Without delving too far into the implications that this story makes about my current age, I last visited Ireland around 22 years ago as a young, starry-eyed Australian lass. I took the ferry from France, it was a long and choppy crossing but it was very exciting to get a stamp in my then freshly minted passport.
“Where are you from then young lady?” the Immigration agent at Rosslare asked. “Australia? Well, it’s changed a lot since when your ancestors probably left here!” (His correct assumption being that my ancestors were Irish and convicts).
Fast forward to July 2017 and I am standing at the Immigration counter of the Dublin Airport, fresh off a flight from Doha where I was pampered by Qatar Airways. The Immigration agent asks me some innocuous travel questions…ending with – have you been to Ireland before. I tell her yes…but many years ago, possibly when she was a toddler.
“Well! We have wifi now!” she boomed as she stamps the 2017 version of my passport.
Indeed it has!
Wherever you are based, Ireland’s capital Dublin is the perfect place for a quick city break or to start a wider exploration of Ireland and these are my reasons why:
- The Weather
OK, so this may be influenced by the fact that I was escaping a brutal Qatar summer, but June and July in Dublin is something else. While the skies were more grey than blue on our visit, the temperature was perfect for exploring this city. I had a minor panic when I realized I didn’t have an umbrella (desert life does that to you), but rain only threatened, it never eventuated. Dublin summers are the perfect antidote to anything that ails you.
2. The Food
To be honest, my memories of the food in Ireland all those years ago consisted of lots of meat and potatoes. Times have changed people, times have changed. With plentiful supplies of seafood, lamb, beef and of course, seafood, this is a foodie paradise. Dubliners are rightly proud of their food and its provenance, you will find many menus listing local ingredients and produce. Our first meal in Dublin was at Fallon and Byrne, a restaurant with a foodhall downstairs, packed full of meats, cheeses and other products. Their menu included a rich and creamy goat cheese terrine, sweet and slightly salty local prawns and tender beef fillet. Another standout restaurant was Rustic Stone by celebrity chef Dylan McGrath, a steak and grill restaurant that for me managed to elevate a humble burger using stellar ingredients and a little bit of flair.
For a national capital, Dublin is extremely walkable.It’s possible to walk between all the major sites, although you will be foot sore! The best way to see the city and save a few Euros in the process is to buy yourself a Dublin Pass which lets you skip lines at some of the more popular attractions, free or discounted entry to others as well as a hop-on hop-on bus tour for those who want to see the city without the 16,000 steps we managed!
We based ourselves at the charming Brooks Hotel , which is just a quick walk from the shopping heaven of Grafton Street and a 10 minute walk to Trinity College. And, as mentioned above, there are restaurants (and pubs) dotted all over the city, so there is always a place to recharge between sights.
4. The History
I don’t even know where to start with this. Well, actually, I do. The Long Room at Trinity College is literally Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones meets book nerd heaven. The main chamber of the Old Library is the Long Room; at nearly 65 metres in length, it is filled with 200,000 books and is one of the most impressive libraries in the world. We were able to sneak in just before they opened (the downstairs facility also houses the equally breathtaking, Book of Kells a breathtaking, illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament, created around AD 800 by monks.
Another must-visit is the stunning Chester Beatty Library , arguably one of the best (and most surprising) museums in Europe. Home to the eclectic the collection of mining magnate engineer Sir Alfred Chester Beatty the collection includes more than 20,000 manuscripts, rare books, miniature paintings, clay tablets, costumes and other objects of artistic and historical importance. This includes beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur’an and the Bible, as well as Chinese embroidery and other items. Amazingly, it’s free to enter (and there is a terrific restaurant on the ground floor) and is close to Dublin Castle.
With daily flights to this wonderful city, you can take a long weekend or an extended break. Qatar Airways is also Airline of the Year for 2017, and for very good reason. The service on this seven and a half hour hop is outstanding in both classes.
On our flight we were treated to lush Qatari smoked salmon, perfectly cooked pasta and a world class selection of wine all served by their multicultural and well trained staff.
For those transiting through Doha, you can now get a visa on arrival as well as free hotel stays and city tours so you can explore my wonderful home. If you are on a shorter transit, there are a range of great activities (spa, shopping, playgrounds, that teddy!) plus great food and drink options.
As a traveler, I have come a long, long way and many many miles since my first trip to Ireland. It’s capital city has changed as well – you should experience it for yourself.
I can assure you, wifi isn’t the only thing that has changed about this beautiful country.
*I was a guest of the wonderful people at Qatar Airways for this trip and must also thank Failte Ireland for this hospitality.