I enjoyed all of the countries I visited last year, but there were definitely several that stand out. As in, I could happily live there –- at least for a while.
One of those places is Dublin, Ireland, which I highly recommend, especially for the solo traveler. My visit to Dublin occurred in early December while I was in school at King’s College London. While in London I packed in as much traveling around classes as I could, I took the eurostar to Brussels and Paris, I flew to Cyprus, and then to Dublin. I highly recommend flying to Dublin from London because it is a about an hour flight and I found one for the price of taxes (about $40.00) on Aer Lingus.
I arrived at night, in the dark, and it was cold and drizzling. I had sorted out different bus lines before I arrived, but the info desk at the airport said the air coach makes the least stops and was 6.00 euros; sold. It was super easy both directions; grab a schedule. They run every 15 minutes, easy, quick and cheap.
I got off the bus on O’Connell Street and walked around for a few minutes looking at the Holiday decorations, which were mesmerizing at night.
I pulled my directions out of my pocket to make sure I was heading the right direction, and barely focused my eyes when from over my shoulder I heard “where do you want to go young lady?” There stood a man in his sixties with his bicycle ready to help before I had a chance to get lost. He asked me where I was from, why I was vacationing alone, and then gave me an overview of Irish history, politics and his family history. I think we stood in the cold chatting for about forty-five minutes before he said, “you look cold” and showed me where I could find my hotel. Dublin is one of the friendliest places on the planet. I had a similar experience in the tourist center, restaurants and other tourist sites. Maybe my wandering around alone in the chilly rain in December had something to do with it. Regardless – the people are lovely.
I stayed at the Castle Hotel in the city center next to one of the many churches in Dublin, at Parnell Square. It is an old Georgian house that has been converted to a hotel with a dining room and a bar, and a sitting room with antiques. They also have a traditional Irish band that plays some nights. My hotel was a two-minute walk to the shops and restaurants on O’Connell Street, which is lined with statues and fabulous Georgian buildings.
There is so much to do in Dublin that you really need about one week, especially if you want to venture out along the coast. Parnell Square and main shopping around O’Connell are on the north side along with the writer’s museum, and a lot of bars and restaurants.
The south side boasts most of the churches, St. Stephen’s Green, the National Gallery of Art, Trinity College that houses the book of Kells and more. The houses on the South side have doors painted bright funky colors. There is a park with an Oscar Wilde statue, and a store from a James Joyce novel. Lower Grafton Street has the Molly Malone Statue, and the Old Jameson Distillery and the Guinness storehouse are also worth a visit. Temple bar is the fun urban cultural area full of restaurants, shopping and bars.
On the north side off O’Connell Street I frequented fun cafes with fabulous coffees, teas and pastry’s, a late night noodle shop and a chicken/pizza/falafel place that was yumm-o! The falafel with chips and vinegar part, that is.
The south side of the river though…had some amazing restaurants. Saba Thai ranks as one of my favorite Thai experiences anywhere, and comes in second to the Thai food in Brussels, but still one of my favorite meals while traveling. But, one of my favorite restaurants in the world is Cornucopia Wholefoods, which had a line out the door each time I passed it. They were voted Restaurant of the Year in 2011 by the Dublin Living Awards, and it is no joke. When I finally stumbled in from the rain, I found a warm and cozy place bustling with patrons, friendly servers and more food choices than I knew what to do with. I chose parsnip and dill soup with fresh baked bread and coffee. It was one of the best soups that I have ever had. I recently realized that they have a cookbook, and I plan to find a copy.
I was in Dublin for four days and I purchased a hop on hop off bus ticket for 24 hours, which I didn’t do in any other city, but I visited in December when it was freezing cold and raining most of the trip. Also, my foot injury was acting up and full days of walking were difficult. The first day I walked across the O’Connell Bridge over the River Liffey, around the other side and back across the bridge. The rest of the days I used hop on hop off to take me past the places I had already seen and it was quite handy. It was an amazing trip, and I didn’t see everything I wanted to and never made it out of Dublin, so I see another visit in my future.