Posted in Europe on March 2, 2011
Dublin was always a place I’d felt like I’d been before, even though I only made my first visit to the city a few weeks ago. I know so many people, and have so many friends, who either come from Dublin, live in Dublin, or who have visited the city frequently. So when I finally rocked up into Dublin Ferry port, my visit to the city felt long overdue.
Walkable City Centre
The first thing I noticed about Dublin upon arrival is how small the city is! I’d always pictured Dublin to be this big bustling city for some reason, but when you consider that Ireland as a whole only has a population of around 4.5 million, less than my home country of Scotland, then of course Dublin was never going to be a huge metropolis. For a budget traveller this really works in your favour as other than making your way from the airport or ferry port into town, you don’t ever need to use public transport if you are based even remotely centrally. This can save you a lot of money in what is often a very expensive city to live in. I could quite easily walk from one end of Dublin city centre to the other in around 20 minutes. The only other times I used public transport was on the occasions where I got lost, or when there was heavy rain. Otherwise there was really no need.
Of all the places I have visited on this particular trip, Dublin is by far the closest in relation to Scotland. Irish culture is so similar to Scottish, that Dublin really did just feel like home for me. Everything from the food we eat, to how much we drink, our traditions, history, our Celtic origins, the way we look, and even our accents are also quite similar. Anytime I travel outside of Western Europe, in particular to places like Australia and the USA, people are always asking me where in Ireland I come from! I’ve got Irish heritage somewhere down the line so I suppose it’s not too far a guess if you’ve never really heard a Scottish accent before, and as long as you don’t call me English I really don’t care (joke). From a personal point of view however, having been travelling through mainland Europe for just under 2 months, finishing up in Dublin was a great opportunity to experience a few home comforts that I’d been missing while away. Something as simple as being able to watch the football (soccer) in the pub, have a good pub lunch, and a pint of Bulmers (Magners to those of you based outside of Ireland), was exactly the little break I needed to get me re-energised for the next trip ahead, for which I will be departing soon.
I arrived in Dublin just prior to the Irish elections taking place, leaving only only a number of days before the vote in which Fine Gael and Labour took the most seats. As we speak they are currently deciding on whether a coalition can be formed, and I must say from a traveller and neutral foreigners point of view, having only read about the EU loan bailout, and harsh economic times that Ireland is going through right now through the media, it has been particularly interesting to visit the country during this time, and see what effect this has had for myself. It will be even more interesting to go come back at some point over the coming months and/or years, and see how or if things change, and also step outside of the capital for a bit.
Certainly from my point of view, while I was in Dublin, there really was no major signs of an economic downturn that were visible on the surface from where I could see, other than possibly a few disbanded stores in a few small shopping precincts. At least it wasn’t any more noticeable than anything I’ve seen back home in Scotland or in the UK anyway. Of course the stats may tell a different story, and from what I’ve heard it is other towns and cities such as Limerick which have born the brunt of this economic downturn in Ireland, as apposed to the country’s capital. Certainly from where I was standing however, people just seemed to get on with what they were doing, and everything seemed very normal.
An old flatmate once asked me a few years ago after seeing the types of guys I brought home or went out with, whether my type was “basically just any guy with dark hair and an accent!” I’d like to think that I’m a bit more picky than that. I mean, I always go for nice eyes too! All joking aside though, if ever there was a country in contention with Italy for the type of men you’d like to swoop you off your feet, Ireland has got to be it. Now don’t get me wrong, for every dark haired, blue eyed, funny and charming Irish man you’ll meet in Dublin, there is usually a numpty in a football top and tracksuit bottoms wearing his socks over his trousers standing somewhere else nearby, but hey, we can’t all be perfect!
I was very fortunate to have a few friends based in Dublin when I arrived to give me the lowdown on where’s good to go, as well as being able to meet up with the likes of HostelWorld’s Colm Hanratty, who as a local himself took me to a really cool local restaurant, Green 19 (on Camden Street), as well as to some local and authentic Irish pubs such as Whelan’s and Keogh’s, away from the tourist trail that is Temple Bar. One thing my friends from the South side pointed out however, and that I did notice to an extent, was the difference between being north of the river Liffey, and South of it.
Where I was staying was just North of the river, and where my friends stayed was just South, but despite the very short distance between both areas, they both had an entirely different feel to them. I think the reputation that North Dublin is a bit rough, tough, and scruff is maybe a little bit unfair, but it was quite apparent that a lot of the nicer pubs, bars, and restaurants were south of the river. From a lot of the local people I spoke to, there did also seem to be a bit of rivalry between the north and south sides of the city too. Even something as simple as me asking where the best street to go shopping made this become apparent. People in the south side said I should go to Grafton Street, and people in the north said that shopping on Henry street would be much better. I found both to be very similar, with a lot of the same kind of shops.
I think where you notice the divide a little bit more however is when you get lost. A few times I got lost south of the river I always ended up walking by plush apartment blocks. When I got lost once over in the north side however, I walked into an area where I was very conscious not to take out my map and distinguish myself as a tourist. It may just be luck and where I’ve randomly ended up in, but from what I could see there was definitely a different character to each. The South seemed more plush, and the north seemed a bit more rough, but on the plus side I found cheaper pubs there!
– Dublin is a really cool city in a very understated way. It’s not like places such as Sydney or Paris with huge and iconic pieces of architecture, or a place to tour museums (although all the main galleries/museums are free in Dublin if you do want to do that). Dublin is a place to hang out. It’s the people here which make Dublin interesting. It will never be as beautiful as some of the other places you may pass on your travels, but that’s not what coming to Dublin is all about. I met a bunch of interesting characters while out and about in Dublin. Whether it was the chatty taxi driver who drove me from Busaras to Dublin Ferry port for under 3 Euros (it usually costs over 12 Euros) just because I said Dublin was cool, or the crazy Brazilians in my hostel dorm room who liked to Samba at 8.30am in our dorm room every morning and wake me up to join in! Or the wee old men in the pub who would teach me Irish slang words in exchange for learning some Scottish ones! I met a lot of crazy (the good kind of crazy) people in Dublin while I was here. Everybody just seemed to have a bit of chat, or something to say, but more importantly, and the reason why I enjoyed my week long stay in Ireland’s capital so much was that a day in Dublin was never boring! It may have a reputation as being a bit of a stag/hen party destination, but look beyond that and you’ll find a very down to earth city filled to the brim with character!