International Travel

How to Spend an Afternoon in Dublin, Ireland

Thanks to a delayed flight I got to Dublin, Ireland 5 hours after I was supposed to arrive. Instead of having a full day to wander around the city, I only had an afternoon. Here’s how to spend an afternoon in Dublin spending time in the city’s iconic Temple Bar district, visiting a cathedral, and eating a traditional Irish meal.

I checked into The Clarence Hotel. Dublin’s original rock n’ roll hotel recently underwent extensive renovations. Chatting with my airport transfer driver, he told me Bono owned the hotel and Bono’s niece Lea Hewson, a talented abstract artist, has several paintings in the lobby. Walking inside I instantly fell in love with the cheery blues, greens, and pinks of the decor and walls in the lobby. I asked the guy who checked me in about the U2 connection to the hotel and he clarified telling me Bono, The Edge, and a developer own the property but Press Up Hospitality Group runs. My room was on the second floor (3rd floor by US labeling since the first floor is called ground or street floor here). It overlooks the River Liffey.

I grabbed a latte from the tiny coffee shop Dime Coffee and started wandering around the cobblestone streets of Temple Bar, which is Dublin’s cultural quarter. It was fitting one of the first bars I walked past was The Temple Bar, established in 1840. When I was in Dublin for one night with my brother in 2010 on an extensive road trip across Ireland and Northern Ireland before he moved to China with Michelin Tires, our dad passed away back in the States. That night was also stressful because my brother lost his car keys and passport in the chaotic revelry of the Temple Bar area during a holiday weekend in Ireland. Ended up my brother had misplaced by keys and passport, but I think it was a little divine intervention and like my dad to add a distraction in a sad moment. I added this extra day in Dublin knowing I would need an emotional buffer day before starting a conference in Ireland. Seeing The Temple Bar was a sign this would be a healing journey so I can celebrate my brother in the place he loved living most.

I walked around looking at the pubs, shops including a really neat tackle shop, restaurants, and cafes when I saw two large signs on a brick wall. I went over to read and found it to be the start of The Icon Walk. I took a little time to read about the Women Writers of Ireland including Maria Edgeworth, who’s credited with starting the form for the modern novel and genre of regional novel when she wrote Castle Rackrent. I was fascinated by the grit and stories of the women writers.

From there I walked over to Christ Church Cathedral but found it closed for an event. I kept walking to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. The present building dates to 1220. According to tradition, Saint Patrick used a nearby well to baptize some of Ireland’s first Christians. The cathedral is stunning and was bustling with tourists late afternoon. A couple of features stood out to me. The first is the west window stained glass depicting 39 episodes of Saint Patrick’s life. The Tree of Remembrance was created in 2014. The tree with no leaves commemorates the centenary of World War I and the stark destrution of war. The organ nearby made me think of my musical mom. There has been an organ in the cathedral since at least 1471. The current organ was added in 1902 and has 4000 pipes ranging from 8 inches to 32 feet. I was intrigued by the flags and knight helmets above the choir chairs in the nave of the sanctuary. Behind it is one of my favorite spots in the cathedral. The Lady Chapel was added in 1270 and dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary. It’s also referred to as the “French Chapel” because French Protestants known as Huguenots used it for worship after fleeing religious persecution in France from 1666 to 1816. There’s the Swift Pulpit. I had no idea author Jonathan Swift was a dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He was the author of Gulliver’s Travels.

By the time I left the cathedral the clouds had disappeared and St. Patrick’s Park was buzzing with activity. It’s here where Saint Patrick was believed to have baptized the first Irish Christians in a well with water from the river Poddle, which still flows underground. I walked through the park enjoying the spring blooms blowing in the breeze, dogs and children running around the park, and folks out soaking up the sunshine.

I popped back over to Quays Irish Restaurant for an early dinner. It’s in the heart of Temple Bar and is one of Dublin’s oldest eateries. There was live music in the lively bar, but I opted for the quieter restaurant upstairs where I sat at a tiny table for two. I’m not a big beer drinker so in memory of my brother and what I drank during a trip while visiting him when he lived in Northern Ireland, I ordered a glass of cider. My first meal in Ireland had to be traditional fish and chips. I added mushy peas to the lightly battered cod and crispy fries (chips). In high tourist areas I typically don’t have high expectations for food but was pleasantly surprised how delicious my fish and chips were. I debated between Quays and another long-standing restaurant in Temple Bar and really glad I picked Quays. Plus the staff was very attentive and friendly. It’s a great option for lunch, dinner, or happy hour.

I retreated back to The Clarence. It wasn’t even 7pm but I was ready for a nightcap and needed to stay awake until at least 8pm. That’s typically one of my combat jet lag tricks when traveling to Europe. I ducked into posh The Curious Mister bar. There’s are plush round booths but I opted for a seat at the bar to chat with the bartender. I debated between the Chamonile/Honey and Guinness/Hibiscus cocktails. The bartender talked me into the Guinness/Hibiscus and with one sip I was glad he did. It’s made with Jameson Black Barrel, Cynar, Guinness, hibiscus, lemon, and egg whites. I was a little leery of a drink made with Jameson whiskey and Guinness beer but this cocktail was fabulous! Plus I got two Irish drink institutions in one drink. It was the perfect nightcap to say “Sláinte,” which is the traditional Irish toast to good health in Ireland, and end my afternoon in Dublin.

Author Jennifer Broome visited Ireland for the first time in 2010.

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