Monday was supposed to be our first day in the city and we had purchased a Dublin Hop On/Hop Off bus and City Pass, but since we didn’t arrive at our hotel until nearly 9:00 pm, all we saw was Murrays Bar & Grill. Despite being exhausted from our 24 plus hours of travel, we enjoyed a late dinner accompanied by an energetic band and Irish dancers. I wish I had caught the name of the band to see if they have an album available.
Tuesday we awoke more refreshed than I expected and our first stop was breakfast. Soma at the Spire was a short walk from the hotel and looked inviting so we decided to pop inside. The sleek, modern decor was not at all how I envisioned Ireland and yet it felt right. The juxtaposition of rich history outside and ultra-modern inside welcomed us and set the tone for the day. I chose their avocado toast, which isn’t exactly Irish, but it’s been such a fad in the States I wanted to try it. It was delicious! Tricia went for the full Irish breakfast, which was way more than she could eat, but she enjoyed it also.
We only had a few hours to explore O’Connell Street before we were to meet up with a tour to Malahide Castle and the village of Howth. We visited the Dublin Writer’s Museum, home to artifacts chronicling Irish literary history. This was our first look at the architecture of what was at one point a private home and the intricate details were astounding to me: hand-carved banisters, lovely murals, stained glass windows, and plaster ceilings with details I could have studied for hours.
The Garden of Remembrance to honor all those who sacrificed their lives for Irish independence was across the street and people filled the benches enjoying the gorgeous morning. The sculpture at the top of the garden represents the struggle of the Irish people and is a fascinating piece.
O’Connell Street is a wide expanse with equally wide sidewalks, unlike anything we have in the U.S. The statues at nearly every intersection speak to the history of this vibrant city. We didn’t learn until our last day that there is an app called Talking Statues that provides information on each of the figures memorialized. Having read a number of books set in Dublin, I spent time looking for places in those novels and feeling a rush of excitement when I found myself in a neighborhood or building that figures both historical and fictional had frequented.
At 1:00 we set off on our tour to Malahide Castle with about 10 other visitors, 4 of which were Italian and didn’t appear to speak a word of English. We rode on a double-decker bus, with half of the top section open for better viewing. Despite the cold, Tricia and I sat on top, hoping to get good pictures along the way. Our guide Eoin was hilarious and his commentary kept us warm with laughter.
Malahide is lovely. A map in the main entry area shows how the building evolved over the centuries from a standard three-story tower to the spread out castle it is today. I wish we’d had more time to explore the Castle grounds. Even though it was only the start of spring, many flowers were blooming making the woods look like something out of a fairytale.
Next, we traveled to Howth. Eoin showed us a picture he’d taken over the water at sunset a few days earlier that was stunning. Sadly, the sky was filled with grey clouds during our visit and the light wasn’t conducive to great photos. Again we had very limited time to explore on this stop. I think we had 45 minutes maybe an hour and we walked along the waterfront toward the lighthouse.
Back in Dublin, we collected our bags and headed to the train station for our transfer to Belfast. The clouds that had been building all afternoon soon leaked a steady mist of rain but we pressed on hoping to catch the 7:35 pm train listed online. We arrived at the station a bit damp and hungry to find the next train was at 8:50 and we had almost 2 hours to wait.
Finally, we arrived in Belfast to a steady rain. While the hotel was less than a mile from the station, a cab was waiting as if expecting us and we gratefully accepted the ride. We checked in and tried to wind down, but it had been a full day and sleep didn’t come until after 1:00 am with the alarm set for 6:00 am so we could meet the Game of Thrones tour.
Come back next week to hear how I, the only person on the bus to never see an episode of Game of Thrones, found a way to enjoy this tour.