Sunday, 3 May 2009

Dublin 2009

I recently visited Dublin and my experience there was nothing short of fantastic. When I left London for Dublin, the BBC “rainy weekend” forecast totally had my expectations in check. But everything turned out to be a pleasant surprise when I reached my destination.

First impression:

Well, so I took the train from London to Holyhead, which is a port on the west coast on Britain (in Wales), and took the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. While this was my first time in a ferry and I quite enjoyed it, I would avoid the train journey if I were to go there again. While I was waiting for my ferry to arrive at 2:40 in the night, two drunken Irish girls got down from the ferry from Dublin, and started enquiring about “how to reach UK”. One of them started dancing and hugging the gentleman who tried telling her she was already in UK. Finally a fight broke out between the two (no one knows why) and the police arrived to take them away. THAT was some start to my journey, and I started to get nervous about what was in store for me in Ireland.

Day 1:

Dublin turned out to be very welcoming and pleasant in spite of my ‘entertaining’ experience at Holyhead. This was the first time I stayed in a hostel, and I think makes sense when you know you are going to travel quite a bit and don’t want to go overboard on the hotel expenses, which are typically thrice as expensive as the hostels. I met a girl from DC in the breakfast room and she joined me in exploring the city on foot.

We started at the O’Connel monument and went on to Trinity College. Even though the buildings have undergone evident facelifts after being built in 1592, the campus is magnificent. We went inside the Old Library to see the spectacular long room, and then to the Treasury to see the beautiful Book of Kells, which was made around 800 AD. I still can’t believe that handcrafted designs can be so intricate! The vibrant colors were apparently taken from rare minerals found in the Middle East. Oh, and the red dye was taken from a particular species of insects, but only when they were pregnant. Now, THAT must have been quite a task!

We then walked to Grafton Street, the main vibrant shopping area of the city. It started to get sunny as we had a second breakfast near St Ann’s Church. National Museum was nice too, although I was surprised that there was nothing from the struggle against the British rule. National Gallery was a collection of nice paintings set against colorful walls. We then went to St Stephen’s Green park, which was beautiful beautiful. Basically, we were lucky in that all the flowers were in blossom, and it was sunny and pleasant. I was so happy that my friend dragged me there even though I hadn’t planned on it earlier. We ended the day with St Patrick’s Church and its huge ornate stained glass walls. Splendid!

The evening at the Auld Dubliner:

We had walked almost 15 kms in one day. My feet were screaming for mercy and we decided to take rest for an hour before hitting the Temple Bar area for dinner at an Irish restaurant. Temple Bar (the famous bar after which the area is named) is so overrated! There was jam packed with absolutely no place to stand, and men were pushing women. Gross. We decided to leave the bar early, and went in ‘The Auld Dubliner’ instead. This was where the real party began. I quite liked the crowd – very international and very friendly. And the music wasn’t bad either. So we Indian girls sat at the bar and got ourselves two pints of Guinness. The barmen were very friendly, except the Indian one, who seemed very skeptical of us.

However, we were not alone for long. At one point, we were surrounded by a group of 8-10 German men at a bachelor party, who were very curious about ‘Indian black’ eyes. It’s nice to be told that one is beautiful. Hell, it’s very nice to be told that. In the bigger scheme of things, these small compliments go a long way! The snooty Indian barman wasn’t laughing anymore. We then met another girl from Indiana. I ended up having one of my best nightouts ever! When we started, we thought we’d be back by 11. Hell, we went back at like 4 or something!

Day 2:

Day 2 started very late for obvious reasons. We had to cover four main places and had just over half a day. We first took a tour of the Guinness storehouse, where they had simulated a mini brewery for us. Very impressive indeed. Arthur Guinness, the man who invented the Guiness ‘formula’ exactly 250 years ago, signed a 9000 year lease for his brewery. Genius!

After about an hour in the brewery and a couple of free sips of the famous beer, we went to do a tour of the Kilmainham Gaol jail, where the national heroes of the 1916 Easter Rising were held captive and shot. It was nice to know about the history of Ireland and I was quite moved by some of the stories of the heroes. The Irish got their freedom from Britain in 1922, but only after splitting the country in two (the Northern Ireland is still a British territory). We then came back to the city center to do a tour of the Dublin castle, which was home to the British queen when she used to visit Ireland. I headed to the hostel after visiting the Christ Church Cathedral.

Dublin is definitely worth a visit if you are in Europe or UK for tourism. It is easy to get around, and the people are one of the friendliest in Europe.