When my friend Andrew suggested a trip to Dublin, I leapt at the chance. I’ve jetted off to Estonia, Norway and Germany, but our neighbouring isle had remained off-limits. It was high time I put that right.
Of course, Andrew had an ulterior motive. He’s a planespotter — sorry… “aviation enthusiast”, so when Aer Lingus launched a new Dublin to Liverpool service on 23 October, he had to be on the first flight. A day in Dublin was an added bonus.
Yes, I’m writing about my trip two months after it actually happened. I’VE BEEN BUSY LEAVE ME ALONE. One side effect is that I’ve forgotten some of the details, so you’ll have to make do with some overall impressions.
We only had 24 hours in Dublin, so we made the most of it with a walking tour when we first arrived. It was with Sandeman’s, the same organisation that did the Hamburg pub crawl, so I felt in fairly safe hands.
I was slightly horrified, however, to discover that our tour guide was big on audience participation. Not only did we have to say hello to each other in Gaelic, we also had to sing Molly Malone while standing next to the famous statue, while bemused lunchtime shoppers looked on.
The running theme of the walking tour was the British and how awful we are. Here’s a statue commemorating the Irish potato famine, which was made worse by the policies of the British Government. Here’s a monument to the Easter Rising, where 466 people died. The story had a happy ending, of sorts, as we we saw Dublin Castle, where the Queen visited in 2011 and honoured her hosts by beginning her speech in Gaelic. But still, the fact remains, we have a long history of being dickish to other countries.
After our walking tour, we strolled through St Stephen’s Green for a while. It was a welcome bit of tranquility in the heart of the city. I’d probably have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been exhausted. We had come over on the first flight of the day (around 6am) which meant an early start. This, combined with more than two hours of walking, had drained us slightly. It was back to our hotel for an old man nap.
Having recovered, it was time to head out to sample some Irish hospitality. Starting off the evening with a delicious meal at The Old Mill Restaurant on Temple Bar, we then headed off to sample a couple of Dublin’s gay venues.
Ireland’s gay scene still seemed to be on a high after the passage of the Irish same-sex marriage referendum earlier in the year. We started off in the George Bar, which was busy and lively even quite early on in the evening. We found a table in the corner which was quiet, until a gaggle of students invaded (it was Thursday night after all). We found another table for a few more drinks, then moved on.
Next was Pantibar, home of Ireland’s favourite “gender discombobulist”, Panti Bliss. She became notorious during the aforementioned marriage equality campaign, after appearing on RTE and criticising opponents of same-sex marriage. RTE were threatened with legal action, and capitulated immediately, paying compensation to those who had been offended. The ensuing outcry, and Panti’s subsequent speech (which went viral worldwide on YouTube) probably did more to advance the case for marriage equality than anything else.
Sadly, Panti was not in residence tonight, and we were slightly surprised when the bar staff began to close up before 11pm. Oh well, time to move on. We fled back to the non-gay establishments, having drinks in the Temple Bar Pub and the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn, before returning to our hotel around midnight.
The next morning we ended up wandering around Trinity College, a very impressive institution. The campus was teeming with visitors, many of whom were heading to see the ninth century Book of Kells. I was more impressed by some of the modern art pieces on display in the grounds.
Our final visit was to The Bank on College Green, a beautiful bar and restaurant located in a converted bank in the city centre. We met Andrew’s friend James here for lunch. Imagine if I lived in Dublin – I could have lunch here every day, and get to look at the wonderful interior.
All too soon it was time to come home. We arrived to a water cannon salute at Liverpool Airport, commemorating the first Aer Lingus flight into the city for many years. It was a spectacular welcome home, but I think I’d rather have stayed in Dublin a bit longer. I definitely need to go back for a longer stay – perhaps a month or two.