Diving into Dublin

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December, 2004

Pack something green to wear and bring a strong liver, I’m diving into three days in Dublin. The notorious cultural and Guinness fueled capital is definitely all its cracked up to be, and while consistently ranking as one of Europe’s most expensive cities, any money spent in Dublin is time and money very well spent.

Starting out my Dublin adventure by strolling the cobbled streets of the energetic city center, the crisp winter chill in the air stuck with me  all graftonthroughout the “usual” tourist sites on my walking tour. While choosing to visit during the winter helped to thin the crowds, the constant reminder of the time of the year blew in on each stiff breeze. Ducking into a a fortress that dates back to a time when Vikings and nobles waged epic battles , I escaped the winter chill by touring through the enormous Dublin Castle, a hulking bastion of downtown Dublin. Officially constructed in 1204, the Castle has a history as long and storied as the very island it stands on. Unlike many European castles that are somewhat rural and removed, Dublin Castle maintains its stoic stance in the heart of modern day Dublin.

Another historical centerpiece of downtown Dublin is  Trinity College, located smack in the center of the district known as the College Green. Dating back over 400 years, Trinity is one of Ireland’s finest universities, and is a massive tourist attraction due to its ornate architecture and central location  in this bustling student district. Somehow maintaining a campus-like feel in the center of an urban district, Trinity is set on somewhat of an “urban bridgeisland”, in that there are only a few public entrances and all of the buildings and courtyards face in towards each other.  With thousands of students and a constant swarm of visitors, there is always something happening down by the College Green.

Speaking of green’s, needing to get out of the city center for a little while I was able to stroll through the exceptionally well-manicured and expansive St. Stephen’s Green, a relaxed central park set at the bottom of the always-happenning Grafton Street.  The green is a good place to kick back and relax after shopping and watchng the Grafton Street buskers, who provide ample entertainment on the mostly pedestrianized mall. Don’t forget to swing by St. Patricks’ Cathedral as well, home to Ireland’s most popular cvcvnamesake, and a saint who touches off weeklong celebrations the world over. Though the Cathedral is impressive and boasts a simple lawn for lounging, it is a far cry from the energy the name usually conjures.

Enough of the history and sights though. We’re in Dublin, so where is all the Guinness? The first place to check is at Arthur Guinness’ Storehouse, which nowadays is much more of a tourist attraction than a blue-collar brewery. Located a 20 minute walk from town, entry into the compound will cost you around 15 Euros, though the price of admission will get you a couple of Guinness drafts. While the multimedia features and the ghosts of Arthur Guinness are entertaining and all, the most impressive part of this experience is definitely enjoying a tall glass of the brew while overlooking the whole of Dublin from the Gravity Bar, located on the very top floor. While an impressive compound, the most intriguing and fascinating thing abut the entire area is the way in which Arthur Guinness boldly signed a 9000 year lease on the property n 1759, effectively guaranteeing the success of his brew for millenia to come. Thus far, the beer prophet has proven to be overwhelmingly correct.

Just because this little brewery at St. James Gate is where the black pints come from, however, certainly doesn’t mean it’s the only place in the city where you can find a tall cold one. While Dublin has no shortage of pubs and bars, the most notorious collection are found downtown in the Temple Bar section of town. Regarded as the cultural center of Dublin, the Temple BarGuinness area still boasts narrow streets and many museums and cultural centers to keep the curious visitor browsing and engaged. By night, however, the district morphs into a pulsing hive of loud music, good drink, and many a good time. Get all of your Dublin sightseeing in during the daylight hours, because once the sun sets below the damp horizon (as it does quite early in the winter months), all productivity and sobriety comes to a momentous and sudden halt. It’s all a past of the Dublin experience, one of my favorite European capitals, and home to some of the most fun-loving individuals I have encountered on the face of the planet.

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