Dublin is much closer to Philadelphia than you think, so the flight was only about 5 hours. There was barely enough time to sleep on the plane, which left us reasonably exhausted for most of the day. When we passed through immigration, the officer asked us “why we were visiting,” and we told him about tourism. He then asked what we had planned, and I decided to crack a joke and said, “A pint or 2”. He responded, “Do not pay more than €8 for a pint. Have fun.” The Irish like a joke. We took the bus into town to get to our hotel. The bus, called the Dublin Express, was very easy and cost €10. It dropped us a 5-minute walk from our hotel.
Dublin was chilly and overcast when we arrived. I have not traveled to this part of the world, but its dreariness is what I imagined. It seems a necessary ingredient for the development of strong alcohol and melancholic writing. We stayed at the Morrison Hotel on the river Liffey, but we could not check in to our room until after 3 PM, which forced us, in all of our traveler’s grime, to wander Dublin for a few hours. We went to the Stage Door Cafe and ordered a full Irish breakfast. It’s a ridiculous feast of beans, black & white pudding, sausage, bacon, eggs, and toast. Maybe it was keto before keto became a thing, but culinarily speaking, we started the day in the pool’s deep end.
We walked the Temple Bar District and went to St Stephen’s Green. Temple Bar is their overpriced tourist pub district – we will spend more time there in the coming days, so let me skip over it for now. St Stephen’s Green is a park in the city lined with beautiful buildings with a pond, paths, and sculptures. We suffered from jet lag, so we sat down on a bench to simply people-watch and attempt to rally our energy as it was only 1 PM.
We grabbed a coffee at the Lemon Jelly Cafe near our hotel, where we first spotted that Ireland has immigrants. Latinos? Brazilians! There are a lot of Brazilians in the service industry. I’ve visited Rio De Janeiro, and if someone asked me what city has a climate that is the complete opposite of Rio, I could honestly say Dublin. One of our guides on the trip made a joke about good-looking Brazilians being a real asset to the Irish gene pool, and I agree. Best looking people on that island? The Brazilians.
Our hotel room was still unavailable, so we did a walking tour with James from Yellow Umbrella Tours. We were the only ones on the tour and had a private walking tour. I thought it was fantastic. James is a terrific storyteller and a good guide. Recently, in Athens, we went on one of these tours, and I thought the guide wasn’t great at his pacing, which left us either bored or rushed. James was well-informed, funny, and understood the clip we wanted to move. I highly recommend the tour. It took about 2 hours to learn the basics of Irish history, which is good because I never got through the Irish History Podcast I intended to do before the trip. You learn great facts like Temple Bar is named that, not because it is the bar district, but because there was a sandbar in that location, and that the Spire of Dublin, a 120-meter sculpture on O’Connell Street, is sometimes called the Stiffy on the Liffey.
After the tour, we finally checked into our hotel room. We showered and relaxed for a few minutes. Getting out of our travel clothes and into something proper felt nice. Luckily, we had early dinner reservations because we knew we were heading to bed early that night. We had considered going to a theater event called “Stories Untold – One-Acts Festival” at the Smock Alley Theatre because I was insistent on attending the theater while I was in Ireland, but we both knew we would doze off.
We had dinner at Bastible. Starting a vacation with the finest meal is both fantastic and terrible. It is hard for any other meal to compare, but it also announces your plan to enjoy yourself in the coming days. Bastible is a perfect, unpretentious, fine-dining tasting menu. The kitchen has perfect technique, and the commitment to interesting flavors that build on one another is foundational. There was a duck liver tart served in a shell made from iced wine that may be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. It was only a single bite, but it was perfect. We had the wine pairing with the meal, and it was terrific. The treacle tart for dessert was so good I want to learn how to make it this winter. I was appalled when I saw the elderly couple next to us finish their meal with it untouched.
We took a taxi home and went to bed the second we were in our room.
Next: Ireland – Day 2