On our second day of our whirlwind Dublin trip, we decided to devote most of the day to simply walking around and getting to know the city more. Once another old college friend, Leigh, arrived from her new home in the Netherlands, we’d show her the nightlife. We knew our time in the city was short and didn’t want to waste it, so we were constantly out and about. We felt a little sheepish about sleeping in past the hostel’s free breakfast … but not really. It had been a late night.
We grabbed hot chocolates out of the hostel vending machine and headed outside. It was very, very cold.
We decided to walk across the River Liffey to the McConnell Street area, of which we’d seen little. It wasn’t a terribly long walk and we made the trek several times over the next couple of days. I found the people we encountered very friendly and hospitable. I did not feel at all intimidated strolling around in a city which less than two days prior I’d never seen. This is the thing I love about traveling … how quickly you find yourself in love with new places.
We passed the Four Courts, which is Ireland’s main judiciary building, and which our hostel was named after. Here sits Ireland’s Supreme Court and High Court. The building is said to still have many bullet holes in it from the Irish Civil War in 1916, but we did not notice any. We did, however, see the judges exiting out of the back of the building in their robes.
We walked all around McConnell Street, getting a closer look at those Victorian multicolored doors along the way. I’m sorry to say we don’t have pictures of those to the best of my knowledge. But here is a wonderful article by a Bridget Haggerty about the doors, with pictures and history: Who Was Behind the Doors of Dublin?
Once on McConnell Street I found myself thankful we’d chosen to visit close to the winter holiday season. All of the storefronts were gaily decorated for Christmas. Burly security guards in long black trenchcoats and matching hats stood outside every store, watching for shoplifters.
The freezing wind was really miserable after a while. It didn’t take much convincing for us to drop in a Butler’s Chocolate Cafe and grab some hot chocolate. I chose the white hot chocolate which was boiling hot (and of course I burned myself) but also very rich and sweet. Butler’s also had boxes of various chocolates including some with honeycombs in them. Mmmm … Butler’s. It was definitely not the last time we went there.
One of the things that you can see from McConnell Street is the fairly new Millenium Spire, more officially known as the Spire of Dublin or the Monument of Light. If you ask a local, you’ll get one of many different risque nicknames for the structure! Part of the reason Anna Livia’s statue was moved from the river was to make way for the Spire. Completed in 2003, it stands at nearly 400 feet. When you get up close, you can see a lighter silver artwork all around the base. I have to say that from a distance it looked like a giant flagpole to me, heh heh. I was especially fascinated to see it up close because the area in which it stands has recent tragic history. From 1809 to 1966, a granite/limestone monument to English viscount Horatio, Lord Nelson stood on the spot. The approximately 170-foot tower, known as Nelson’s Pillar, was very similar to one that can currently be seen in London at Tralfagar Square. The monument was always seen as somewhat controversial, but it was still a surprise when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a bomb that completely destroyed it. Well over three decades later, the Spire is its replacement.
As night approached, we got a cheap meal at Cafe Kylemore in the O’Connell area. Despite the name, it was really a big bustling cafeteria. We saw lots of tired Christmas shoppers sitting down for a meal. Going through the line, I saw all these huge sandwiches. Um, it’s probably weird that I noticed something like that, but I kept seeing them everywhere – basically like a deli sandwich on regular sliced wheat bread, but with a ton of different fillings stuffed in there all at once. I picked out some stew and burned myself again. It’s not the food’s fault, it’s just me.
We went back to the hostel to wait for Leigh, who made it safely. Yay! She met our other hostel friends and we hung around a bit before we four ladies headed out to find Leigh something to eat for dinner. We wound up at Abrakebabra again! Yeah, yeah – we were all kind of broke and it was the cheapest thing we could find that wasn’t something we could get in America. We wanted to save our dough for more authentic things later!
It was time for some clubbing. First we visited The Globe/Ri-Ra, a little club/pub set-up. As far as I can tell, the big friendly pub upstairs is The Globe and the little club downstairs is Ri-Ra. As it was the middle of the week, there weren’t a ton of people there, but some after-work crowd. We had some beers upstairs (or I did – the other girls don’t like beer, but I was in HEAVEN with all the Guinness!) and then went downstairs after a while to dance. We were amazed that no one tried to really bother us, four ladies who by all appearances were single. People laughed and smiled but all the elements of nightclubs that I hate the most were conspicuously absent. There was an interesting mix of people at the club, from an artsy-nerdy type who did interpretive dances across the floor to a loud bloke doing a chorus line kick and very enthusiastically singing about his beer. By this point I had noticed many, if not most, of the Irish we had seen in the clubs were drinking American beer like Miller and Budweiser.
We took Leigh over to Pal Joey’s after that so she could enjoy the cozy atmosphere. We met some characters there and had a good time. There was a boy who passed out on one of the couches for a good 20 or 30 minutes until the bouncer got annoyed, slapped him awake, and kicked him out. Oh my my.
We had a bit of a long walk back, but it was very memorable. Crowds of young people roamed through the streets shouting and calling to one another. I’m guessing we passed by the Dublin Zoo as I suddenly heard the sounds of wild animals, including a lion roaring. We saw some wild animals of a different sort as we passed two fellas having a loud argument with a third trying to mediate as they yelled “Let’s dance!” at one another. We stopped by a small market where I bought a shepherd’s pie which wasn’t very appetizing. Crystal got me a Turkish Delight candy bar which is also really nasty. (I hear the real stuff is delicious though.) Once again, someone asked me where I was from and was surprised to hear I was American. They thought I just had a slightly-off local accent. Back outside, two drunken dudes ran up acting crazy and silly. They stopped to take a picture with us, then ran away ahead of us, where we saw them erupt into a fistfight that stopped literally three seconds later, then ended with them walking away arm in arm singing. I felt like I was in a much larger version of Blacksburg all of a sudden! How awesome!
And that was the end of Day 2! Coming up next: Day 3 – A sightseeing trip around some of Ireland’s most historic places, followed by an evening with a very kind Irish native.
A note on the pictures: All photos shown were taken by myself, Leigh Turpyn, Beth McKinney, or Crystal Smith. At this point many of the picture files are jumbled and it’s hard to tell who took what! (If it looks like a grainy 35mm, it was probably me – nope, no digital camera back then!) I’ve tried to give credit wherever possible.