Thanks to visits from friends, a new Dublin expat remembers to see
When I moved to Dublin last September, I jumped right into life as a Dublin expat, or whatever that meant, as a new transplant in country totally unknown to me. I spent just a few days getting acquainted with my new city – a map safely hidden in the pocket of my cardigan – before beginning a regular routine of work and social activities.
Shortly after I arrived, though, two different girlfriends decided to visit and I was thrilled to welcome them to my new city, which had steadily been growing on me since the moment I stepped off the plane. And despite the joy of having familiar faces around for a few days, the visits forced me into new territory, as I had to view Dublin through the eyes of a tourist for the first time. Of course I wanted my friends to leave with all the boxes in the tourism brochure ticked off (and I wanted to cross them off my to-do list, too); but I also hoped to share with them pieces of my life and a few local gems I had discovered as a resident of the city.
My goodness, my Guinness!
An Irish friend once described the Guinness Storehouse as “the best-run tourist attraction in Ireland,” which is no surprise considering it represents a true Irish icon.
The first activity I recommended to my friends, the Storehouse stretches seven stories high and is part of the 50-acre Guinness brewery in Dublin. As you approach, you’ll spot the vats cutting into the skyline, and you may even notice the strange smell of fermentation in the air.
Once inside, you can embark on a self-guided tour, learning just how the famous brew is made and a little bit about the Guinness brand’s history too. Make it to the top of the Storehouse and you’re rewarded with 360-degrees views of the capital city and your own perfectly poured pint or another beverage if you wish. After all, you can’t leave the Emerald Isle without deciding if the Guinness really does taste better here.
Film and food
I generally don’t go to the cinema when travelling, but with my friends a trip to the Irish Film Institute (IFI) had a spot on the itinerary. One of my favorite places to pass a lazy weekend afternoon, the IFI sits tucked away on a side street in the cultural Temple Bar neighborhood, humbly stating its presence with a simple black-and-white sign. The brick building once served as a Quaker meetinghouse and was creatively redesigned in the early 1990s to include screening rooms, a restaurant and shop.
If you’re in the mood to sit in one of the small theatres and watch a movie, you’re in luck; the IFI always has a great selection of independent and foreign films, along with the big Hollywood hits. But if that’s not your cup of tea, you can appreciate the venue from its restaurant, which serves fresh, flavorful food and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg.
After a lingering lunch at the IFI, we took a stroll through Temple Bar, which is recognized as the cultural quarter of Dublin. Best enjoyed in the afternoon before hen and stag partygoers take over, Temple Bar has lots of traditional pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and artistic institutions. As you walk along the cobblestone streets, keep an eye out for The Clarence, the hotel belonging to two of Dublin’s most famous sons, Bono and The Edge of U2.
Still, don’t get too distracted. Though Dublin isn’t known for pick pocketing like some other European cities, you should pay special attention to your things while in Temple Bar. In fact, one of my friends left Dublin iPhone-less thanks to a walk through the neighborhood while a music festival was going on.
One thing that fascinates me about Ireland is its history. Though people have lived on this land for thousands of years – the famous Newgrange site stands as proof – the Republic gained independence from Great Britain less than 100 years ago. To get a glimpse into the country’s past, one friend and I toured Dublin Castle, which dates back to Viking times and was the base of the English government in Ireland for more than 800 years. Today, the building hosts important state events, like Queen Elizabeth II’s historic visit in May 2011.
For a more local take on Irish history, I recommended the new Little Museum of Dublin to my friends. The two-room establishment uses fascinating photographs, documents and other artefacts – all donated by local people or institutions – to tell the story of the Irish capital in the 20th century. The Little Museum sits right in the heart of the city center, so you can easily drop in for a quick look around or even for a pleasant escape from the inevitable rain.
Because she can, our Dublin expat does dinner on a different note
Ireland is known for fantastic music and has produced legendary artists like U2, The Cranberries and Van Morrison, whose songs are performed at pubs around Dublin every Friday and Saturday night. To enjoy good eats and entertainment, though, I took a non-traditional route with one of my friends, eschewing Guinness stew, fish and chips and pop-rock ditties for something a little bit different.
Chai Yo is an Asian restaurant that serves something for everyone. The food is flavorful and sure to satisfy, but the real treat of the night is the musical performance that comes with your meal. Chai Yo boasts itself as “The Best Restaurant for Parties” and it’s hard to argue when the staff members pull out the guitar and tambourine from the closet and put on a show for diners. You never know exactly what you’re going to get, but their repertoire includes “Let It Be,” “Fame,” and a lot of other tunes you know the words to.
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Read about Briana’s recommendations for great Dublin, Ireland day trips!