Dublin. A review of sorts.
There is something almost heart-warming about being thoroughly kicked about by a place. Despite the fact that Dublin served me beating after beating, and even in the midst of the belief that I could never enjoy it there, I wound up loving it even more for it. Go figure.
Hit number one came in the form of our Air Bnb – so not entirely Dublin’s fault. Perhaps if we had stepped off South Great George’s street into the welcoming arms of a clean, comfortable apartment, it may have helped us view the run-down side streets of Dublin with an air of romanticism but, alas, the boarded up windows and thick layer of grime across every building did nothing but raise immediate questions about our choices. It’s no Venice, that’s for sure – but there is beauty there to be found, just perhaps not at first glance.
Leaving the horror of the Air Bnb behind for a few hours, we hit the first high on what would be a rollercoaster of a long weekend: 37 Dawson Street. Holy moly, if there is ever a bar to reinvigorate your thirst for Dublin, I’d recommend this one. Eccentrically cool, with fantastically friendly staff, and the most delicious Turkey Rueben sandwich you’ve ever eaten. Which of course, you’ve never eaten before because PASTRAMI – but you won’t regret the substitution. The bill came to 60 Euro for lunch and a couple of pints – our first, worrying, hint that Dublin may be on the pricey side – but it was worth the lift in our spirits.
There is only one destination for your first afternoon in Dublin: the pub. We opted for the Stags Head, which is brilliant, but it really doesn’t matter which one. The pubs in Dublin are expansive, spread over levels and square footage like nothing you’ve ever seen, and there’s more than you could ever hope to visit in one visit, so just take your pick of any of them. You’ll quickly realise that seating in Dublin is limited and open to everyone, so if you see a couple of spare seats at a table of people, don’t feel embarrassed to sit down with them. You don’t have to join in their conversation, but that hub-ub of voices diving in, around and under one another forms the baseline of Dublin’s heartbeat, and its formed by closeness and familiarity. Wrap yourself up in it.
If you’re exploring Temple Bar, but aren’t quite ready (or quite drunk enough) for the hilarity of the Temple Bar Pub, the Old Storehouse is just across the street and often has live music. The Irish stew is fantastic – eat all of it. If you fancy a stroll, head across the river and wander towards the Cobblestone for some full on Irish pub music. Do not, whatever you do, take a road we affectionately nicknamed Heroin Alley, which runs directly parallel to a quite lovely street called Smithfield; I’d recommend you take that one. Also, do not assume you can while away a Friday night there with many a beer and many a fiddle; music was over by the time we got there at 9pm – so watch out for that kicker. Head over on a weeknight or a touch earlier to get your fill.
Skipping out on our Air BnB without a look back, we headed over to Brooks Hotel, who treated us to some truly lovely staff and a super comfy bed. Plus, usefully enough, it’s just up the road from P’Macs – another bar we fell in love with. The only light source is 3000 candles, and it makes for a crazy intimate atmosphere to eat some crazy good chicken in.
Order. The. TACOS. The airfare was worth it for those alone.
Now seems like as good a time as any to sit back and take a breather, both literally – Industry & Co serves a great cup of coffee and the most delicious brownies – and figuratively. I would love more than anything to tell you about the brilliant Natural History Museum (closed except for one room), or the amazing carvery at O’Neill’s (too busy to bother trying to order), or the beautiful St. Stephens Green Park (for some reason completely and utterly covered in worms. I am not even joking), but by this point, Dublin had beaten us into submission. We went to Dublin expecting to ‘explore the city’, but rather than bothering to try and treat Dublin like a tourist destination, Dublin just kept trying to tell us to chill the fuck out. After a week of work and only a few short days to get away, Dublin doesn’t want you to stress too hard. It wants you to treat it how the locals treat it, with the same warmth you’d greet an old friend. There’s no need for small talk or insincerities; it wants you to get to the heart of it. It wants you to feel the spirit of Dublin, not look at its profile picture.
It felt a little like Dublin was beating us down, serving up problem after problem – the least of which I’ve bothered to disclose here – but looking back on it, I think Dublin was just telling us to grab a pint of Guinness, a shot of Jameson, and take a pew. It knew better than ourselves what we needed. One of my favourite moments of the weekend was being stood in the stunning grounds of Trinity College, and simply voicing, “shall we just go to pub?”. It was that moment of giving in, that moment of saying, “Okay Dublin. I hear you. Let’s spend these days getting slowly drunk and getting into deep or laughable conversation rather than trying to be intellectual. That’s the true spirit of being human, no?” Dublin strips you back, it gets you feeling raw and fulfilled. Its got your back.
So lets dip back in. You can pretend to be touristy at the Jameson distillery tour. It’s a really great experience, with 3 shots of whisky tasting included, fantastic staff, and an even more fantastic bar at the front – super reasonably priced at 20 Euro for the standard group guided tour. If you’re hungry afterwards, there’s a dirty burger restaurant opposite called Jo’Burger, which will serve you deliciously messy food at slightly elevated prices; the best idea is to be full enough of whisky that you don’t mind what you’re spending, but not so full that you’re not hungry anymore, because the burgers are truly yum.
The Olympia Theatre should be up there with the top London gig venues – it was such a pleasure to see music there. It’s tiny, intimate, and beautiful. Catch something there if you can. The Stags Head runs a comedy club in their basement, which will also fill you with joy. The seating leaves you effectively overlapping the person next to you, but you’ll appreciate that when you catch someone’s eye while you’re laughing. Sharing’s caring after all, especially when it comes to unedited hilarity.
So despite all of the truly great pubs, and truly great food, the main thing Dublin gave me was a sense of resilience. An unparalleled assuredness that the best of times can be found in the worst of times, if you simply find the time to honestly connect with the people and places around you. And that, I think, is the absolute most you can ask for. Dublin provides.