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Published: December 1st 2015
When we left on this portion of our trip, I can’t say that Dublin was part of the planned itinerary. I doubt that most people would think of Ireland as a good place to visit in the middle of early winter. However, sitting in the heat of late summer in Seville, Spain where it never rains and blue skies are ever abundant, the thought of a bit of cool weather and lush vegetation seemed like a welcome change of pace. Despite some reservations we started looking at staying a month in Ireland in late November as a possibility for our future travels.
When we checked the price of airlines, we found the incredible sounding fare of 26 Euros each to fly from Lisbon to Dublin, one way. Even though there would be an extra charge for the large bags we can’t seem to avoid carrying, the thought of having a chance to visit a country that is high on our list of “must see” countries for less than the cost of a taxi ride to the airport (literally) seemed too good to pass up.
We have spent a good part of our last 4 ½ years travelling in countries
where English is not the predominate language spoken by the citizens. It seems that most people who speak a second language choose English so, except in very remote areas, we haven’t really struggled too much. We quickly learn to say Good Morning, Thank you, Excuse me, Sorry, Yes and No in whatever country we are in. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with hand signals, a few words and a smile. Even so, because we live independently in apartments and shop in local markets it can become exhausting to try to communicate with our neighbors on any more than a basic level. The thought of being able to understand every conversation around us and perhaps even participate was a huge attraction to picking Ireland as our next country to visit.
We found that prices of apartments in Dublin were a bit above our normal price range but we thought that if we cut a few corners and made a few sacrifices and did a lot of walking perhaps a visit to the Emerald Isle was a not just a possibility, but a reality.
We patted ourselves on the back as we landed in Dublin to clear skies
Crosses the River Liffey
and pleasant temperatures. The countryside surrounding the airport looked beautiful and intensely and shockingly green from our window as we neared the airport. We enjoyed our quick flight from Lisbon and couldn’t help smiling at all the conversations around us in the wonderfully famous Irish accents. It was so easy to pass through the airport and find a taxi to our new house. The ability to read all the signs and actually talk to the cab driver made what can sometimes be a difficult time as easy as could be.
The airport is on the north side of town and our apartment is on the south, so we had a nice (but expensive) tour through town on the way to our new home.The city presents itself well with narrow roads lined by endless brick façade buildings of different heights. It does not appear to be a city of almost 1 ½ million people. Most buildings are no more than 3 or 4 stories. Residential buildings often have colorful doors and businesses often feature street level shops topped by apartments above. All have multiple chimneys rising from the tops. The closer to the center of town you are the taller
and more ornate the buildings. Double-decker buses compete with taxis and too many cars for room on the narrow streets. Driving on the left hand side of the road is slightly jarring at first when you come from countries that stay to the right. We found ourselves leaning the wrong way at every intersection.
The City Centre is split in half by the famous River Liffey. The river is actually quite narrow and crossed by many bridges. Some are stylishly antique and only for walkers and many are futuristically modern and carry all means of transport. The banks of the river were long ago controlled to prevent flooding. The banks are lined with some of the oldest buildings near the center whereas more modern office buildings have replaced warehouses and dockyards towards the end of the river.
Our apartment is part of a Georgian style house built in the residential Portobello neighborhood that lies along the scenic Grand Canal south of the city center. Originally a Jewish area of town, Portobello has always been a working class neighborhood and has a great mixture of single family houses of all sizes.
Portobello is an easy 15 minute walk
to nearly everything on the south bank and has easy access to an array of Double-decker buses to take us anywhere we could want to go in the city.Unfortunately our wonderful first day weather did not hold long. We asked if it rained much in Dublin. We were told that it “doesn’t rain much, but it does rain often”. A massive storm with 100 kilometer per hour gusts visited over our first few days. We asked if we should wait for better weather and were told in Dublin it is best to just go out, because if you wait, you may be inside for a long time. It proved true and while we often got a little wet, remarkably we did well to enjoy periods of pretty nice days.
Dublin is full of wonderful parks. Most have manicured hedges, trees and lawns connected by paved walkways lined with many statues. Dublin is famous for its contributions to literature and statues of the most famous are prolific throughout the parks and city. Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and William Butler Yeats are just a few of the most celebrated. Our favorite parks are St. Stephen’s Green followed by Merrion
Square. Both parks are always filled with lots of people, both tourists and locals, no matter the weather. On clear days everyone competes for a sunny spot to enjoy the short bursts of warmth. Dublin days are very short during this part of the year. The sun rises just around 8 and sets just after 4, so every chance at a bit of sunshine is taken advantage of.
We enjoy walks in the different areas of town. The Temple Bar area is a popular tourist area in the center that is full of pubs, restaurants and small art and souvenir shops. It makes for excellent people watching as it is always full. The O’Connell Street area just across the Ha’Penny Bridge is always busy with Christmas shoppers and is beautifully decorated for the season. The ornate post office which was the stronghold during the 1916 Rising (battle for independence) is beautifully restored.
On days that prove to be too much weather-wise, Dublin is full of world class National Museums. We have spent many hours visiting the National Museums of Art, History, Archeology, Decorative Arts, and Natural History. They have provided wonderful afternoons and the perfect escapes on rainy
Samuel Beckett Bridge
and Dublin Convention center
days. We found a couple of standout smaller museums at the Hugh Lane Art Museum and the Chester Beatty Library. We thought we might spend 30 minutes in the Chester Beatty but ended up spending several hours looking at the excellent displays of antique books and manuscripts. All were outstanding and all were free!
Other great places to spend a rainy afternoon are the Dublin Castle, Christchurch Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and of course the wonderful old library at Trinity College. With plenty of rainy days to fill, we have had lots of opportunity to see each.
Of course no visit to Dublin would be complete without visiting at least one pub (or perhaps a few). We enjoyed a Guinness at Temple Bar and a pint of Smithwicks at one of the recommended locals, as the neighborhood pubs are called. There is always plenty of conversation and music and we haven’t been in one yet where we didn’t have a fun conversation. I have to admit that while I’m quite sure we were speaking English and we laughed a lot, we really couldn’t understand half of what we were being told most of the time.
have 10 days left in Ireland and are anxious to get out and visit a little of the countryside before we move on to another country soon. We have been waiting for a turn of nicer weather but so far haven’t really gotten a good forecast. Perhaps we will just have to go and hope for the best, because as we have learned, if you wait for a nice day, you may never get out!
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