My decision to go to Dublin was very last-minute. In fact, I booked the flight and hotel just two weeks before going, which is quick for an overseas trip. Although I was only in Dublin for four days, with much of my time tied up with the TBEX Europe conference, I got a good taste of the city during my short visit.
Here are my five first impressions of Dublin.
1. Dublin is an accessible city.
My direct flight from Philadelphia took about seven hours and arrived in Dublin at breakfast time. When you think about it, the flight time is only a little longer than flying to California from the East Coast. Getting to and from the airport is easy too, with express buses costing under 10 Euros and taking less than an hour.
In addition to the geographic accessibility, it’s easy for Americans to assimilate to the city since the spoken language is English. The Irish lilt adds a musical element to the germanic language, but it’s totally easy to communicate without the need for translation.
2. Dublin is a walkable city with old buildings, bridges and parks.
For better and worse, my hotel (selected for the conference) was a good half hour walk from the city center. Although this location was a fail from a convenience factor, the hotel location’s main benefit was the opportunity to burn off some calories while walking. Calorie burning is key in a city with so much great food and drink. The second benefit was the scenic aspect to the walk, as the walk had St. Stephens Green in the middle and was filled with colorful doors along the way.
The city itself has a myriad of architecturally interesting buildings, street art and bridges over the River Liffey.
Day or night, there’s always something to check out when you’re walking in Dublin.
3. Dublin is full of great food.
Farm to table has become a cliché in the past few years, as comically portrayed on the first season of Portlandia. However, the restaurants and people in Dublin truly live in a farm to table environment. Most restaurants share the source of many of the ingredients, and they also show tremendous respect to the ingredients.
While in Dublin, I had a spectacular meal at Chapter One. I inadvertently ate meals at three restaurants that start with the letter “B” – Bang, BóBó’s and Brother Hubbard. I also had desserts at Queen of Tarts and Farm with my dessert-obsessed friend Suzanne. More will follow about many of these meals.
The TBEX opening party at Guinness Storehouse showcased great local food including Boxty appetizers and cheeses sourced by Sheridans Cheesemongers. (The cheese was so good that I went to the store and bought a wheel of Milleens, a wash rind cheese from Cork that tasted stinky and delicious a few days later in Philadelphia.) The oysters were fresh in a way that evoked flavors of the ocean. And, of course, the Guinness flowed freely at the party just like throughout the city.
4. You’re never far away from a drink in Dublin.
People in Dublin like to drink. There are just over a half million residents and over 1,000 pubs. Guinness and Jameson hail from the city, each more than a century old, and have strong presences here. The Guinness tasted way better in Dublin. Perhaps it’s because the beer is so fresh. Perhaps it’s something in the city’s air or water.
There’s plenty of great coffee in Dublin, not just Costa and Starbucks, though the chains are prevalent in the city just like everywhere else. I had excellent hand crafted cups at both Brother Hubbard and KC Peaches.
5. Dublin is just a hop, skip and jump from the Irish countryside.
Dublin is a bustling city, but there are so many day trips that you can easily do. Since I was in Dublin for just four days, I only had time for one day trip. Thanks to Failte Ireland, I got to experience megalithic Newgrange, visit Monasterboice, eat a gourmet lunch at Ghan House, walk through the charming village of Carlingford and catch the sunset at an oyster farm. More will follow about this special day.
Overall, visiting Dublin was a revelation and has bumped Ireland way up on my travel list. I will be back again, hopefully sooner than later. Next time, Daryl will be with me and we will be there longer than just four days.
Sláinte Dublin, until we meet again.