I'm traveling and blogging in Europe for 10 days this December. After landing in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday morning and dropping off most of my luggage at a friend's apartment in Lille, France, I took off for a weekend in Dublin, Ireland with another friend.
Even though I was exhausted from a combination of jet lag and dozing on buses and trains, Dublin was energizing and lively. Settled on the River Liffey close to the Irish Sea, the streets were filled with the sound of seagulls, dancing street performers and wheezing double-decker buses. A fairly rainy climate makes the city's parks lush and bright green, a perfect place to walk when a weak winter sun warms up Dublin.
My friend and I discovered a company that offers free two-hour walking tours of the city, so we spent a pleasant Saturday morning strolling through the cobblestone streets. We saw the remains of Dublin Castle, which are still used as meeting rooms for important international visitors, Dublin City Hall, and the last remaining vestiges of an old Viking house that was discovered years ago.
The Irish were certainly in the Christmas spirit: all of the restaurants and pubs had lighted wreaths and garlands hung up, and many streets were decorated with holiday lights. At night (or, when the sun goes down, which in Dublin was about 4 p.m.) the streets were beautiful and packed with Dubliners doing their Christmas shopping.
The "12 Bars of Christmas" tradition was in full swing on Saturday night. What looked like a city-wide ugly Christmas sweater party was actually alcohol-fueled holiday festivities. All you have to do is go to 12 bars in one night, have a drink in each bar, and spend at least 30 minutes in each bar, all while wearing your best Christmas outfit (most of which involved sweaters with built-in lights, homemade tinsel jewelry and makeshift Santa beards, although we did see one guy wearing a reindeer onesie, complete with antlers and a tail). Sounds pretty easy, right?
A visit to Dublin wouldn't be complete without going to the Guinness Storehouse and paying homage to Ireland's liquid gold. After learning about how Guinness is made, looking at old Guinness advertisements and commercials, learning the proper way to pour a Guinness (it should take no less than 119.5 seconds) and learning the right way to taste a Guinness, I was craving a Guinness. At the top of the storehouse is the Gravity Bar, offering a 360-degree view of Dublin. It was the perfect place to end the day and enjoy a pint.
Most of our weekend was otherwise spent wandering around and hoping it wouldn't rain (no such luck on Monday, though). However, the city more than made up for the cold and sometimes gloomy weather. The locals were friendly, the food was hearty and the city was inviting. I foresee another trip to Ireland in my future, but next time I definitely hope to see the countryside as well.
Check back soon for a post about our day trip to Paris! Thanks for reading!