This is a rather long report for a short stay beacuse I wanted to detail our entire experience.
Husband and I have just returned from a lovely stay in Dublin. I had been there about 5 years ago but this was his first trip to Ireland. Not having the luxury of being able to be away long enough to travel about all of Ireland in tandem with the fact we detest packing and unpacking, it made sense to book a Dublin Hotel, visit the famous sites in the City, and venture from there on day trips to nearby areas.
Left Logan in Boston via Delta to connect with our over night Delta flight to DUB from JFK on a 767. Chose to go this way because have found long flights on 767 fairly comfortable even in coach. Had on time landing @ DUB on Wednesday morning at about 9:30. Per advice via TA Destination Experts, we took Aircoach into the city disembarking the bus at the stop on Kildare Street right around the corner from where we were staying at the Shelborne Hotel. Not surprisingly, our room was not ready. The Shelborne was fully booked with former President Clinton and his entourage included in the guests staying there when we arrived!
Our first order of business was to find a shop that sold men's clothing because husband had left his sport jacket in the car parked back in the good old USA and he always prefers to wear a sport jacket for evening meals in a restaurant;-} The concierge was most helpful in recommending a few nearby places and we headed off to Baumler on Dawson Street which is just a few blocks away. Sure enough, we hit pay dirt on a jacket of his size that he liked. Only problem was it had elbow patches, which he does not like! NO problem, the proprietor offered to remove the patches and deliver the jacket to the hotel by 5 PM.
From there we strolled to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and Long Library. Now this was what husband wanted to see first, it was close by, and the weather that afternoon was damp and misty which I thought was the perfect welcome. Spent quite a bit of time there as my husband poured over every piece of information available loving every minute of this. After exiting we walked back to the Shelborne and were able to get into our room and unpack. It was
only 2 PM once we were settled in so with plenty of time left in the day we decided to get our 2 day HOHO bus tickets and visit his 2nd most important Dublin "religious" place....the Guiness Factory! Had booked those tickets online from home and upon arrival it was just a case of going to the machine, entering confirmation number, grabbing tickets and begin the tour. Not too busy when we were there so ticket lines were short, but if going during busier seasons I definitely recommend pre-ordering admission. Upon finishing that pilgrimage we hopped back on the Green HOHO deciding just to take the loop and enjoy the views from the bus. The driver was a fellow named Damian and he was outstandingly excellent and VERY funny!
Back at the hotel and a little tired from flight and activities of the day we opted to dine right there in the Lord Mayor's Lounge where one can have supper including appetizer, entree, dessert from a limited but excellent menu at a very reasonable price. YUMMY and since we are not dessert eaters were offered to chose 2 appetizers each. I loved my meal consisting of smoked salmon, Grace Kelley Salad, and Filet Mignon. Husband had same 2 appetizers with Risotto as his entree and proclaimed it superb. Great way to comfortably end our initial day in Dublin!
Day 2: After breakfast brunch in Saddle Room of hotel we strolled down Grafton Street to the main Tourist Office on Suffolk Street to grab some info, then to Temple Bar area and a walk across Hog Penny Bridge, enjoying the narrow streets en route before winding back to Suffolk St HOHO stop where we took the short ride on the bus to see Dublin Castle. A nice day, albeit a little chilly, but we were dressed appropriately so walked from there to Christ Church where we spent time learning Dublin Viking history. On foot we went from there to St Patrick's (there is a HOHO stop but the walk is short and pleasant!) and toured that iconic church. Then it was back on the HOHO for what I consider THE best place to see in Dublin ~ The Kilmainham Goal. Had, of course done this during previous visit to Dublin, but well worth repeating! It is a guided tour lasting about an hour, most informative, and gives a real sense of the important history of difficult and challenging times and the people who suffered under unimaginable conditions.
Then we were back on the HOHO to Jameson for a tour that was definitely more light hearted!
Great tour and again an excellent guide:-) As the HOHO then made its way towards its start point on Connelly we got off at the Connelly Bridge and walked back towards our hotel via Grafton stopping at Avoca where we picked up a few gifts. Rather than immediately return to the hotel, we proceeded thru St Stephen's Green Park then a few blocks further on Baggot Street to Lower Pembroke where we were able to make a dinner reservation for that evening at Matt The Thresher. Another recommendation from TA that was spot on for excellence! Very affable staff, wonderful service, food that was better than outstanding! Husband's lemon sole was accompanied by most intriguing and tasty potato dish. Loved it so much we asked for the recipe and were told it is mashed potato pureed with basil, parsley, and chives. I shall be attempting to recreate at home later this week!!!
Day 3: So now we have pretty much seen all the sites within the City in less than 2 full days without feeling rushed. BIG upside to going during somewhat off season:-) After breakfast we walk to Pearse Station and take a Dart train to Malahide. 25 minute ride on the train, followed by pleasant 10 minute walk to Malahide Castle. Thankfully I knew to go early as this is a very popular place and lots of bus tours flood it by late morning. Since I was last there, they have constructed a large Visitor Center. We enter there to buy tour tickets, it is barely 10:15 AM and we are told the next 2 tours are sold out! Aaargh! Within seconds the lady says "oh, I called the desk at the castle, there is a tour just starting with only a few people, and if you want to join that one you can." Assured that we were not going to be missing any of the formal guided tour and could do the self guided information area within the castle after the tour, we were delighted to do that! Less than 2 minutes later we were led by a castle staff member up a back stairway to join the tour as they were entering the first room from the "normal tour route." Another wonderful guide and interesting tour! Of course, post-official tour, we spent time in the self guided information area that I *think* has been expanded since I was there 5 years ago. En route to walking back towards the town we enjoyed viewing the formal Malahide Gardens behind the Visitor Center. Spent a little time walking thru the streets of central Malahide where there are oodles of restaurants and small shops and then back to the train station for the Dart return to Pearse Station. Walked towards Nassau Street, then along Nassau stopping to poke about Kilkenny Center shopping venue and a few other stores. At this point we are into getting rid of stuff vs acquiring stuff so did not purchase anything but it was nice to see all they have to offer.
We still had not bought anything for our 3 young grand daughters (who lack for nothing but would love something from Ireland!) and returned to Avoca where we found clothing items worth
buying. Made in Turkey, but designed in Ireland so sort of counts....and very cute plus unlike anything their friends or classmates would be wearing:-)
That evening, a Friday, we had not previously made dinner reservations and rather than have concierge find a table at a time to suit us, we went to Fallon & Byrne post Avoca buying and were luckily able to reserve a table for 2 @ 6 PM. Worked for us because we had, as typical when traveling, not stopped for lunch. Again, very nice staff, good service, very good food, at reasonable cost in a relatively expensive City. Husband adores lamb dishes and said his Wexford Lamb dish was just shy as superb as the tenderloin of lamb dinner our good friend, who is Armenian thus a lamb expert, once made for us. I decided to have a plain burger; a bit more well done than I am used to yet very flavorful.
Upon returning to the Shelborne we began to think about what our next day would encompass.
We are not big tour bus people, preferred not to rent a car and self drive into the countryside, and ultimately opted to inquire about getting a private service for the next day to take us on a drive South along the coast towards Bray then to Glendolough to see the monastic ruins and finally stopping to visit Powerscourt Gardens. Within a few minutes the concierge had us all set for a 10 AM departure the next morning.
Day 4: Tony from Irish Luxury Tours picked us up in front of the Shelborne and gave us a fabulous day starting with driving past local neighborhoods and giving history and interesting stories about various areas and properties. Proceeded onto Dalkey (?) viewing the Irish Sea, Martello Tower, homes of various "current and former famous" Irish personalities before heading into Wicklow where we stopped and viewed the monastic ruins. Something I had done on my previous visit via a small bus tour and so was able to guide husband about fairly well. He loved it!!! Back in the limo for a drive thru Sally Gap and up into the high hills....places big buses cannot go and we would NEVER feel comfortable driving ourselves:-) Saw 3 sides of Sugarloaf and 3 different views of same mountain with 3 different weather conditions affect the views on the same day! Very cool!
Onto Powercourt and although hardly the best time of year to see these beautiful gardens, impressive, serene, and delightful time there. From there it was time to head back towards the City and Tony did not fail to engage in offering information on current and past events all with his unique, delightful sense of humor! Five hours with a private driver taking us only where we chose to go and not making stops we had no interest in making nor stopping longer than necessary for the 2 of us was an excellent choice for us:-)
Dinner that evening was where we had made a reservation at Farm on Dawson Street. Very fresh organic and free range food with nice varied menu; delightful choices for carnivores or vegetarians. Service a little on the slow side here; 2 separate parties of 2 who were seated on each side of us placed orders after us, yet for some odd reason were served well before us and our meals were not anything that takes longer to prepare. Whatever, still very tasty and all in all an excellent choice. We both had the salmon started, my entree was chicken (very good!) and husband had fish which he really liked.
Day 5: Last day before flying home and we had previously pretty much decided to do an independent day trip to Kilkenny taking morning train from Hueston Station. Easy enough even though I awoke that morning with a head ache and slightly sore throat. Took taxi to the train station, bought tickets from the machine, and were comfortably seated and on our way on the about 20 minutes later. As the 1 1/2 hour train journey proceeded so did my head ache despite taking Tylenol AND I began to feel a bit feverish:-( Upon arrival at Kilkenny Station, about 10:45 AM, did not push the envelope to make the 10-15 minute walk to Kilkenny Castle and did that short trek via taxi. Did self guided tour of the castle and were a little disappointed that, unlike being told there would be guides in each area to answer questions, there were only 2 guides when we were there. Yes, it was a Sunday, but still! Given I was feeling poorly so probably would not have absorbed answers to questions I had, glad we went. Not as interesting as I expected and extremely musty inside this castle...only adding to my malise! After exiting we took the 25 minute Road Train tour around this medieval city hearing stories of history, ghosts, witches. This starts and ends right by the castle. At the end we walked across the street to the Design Center where shortly after entering and starting to peruse the amazingly beautiful crafted items, it was clear whatever bug I had contracted was taking over. Instead of our anticipated day in Kilkenny that was to include casual walking time thru the town's streets and taking late-ish afternoon train back to Hueston, grabbed a taxi to return to Kilkenny Station to catch the return train leaving about 1:15 PM. Jam packed train and were fortunate to get 2 seats together! Back at Hueston Station a little before 3 PM where we hopped on Bus 145 (thanks for this info from a TA Dublin DE!), plunked exact change as directed into the till, and about 15 minutes later were back at the hotel. Cup of hot tea, more Tylenol, folded and packed clothing into Space Bags to deflate and load into rolling carry-ons for departure the following morning. Now, I am still not feeling well AT ALL, but it is dinner time. Know I *should* eat something, know husband *wants and needs* to eat something so we make the easy walk to Bewley's on Grafton which is sort of an institution that one really ought not miss. Remember, husband had never been to Ireland before so never had this opportunity before. Perfect solution for final dinner with a wife who was no longer operating anywhere near up to speed:-)
We both had the codfish and fries....very, very good. Batter on the fish unbelievably light and crispy....REAL comfort food!
Did not sleep well, up and showered early followed by oatmeal and tea @ Shelborne Breakfast buffet. Checked out and at 7:45 AM took taxi to airport since departing flight was @ 11:20AM, were told it would take 30 minutes to get there and needed to be at airport 3 hours before flight departure. NO traffic in that direction, at airport in about 20 minutes, and had completed Dublin security screening, VAT refund place, some poking about the shops and spending last few of our Euros, Pre-Clearance for USA, USA Customs and Immigration, without rushing AT ALL within 90 minutes. Can understand why 3 hours is recommended IF one must check luggage (Delta lines short but USAir was crazy long and very congested!) and traveling during busy periods because there are a lot of steps in the process and several up and down escalators to negotiate from curb to departure gate.
Delta flight back was smooth and comfortable despite pilot saying to expect minor turbulence for first couple of hours:-) Again on time landing. Connecting flight booked to depart @ 4:20 PM, but Delta had an earlier one leaving for BOS @ 2:55PM. Delta help desk said seats available but not same class as booked so would not put us on that flight unless we paid $150 each. I was sick, but not stupid! Husband phoned AMEX (has a Platinum Delta AMEX CC) but they too of no help. As soon as Gate Agent for flight leaving @ 2:55 came to the gate desk, we approached and asked if he could help us. Within seconds he said "yes, I am happy to make the change for you but only available open seats are in Row 4/Economy Comfort and would need to charge $50 extra for each. NO PROBLEM....would have spent $50 for both of us to sit in Delta Club if we had to wait for the 4:20 so for $50 very pleased!
Back at Logan landing a few minutes before 4 PM, dashed off plane quickly (after all, we were in Row 4!), out to lower street level of terminal A where the Express Bus to Braintree pulled up within seconds. 30 minutes later we were at our car (with husband's sport jacket resting on back seat) and making the 45 minute drive home.
Husband back at work yesterday happily reporting to co-workers about the wonderful time he had in and around Dublin. Co-workers happily listening as they enjoyed yummy Butler's truffles
from the boxes of those he brought back for his co-workers to enjoy.
So, all in all, we experienced a really nice, albeit brief time, in Ireland! Dublin is a fabulous place to visit and it is a very easy city to get around and about seeing all the main sites in just 2-3 days while offering easy access to outlying areas to experience some of the beauty and history of this fine country. Cannot give enough praise to ALL of the staff we encountered at the Shelborne, in the shops, and at restaurants for their welcoming, friendly, and helpful measures.
AND HUGE THANKS for all the wonderful tips and advice offered on Trip Advisor that I used extensively over the past few weeks preparing for this sort of quickly planned holiday!!!