job of converting the building into a visitor center and tour experience. Everything you would want to know about how Guinness is made or about this history can be found here. Did you know that Arthur Guinness signed a lease for 9,000 years for the St. James Gate brewery back in 1759 for the mere sum of £45 per year?The making of Guinness is unique in several ways as is how a glass is poured at your local pub. All of these fine details are covered during the self-guided tour that covers the second and third floors of the Storehouse. Most who drink Guinness from the tap know it takes roughly two minutes to pour a pint using the required "double pour" method necessary to get the perfect composition through the rising of bubbles and the creation of the creamy head.For novice Guinness drinkers there is a taste sampling area where you can try what is about two ounces in a small shot glass. If you enjoy that sample well enough, you can make your way up to the fourth floor and the "Pour the Perfect Pint" bar or the seventh floor "Gravity Bar" that has an expansive 360 view of the city. If you wish to purchase a beer and have a bite to eat, you can visit "Arthur's Bar" or "Gilroy's Bistro" on the fifth floor.David thoroughly enjoyed his pouring experience, as well as the consumption of his self-poured pint. Visitors who take in this activity also receive a certificate declaring that they have "Crafted the Perfect Pint of Guinness". The line to do this was about 20 minutes, with just three bar stations open at the time that we arrived. As we were leaving, however, they did open up the air wall for the fourth station and open bar area.Now for perhaps the downside of the Guinness Storehouse experience. Admittedly we visited in the middle of a rather glorious Saturday afternoon. While the air temps were a bit chilly, the skies were refreshingly clear of clouds. This may have had an impact on the number of visitors that took in the Marketplace on the day of our visit. Then again, based on the relative absence of lines at the admission ques, I'd say attendance may have been low especially since we were there before the summer tourist season.If that is the case, I would not want to visit Guinness Storehouse on a high tourist traffic day. We found the exhibit floors and areas to be a bit confusing and crowded at times, with people seemingly unsure what direction the flow should be. Without guides or staff available on the floor to assist, it seemed to be a bit of a free-for-all in terms of what direction to walk. For us, the challenge was compounded by the need to use their elevator system which was equally confusing as some lifts did not access all levels or floors.Lastly, about the Gravity Bar. When we arrived up there it was approaching late afternoon (maybe 3:30 or 4:00pm). The place was packed and very warm. There was no way to make your way to the bar to get your free pint, nor anywhere to sit if and when you did. It appeared to us that there was a lot of milling around and gabbing by folks not even drinking a pint (or any other beverage of their choice). We were told we could go down to the bar on the fourth floor which was what we did.I think that generally speaking the Guinness Storehouse is a good concept that is in need of some tweaking and perhaps efficiency consultation. I also feel that at €14.40 per person, their admission prices are too steep especially given that not everyone will drink the pint of brew (which is also sold onsite for €4.40). That effectively makes the price of the tour itself €10.00 for those imbibing and more than that for those who choose not to.Whether or not to add this to your Dublin holiday is a toss up in my book. If you are like David and a real fan of their product, then perhaps yes it is a "must do" experience. For others it is probably a "take it or leave it" proposition which may be decided by the amount of time you have in Dublin or perhaps even the cost.More information on their hours of operations and to pre-buy tickets (currently at a 10% discount) check out their website: http://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/index.aspx .
Our last meal in Ireland was at Nancy Hands Bar & Restaurant in Dublin. Selected due to its very convenient location on the Dublin City Hop-On Hop-Off bus route (stop #18), we scheduled our day's sightseeing so as to end up here at the end of the day for dinner and enough time to catch the last HoHo bus of the day back to the bus station. It worked out perfectly!When we arrived they had the Chelsea/Liverpool FA Cup game on every TV in the place. There were several fans watching the last half but not so many as it was too loud or rowdy for a nice quiet supper. Besides, we were in a pub, how quiet should we expect it to be on an early Saturday evening?At this final juncture of our trip, David and his mom were still lamenting not having found a real shepherd's pie for dinner. Sure the beef and Guinness was good, but not really what either of them were looking for. Nancy Hands did have their version of beef and Guinness pie with a "pastry lid" and that was close enough for David. His mom on the other hand skipped it and had one last meal of fish & chips. (I think between the three of us, we must have had that in four different pubs . . . all very good.)I decided to have the "joint of the day" which was the evening carved meat special. That evening it was a layer of sliced ham with stuffing and mashed potatoes, topped with a layer of carved turkey and brown gravy served with a slide of very good veggies (pea pods, carrots and broccoli). We all enjoyed our suppers, thankful that we kept it rather light and simple. The total check came to €52 (approximately $68 when converted). Being our last expected expenditure in Ireland, we pooled all of our remaining euros together and charged the remaining balance. Unfortunately, this was one of the few merchants that had the "new" credit card processor which the server said automatically charged American issued bank cards in US dollars. Unfortunate for us as the exchange rate provided was terrible (around 5% more than what it should have been). I was thankful that it was for a total less than half of our total meal amount.Nancy Hands Bar & Restaurant serves the same food from the same menu regardless of which area you choose to dine. As nice as the upstairs might have been, we all were just too whipped to climb the stairs to the restaurant, hence our choice to stay downstairs in the bar area. It really was very nice especially since we were able to watch a little of the football game too.
Since we had around 36 hours in Dublin and staying out in Malahide, the Dublin City Bus Company's Hop-On Hop-Off (HoHo) tour bus (the "green buses") was a perfect way for the three of us to get around. We caught the #42 from Malahide to the terminus of the route. The 30 minute ride was a nice way to see a bit of the city before joining a HoHo bus. Our driver suggested we walk from this last stop to the first of the HoHo tour, which entailed roughly eight to ten blocks which was a relatively easy (flat) jaunt.If you're not familiar with the concept, HoHo buses are just as it sounds . . . you can hop on and hop off, and hop back on again at any one of the 23 designated stops. All HoHo stops are clearly marked with large green signs, the same color as the bus. Do not confuse their stops with the red signs, however, as those would be the "other company's" HoHo stops.Once we were at Stop One of the HoHo, we boarded with driver/guide Eddie who turned out to be quite the serenader. Between providing live commentary, he sang Irish tunes, many of which my mother-in-law knew. We arrived in Dublin with a plan and list of stops we wanted to make. Originally I had thought we should make the full 90 minute circuit first and then stop at the various stops we wanted to. I'm really happy that we didn't as we would have run out of time at the end of the day, which would have cost us touring Kilmainham Gaol.The route is well laid out, passing many of the top tourist attractions in Dublin. For us, the stops we planned to make were Dublin Castle (#10), Guinness Storehouse (#13), Kilmainham Gaol (#15) and #18 for dinner nearby at Nancy Hand's Pub.What we didn't count on was that some attractions (Dublin Castle and Kilmainham Gaol) have limited availability and assigned times for their guided tours. Based on when you arrive, you could have a wait for your tour. In the case of Dublin Castle, our wait was 80 minutes. We used the time to take a leisurely stroll down the road to the Christ Church and Dublina stop (#11) and back up to Dublin Castle. At Kilmainham Gaol, it was around 30 minutes which gave more than enough time to see the exhibit area before taking the guided tour.Our end of the day worked out near perfectly as we arrived before the posted closing hour with enough time to take in the museum before the last guided tour of the day at 4:50pm. After our tour of the prison, we took the bus onwards, through Phoenix Park. This park is one of the largest urban parks in the world and is home to the Dublin Zoo, the President of Ireland's residence as well as that of the US Ambassador to Ireland. The park was beautiful and full of people jogging, picnicking, playing soccer (err I mean football) and just enjoying the bright spring day. Clearly it would be possible to spend your whole day here.Our last HoHo stop was at 6:15pm for dinner. With the final HoHo bus of the day scheduled to be at stop #18 at 7:36pm, we had plenty of time for a nice last Irish pub meal before making our way to the end of the route and our #42 bus back to Malahide.Other sites along the HoHo route include St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity College, National Gallery, Jameson Distillery, National Museum and Merrion Square.The HoHo pass is good for two days, which is a nice deal for visitors who are in Dublin for more than the one day we had for sightseeing. For a family of up to six (two adults and up to four children under the age of 14), the cost is just €30.60. For adults, the two day pass is €18 (€16 for seniors and students). Buy online and you will save 15%.For more information including other tours offered by Dublin Bus Company, check them out at: http://www.dublinsightseeing.ie .
Kilmainham Gaol is one of the 11 OPW (Office of Public Works) Heritage sites that we visited during our 15 days in Ireland. It was like saving the best for last!Kilmainham Gaol was a fully functional prison in Dublin City until 1924, shortly after Ireland gained independence from British rule (1922). Built in 1796, the building has been fully restored and is now open to visitors who want to take a look back into a very dark time in Irish history. The timing of our visit was especially sobering given that week was the 96th anniversary of the execution of 14 rebels involved in the famous Easter Rising rebellion against England. Almost all other leaders of prior Irish rebellions had also been imprisoned here, making its place in history significant in terms of all of the past civil wars and their eventual independence.This prison served not only men, but also women and children. Was you walk through the halls and see the various cells throughout the guided tour, you are reminded of the harsh reality of living as a convicted criminal. It would be understandable to think you'd be better off dead than alive.Because the tour is guided, visitors are given a tour time upon their arrival to the reception desk. We had about 30 minutes, during which time folks are encouraged to view the various exhibits in the two floors immediately adjacent to the prison itself. There was a lot of very interesting items including one display case of several vintage locks and locking mechanisms used there. Another exhibit discussed how Kilmainham was one of the first prisons to incorporate the taking of mug shots during initial prison processing, dating back to the founding of the camera in the 1860's.The actual tour begins with outstanding film from the early 20th century, depicting what life in this jail was like. It also chronicled the Easter Rising rebellion and the role the prison played during that time in Ireland's history. After that brief orientation and some additional information from our guide, we set off for the walking tour.Our guide was clearly knowledgeable and passionate about the Kilmainham Gaol and the legacy left over time. She told stories of various high profile and notable residents here including one of the Easter Rising rebels who was permitted to marry on the day he was later executed. Years later, his widow was also imprisoned at Kilmainham. An artist, Grace Gifford was arrested and sent to this prison for three months due to her involvement in anti-Irish combat.In the yard where the Easter Rising rebels were executed is a memorial with the 14 names. With this week's anniversary there were flowers laid there and the Flag of Ireland was at half-staff, where it would remain through the final day of the execution week (May 12th).The main staircase is a familiar landmark today, thanks largely to the number of films that have been shot on location here . . . probably most notably the academy award nominated "In The Name of the Father" (1993) staring Daniel Day Lewis. My good friend Dianne immediately recognized it as such from photos I had posted on Facebook after our return home.There is an admission to tour this site. If you are planning to visit more than three or four, however, it is in your best interest to buy the OPW Heritage Pass that allows for admission to all of their sites for one low price. Check out their website at: http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/Info/HeritageCards/ .
by MilwVon on May 11, 2012
During the planning for this holiday, I knew we would be well served to stay close to the Dublin Airport since we had a 10:00am flight and would need to return a rental car no later than 6:30am. Pebble Mill B&B was a perfect choice as it was less than 10 minutes from the airport. Just as importantly, however, it was a short five minute walk to the Dublin City Bus line that would take us into Dublin City for our final day of touring.We arrived at the home of Pat & Monica right about supper time. Monica graciously welcomed us into their stately home. Set on a lovely well manicured four acre lot, it felt as though we were out in the countryside when the fact was, we were just minutes from the nearest village (Malahide) and less than half an hour from downtown Dublin.Monica allowed us to choose which of their triple accommodation rooms would best suit us. We opted for the room with two twin beds and a full-sized/double bed. After David got our bags upstairs, we headed into the village for supper. The village had several restaurant and pub options available, but I had already researched a local pub that came highly rated - James Gibney & Sons. It was very good (see separate review).After dinner we returned to the B&B and got caught up on some blogging and email on the free WiFi available throughout the house. It was nice to have a good strong (and fast) connection as I had several blog entries to get caught up on from the past couple of day's travels.The next morning we were up a bit earlier than expected, but we were accommodated immediately for breakfast. The breakfast room was wonderful, bright and cheerful. With coffee, hot tea and juice served immediately, it wasn't too much longer before our full Irish breakfast arrived. Pat had asked us what we wished to eat, and how we'd like the eggs prepared. Everything was served deliciously fresh and piping hot, down to the very last bite.After breakfast David's mom spent some time reading in the sitting area on the first floor while David and I got around and ready to go out for the day. We had a very full and long day, and looked forward to an early night since the alarm clock was set for 4:45am.The bathroom was not terribly large, but was ample enough for one person to take care of their needs. Hot water was plentiful even on the morning when we all three took showers. I should also note that there was ample parking conveniently located in the front of the house.Bookings for this B&B are available directly through their website. We paid €80 for a triple sharing. In reviewing their website, you will see that their current rate is €30/person sharing a double including breakfast and €27.50/person sharing excluding breakfast.It is without hesitation that I highly recommend Pebble Mill B&B!
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