For various reasons, our holiday was split between North Wales and Dublin, Ireland. The two primary reasons were:
- When traveling to Europe, I VASTLY prefer to take a direct airplane flight. I'd much rather suffer through a single 10.5 hour flight than take a 2, 3, or even 4-leg flight, with layovers, extended flight times, and many opportunities for missed connections, lost baggage, etc. Aer Lingus happen to offer a direct flight from San Francisco to Dublin, and Dublin is (pretty) close to Wales, so I chose for us to fly to and from Dublin, and then we got from Dublin to Wales and back on Irish Ferries. Overall, this was a great decision, and I wouldn't change it, even if our flight to Dublin was delayed 2.5 hours due to a flat tire on our airplane.
- I've found that, when we get to Europe, the jet lag is SEVERE, so I've begun incorporating a minimum of 36 hours of "zoned out time" to start each trip to Europe. That 36 hours should probably be more like 48 to 60 hours, but that's not really the point. The point is: when we get to Europe, I want to arrive at some place where we can just check into a place and rest and recover, without any complications for trip planning. I want us to be able to sleep, and wake up, and go out and do things when we have energy, and come back when we want to rest, and for that to be as easy and simple as possible. I don't want to have to drive anywhere, or be on any particular schedule, and I want there to be plenty of interesting and easy choices when we do have the energy to go out. So that means I want to arrive at a city which is tourist-friendly, walkable, big enough to have lots of options for things to do and see, places to eat, public transit, etc. Dublin fit that bill, perfectly.
Anyway, even though seeing Dublin wasn't really the primary purpose of our trip, we still got to do it, so what did we do?
For one thing, we walked.
Dublin is a wonderful city for walking. Its downtown is compact, and easy to navigate, and full of innumerable places to go and things to see, all within easy walking distance of each other. And if you get bored or tired of walking, Dublin has good buses and light rail service to take you around.
And the walking is, for the most part, fun, because Dublin is full of interesting architecture, and great shops to stick your head into, and lots and lots of public art, some of it really surprisingly good (like a vividly-drawn tiled mosaic in a downtown parking lot, or the phenomenal Irish Famine Sculpture), others of it simply dreadful, but still oddly compelling, like, yes, that Molly Malone statue, and still others of it somewhere in between, like this curious set of gargoyles that we found mounted on fence posts at the St. James Hospital LUAS station.
For another thing, we ate.
The restaurants we found in Dublin, while occasionally disappointing, were overall extremely good. We had an absolutely fantastic breakfast at The Woolen Mills, where we were introduced to an Irish Boxty. We had a superb lunch at House, with a rich mushroom soup and delicious fresh-baked dark bread. We had a lovely dinner at Paulie's, a great pizza and fun appetizers. And we had a very pleasant afternoon tea at Bewley's, with an elegant selection of fresh-baked pastry treats.
And for another thing, we learned.
We visited several of the many locations of the National Museum of Ireland, which is not only a wonderful museum, but is free. Free! The archaeology museum had astonishing 5,000 year old precious metal artifacts: necklaces and bracelets and crowns. The decorative arts museum had both traditional and modern craft work, including a fascinating gallery of late-stage Waterford crystal, and a compelling temporary exhibition of the fashion design of Ib Jorgensen.
We walked through the grounds of Trinity College, and we toured the galleries of the Old Library, and we got up close and personal with the Book of Kells, and we went upstairs to the ancient reading room, and saw the harp.
We walked along O'Connell Street and looked at the General Post Office, with its bullet-pocked walls. And we walked along St Stephen's Green and cast our eyes to the Shelbourne Hotel, and to the Royal College of Surgeons, and thought about those spaces, and those places, and those times.
And, most of all, we made the trip just a few kilometers west of downtown, to Kilmainham Gaol, and walked through the museum, and took the tour, and read the letters, and looked at the photos, and stood in those same spots in the yard where so many others before us have come to look, and to listen, and to think, and to learn.
Oh, of course, we did some really mundane things, too (... cough ... Guinness! ... cough ...), like checking out the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square, taking in the view from the Gravity Bar, walking along the Grand Canal, feeding the ducks in the St Stephen's Green ponds, and enjoying the perspective of the city from midway across the Ha'Penny Bridge.
There's a LOT to do in Dublin. We could have spent at least a week there, and found many more things to do.
But we were over our jet lag, and it was on to Wales.