Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round Ireland (2016-20)

Fáilte go dtí Baile Átha Cliath

... or Welcome to Dublin!

ABOVE: My day so far

I glanced at my watch and was mildly alarmed to see that it was already twenty minutes past three in the afternoon. The decision was made in an instant: there was no time for relaxation. I needed to get organised as quickly as possible and get back out onto the streets. As I had only just arrived in the pleasant surroundings of Dublin's Conrad Hotel, it is perhaps understandable that part of me wanted to take time to savour my new surroundings. On the other hand, the brutal truth was that I had spent the greater part of the day so far vegetating on my posterior. First I had driven my car to Edinburgh Airport and taken the shuttle bus to the terminal. I had then sat in the departure lounge awaiting the arrival of my aircraft, and in due course had boarded it for a routine but busy flight to the Irish capital. On arrival, I had enjoyed a quick lunch at the airport, and had then taken a relatively quiet Aircoach bus to within 200 yards of my current location. There was simply no escaping it: thus far, it had been a conspicuously lazy day where physical activity was concerned.

LEFT: Sunday afternoon in St Stephen's Green

Minutes later, I was back outside and making my way to the familiar territory of nearby St Stephen's Green. Sometimes simply called 'Stephen's Green', this is a pleasant public park dating from the late 19th century. The northwestern corner faces off to the end of Grafton Street, one of the city's prime shopping areas, while the western side forms the current terminus of the aptly named Green Line of the Luas tram system - but more of that later. On this particular occasion, despite grey skies and a rather soggy-looking overall appearance, St Stephen's Green was evidently a popular place for a Sunday-afternoon stroll, perhaps to burn off any lunchtime excesses or simply to admire the spring flowers.

My next objective was now just steps away, in a Georgian townhouse situated at the corner of St Stephen's Green and Dawson Street. I had first spotted The Little Museum of Dublin during my August 2015 visit to the city, but sadly this was after it had closed for the day. Opened as recently as 2011, it has been described by The Irish Times as "Dublin's best museum experience" and has been rated as Ireland's top museum on TripAdvisor. I arrived in good time to allow a look around on my own before 4pm, when visitors were invited to a talk on the first floor. I began on the ground floor, which was dedicated to an entertaining cartoon-style exhibit called Birth of a Country, to celebrate 100 years since the Easter Rising of 1916. There were then three distinct sections on the upper floors: a front room overlooking the square, a room taking the visitor through the history of the independent Ireland decade by decade, and finally a room devoted to local rock band U2. At 4pm, following an introduction in the front room, the 'decade-by-decade' displays were brought to life in an entertaining talk by our guide Abie. This was very well done and hugely enjoyable.

Having learned quite a bit about Georgian Dublin in the exhibition, I went on a short walk to see some more of it for myself, concentrating on the area around Merrion Square, where I was also able to see Leinster House, home of the Oireachtas Éireann (the Irish parliament, consisting of the Dáil and the Seanad). The same walk allowed me to locate the National Gallery of Ireland, which I was planning to include in the following day's activities.

Next, I made my almost obligatory walk-through of the Trinity College campus. On this occasion, it had a secondary purpose: I wanted to double-check the details for my planned first visit to see the Book of Kells on Monday morning.

ABOVE: The Luas extension takes shape

On the way back to the Conrad, I was able to observe progress in the construction of Luas Cross City, an extension of the tram system's Green Line from its current terminus at St Stephen's Green, through the city centre to cross the Red Line on O'Connell Street, then running northwards to Broombridge. The extension is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2017.

Alfie Byrne's had a good atmosphere

After a short rest, I went to Alfie Byrne's bar and restaurant and enjoyed an unusual combination of fish and chips with a German wheat beer. Although this venue was on-site, I discovered that it was operated independently by Galway Bay Brewery. It had a great vibe and a lively atmosphere without being overly noisy.

I then briefly ventured outside once more for a short walk around the 'National Concert Hall block', then found the hotel's own bar for quiet nightcap, which consisted of a reasonably priced Manhattan cocktail.

LEFT: Getting some fresh air after dinner
RIGHT: Enjoying a perfect end to the day

With all of that behind me, I was more than ready for a sound night's sleep.

Sun 03 Apr 2016

Next Day