Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Ireland on a number of occasions, exploring as many areas of the country as possible. Naturally, I always fly in and out of Dublin, but recently I realized that I hadn’t spent any time in the capital city for many years. So on my most recent trip to Ireland, I sought to correct that error with a couple of days reconnecting with an old favorite city. It was a good lesson in the importance of revisiting those places we love, of retracing steps but also venturing out and experiencing new and unexpected moments of discovery.
I drove down to Dublin from Northern Ireland early in the morning, arriving just in time to enjoy one of the best weather days I’ve ever seen in Dublin. I wasn’t the only one who noticed, it seemed as if everyone had fled their flats for parks and riverside haunts, all eager to soak up the rays of the often-missing sun. Since I hadn’t been a proper tourist in Dublin for a very, very long time, I decided to first set my sights on some of my favorite spots in the city, starting with Trinity College. One of the world’s most prestigious universities, there are many reasons to visit the historic campus, but most visitors – including myself – are there to visit its equally famous library. In addition to being the official repository for millions of books published in the country, it’s also the site of the Long Room and of course, the Book of Kells. The Long Room is probably one of the most photographed, and Instagrammed, spots in the country and with good reason. The historic heart and soul of the library, it’s a beautiful 18th century space filled to the rafters with nearly a quarter million books and priceless items integral to Ireland’s history. The Book of Kells though is the real draw. Arguably the most famous and well preserved illuminated manuscript in the world, Trinity has done a fantastic job of showcasing and highlighting this world treasure. Guests first visit a small museum where the book is explained before feeding into the staging room where two of the volumes are on display. The pages are turned frequently, meaning that no two visits are exactly the same. Lines to enter can be quite long, so be sure to book your tickets online in advance for a more civilized experience.
Trinity is actually a great place to start any exploration of downtown Dublin, and from there I spent much of the day wandering. The River Liffey formed the center of my afternoon excursions, not only strolling across its many bridges, but veering off into neighborhoods along the way. Naturally, one of the most famous of these neighborhoods is the Temple Bar. Walking into the heart of the neighborhood I prepared myself for the worst. This is the nightlife center for tourists; packed with a seemingly endless array of pubs and restaurants, as well as more than a few raucous types. As I discovered though, visiting during the day, while still busy, is a much more tame experience and I found myself enjoying the people watching, stopping off at small shops as I wandered. I didn’t have a firm idea of where I wanted to go, I just walked. From the historic heart of the city to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin City Hall, I began to slowly remember the layout of Dublin, retracing steps from years ago. I kept a close eye on my watch though for a very special tour I didn’t want to miss.
No matter how well we think we know a place, it’s important to always expand that knowledge base which is why I joined a very special food tour while in Dublin. Definitely not your typical tourist haunt, I soon came to enjoy the quiet neighborhood of Stoneybatter and learned to appreciate the entire city more than I thought possible, all thanks to an afternoon enjoying some of the best bites in the city. Food tours have now become the norm is cities around the world and are one of my favorite ways to learn about new places. Not only is the food tasty and the outing fun, but there’s no faster way to learn about a destination’s culture and history than through its food. Since I thought I was already well familiar with Ireland and its quirky ways, I was curious as to what, if anything, I would learn on the tour. Thankfully, the folks at Fab Food Trails don’t run your average food outing. Instead of one set route that they take visitors along three times a day, every day, they vary their tours from neighborhood to neighborhood, guaranteeing outings that are always changing, as well as new ways to experience Dublin. The guides are local and the groups are small, which means a fun and immersive experience that attracts just as many locals as it does tourists. In fact, on my tour I was outnumbered by the Dubliners who joined me, all curious to discover those spots that they’ve long ignored over the years.
I had never heard of this neighborhood not far from the city center until I found myself in the middle of it with my guide for the afternoon, Evelyn. At first I was deeply confused. It looked like a nice area, a pleasant place to live but there was certainly nothing touristy about it. As it turns out, that came to be an important aspect of the tour. From coffee shops to small markets to thriving cafes, the many stops shared not only some of the best traditional food in the city, but the edgy ways in which the culinary scene is quickly changing. Covering everything from twists on the traditional sausage roll to coffee slushies and even black pudding, the time spent with Fab Food Trails was fun, educational and delicious. We ended our day at a gastropub, as famous for its menu as its beer selection. Trying yet more traditional Irish food reimagined, it was the ideal way to end the walk. It encapsulates everything about Dublin that is exciting. New people are moving into the city every day, transforming the culture in every way imaginable, but especially through the food. As a result, Dubliners and all Irish people really are being introduced to new tastes and flavors, eventually incorporating them into their own favorite dishes. It’s an exciting time to be in Dublin for sure, best seen on a leisurely walk through what’s new and exciting in the food scene of the city.
Importance of Revisiting Places We Love
While I always love visiting a new city, there are some destinations around the world that are so interesting and so intriguing that I find myself either returning or wanting to return to again and again. This is a rarity when we travel. Usually most places we visit are nice, but rarely do we want to go back and explore them a second, third or even fourth time. So when we do find these cities with which we click, it’s a special moment. It’s special because it means that we’ve made an emotional connection with them, that they have in some way changed us and made us better and of course it means that we’ve also had a lot of fun during the experience. Dublin is one of those cities for me and no matter how long it is between visits, I always love reconnecting with this very special place.