March 28, 2018 - April 02, 2018
I don’t sleep on planes, which made the 6 and a half hour, overnight flight from JFK kind of a bad idea. To be fair, any red-eye that short is a bad idea - not like a 4 hour nap would have made me much more refreshed than showing up after being awake for 20 hours.
Thankfully, it was easy enough to hop on a bus and get to my Airbnb, where my host had gracefully allowed me to have an early check-in. My Airbnb was just across from St Patrick’s Cathedral, in a much better area than all the hostels, which were in the middle of the nightlife district. It was on a noisy street, but otherwise very chill, and I had no trouble sleeping there using ear plugs.
My Airbnb was the first one I’d stayed in that was an actual, proper shared apartment, and not a weird one converted for Airbnb. My host was a family that had a spare bedroom, and they hadn’t done much to “hotel-ify” their apartment, but they were very polite and helpful during my stay.
I’d ended up with five days in Dublin, because I was flying in just before Easter, and it was much easier to arrive Wednesday than on the weekend. I didn’t have a ton planned, other than an indie wrestling double-header on Saturday and Sunday.
First I got brunch at a cafe called Two Pups, which was the first of approximately nine hundred open-faced toast meals I had during my trip. The cafe was… rather obnoxiously Brooklyn-like, which was also a running theme of the trip.
I had bought a ticket to the Little Museum of Dublin, just off St. Stephen’s Green, so I headed over there. The Green is a park that takes up a couple square blocks, and surrounded by a lot of shopping and tourist attractions. The park was more or less what you’d expect from a small, city-center park, with ponds, fountains, gardens, and a whole lotta ducks.
Then I went into the museum, which was quite lovely. It’s described as a people’s museum, which means it’s mostly made up of donated objects from ordinary Dubliners. There’s a couple small exhibitions in the upstairs space (including one on U2, of course), but the main exhibit is a guided tour of two rooms, which are jam-packed with posters, statues, and other items.
The tour lasted around 45 minutes, and was less an orderly history, and more an attempt to jam-pack as much cultural context about Dublin as one could in such a short amount of time.
For dinner, I went over to Bunsen Burgers, mainly because the name is a fantastic pun. They make burgers that are basically on the level of Shake Shack (in other words, “what if Steak & Shake was more expensive and beloved by hipsters”), and also stock my favorite English beer, Gamma Ray, so I was happy. I also appreciated their incredibly tiny business card menu.
I didn’t have big plans for the 29th, but ended up seeing quite a lot! I started my day at Gerry’s Coffee Shop, which is pretty commonly pointed to as the best full breakfast in Dublin. It was easily the best one I had on my trip, including absolutely delicious black and white puddings
I then wandered up to Trinity College, which is a rather odd place. Unlike other universities in cities, like NYU, Trinity College is very much its own, sprawling campus, but not one separated from the city in any way. It also hosts several museums, including the Book of Kells, which makes it a weird combination of active university and tourist attraction.
I had a ticket to see the Book of Kells, but it was a timed entrance that I couldn’t use for another couple hours, so I then went down to the Natural History Museum, which is an incredibly weird little place. It was built in 1856, but the collection and building have stayed more or less the same since then. Wikipedia describes it as a “museum of a museum” and I feel fine stealing that, because, yeah.
On one hand, it’s super cool, because it’s so unique and feels like how people would have seen it in the late 1800s. On the other hand, it’s desparately in need of renovations, and parts of it are closed due to things like accessibility issues, fire code issues, and, uh, stairway collapses. Still, once I got past the depressing state of state museum funding in 2018, I was still very charmed by it all.
Also I found out Ireland used to have massive deer. This was a surprise.
Then I went around the block to another branch of the National Museum of Ireland, the Archeology Museum. This one ruled. Unlike most archeological museums, full of stuff taken from other places, the vast majority of this museum is about Irish history (though they do, of course, have a collection of pilfered Egyptian stuff too). The most impressive part of their collection was their collection of early metalwork and jewelry, which featured a whole lot of incredibly beautiful brooches and crosses from before 1200 AD.
They also had everything from bronze age weapons to bog bodies in the rest of their permanent collection. Also, a giant log boat, because sure.
Then I headed back up to the Book of Kells & Old Library exhibition at Trinity College. I didn’t get any pictures of the Book of Kells because, well, they’re pretty serious about people not taking photos, and you can’t see anything without a flash on anyways. They do a good job contextualizing the book, though, with a large exhibit used as a waiting room that includes large replica versions of pages from the book, for closer examination. The book itself is just shown with two pages open, so, everyone crams around a table to look at it, then walks away. It’s a little underwhelming, but about as good as you can do when you want to exhibit a book.
After the book, the exhibit goes to the old library, which is pretty cool. It’s lined with a whole bunch of busts of dead white dudes, but had a temporary exhibit about the history of women in Irish literature, which I thought was a nice bit of self-awareness.
I also took a brief stop at the Science Gallery at Trinity College, which had an exhibit called FAKE with a lot of pieces about, well, “fake” stuff. My favorite was a collection of Grand Theft Auto 5 screenshots, presented as a regular black and white photography exhibit.
After that, I initially had no plans, but on a whim, decided to go see Gary Numan in concert. I knew he had gotten into, like, weird pop industrial stuff lately, and figured it would make a good show. I walked by the theater box office, where someone was selling a face value ticket for the lower balcony - perfect for me, since I didn’t feel like standing in the GA pit. It was at the Olympia Theatre, which is, well, beautiful.
It’s the only theatre I’ve ever seen with different entrances for the floor and for the balcony - you have to go into a weird side alley, where there’s even different entrances for the upper and lower balconies.
I did a full writeup of the show over here in the show section of my blog.
I spent the day exploring Howth, a small fishing village like 30 minutes away from the center of Dublin by train. I tried to pick the driest day I could to go, and as you’ll see I, uh, failed quite spectacularly.
There are two draws to Howth. One is the docks, which are full of fish markets and seafood restaurants. I wish I could say I tried something adventurous but, spoiler alert, I ended up just going to a fairly casual restaurant owned by a Fish and Chips chain. Alas, maybe next time.
The other draw is the nature. Howth is on a penninsula that’s basically a big, jagged, rocky set of cliffs, and there are trails that go along these cliffs. I decided to walk along the second-easiest of the four official routes.
This seemed pretty reasonable, on this little map, but, well… wasn’t. For the record, it probably took 45 minutes to get from that starting point to the car park in the northeast, and then an hour of walking along the cliffs to get down to the summit. See, the trail starts around here, from the east edge of Howth Harbor:
You walk along a road, past all those houses in the picture, that stretches all the way across the north coast. It’s nice, and paved, and quite pretty.
Then you get to the car park, and suddenly, it’s less paved.
It’s worth pointing out that I was wearing the only shoes I brought on my trip, a pair of Allbirds. Allbirds are neat travel shoes in that they’re wool, warm, soft enough to wear without socks, and machine washable. They are terrible travel shoes for Ireland in that they are wool and in no way waterproof. They also have terrible traction in these sorts of conditions.
My slow walk down the coast was beautiful, and also terrifying. I destroyed my shoes in a few mud puddles, completely soaking my feet. I carefully, carefully slid my way across several sections of slippery path, all next to a massive cliff to drop off. Basically, I am extremely lucky that my trip did not end right here. Did I mention that it started raining, too?
Still, I pressed on, deciding that this would, if nothing else, be a really fun story to tell if I didn’t die in the process.
It did help that, grey skies or not, the scenery was beautiful. To the left was the Irish Sea, and to the right was the higher rocky cliffs of Howth, which I was slowly making my way up.
I made it to the highest part of the trail - near the summit. I paused for breath at the top, along with lots of other people who had also been struggling up the trail (even in much more appropriate shoes).
I considered going back down the cliffs along the higher path, as the trail map showed. I made it only a few steps before the mud got so bad that I turned around, and instead walked down the paved road from the car park at the summit, back towards town. I was worried I’d have to walk the whole way back in my waterlogged shoes, but, thankfully, managed to catch a bus back to the center of town.
Back in town, I made a stop at one of the more casual seafood places before heading back to Dublin. I got a seafood dish of a salmon filet, shrimp, and squid that was very much needed.
I then took the train back to Dublin, where I pretty much just napped for the rest of the day. It was well earned, IMO.
I started the day with yet another full breakfast, this one at Beanhive off St Stephen’s Green.
The afternoon was spent doing a little shopping - I got a beater pair of shoes from Primark for 7 euros, so that I had something to wear while washing my Allbirds.
The rest of the day was spent, uh, watching wrestling. I went to shows on both Saturday and Sunday. I’ve got a full trip report for night one of OTT here.
I stopped at the cafe across the street from my Airbnb, where I first encountered a phenomenon I’d see several times on this trip, “European places trying to do American breakfasts.” Really, what this place meant by “American breakfast” was “scrambled eggs” (as opposed to fried), but they paired it with some really good smoked salmon.
I finally took some time to sit in the park outside St Patrick’s Cathedral (the one across from my Airbnb), which was quite nice. It was easter Sunday, but quite empty and peaceful (as opposed to Saturday, where they’d set it up as a little festival).
I then walked down to the Iveagh Gardens, an odd little park just south of St Stephen’s Green. It’s surrounded entirely by buildings, and I had a heck of a time finding the entrance, until I realized that the parking lot Google Maps had been pointing at actually had a little open gate in the back. It’s impressive how big the park is, considering how hidden it is from the outside. It has several wooded sections, some fountains, some large, low fields for sports, and a beautiful waterfall.
I had a delicious plate of bangers and mash at a pub on my way back to my Airbnb:
Then went back to the Tivoli Theatre for a second night of wrestling. Oh, and after that, I wound up at the most important, common fixture of any late night in Ireland, Scotland, or England: a chicken shop.
I got up and was out the door by 8 to get to my flight to Edinburgh. Not much to report on the Irish airport, other than that their Burger King has beer, apparently:
Oh, and the Ryanair terminal doesn’t have jetways, so I had to board on the tarmac, which was a first for me:
After a short and uneventful flight, I was in Edinburgh, where my next entry will pick up.