Hubs and I spent New Years in Ireland! I still can’t believe we did it. This was a much-needed vacation for us both, and we had such a blast. I’ve broken it down into 3 parts, based on the regions we visited. It all started in an airport bar…
Day 1: The Flight & Creating a Focus
After working a full day, we drove to the airport and ate dinner before getting on our flight. While eating dinner, we talked about what we wanted the trip to feel like. (We’d already outlined an itinerary, so the practical aspects were spoken for.) We talked about trips we’ve taken and what we liked about them, and also what we wish we’d done differently. It was a good time to touch base on how we were feeling and what we needed from each other on this trip. By the end of our meal, we decided that the motto for the trip would be “slow down”. This really set the tone for our adventure and was a good reminder whenever we felt ourselves getting stressed out or whenever we felt like we slept in too late.
We flew coach on a redeye with British Airways and Aer Lingus. We left home around 9 PM and slept most of the way there. With the time difference, this worked out perfectly, because we touched down in Dublin at dinnertime. At that point, our only job was to find our Airbnb and a pub for dinner. We stayed on a residential street in the Drumcondra neighborhood, right next to Croke Park, so this was an easy task. Keeping with our motto, we had our first real Guinness at a locals-only pub, ate some food at a restaurant down the street, and stumbled into bed to sleep off the jet lag.
Day 2: Dublin Sightseeing
This was easily our busiest day, and we planned it right at the front of our trip when we had the most energy.
The Guinness Factory
This was our first stop of the day. Did you know the Guinness Factory is listed as one of the best tourist destinations in the world?
I had always been a little confused by that claim, as everywhere we’ve traveled has a brewery or a distillery. And while the tours are good (and the samples better), I wouldn’t consider them groundbreaking. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
The tour cost 25 euro, which includes a pint of Guinness that you can enjoy at any one of the 3 bars in house (I’ll touch on those shortly). Once you walk past the turnstiles, you get why this place is worth the hype: while standing on the glass-encased 9,000 year lease on the recipe for Guinness, look up. You’ll see a glass tower that goes up 6 stories taking you on the adventure telling the story that is Guinness.
The first 3 floors are a museum with exhibits on how the famous brew is made, its history as the beer of Ireland, advertising, and transportation around the world. On level 4, you can cash in your free pint and learn to pour a proper one at the Guinness Academy. This is the option we went with, and the beer was even more delicious at the source.
Level 5 is another bar with a restaurant, but the showstopper is the Gravity Bar on level 6. This bar has 360 degree view of Dublin. We were fortunate enough to catch the view as the sun began peeking through the clouds.
Exploring the City
Feeling warm and fuzzy from our breakfast pint at the Guinness Factory, we headed back into the center of Dublin to explore. We took this slow, stopping to look at a nice building or exploring a side street that looked promising. Thanks to this method, we happened to stumble across Christ Church Cathedral right as their Sunday morning mass was coming to an end, which meant a beautiful chorus of bells from the tower.
We also stumbled upon other sights, like St. Stephen’s Green and Trinity College. This was a good way to find ourselves to a late lunch and another pint.
The National Museum of Ireland
More like museums, plural. This is a grouping of several different buildings, each of which contains a different focus. Art, natural history, you name it. All of them are interesting, but the showstopper was definitely the archaeology museum. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in are the amazing mosaic floors, depicting all sorts of scenes from Greek and Roman mythology. Do yourself a favor in that first chamber though and look up.
The architecture of this building is amazing! We found ourselves longing for an exhibit about the building and its construction. (Spoiler: there isn’t one, but Wikipedia can tell you all about it.)
We found the entirety of the museum utterly fascinating, from the bog men who still had hair and organs to the Viking Ireland exhibit to the exhibit all about gold artwork in Ireland through the ages. Even if you’re not much of a museum person, I highly recommend this as a stop. It’s free to the public; just do it.
Literary Pub Crawl
This is something we look up in any large city we visit, especially the international ones. It’s a great way to see the city with your feet on the ground, and they’re typically led by actors and comedians who are more than happy to show you their city with humor and insight. And you stop to drink beer along the way. What more could you want?
Dublin was no different. We met upstairs at the Kings Head Pub, and ended nearby after touring the streets of central Dublin. I felt more connected to Dublin after this tour; it’s a great way to weave personal histories into the broader history of the country.
Day 3: Failed Sightseeing and a Tale of Despair
Morning dawned on day 3, the last day of 2018, to find me sick as a dog. I’d been fighting a cold since we got on the plane, but our busy day 2 had us walking more than 10 miles. My body just couldn’t handle it anymore. Against my better judgement, we got going because there were things I still wanted to see and we’re only in Dublin once!
We headed for Trinity College because I wanted to see the famous library and the Book of Kells. We arrived to find the doors shuttered and a sign explaining that the library and the exhibit were closed for two weeks over Christmas and New Years. Disappointed but not terribly surprised, we went in search of an occult shop I’d found in my online research of Dublin.
I enjoy checking out occult shops when I travel, and I was hoping to see some unique Celtic pagan trinkets and maybe get a piece of Irish magick. Hubs was a great sport and helped me find the place (he sat on the couch on the lower level and let me wander). Now, had I been into more Eastern religions, perhaps I would have found this store more satisfying, but the Celtic flair I’d been hoping for was completely absent. So we left empty-handed.
Hubs had found a pub with plenty of vegan options for lunch, so we killed a little more time looking for some easy souvenirs for friends and family before heading that direction. As soon as we sat down, the full force of my cold hit me. I couldn’t control my body temperature and I couldn’t get warm. None of the beers looked good, and nothing on the menu sounded good. I could read the ingredients and knew I liked the things, but I had lost my appetite and just didn’t care.
Hubs saw how I was struggling and suggested we skip the history walk we had scheduled for that afternoon so I could go home and rest. I fought with myself for awhile, because I just didn’t want to miss anything. But he reminded me of the theme of our trip: slow down. So we went back to our Airbnb, called the leader of the history walk to tell him we wouldn’t be coming so they wouldn’t wait for us, and I took a 5 hour Nyquil nap.
It was dark out when I finally woke up. My fever had broken and I got up to shower and gear up for New Years Eve. Now, Dublin does a huge celebration with a ball drop and concert, much like New York City. When we booked our trip, this had been the original plan. Once we visited the Temple Bar district, however, we knew that the event just wouldn’t be our speed. So we had already decided to celebrate in Drumcondra, along a row of pubs and restaurants. And after my cold had thwarted me, this seemed like an even better idea.
For the new year, we parked at a bar that was empty save for the bartender and a few locals, all over the age of 50. They were playing the big celebration on the screens behind the bar, and poured a nice pint, so it would do. We enjoyed the time with each other, learning how to slow down (the Irish are really good at this). When midnight struck, the few patrons, bartender, and ourselves shook hands, clinked glasses–slainte--and wished each other a happy new year.
I will always remember the old man that turned to us and told us, “Happy New Year, friends of Ireland.”
Check out days 4 & 5 here