By Isabel O’Brien
What is more Irish than stepping off your Aer Lingus flight only to be hit with a faceful of rain? This is what I asked myself as I stepped onto the damp pavement at Dublin Airport. It was late on a Thursday night, the air smelled like fresh earth and salt water, and I was on my way to meet my parents. Much to my aunts’ and uncles’ disapproval, we were the last of O’Brien clan to make the hajj to the motherland — Ireland.
My father and I had been talking about visiting the island since I was a little girl, so I had great expectations. Boarding the plane, I knew this. I tried to mentally prepare myself for disappointment, training myself to expect a weekend of sub-par food in a medium sized city. Looking back, I think I felt deep down that Dublin wouldn’t disappoint — and I was right; it didn’t.
For those who have visited the States, Dublin has the air of a European Boston — calm, spread out, and with its own historic and cultural claims. Dublin is not a “bougie” city; it seems unimpressed with itself — relaxed and energetic at the same time. There are hundreds of students, pubs, and cool restaurants offering everything from bangers and mash to Kim chi and trendy, instagram-worthy doughnuts.
I started my weekend in Dublin on Friday, as my family and I woke up at an embarrassingly late hour and lost even more time enjoying our typical breakfast of tea and scones. We spent the better half of the day exploring the city — we saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral, window-shopped antiques on Francis Street, and strolled along the banks of the River Shannon.
After that, we decided to make a grown man’s dream come true and took my father to a tour of the Guinness storehouse. I was expecting something similar to a champagne tasting — demonstrations, explanations, beer in action. What I found was actually the Disneyland of beer, something my father (a self-proclaimed beer nerd) couldn’t even get behind. It feels like the world’s longest-ever Guinness commercial — one spends more time staring at screens than beer. If you go to Dublin, skip the Guinness Storehouse. It’s only redeeming quality was the view from the sky bar at the top of the tower — well, that and the Guinness, which was actually delicious (can beer be delicious?).
We finished our day at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, the oldest book in the world. After that we got dinner and drinks at The Bank on College Green. The interior was super classy and cozy, and the drinks were amazing — I think all can agree that Irish coffee tastes best when sipped by the fireside. The food was superb — typical Irish fare, but well-made, modern and moderately priced. My two favorite dishes were the pork belly and the clam chowder — the flavors were subtle and the dish was cooked just right.
My favorite part about Dublin, however, was getting out of Dublin. My family and I spent the entirety of Saturday touring the Irish countryside. I could throw buzzwords like “quaint” and “rustic” around, but the Irish countryside evokes sentiments much deeper. I felt like a separate world of itself — the world of folklore that one reads about but never feels connected to. We started our journey on the Irish Sea and ended at the Atlantic, crossing the island and stopping along the way at the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, and Galway.
We ended Saturday by roaming around Temple Bar in Dublin, trying to find a pub that wasn’t packed to capacity during the football game (we were unsuccessful). We saw Grafton Street lit up for Christmas, ate some really good seafood and then passed out in exhaustion. The rest of Dublin was awake, though! The streets were abuzz until the “wee hours” of the morning.
On Sunday morning I caught an early flight back to Reims, after having one last round of tea and scones. While I had to bid a sad slán to the island, I recommend all of you to say Dia dhuit and think about booking a trip to Ireland for your next break!