Dublin Ireland Trip, July 2009

In July 2009, my brother Chris and I went to Dublin, Ireland for vacation. My brother wanted to celebrate his 50th birthday at the Guinness Storehouse there, so we did ! (Any excuse to go to Ireland.)

             Map of Ireland

This page contains my trip log, links to all of the pictures I took, and my recommendations and suggestions at the bottom.

ALL of my Dublin pictures

Sun for a new day  Thursday
Had an 8:45 pm flight out of Philadephia, direct to Dublin on USAirways.

Arrived at the airport almost 3 hours before flight time, so of course there were no lines.

Currency exchange rate is 0.62 Euro/dollar at Philly airport; 0.72 would be a good rate. The official exchange rate is $1.39 / €1.

A stroke of great luck: the third seat in our row went unoccupied, so my brother and I weren't squashed together into a middle and window seat. I'm a reasonably big guy, and my brother is an unreasonably big guy, so being able to spread out with an empty seat between us was great.

Sun rose on the left side of the plane, not straight ahead, as we approached Ireland, so I think a great-circle route brought us in from the NW instead of the W.

Sun for a new day  Friday
Arrived around 9:30. Couldn't find the free hotel shuttle (turns out we were supposed to know to take the green "Paddywagon" bus; it didn't have the hotel name displayed on it). So after waiting 45 minutes or so for the free shuttle, we took the AirCoach (€7 each).

Passed lots of townhouses and duplexes, most of them pretty nice-looking.

Bus let us off on south side of Trinity College; hotel is on north side of it. So a long walk through fairly crowded sidewalks, with us tired and hot. Got into the room around 10:30, and left home at 4:30 PM yesterday Eastern time, so that's about 13 hours end-to-end.

Room 318, cozy but nice. We had to ask the maid how to turn on the lights; you have to insert your card-key into a special switch just inside the door and leave it there. Probably intended to force all of the lights off when you leave the room, so you don't waste electricity.

Hotel is decorated lavishly, and the furniture in the lobby is very interesting (pics).

The hotel (Trinity Capital Hotel) is built on top of and around a major firehouse (pics). The street (Pearse St) is a major one-way artery through the east end of the city; at rush-hour it is solid with traffic, and the lights to cross it have a pretty long wait.

Rested for a while, then out. Got €100 at the nearby ATM; it printed a totally blank receipt for me. Walked up a couple of blocks to the river, and stopped in the first decent pub we came to, Fitzgerald's. Fish-chips-Guinness (€14) for Chris, soup-sandwich-soda (€8) for me (the small bottle of Coke was €2.70, or about $4 !). Chris was delighted to get into a real pub and have pub food and a real Guinness (pic; the red eyes are from the plane travel).

Hung around the river and the Halfpenny Bridge area for a while (pics).

Was able to check on something my friend Gary H had said: when he was here 20 years or so ago, there were piles of abandoned bicycles in the water under the bridges, especially in this area. He theorized that a person would stagger out of a pub in the wee hours, get onto their bike, crash a few times, chuck the bike into the river, and stagger home. Nice story, but there are no such piles of bikes here today.

Seems the toilet signs here are missing a letter: pic (just kidding). Short walk across Halfpenny Bridge, then up to Abbey St, down that a little, back across to the Temple Bar area, then back to the hotel. Just to get the lay of the place a little.

Chris crashed for 4 hours or so; I decided to stay awake. I went out for a short walk around the block, to check out the Tara St DART station. Later, a long walk east down Pearse St to the canals/docks area (pics); turned out to be a lot longer walk than it looks on the tourist map. There's some kind of South Dock Festival next week (never could find out more about it; neither hotel nor Tourist Info center people could find out anything about it).

Lots of nice-looking urban young women on the streets, but they're wearing too many clothes for my taste (I'm used to the Caribbean, where I live and cruise on my boat).

Lots of apartments in the canal/dock area, but the buildings aren't too big or ugly, and small stores are sprinkled around. So the area is done intelligently.

Later, we wandered out to a grocery store for stuff: bought some grapes and fixings for PBJ sandwiches. Sat on benches by the river and ate, wandered back to the hotel, ate some more and watched TV (10 channels). We're tired.

The hotel is not quite as deluxe as we had hoped: no air-conditioning in the room, no vent-fan in the bathroom, breakfast not included.

I went to sleep at 10, and woke up at 11:30 feeling it must be dawn, and I was ready to get up and go. The time-zone adjustment is going to take a while.

Sun for a new day  Saturday
Nice: free newspapers in the lobby downstairs.

Totally grey weather.

Got started a little after 9.

Walked across the river. Passed a church I came to call the "PVC church", because the railings around the door are PVC pipe: pic. Caught a red-line tram to Heuston Station to the west (€2.90 return each). Had some trouble finding the Irish Museum of Modern Art, but we found it. Mostly empty; a huge old former hospital building with a few galleries in it (pics). A few nice things in it. Formal garden next to it is pretty severe and uninteresting.

Went out the west end, thinking we were heading south, and it started raining. Walked through a suburb, trying to find the tram line, and finally found the Suir's Road station, a couple south of where we expected to be. Took a crowded tram to the Jervis stop, NW of Temple Bar.

Crossed the river (pics taken at some forgotten time) into Temple Bar, one of the major tourist areas. Used paperback books being sold for €5 to €6 at the Temple Bar Market; seems a bit high.

Lunch at "The Quays" restaurant. Fish-chips-Guinness for me, bangers-mash-Guinness for Chris. Check plus tip came to €30 (about $42). This place is not cheap.

When we paid with a credit card, instead of taking the card away, the waitress brought a handheld Wi-Fi-connected credit-card machine to the table, and ran the card right there, and had us press a button to authorize the charge. We saw this again in other places, later. Pretty cool. (And we found that no one accepted American Express.)

Went to Tourist Info center in an old church. No info on the "South Dock Festival".

And of course an Ireland experience wouldn't be complete without ... a Falun Gong protest ? Pic.

Into Trinity College briefly, just to scope it out. Lots of tourists pouring in and out. Back to the hotel.

Later, out to Trinity College, but we had just missed the last tour (we didn't realize they had a somewhat odd schedule).

Walked down Grafton St, a major pedestrian-only and shopping street, and a major tourist area. It's totally packed with people; you have to be alert while walking to avoid collisions.

Walked down to St Stephen's Green, a very nice and fairly big park (pics). Lots of pigeons, lots of people, huge trees, ducks and swans and seagulls.

Into a shopping mall on Grafton St, just to check it out and look at some Guinness-type souvenirs. Very informative directory in the mall: pic.

To a grocery store, then back to the hotel. PBJ sandwiches and banana and coleslaw for dinner.

Had a headache.

Sun for a new day  Sunday
To the Tara St DART station, intending to go north to Malahide or Howth, but found that the Sunday schedule is too sparse. Instead of the "every 20-30 minutes" quoted by the guidebook, the trains we want are more like every 70-80 minutes on Sundays. So we shifted gears.

Walked up the river to the Viking/Medieval area. Streets pretty empty on a Sunday morning: pic. To Christchurch Cathedral (pics), but they're having services and we're not really dressed for it (and as extremely former Catholics, we'd probably burst into flame if we set foot inside). Pic. A couple of blocks down to St Patrick's Cathedral, which has a very nice park. Lounged there for a while. Pics and pic.

Back up to the Christchurch Cathedral area to find a toilet and then get a cup of coffee for Chris. Some nice street-art: pic.

SE to St Stephen's Green for a while.

Up Grafton St to people-watch and look around. Sunnier and warmer today than yesterday.

Lunch at Bruxelle's pub. Roast pork (€10) for me; banger-mash-Guinness (€16) for Chris.

Up Dawson St to Trinity College and around it, and back to the hotel.

Out to Trinity College for the 2:50 tour (€10 each).

Tour guide has a physics degree from here, teaches philosophy here, and has been here 25 years. He gives a pretty entertaining lecture. The college was built on a mud plain, making challenges for the builders. Only the top two floors of the old library are used for books by design; the first floor is too moist. Another building settled so badly that they had to tear it down and build it anew 30 years after first building it. Pics.

The ancient books (Book of Kells, etc) in the old library are overrated; not very impressive. But the ancients did find something useful in Afghanistan, unlike us today: they brought lapis lazuli from there to make blue coloring to use in the illustrated books.

Rained hard for 5 minutes as we got out of the crammed gift shop at the end of the tour; we sheltered in a passageway through a modern building. Then across the street and into a sweater store. Then down past the national museum, up Grafton St (crowded as always), and back to the hotel.

Three tries to get an adapter plug from the front desk that would let me plug in my camera battery charger. But I got it working.

At 7 PM, out and down the length of Temple Bar to Parliament St, at the border between Temple Bar and the Viking/Medieval area. Dinner at a Persian place we'd seen earlier. Lamb shish and a soda for me (€10). Delicious food.

Into Temple Bar Square to hang out for a while. Lots of interesting people to watch, some pretty women, and a band playing on the street.

To Fitzgerald's pub, for a pint of Guinness each (about €4.50 each).

To a grocery store for bread and trail mix and such.

Plenty of groups of lads out on the sidewalks tonight, half-drunk and out to get totally drunk.

Back to the hotel by 9:30.

Laid sleepless in bed until 3 AM or so.

Sun for a new day  Monday
Chris's 50th birthday !

Out and across the river and up O'Connell St. To the Garden of Remembrance (pics). Then across the street to the Dublin City Gallery - The Hugh Lane, which turns out to be closed on Mondays.

Down through a street of farmers-market stalls, to a mall, which turns out to have a city library inside it. Got a guest card and managed to get 10 minutes of internet access (would have had to wait an hour to get more). Just enough to check for any urgent email and tell the family back home that we're alive.

Some pictures of people on the street, just so you can get a sense of what they looked like: pics.

Across the Liffey River and into Temple Bar.

Lunch at "The Shack" pub. Pepperoni-mushroom-tagliatelle (€10) for me; fish-chips-coffee (€13) for Chris.

Long walk west to the Guinness Storehouse (€15 each admission). Turns out to be a huge glitzy brewery-museum, built in the old brewery building (the current brewery is a couple of blocks north, and is immense). Tour starts with a 9000-year lease that Arthur Guinness signed with the city; he was that confident that the brewery would be a success. Then you wind your way up, for a total of 7 stories or so, with exhibits showing how the beer is and was made. The most interesting part was the barrelmaking operation, which employed about 300 coopers at its height.

Was able to check on something my friend Chris had asked: do some bars use a "resonator" to make the Guinness foam without "putting a lot of nitrous in the beer" ? I asked the attendants in the tasting room, and they said there is a device called a "surger" which some foreign bars use. They pour the pint, then set it on the "surger" plate, and it vibrates the beer and this does something to it (I'm not clear if it would give less foam or more, or do something else).

The top story is a bar where you get a pint of Guinness (I had a soda), and the glass walls give a tremendous nearly-360 view of Dublin. Pretty crowded, and impossible to get a seat. We enjoyed the view and drank our drinks and I wished Chris a Happy Birthday. Pics.

Up to Phoenix Park (pics), but it was farther away than expected, we were pretty footsore, and the park seemed to be mostly empty (no focus). So we sat a bit, sheltered under big trees while it rained, and then headed back to Heuston Station. Onto the tram (€1.50 each), to Abbey St, and back to the hotel. Took a picture of the (unoccupied rear-end) driver's compartment on the tram: pic.

Out around 7 PM. Walked down Grafton St, where I was disgusted to see that one of the street-entertainments was a bagpiper; I hate bagpipes.

To the "Gotham" restaurant for dinner. I had a biggish personal pizza (€11); Chris had a similar pizza, antipasto and two sodas (€20). So with tip that was about a $46 meal. This town is expensive.

Back to the hotel. Lots of serious road-repair going on. Got another €100 from an ATM; it printed a receipt with about the top 2 lines of print working, and the rest too faint to read.

Sun for a new day  Tuesday
Pouring rain. Got two umbrellas from front desk. Headed to National Gallery (went a bit roundabout; I misremembered where it was).

Big museum ! Lots of Dutch and Italian paintings, some sculpture, nice drawings by Clarke. One strange Italian painting with (among normal figures and other things) a chalice with two eyeballs sitting on top of it. Fair number of cherubs. Irish paintings by Jack Yeats.

As we were heading for the coat-check to retrieve our umbrellas and leave, very loud alarms went off, and they evacuated the whole place (found out later it was the fire alarm). We left our umbrellas there and headed for lunch.

Lunch at "George's Terrace", a restaurant for lawyers and government people and such. I had pork and potatoes and apple; Chris had bangers and mash. Total €21.

Back to the museum to retrieve the umbrellas, then back to the hotel.

Out to the National Museum - Archaeology. Free admission, so jammed with teenagers. They had "bog bodies", ancient sacrificed bodies buried in the bogs and very well preserved by the environment. (Now my new nickname for Chris is "bog body".) Also a very nice replica of a 20-foot Viking sailing/rowing boat.

To the Tourist Info center (pics; it's in a converted church); Chris wants to go on a Wicklow bus tour. But he found out that they're all completely undersubscribed this week; no more than 4 people signed up for any one day, and they need 15 or more. So he gave up on that.

Down Grafton St, and heard some nice music along the way. Sat in St Stephen's Green for 20-30 minutes, but rain started sprinkling. Started to leave, then had to stand under trees for 5 minutes with lots of other people whie it poured. Then up Grafton St and back to the hotel.

(Grafton St empty for a change: pic; not sure when I took this.)

Out to Temple Bar for dinner. To "The Quay" restaurant again. I had chicken-pasta and "boxy cake" (not very impressive) and a Guinness, and Chris had mushrooms and fish-chips and a Guinness, and the whole bill and tip came to about €55 (about $77). Money is flying out.

Watched the crowd in Temple Bar Square for a while; there was a band again. Then back to the hotel.

Sun for a new day  Wednesday
To Tara St DART station (pics). Bought return tickets to Malahide (€4.20 each). A 20-minute ride up, then a longish walk into the Malahide Castle grounds, which are heavily wooded. Damp and shady woods (pics). Past a big, fancy playground. Made a detour to the toilets.

Then to the castle. Found I could use my hands to make the "clip-clopping" noise that they used coconut halves to make in Monty Python's "Holy Grail" (pic). The noise irritated Chris for some reason, so I did it a few more times.

€11.50 each for combined castle and model railroad tour. The castle is smallish but nice, with lots of interesting woodwork and furnishings. Bunch of tiny cute kids were going in just after we came out; wonder what the heck they're going to do in the castle ?

Just ahead of the rain, went over to the model railroad museum. Narrated layout, but it was somewhat dark so they could play a dramatic spotlight on the part they were talking about at the moment, and I didn't like all of the dimness. Out and back in to see the static exhibits we'd had to rush past to get into the tour, and the exhibits and photographs are nice.

Out and back to the toilets, then back to town. Tramped up and down a couple of streets before we found a decent pub, which turned out to be pretty comfortable, except for the regrettable American music (Barry Manilow, etc). Burger-fries for me (€8.50) and Guinness-smallsteak-fries for Chris. We lingered for a while.

Walked down to the marina, then tried to come out through the middle of it and were forced to go all the way around. Eventually made it to the station and onto the train and back to town and hotel.

Out later to walk to NE part of the city, which we haven't been to (it's mostly the financial district). Up to the river and walked along it. Interesting new "harp" bridge (pics), not yet in service. It's a swing bridge, swinging open so ships can go up the river. But they can't go more than another 1/4 mile or so, before getting to fixed bridges and shallow water. Interesting big, complicated sailboat (schooner) docked in the river (pic).

Had to wait out some rain, in the shelter of some buildings. Ducked into a mall (pics), but Chris didn't want to sit in there, on the general principle that malls are to be avoided. More rain: pic. Walked to Talbot St, ducking rain, and got groceries at a Tesco. Walked through rain back to the hotel, and it stopped raining soon after we got inside.

Had a dinner of fruit and juice and PBJ sandwiches in the room.

Chris is very tired; he didn't sleep well last night.

Sun for a new day  Thursday
Across the river to the tram, and to Heuston Station (€3 return each). Thought of cheating and going one station more than our tickets allowed (just over the border into Zone 2), but as soon as we boarded, our tickets were checked, and the checkers stayed aboard. So we were forced to be honest, and got off where we were supposed to.

Into the station so Chris could use the toilet (€0.30). I noticed that a one-day return train ticket to Galway was about €35, and everything else was quite a bit more expensive; always good to price out options.

To the Irish Museum of Modern Art again, to see an exhibit that opened just yesterday. Not worth going out of the way for, but this is on the way to our main destination today. (Saw a well-named childcare place on the way: pic. And an interesting new building, but hard to get far enough away to photograph: pic.) The new exhibit was tiny but interesting, mostly figures made out of paper-mache with newspaper-like print on the outside, then pierced with toothpicks and/or with blood-red insides exposed. All making political statements about various people or issues.

Out the long driveway to the west gate again, and across the street to Kilmainham Gaol (pics), this morning's destination. €6 each. Interesting museum and tour. Tour a bit crowded, and through tight passageways and into small rooms. This jail was designed to hold 200 prisoners, one per cell, but at the height of famine held 9000, partly because it offered a roof and (some) guaranteed food to prisoners. But it's big claim to fame is that it became a political-prisoner jail, and after the failed 1916 rebellion against the British, 14 ringleaders were jailed and then shot here. Each cell where they were held is labelled with their names, and we heard a bit about each one and how they died. The jail was closed (not sure when, 1930's ?), abandoned, and then restored (maybe in the 1990's ?). When they went to restore it, the roof of the main three-story cell-block had fallen in and there was 6 inches of dirt with trees growing on the floor inside.

Found a nearby pub next to a canal, and had a long, leisurely lunch. Nice place, except the TV screen was on some rap-music-video channel. We had burgers (€6.50 each).

Up to Heuston Station and onto a crowded tram. Off at Abbey St, and up O'Connell St to the Garden of Remembrance. Footsore. Sat a little while.

Across the street and into the Dublin City Gallery - The Hugh Lane. Free admission, and a very nice building with great paintings, some old and some modern. Interesting exhibit on a modern Irish painter named Francis Bacon, including his complete studio, which he described (on video) as "controlled chaos" (emphasis on the "chaos").

Out and sat in the Garden of Remembrance for quite a while; more people here now, and we're tired. Rain threatened, as usual. Back to the hotel (saw a very pretty woman on the way back, dressed unlike most other women here: pics).

Snoozed, watched TV, ate some grapefruit. I have a big blister on the side of one toe; drained it and hoped it won't get nasty.

Out to Fitzgerald's pub for pints of Guinness. Have yet to have a real conversation with any of the locals; most people in here are tourists, and everyone in here clumps together with the people they came in with. I guess if we stayed for several more pints and got tipsy and friendly we could start nudging our way into conversations, but that's not our personalities. Watched a dart championship on the big TV screen, and it turned out to be quite fast-paced and interesting. Two guys throwing darts, with no wasted time, bam-bam-bam, almost always aiming for the triple-20, with us struggling to see what they'd scored and what their strategies were. A live audience of 1000 or so drinking and cheering, and the camera showing anxious wives cheering the contestants, etc. We were riveted.

When it was over, I went to the grocery store next door, got a few groceries, and back to the hotel. Chris went to Temple Bar for a little shopping and people-watching.

I have a bit of a headache again.
Sun for a new day  Friday
Out to the DART Pearse Station and headed south (€4.20 each return to Dalkey). But Chris started feeling sick, and we got off at Dun Loghaire (pics) to find a toilet. Chris ended up heading back to the hotel; I went onwards.

Dalkey is a pretty small town, at least the center of it, and the "castle" is right on the main street (pics). Signed up for the live reenactment/tour (€6), and I turned out to be the only person on it ! An odd feeling to stand there and be greeted by a period-costumed actor and then have a bright conversation with them, as part of the act. They were set in 1610, and asked me questions such as "was I a friend or foe of their lord ?" and "would you like to hire on as a bowman ?". First with Rupert the bowman, then Barnaby the cook, then Hester the barber (which includes doctor and dentist). It was fun and interesting, but I never had a chance to relax and look around the place and take pictures, as I would have as part of a group.

Nice views from the battlements. This "castle" actually is one of a set of seven "storehouses", used to transit goods between the land and the harbor, and protect the goods and people. But it's a proper small castle I guess: the huge ground floor is all storehouse, but the next floor is living space, and the top is battlements with guard-niches and arrow-slits and high stone walls to protect the defenders. And the spiral stairs are "trip stairs": the steps are different heights and widths to make them difficult to rush up against defenders, and they spiral upwards clockwise, so a right-handed swordsman's sword hand is stuck against the center and at a disadvantage against the defenders above him.

These "castles" were British; there's an opposing Irish castle/tower on the cliff-top a mile or two inland, but Rupert pretends not to see it, and tells me all about how the Irish are savage and smelly and evil people.

Rupert had me draw the longbow. The bow has a range of about 180 yards, and as the first arrow hits the target, a second arrow would be in mid-flight, and the archer would be readying a third arrow. The bow looks unusual to me: it's a simple curved flexible piece of wood. I thought a longbow had a "recurve" (not sure if that's the right word): the middle would have a curve convex to the archer, and the ends would have curves concave to the archer.

Barnaby the cook showed me some typical foods, and emphasized the lack of hygiene of the cook and diners. And showed me the garderobe where (among other things) the guests could hang their cloaks above buckets of urine (or plunge them into the buckets) to kill the lice.

Hester the barber showed me the chair/table where patients could be strapped down for tooth-extraction, amputations, and other fun operations. She said there usually was one cloth bandage, dried and re-used from patient to patient, and the way the red bandage was wrapped around a pole to be dried gave us the modern barber-pole symbol. (It's good to live in the 21st century.)

Checked out the old church and graveyard next to the castle. Wandered around the town for a while. Real-estate offices show lots of multi-million Euro houses in this area; even an apartment purchase costs more than €300,000.

Eventually headed back to the DART station, but had to stand under trees for 5 minutes to wait out some heavy rain. Another €2.30 for a return ticket; apparently my short DunLoghaire-Dalkey leg used up my previous ticket (I asked at the window about this, but didn't ask carefully enough).

Back to the hotel for lunch and relaxation.

Later, we went down Grafton St to St Stephen's Green and loafed for a while.

Back up Grafton St, ducking into a phone store for a few minutes to wait out rain. Then past the hotel to find a pub east of it, not an easy thing to do. First one was crammed, second was bar-only, but then we found "The Lombard". I had a burger (€12); Chris had prawns and Guinness and fish-chips (€20).

Up to the river for a brief walk (pics taken at various times), then back to the hotel.
Sun for a new day  Saturday
Free shuttle to airport leaves at 7:15 or 9:15; 8:15 would be perfect for us to catch our 11:15 flight. So we're up at 6 and onto the 7:15 bus (which has seats really crammed in, quite a bit worse than airplane seats).

Into the airport, and the flight's listed as 40-minute delay, and lines aren't moving for a while. We chat with others in line; some are U2 fans who came in for the concert, and others are Irish heading out to Miami for vacation. But then we get checked in, go through Security (Chris had a couple of jars of Guinness mustard confiscated), and find a cafe to sit in and spend a few of our last Euro's. Chat with a nice 45ish-50ish couple from Los Angeles who flew here just to attend the concert, and they say it was good.

Saw a cop on a Segway in the terminal, and wanted to take a picture of him, but that probably would have gotten me arrested.

Flight left mostly on time (the pilot announced that we were taxiing past U2's plane, and we all craned our necks to look out and say "oooh" and giggle), and went smoothly. We luckily had changed our seats from middle-window to two aisle seats at check-in (a big benefit of being early), so we were as comfortable as you can be on a 7-hour flight. Our bags were first off the carousel at Philly, and we were home by 3:45 PM. We got the shuttle this morning at 2:15 AM Eastern time (Dublin is 5 hours ahead of NJ), so the travel took almost 14 hours end-to-end.

My brother had 2200 emails waiting when he got back (most from machines and could be deleted; he's a computer administrator at Princeton University).

Downloaded 217 pictures from my camera (171 keepers). Chris got about 130 out of his camera. A couple of pictures of me, taken by Chris: pic1, pic2.

Looks like my credit-card was converting currency at $1.42 / €1, which is quite a fair rate (rate on Google was $1.39 / €1 before we left and $1.42 / €1 after we came back). And my ETrade ATM card was converting currency at $1.41 / €1, which is even better (and no ATM fees). And no unauthorized charges on either card. [Later, my credit card charged me an additional 3% on the total of all foreign-currency transactions. So the ATM card was better.]

My recommendations about things to see in Dublin:

My thoughts about Dublin:

Feedback on our hotel, the Trinity Capital Hotel: