moseleymoles on Dublin
Our long weekend in Dublin turned into something of a crowd-sourced mission. Advice was received from many contributors here as well as two ‘well-placed local sources’ live during the trip itself. So by way of a favour returned here’s a summary with our top five at the bottom.
We arrived from a very early flight from Birmingham to discover our apartment would not be ready until four. After some waffle refuelling and our first encounter with The Spire (more later on this) we started at the beginning – prehistoric Ireland in the National Museum of Ireland. The Museum is on several sites and this bit is the Archeological museum. It’s refreshingly free of VR and immersive experiences – just a load of amazing stuff in cases. There are three unmissable items – the aforementioned bog people, who are astonishing, a huge log canoe and a set of golden jewellery. All step straight of prehistory and sock you between the eyes.
Next door nearly to the Museum is the National Galley, undergoing a massive refurbishment – so while we could admire the ingenious modern architecture joining older buildings together to create a vast atrium, there were only samples of the art. Daughter enjoyed an Impressionist lady in a hat who was so, like ‘silently judging face’.
We had only two stressful points, one of which was lunch on day one. Bewlays is also ‘chiuso per restauro’ as most of Florence or Rome always says, and the food hall/deli/cafe Fallon and Byrne was the scene of stressful looks over the far-too-few tables as a local claimed having a newspaper on an empty table made it his when he returned five minutes later. We went to hippy hangout Urban Picnic in the Arcade instead which is run by lovely hippies and did a very nice chicken tikka ciabatta.
After checking into the apartment we went from hippie to hipster. Skinflint, round the corner from the Olympia, was recommended by all. So – if you can conceptually get your head around grilled pizza, it’s delicious. The full hipster set was present – scruffy waiters, unreadable menus, mason jar drinks, ironic soundtrack (I heard Sade at one point) – but the pizzas are great and it is a minute’s walk to the Olympia.
So to Once the musical. It was very definitely a game of two halves. The first had enough plot, pace, sparky lines and charm to get you through the unbelievable story – despairing singer-songwriter meets Czech girl who needs her Hoover repaired (this is not a euphemism) and after he gets her machine working she believes in his songs and organises demo recording. The second half however would try the patience of a saint. No sparky lines, endless singing and emoting and the plot replaced by ‘just screw her or get on the plane – or both – but stop singing!’ Thoughts.
Second morning was Kilmainham Jail. Booking for this is essential – as it’s tour only, and it is a brilliant experience. The leaders of the 1916 Easter rising were held here and executed in the yard, and our guide was excellent. Top trivia: the Noel Coward scenes of The Italian Job were shot in the Victorian panopticon part of the jail – though parts are much older.
Lunch at Union 8 opposite. Probably our best food of the weekend. A really nice place again recommended by locals.
Afternoon we walked over the road to IMMA. Like all contemporary art galleries IMMA was also mainly closed for the summer. But it’s another georgeous Georgian building.
Day three was Malahide Castle. Our second stressful moment occurred when the DART to Malahide stopped a few stations short. It was all out to get the bus. No bus. Back on the trains which were now running again. No they weren’t again. Sorry about that. We ended with a very nice taxi driver who did the last leg. Malahide Castle may not be the biggest castle in Ireland. Much of the fortifications have been removed, and it’s rather like a grand country house. Again, an excellent tour encompassing the Talbot family, the Battle of the Boyne and lots more. There are also some wonderful gardens and a parterre which kept Ms Moles happy. The cafe is possibly the quickest way to drop fifty euros without trying and there is an acre of posh tat for sale.
The last day saw the city centre invaded by blue and green and gold shirts. It was the Dubs v Kerry in the GAA semi-final at Croke Park. There were even a good smattering of shirts in the Hugh Lane Gallery, home of Francis Bacon’s preserved studio. Set at the end of the ground floor like a fish tank, it doesn’t disappoint. Photos, paints, magazines, Krug boxes and artists equipment are piled up on the floor and every available surface. Bacon’s easel sits in the middle mournfully. If art is the modern religion then it’s very definitely a holy relic.
I sadly parted ways with the family after lunch. They to do some hardcore chainstore shopping, me to pass a couple of hours with some Guiness and the match in the Stags Head. A beautifully kept Victorian pub, with a good balance of locals and visitors to be welcoming. The match itself was fast and furious, with Dublin positioned as a Manchester United and Kerry as a plucky Leicester. Kerry went into the break 6 points up, only to see Dublin inexorably reel them in and inevitably go on to score the decisive goal in added time. 22-20 it finished. Pleased to see that all the pundits wore grey suit, white shirt, tie – Henry, Murphy, Shearer it can still be done you know.
An incidental note was that visit coincided with the closure of HMV on Henry St. Not that sad for us, as we returned with a fistful of albums and films for not much at all. Ms Moles wondered if HMV were pulling out of Ireland altogether as the stock was so ridiculously cheap they didn’t want to transfer it to another store. We rounded off the trip with our expensive restaurant recommendation – The Winding Stair, which is above a bookstore of the same name on the north bank of the Liffey. Not cheap at all, but the food was beautifully done, the view out the windows is fantastic, and the veggies found lots of surprising things in their dishes.
We made it to three pubs – one clearly a tourist trap near the GPO, Madigans, but which served us a decent enough Guinness with a smile. @johnny-bubbles steered us to The Confession Box, which was snug and served an even better Guinness. And the aforementioned Stag’s Head. A poor return on four days in Dublin, but in our defence the kids have now defined pubs as boring, grubby and smelly. But of course, your point is…
Finally, a special mention to The Spire. Not there on my previous visit fifteen years ago, outside the GPO is now a 200-metre steel needle that can be seen from many places in the city, radiates the evening light stunningly and produces severe vertigo when seen from the base. it’s bonkers and bloody brilliant.
So our top five….easily do-able in one day.
Francis Bacon Studio
A pub with Guinness – so many to choose from, so little time. My only advice would be to relax about ‘authenticity’. While ‘Authentic Irish Music Experience 8pm Every Night’ is perhaps a sign that the pub is a tourist trap, one could clearly spend the entire trip worrying about not being in the right pub. Don’t worry. They’re pubs.