Just to be clear: Dublin is a very safe city. It is not deadly in the literal sense, though something tells me that if I had consumed many more pints of Guinness or Full Irish breakfasts, I might have literally exploded. Thankfully this didn’t happen, and I am still in one piece, albeit a couple of cms thicker.
‘Deadly’, on this side of the Irish sea, usually pertains to something being ‘awesome’/’great’ etc, and has thus become my favourite take-home Irish word. It just sounds so much better.
More to the point, when you live in the UK and are suddenly faced with a week’s holiday with nothing to do, choosing Ireland as a destination makes perfect sense. My return flight, booked 5 days beforehand from Birmingham International, set me back £100. If I had been better organised and booked at the start of sumer then I suspect that figure would have been much lower. Ergo, flights to Ireland are cheap!
Fortunately, I have a couple of very good friends in Dublin, who were able to show me (and later my Dad) around. With a local to guide you, there is no time wasted– you get an eyeful of the city with a running commentary and regular stop-offs in a few of the locals’ favourite pubs. And if you’re really lucky, that local will even explain the complex rules of Ireland’s joint most bizarre and bruising sport: Hurling (the other is Gaelic Football). Hurling is like a weird mix of football, rugby and lacrosse, the rules of which, despite several of my friend’s attempts to explain them, are still not fully clear to me. I understand how they win points– 1 for a conversion and 3 for a goal –and that if I were to play, I wouldn’t last 10 seconds.
On match day in Dublin, every pub is decorated with balloons matching the two team’s colours. The streets are awash with fans donning their team’s colours: black and yellow for Kilkenny, yellow and blue for Tipperary. It’s clearly a HUGE deal, and I am an ignorant tourist, afraid to ask silly questions. We watch in Quinn’s, less than 10 minutes away from the 80,000 capacity stadium, where ticketless fans scream at the TV for 70 nerve-wracking minutes. The game finishes as a draw, meaning that there is a re-match two weeks later rather than extra time or penalties– a profoundly stupid and unfair rule, in my opinion. Tickets are silly money and fans have no choice but to re-buy if they want to have a chance of seeing their team lifting that trophy. Capitalism one, people nil.
That night there is a surprise birthday party held in one of Dublin’s ultimate word-of-mouth venues: The Hacienda. Tucked away down a side-street of a side-street, this longstanding Irish pub requires punters to ring a buzzer before being allowed in. Entry is purely at bar owner Shay’s discretion, which, I am told, often depends on his mood. Somehow, he has managed to profit out of this unconventional practice; it seems its status as an invite-only establishment, popular with Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey among others, has rendered it an uber-cool place to go and do your drinking in Dublin. The walls are covered with stars who have visited in the past and the atmosphere, at least when we are there, is terrific.
Other pubs I visited and would recommend are Grogan’s, O’Neil’s, Mulligan’s, Whelan’s and Slatterty’s for a textbook Irish coffee.
Besides being DEADLY, Dublin is a distinctly characterful city– you don’t need to have read Rough Guides’ Ireland edition cover to cover to know that much –buskers, street performers, jolly trad bands and a wealth of buzzing pubs are everywhere you look. But how to avoid the tourist traps and the shell-shocking prices? In short, you can’t; not if you want to experience the city’s must-do highlights and renowned pub hub, The Temple Bar. However, you can significantly reduce the damage done to your budget simply by buddying up with a local expert. Of course it helps if you already have friends who live there, like me. If not, consider AirBnB or CouchSurfing!
For me, Dublin was mostly about catching up with friends and visiting as many pubs as possible– 11 pubs and 15 pints of Guinness in 3 days thank you very much –but there is of course a long list of sights to see, like the Guinness Storehouse, for example!