August 24 – A Too Short Visit to Dublin
Every year starting in February I spend weeks looking for the best airfares with reasonable connections to Europe. This year Aer Lingus had the best price for our trip to Italy and France. Having traveled with them for years, we felt very confident about booking the trip, and added an overnight in Dublin to the itinerary.
The crowds were already out touring the Pantheon the morning we left Rome and the Gladiators wearing their feather covered helmets were busy posing with tourists for money. For us, the easiest way to Fiumicino Airport was by taxi and by law, costs 40 euro. The airport is unremarkable and needs updating, but fortunately was easy to navigate. Once we arrived in Dublin, an airport transfer bus whisked us directly to our hotel, Best Western Academy Plaza Hotel, right off O’Connell Street. Although it lacks the charm of a traditional old-world Irish hotel, it is clean, modern, comfortable, and right in the heart of the city.
Not wasting any time, we headed right out into the city where a light rain was falling. This was our first true shopping excursion of the entire trip and we found gifts for family and friends at Avoca where we bought lovely woven blankets, and at Eason Bookshop, which is a reader’s delight. Three floors are filled with books on a variety of topics including schoolbooks for children.
After dinner in the hotel, we wandered over to the Temple Bar area and stopped briefly at a pub to listen to some music. Each pub was so crowded people were practically bursting out the door, but that just makes it an interesting challenge. Inside, the bartenders worked nonstop pouring rich creamy glasses of Guinness or some other libation. Finding a seat was next to impossible. One couple even sat in the phone booth just to hear the live music.
On our way back to the hotel we discovered the funniest store ever: Carroll’s Gifts & Souvenirs. We have spent many summers in the countryside of Ireland and know the difference between fine Irish handmade gifts and trinkets, but this place was just outright fun on a cool rainy evening. Inside is floor after floor and aisle after aisle of every leprechaun, sheep, and Guinness souvenir you could possibly ever imagine. They even had their own radio station advertising their own goods.
Crossing the Ha’penny Bridge, the River Liffey looked beautiful at night. Heading back down O’Connell Street past the 390 foot silver Millennium Spire, we agreed that we missed Ireland and will make sure that next year, our trip includes a longer stay.