We love to travel and I am always planning where we should go next. In summer 2014 we decided that we would make a trip to Dublin for my 23rd birthday in October. This was a very special little adventure that ended with a proposal and for that reason plus many others, Dublin will always have a special place in our hearts. Here is a trip diary of what we did when we were there.
We flew on a Thursday morning from Newcastle with RyanAir. The flight left on time and the journey itself was pleasant. As much as people complain about RyanAir, it does the job for a cheap and no frills flight. We landed in Dublin, collected our checked luggage and headed out of the airport to catch the Aircoach to our hotel. I hadn’t pre-booked this beforehand but had done some research to find out the cost and where it would drop us off. Unfortunately I hadn’t realised exactly how far away the stop was from our hotel so we had quite a long walk in a new city to find the street on which our hotel was situated.
To help us find the hotel we popped into a souvenir shop and bought a city map. This came in handy later in the trip when we were trying to figure out where everything else was. Eventually we found our hotel and checked in. Camden Court Hotel was the second hotel we booked, after originally choosing a hotel on the other side of the city due to the cost. However we thought the Camden Court Hotel was ideally situated for transport links and the price of the rooms were good value for money. We also decided to book this hotel because it had a nice looking pool/spa area which we intended to use but actually never got round to!
The hotel was situated on Lower Camden Street and was just a few minutes walk from the Luas (tram) stop on Sraid Fhearchair which leads to St Stephen’s Green and from there you can get to the main shopping area of Grafton Street. On the other side of the hotel was another main street with plenty of bus stops from which you could get transport to other parts of the city easily. We bought a 3 day travel ticket when we arrived at the airport which was valid for use on all Dublin Bus services and the Luas tram. In the same way as an Oyster card, you just swipe the card against points on the Luas stop or as you board the bus and this covers your fare. We found this travel ticket invaluable for getting around the city as a lot of the attractions are quite spaced out. Another option is to use the Hop On Hop Off tour bus but we prefer to use the local transport and find our own way around the city. In order to find out what buses and routes we needed to use I downloaded the Dublin Bus app and also used Google Maps to find out what streets were close to the places we needed to go. This was fairly easy even with just using the free wifi in the hotel and screenshotting the info for later!
Once we had left our bags at the hotel and freshened up a little, it was time to head back out and explore a little. The weather wasn’t too bad when we arrived so we walked from our hotel down to Grafton Street and did a little window shopping. We also looked for a Starbucks but for some reason couldn’t find one for love nor money. Eventually our feet were hurting from all the walking (I had to buy new comfy shoes from Topshop because my poor feet were blistered!) and we headed back towards the hotel to grab some food. I can’t remember exactly where we ate that day, I think it was this lovely Thai/Pan Asian place called Opium. I had a Thai lamb Massaman curry which was the most delicious curry I have ever tasted. Matt isn’t keen on a lot of vegetables and “hidden ingredients” so he had the pork Banh Mi which he also enjoyed.
Day 2 in Dublin mainly involved a trip to Dublin Zoo. We love visiting zoos as Matt is a big cat lover, so any zoo with lions and tigers is a win for us. We hopped on the bus from Lower Camden Street to Phoenix Park, luckily the bus has an automated system where they read out the names of the stops in Irish and English otherwise we would have had no clue we were there. The street the stop was on just looked like we were in the middle of a housing estate so we were a little bit worried until we walked further up the street and saw lots of lovely trees and green spaces along with a sign pointing towards the Zoo. We hadn’t pre-booked tickets but there was no wait to get in as it was a weekday so only parents with very small children were visiting. My favourite part of the zoo was this big guy:
One thing I had researched in detail before we came to Dublin was bars and restaurants. I was determined that we would eat some fabulous food and drink the best cocktails. The theme of the weekend for cocktail bars ended up being 1920’s style speakeasy bars. We had three to visit over the course of the trip and the first one was called the Blind Pig. This was a bar where you had to sign up to a mailing list and they would send you directions to the secret location and a code to enter at the door. All very mysterious. After a quick stop back at the hotel to get changed we headed back out. We followed the directions back to Grafton Street and all the clues pointed to a mysterious looking black door next to an ATM machine. After tapping in the code to open the door, we walked through a dark alley and up a set of steps before finally finding a door with Blind Pig written on it. We were just relieved we were in the right place! We settled down on a table for two and looked through an extensive old fashioned cocktail list (i.e. no mixers!) that was hidden in a book just in case we might be raided. This bar was by far the most authentic speak easy we visited over the course of the trip. The cocktails were delicious (if a little pricey but that was expected) and they also did bar snacks and light meals if you were to make a proper night of it.
Day 3 included a visit to the Guinness Storehouse and more wandering around the city to find other places of interest. Although I’m not a Guinness drinker I found the tour of the “brewery” quite interesting and the views from the top of the tower over Dublin were great, it was packed though so hard to get a good spot to take a photo or to sit down. Matt enjoyed his free pint whilst I had a complimentary glass of diet Coke. We also bought some Guinness souvenirs from the gift shop just to prove we had been!
After the trip to the Guinness Storehouse, we had a table booked for early dinner at Chapter One, a one Michelin Star restaurant on Parnell Square. This area houses the theatre district in Dublin so we were able to select from a fixed pre-theatre menu which was very reasonably priced for the quality of the food. I can’t quite remember what all of our choices were but as it was our first time dining in a Michelin Star establishment we were blown away all the same. According to my Instagram caption, my main course was “cushion of veal cooked in milk with slow roasted leeks, crispy bacon, puréed celeriac and mustard sauce with pomme puree and crispy potato skins on the side”. It was outstanding!
After our meal we also made a quick stop in the second 1920’s themed bar of the trip, The Liquor Rooms. This is part of The Clarence Hotel on Wellington Quay, so quite a distance from our hotel but we thought it would be worth the effort to find it. However it was extremely busy and as we had not been able to book a table for less than 8 people, we were unable to get seated anywhere as all the tables were reserved. Finally we found a tiny table close to one of the bars and ordered a drink. The decor of The Liquor Rooms was decadent and very suited to the theme but unfortunately from the unfriendly door staff to the massively long wait for two expensive drinks, the experience was quite disappointing. We stayed for the one drink and then headed towards Temple Bar to find somewhere more worth our money. We found a bar called Bad Bob’s and headed inside for a few drinks. There was a fantastic young couple inside playing acoustic versions of popular songs and we happily whiled away a few more hours before returning back to our hotel before midnight ready to crack open a bottle of prosecco to celebrate my birthday. This of course was when Matt chose to propose to me, which made the trip extra special.
On our final day in Dublin, I had a table booked at San Lorenzo’s on South Great George’s Street. This place boasts to serve the best brunch in Dublin, so I knew we had to try it out. Unfortunately due to drinking excessive amounts of prosecco the night before to celebrate our engagement, we were both very hungover and unable to do the Breakfast of Champions that we both ordered any justice whatsoever. We practically crawled back to our hotel to sleep off the hangover before getting back up to go out for yet another cocktail and my highly anticipated birthday dinner.
The final cocktail bar we visited was the Vintage Cocktail Club or VCC. This one wasn’t so secretly located, although it doesn’t look like a bar from the outside as all you can see is a black door with VCC on it. We knocked on the door and were let in by a member of staff, this time we had been able to book a table but as we were there quite early on we needn’t have bothered as it wasn’t very busy. The cocktails we had at Vintage Cocktail Club were by far the best ones of the whole trip. I wished we could have stayed for more than two each but our table at Il Vicoletto was waiting.
Il Vicoletto is a beautiful, intimate Italian restaurant nestled in a little lane in Temple Bar. Ever since I came across the place on TripAdvisor, I fell in love with the idea of sitting down and indulging in authentic Italian fare made with quality Irish ingredients. Italian food is one of my all time favourite cuisines so I knew we had to go there on my birthday and boy, this place did not disappoint! I had the most delicious homemade fresh ravioli filled with roasted guinea fowl in a creamy truffle sauce and Matt had a wonderful seafood pasta. I had a glass of prosecco (what else?) and Matt had a glass of Barolo, his favourite red wine. For dessert I ordered a chocolate fondant which was cooked to order, served on amaretto cream and topped with vanilla ice cream. It was divine. Matt had his favourite, tiramisu, which of course did not disappoint. The whole meal was amazing and just one of those dining experiences that you do not forget. The waiters were all well versed in the daily specials, which is what both of our main dishes were and they made them sound so delicious that we just had to try them. A truly special little place and we wished we could have stayed all night. Unfortunately we had to head back to our hotel ready for a 3am wake up call the next day to get back to the airport.
Until next time Dublin…