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Heileó from Ireland! Last week we left off in Dublin just after we arrived, so we were able to visit only part of the city. This week we finish our trip here, then jump on a train to explore the Irish countryside.
Dublin is Ireland’s capital city, and over a third (1.5 million) of Ireland’s population of 4 million lives here. I always imagined Dublin to be dark, drab and dirty, but it’s far from that. I had no idea Dublin is so glamorous – in fact, after a recent transformation it’s regarded as one of Europe’s hippest cities. Now there are plenty of places to see and be seen. Visiting them all would take a month. I had only three days, so I had to make the most of my time. I wish I could have seen more sites, like the National Gallery (it’s free), the Museum of Natural History (ditto), the Dublin Castle, City Hall and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, to name just a few.
But that’s for next time. If, like me, you have only a short stay, a good way to get oriented is to take a double-decker bus tours. I know, it’s pretty touristy, but it’s also a quick and inexpensive way to see the city, while helping you figure out what looks worth coming back to explore another time. Two main companies offer these "Hop on, Hop Off" tours; they can be found in front of any major attraction. If you don’t get off, the narrated bus tour takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. But if you’ve got a day pass you should take advantage of the buses’ 19 stops, all at or near major attractions. Don’t worry about long waits for the next bus; they’re just around the corner. Each company has plenty of buses, and they operate continuously. Price: Adult €12.50; Child (14 and under) €6; Student and senior citizen €11.
I got off the bus at the Guinnessâ Storehouse. Located in the St James’s Gate Brewery, it is supposedly Ireland’s number one visitor attraction. The seven-floor self-guided tour takes visitors through an impressively remodeled warehouse. Each floor depicts a journey of Guinness beer, from history to advertising. The interesting story begins with Arthur Guinness signing a 900-year brewery lease in 1759. He would be proud and amazed that today his beer is sold in 150 countries. However, as cool as the building is, they charge way too much to visit (unless you’re a huge Guinness fan). Admission is €14 for adults (advance tickets purchased online save 10%); €9.50 for students and senior citizens; €30 for a family; €5 for children over 6; children under 6 free.
Obviously not many people agree with me, because a few days after I visited, the storehouse had its three millionth visitor -- a Baltimore resident and diehard Guinness fan. It just doesn’t seem right that two of the city’s most incredible museums are free, while this place that isn’t even a working brewery (that one is next door, and not open to the public) costs almost $17 USD. To put it in perspective: the Budweiser tour in St. Louis takes visitors through a working brewery, and the hour-long guided tour is free. I understand Guinness charging something, because the building has been remodeled, plus it’s a good deterrent to keep away the drunks looking for the "free" pint of Guinness at the very end (on the top floor). But I think €5 would be a better price. That would make it worthwhile it to skip the tour and head straight up to Gravity Bar. Even non-drinkers would love the 360° panoramic bar. It rocks, and the views of the city are awesome. However, patrons can’t buy a beer or a soda up there; they can get one free pint (with a four-leaf clover on top) or soda only by trading in the plastic ring that’s attached to the ticket (a souvenir Guinness paperweight). The Guinnessâ Storehouse is open 7 days a week, from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (in July and August, open until 8 p.m.). Guinnessâ Storehouse, St James's Gate, Dublin 8; tel.: 353-1-408-4800.
IRELAND’S FAVORITE BEER?
What I found most shocking about Ireland is their favorite beer. I must have asked 20 different locals, of all ages and from all parts of the country. Most of them said: Budweiser! Can you believe that? Maybe they were just trying to be funny, but I don’t think so. And I did see empty Bud bottles and Bud signs everywhere.
A good touristy place to drink Guinness (or Bud) is Temple Bar. This is not one individual bar, like it sounds; instead it’s a 28-acre cultural, historic and small business neighborhood in the heart of Dublin’s city center. Set up in 1991, Temple Bar now has over 2,500 residents, 500 businesses and 50 cultural organizations. I heard mixed reviews from locals about this place. Some said it’s only for tourists, while others told me that all kinds of young people party down there. I ran into a mix of both. Many were from England and Wales in town for bachelor/bachelorette parties (the English call them stag and hen parties). No matter who they were, everyone was having fun -- and the best part was I didn’t go home smelling of smoke. That’s because on March 29, 2004 the Republic of Ireland became the first country in the world to ban smoking in all enclosed work places, including bars and restaurants. I love that law!
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Pictures From Dublin
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