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January 07, 2017

Ireland Day 1 & 2: Dublin Diaries

To be honest I had a certain image of Ireland in my mind; it's hard to explain, but if you're a traveler you'll know that before you visit somewhere, you usually have a certain image in your head of what it's like. I was told by so many that I might be crazy visiting Ireland in the winter, but being from Connecticut I was quite sure I could handle the cold. We completely lucked out weather-wise, the days were dry and, while sometimes a bit cloudy, never below 42ºF or so. It was our first time in Ireland and I was determined to see as much as I could, while using Dublin as our base. The first two days I left completely open with nothing more than dinner reservations scheduled, so that we could do some exploring in the city and get our bearings. 

On Day 1, we arrived quite early on a direct flight from JFK and, after checking into our hotel, we got straight to exploring. We were lucky enough to be staying right on the river, which made a great central location for exploring. The first thing I noticed was the beautifully colored Georgian-style townhouses that were speckled throughout the city - I'm a sucker for a good pop of color! Of course, we were anxious to check out the pub scene in Dublin, and lucky for us we happened to stumble across The Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub which dates back to the 12th century. The atmosphere was cozy, and much to my delight, filled with locals even though it's such a popular tourist destination as well. It was here that I tasted my first true Irish Guinness - and I have to say it won me over! 

After a pint and some fish and chips (which were delicious), we headed into the center of town toward Christ Church Cathedral. The Church was initially established by the Normans and then of course became a Christian church, which is absolutely beautiful and a must see while in Dublin. I love how it sits in the center of two busy streets, on a peaceful green, providing a breath of fresh air in an urban setting. We then made our way down Dame Street toward Trinity College. The college was absolutely enormous and the grounds were stunning. It was founded in 1592 via a charter obtained from Queen Elizabeth I and is still an operating, and bustling school today. It is one of the seven ancient colleges and universities that can be found throughout Ireland and Britain today. If you're making a visit, make sure to leave yourself enough time to wanter the stunningly manicured grounds and of course, visit the Book of Kells inside the Library.

After all that history, we thirsted for a pint and to check out a bit more of Dublin's bar scene. We walked toward the "Old Stone Church" and said a quick hello to the Molly Malone statue, and found ourselves in the old Victorian O'Neill's pub on Suffolk Street. The townhouse-style pub was littered with nooks and crannies perfect for enjoying a drink and some shelter from the cold. I loved the décor of this pub, it was so authentic and you could really tell that it hadn't changed one bit since it was opened in the late 1800's. After our drinks we headed back toward our hotel to get ready for dinner. We ate dinner at a delicious restaurant along the river called The Woolen Mills, the sister restaurant to Dublin's popular Winding Stair. It was the perfect way to end our first day in Dublin. 

On Day 2, we decided to head over to the Guinness Storehouse bright and early (we had purchased tickets in advance to avoid lines, which I would highly suggest). The sheer size of the property that Guinness owns in Dublin is massive; the clearly marked buildings take up a number of blocks and run alongside the river. This is where Arthur Guinness first brewed the now world-famous stout, and I have to say that this place really lived up to its expectations. We took the whole morning to wander the exhibitions, learn how to pour the perfect pint, and of course admire the view with one in hand in the Gravity Bar atop the storehouse. I swear, the Guinness tasted even better from the top! 

After the beer, we were quite hungry and headed back toward Dame street, wandering through adorable neighborhoods with brightly colored doors. We found an adorable spot to have some lunch called the Ivy. It looked like an old Georgian library and we nestled in the perfect corner to enjoy a bit of a rest and a meal. I would highly recommend stopping by if you're ever in Dublin! 

Next we headed to Dublin Castle, where we popped in to explore the state rooms and to see where the Irish President gets inaugurated every few years. I have to say the outside was quite unassuming, and aside from the one standing Medieval tower, you'd hardly know it was a castle at all. However, once inside, the rooms were beautifully restored and decorated to mimic the style of the last family who inhabited it. 

After wandering the castle, we did a bit of shopping in the area and then found ourselves in the Temple Bar area. It was around the time that all the session bands had begun, another words, perfect timing to pop into a few pubs to see this old Irish tradition for ourselves. Our favorite bars were The Quays Bar (pronounced "keys"), The Palace Bar, and of course The Temple Bar itself. After an afternoon of music and socializing we headed to dinner at Toscana, which was a nice reprieve from the pub-style food we had been eating for the past two days. 

Dublin Day 1 & 2 gave us a great taste for the city. We were in love already!

Have you ever been to Dublin; what were your favorite spots?

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