DUBLIN, IRELAND — The most Irish of cities on the most Irish of days: this is St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin.
As hotel prices were easily 5x the normal rates on the night before the big day, we rolled into the outskirts of Dublin early on a rainy St. Patrick’s day morning.
Dun Laoghaire is Dublin’s historic port, where the big Victorian steamers set out from on their transatlantic voyages before commercial flight made ocean travel largely obsolete. It’s also where Marconi made his first wireless transmission, from the penthouse of the Royal Marine Hotel — coincidentally where we were to lay our heads for three nights in Dublin.
A grand dame that — with a little spit and polish — has well extended her prime, the Royal Marine sits on a berm above the old port. We checked into the suite with a alleyway view of the sea and layered up in green, heading down to the DART rail station at the bottom of the hill.
The twenty minute ride into the city centre followed the salty mud flats along the coast. At each stop, the commuter train filled slowly with damp green partygoers heading into town for the parade. We got off at Tara Street Station and followed the river of green humanity toward the parade route, only detouring off the path to walk through Trinity College’s famous grounds.
As the parade kicked off, we had to battle our way through the crowds of tourists to get any glimpse of the marching bands and intricate floats. Soon enough the drizzle and obstructed views gave us an idea: beating the crowds down to Temple Bar, the 20-square block pub district on the River Liffey’s south bank.
Perfect timing, as we were able to slip into one of the nameless bars that was just opening up and nab a small table in a nook. Within 30 minutes, the place was beyond capacity and it took a small pilgrimage to make it to the bar or toilet.
With such a cherry spot, we just stayed put for the afternoon, hanging out with some new friends from the UK, the US and Australia.
By the time we left, the sun was heading west and the streets of Temple Bar were absolutely packed with drunken tourists.
More than a brewery tour, the Guinness experience is more like a amusement park for beer lovers.
The seven floors enclosed in this 17th century storehouse with a 70-foot Guinness glass built in the middle went beyond just the interactive brewing process to deep diving into the history of one of the world’s great brands.
Three hours of Guinness pouring wasn’t quite enough, so we made our way down to the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin and what many consider the best pint in town. Maybe the proximity to the brewery has a little something to do with that.
Then it was off for dinner in a little bistro by St. Stephen’s green and a nightcap at O’Donaghue’s — one of the most famous joints to catch an impromptu Irish “trad” session.
With the rest of Dublin hungover from the big green day before, the town was ours to explore, sip and savor.
With only a day left on the island, we made our way north to County Mead to explore one of the most ancient neolithic sites in the world.
Bru na Boinne and the temple of Newgrange outdated Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids by nearly 1,000 years. Stepping into the half-buried mound’s inner sanctum was other worldly — knowing that prehistoric humans used this space for worship over 4,000 years ago, touched the same stones, breathed the same air.
It was a fitting, though anachronistic end to an amazing week. After exploring the contemporary delicacies of Cork, the wild barren landscape of Galway and the modern traditions of Dublin, we ended up where it all began.
I never expected I would love Ireland this much. But the history, the people, the food, the landscape were all so genuinely Irish: always nostalgic, often tragic, yet more than anything, celebratory.
The land of the green and the home of every weary traveller. Sláinte!