Dublin Guys’ Getaway Weekend

Whether you’re a party type, a history buff, a nature enthusiast, whiskey connoisseur, or simply want to check Ireland off the bucket list, just about everyone wants to see Dublin. A list of stops for the perfect guys’ weekend.

Offaly and Westmeath play in the Leinster football championship. Croke Park, Dublin
Gaelic Football. Offaly and Westmeath play in the Leinster football championship. Croke Park, Dublin. Photograph, Eoghan McNally — Shutterstock.

After six years living in Dublin, I’ve had to come to grips with one undeniable truth.  Whether you’re a party type, a history buff, a nature enthusiast, a whiskey connoisseur, or simply want to check Ireland off the bucket list, just about everyone wants to see Dublin.  And tiny Dublin is well able to meet your needs.

But, for a group of guys (“lads” in local parlance) looking to get away for a few days of male camaraderie and bonding, the Irish capital is particularly well suited to the task.

With a compact downtown that’s easily reached from the airport and boasts hotels in every price range, hundreds of bars/pubs and restaurants, whiskey shops, sports venues, and great steaks (minus the steakhouse prices), Dublin has it all.  But the wealth of choices can be a bit daunting.

What follows is one American ex-pat’s highly subjective (but, of course, 100% spot on) list of stops for the “perfect” guys’ weekend in Dublin. And I’ve included a few stops where you lads can pick up something for that special someone back at home.

Kevin and Howlin. Photograph, Glenn Kaufman

Kevin & Howlin (Wool and tweeds) Acting under the assumption that you’ll want to look the part of an Irishman (or know someone at home who might), this is the go-to spot for flat caps, tweed vests and jackets, and wool scarves that are easy to pack and make great gifts.
31 Nassau Street (www.kevinandhowlin.com)

Celtic Whiskey Shop, Dublin.
Celtic Whiskey Shop, Dublin. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Celtic Whiskey Shop (Wine and Spirits) This shop is, hands down, Dublin’s best (and most convenient) shop for everyone from whiskey aficionados to the whiskey curious.  Yes, it’s in a tourist district, but the selection is so extensive, and the prices so good, that it’s the preferred whiskey stockist for locals.  Bottles on offer include not just the full range of Irish whiskeys, but a deep selection of Scotch whisky as well.

The Celtic Whiskey salespeople are not pushy, offer regular tastings, good advice, and will ship your purchases home (though it’s expensive unless you’re shipping in quantity).  The Celtic Whiskey Shop also has an entire wall of sample (airline-sized) whiskey bottles, so you can put together a selection of your favorites rather than buying full bottles.  And for the wine lovers in your party, the other half of their name is “Wines on the Green”.
27-28 Dawson Street (http://www.celticwhiskeyshop.com

Whiskey tasting in the Celtic Whiskey Shop
Whiskey tasting in the Celtic Whiskey Shop. Photograph, Glenn Kaufman.

Peterson of Dublin (Tobacconists) – If you’ve left home without cigars for the weekend, or fancy a classic pipe to compliment your new flat cap, Peterson of Dublin has been supplying Dublin with pipes, cigars, and all things tobacco since 1865.

Peterson of Dublin. Photograph, Glenn Kaufman.
Peterson of Dublin. Photograph, Glenn Kaufman.
Cuban cigars in Peterson's humidor. Photograph, Glenn .Kaufman
Cuban cigars in Peterson’s humidor. Photograph, Glenn .Kaufman

In addition to a wall full of pipes (their signature product), and a wide selection of their own branded tobacco, tools, pouches, lighters, and sage advice, they have a walk-in humidor of Cuba’s best. Yes, you heard correctly.  If you’re from the U.S.A, this is Ireland, where there are no trade restrictions, so Peterson’s humidor specializes in Cuban cigars.
48-49 Nassau Street (www.peterson.ie)

Gaelic Football. Offaly and Westmeath play in the Leinster football championship. Croke Park, Dublin. Photograph, Eoghan McNally — Shutterstock.

Croke Park (Sports) –  If you and your mates fancy a match while you’re in town, then “Croker” is the place to go.  It’s Dublin’s premiere stadium, the third largest in Europe, and the home of GAA (the Gaelic Athletic Association, which promotes traditional Irish sports).  Under the GAA banner, the stadium hosts Gaelic football and hurling matches.  It’s also possible to catch soccer (football) and rugby matches. And, in keeping with its involvement and promotion of indigenous sports, Croke Park is also home to the GAA Museum, a fascinating repository of all things Irish sports.
Jones’ Rd, Drumcondra (www.crokepark.ie) (www.gaa.ie)

Steak and chips at the Larder.

The Larder (Steaks, Wine, and Other Good Food) – The Larder is a local favorite for steaks, seafood, and a fresh twist on ‘classic Irish’ fare, Centrally located, but off the beaten path, you’d never hear of it unless a “local” told you about it (you’re welcome).

Prices are reasonable, and the Irish beef (always a good bet) is top notch.  As it’s a fairly small room, it’s best to make reservations in advance (always good advice in Dublin). 8 Parliament Street www.thelarder.ie01-633-3581

Dublin Writers Museum (History & Literature) In a city and country known for its writers, the Dublin Writers Museum is a great place to learn the history of town and country through the lens of its creative class.  The museum is also located just across the street from the Garden of remembrance, a memorial to all those who lost their lives in the struggle for Irish independence.18 Parnell Square North(http://www.dublin.info/writers-museum/)

Avoca (Irish Products and Gifts) – Also located near Nassau Street (Peterson’s, Celtic Whiskey Shop, etc.) Avoca is a sprawling emporium of wool and gifts (Irish and other).
11-13 Suffolk Street (www.avoca.com)

Dublin Pub. Photograph, Glenn Kaufman.
Dublin Pub. Photograph, Glenn Kaufman.

Pubs – I’ve deliberately avoided pubs on this list.  There’s plenty online about Dublin’s several thousand pubs, and, frankly, labeling any one as “the best” or “the perfect Irish Pub” is like labeling the best “air”.

That said, you should visit your first pub in Ireland/Dublin armed with a bit of the lingo:

Cider – Hard cider.  A fermented (sparkling) drink made from apples, and generally on the sweet side.  “Dry” cider will be less sweet, while “medium” cider can almost be too sweet.

Crisps – In Ireland potato chips are referred to as “crisps”.  And in pubs, the preferred type is usually salt & vinegar, cheese & onion, or Pringles.

Chips – In Ireland, French fries are “chips”, and are usually thick cut (chunky), as opposed to the thin cut (skinny) chips.

A Glass – A half pint.  In Ireland, you’ll generally get a pint of beer or cider unless you ask for “a glass of Guinness,” etc.

Toastie – A hot ham and cheese sandwich, often made in toaster behind bar. This may well be the only food available in the pub.

Whether you’re a group of old friends or a group who’ve come together from different worlds (to celebrate a buddy’s wedding, etc.), Dublin offers a wide range of things for you to see, do, bond over, and places to buy gifts for the missus.

If you like good food, drink, sports, history, cigars, tobacco, or perhaps always fancied one of those caps John Wayne wore in ‘The Quiet Man,” Dublin is where you ought to go.

Cheers,
Glenn K.

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man.

Glenn Kaufmann

Glenn Kaufmann is a freelance travel, food, and film journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.  As a child of the American South, he has a weakness for buttermilk biscuits.  As an escapee from Los Angeles, he has a love for seeing beaches and deserts in the same day. And, now, in Ireland, he’s developed a fondness for whiskey (and a collection to match).

Turning Two in Ireland

My blog hit its second anniversary while I was in Ireland for a travel blogging conference, TBEX Europe.

There’s a symmetry to this for me: as a traveler delving into a new country for the first time; as a writer and lifelong lover of literature arriving in the home of James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw;  as a student in the business of blogging, here to learn more.

Shamrocks
Shamrock, symbol of Ireland. The word comes from the Irish Gaelic word, seamróg. Photo by Quentin REY on Unsplash.
a pint of the black stuff, Guinness Stout
A pint of the black stuff. Love Guinness! Photograph, Ann Fisher.

My blog hit its second anniversary while I was in Ireland for the travel blogging conference, TBEX Europe.

There’s a symmetry to this for me: as a traveler delving into a new country for the first time; as a writer and lifelong lover of literature arriving in the home of James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw; as a student in the business of blogging, here to learn more.

So over the course of my week in Ireland, I raised many pints of Guinness and multiple  glasses of Irish whiskey to life, to travel, and to my anniversary. Sláinte!

River Liffey in Dublin
The River Liffey flows through Dublin, dividing the city into two distinctively different halves. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

 Three Days in Dublin

Looking through the gate of Christ Church Cathedral. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

It is impossible to know Dublin in only three days, but my friend Pat Wetzel of Cancer Road Trip and I gave it our all (you’ll find find Pat’s account of our doings in Dublin here). We started with an overview tour, then delved into: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle, Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse, the Joyce Center, and the Writers Museum, drank plenty of Guinness, and sampled some amazing Irish whiskey.

On jet-lag Friday, we went to the Guinness Storehouse to learn more about how the Black Stuff is made.

The Storehouse is in the St. James Gate Brewery in a fermentation building dating from 1904. It’s a slick museum of Guinness, and the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland. What did I think? Well, the words tourist trap come to mind. The Gravity Bar at the very top of the Storehouse has an amazing 360° view of Dublin, and would be an excellent place to enjoy that pint of Guinness that comes as part of your entry fee — except that it was so crowded when we were there that we could barely move.

After preparing for rain, we were blessed with good weather — and when the sun came out during our visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we made a beeline for the green to take advantage of the light.

St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin Ireland
St. Patrick’s was founded in 1191, but most of the current building dates to the 1800’s. It is the National Cathedral of Ireland, and both the largest and tallest cathedral in the country. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Temple Bar Dublin
On the street in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

We wandered from St. Patrick’s to Christ Church, then into Temple Bar to find a good pub for lunch. Temple Bar is an area of Dublin bounded by the River Liffey and Dame Street, then Fishamble Street and Westmoreland Street on the east and west sides. It’s home to things such as the Irish Photography Center, the Gaiety School of Acting, and the Irish Stock Exchange, then in the evening it’s the center of a lively nightlife — so there are plenty of pubs :-).

We found one to our liking (BadBobs) and settled in to review photographs and talk. The lamb shank I ordered to accompany my Guinness was outstanding.

Badbobs Temple Bar
The lamb shank at BadBob’s pub , served with carrots, parsnips, and mashed potatoes was flavorful and tender. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

James Joyce and Dublin

Saturday afternoon found us on a walking tour: Introducing Joyce’s Dublin. Parts of the route followed in Leopold Bloom’s footsteps, and other stops, like the one at the Gresham Hotel, took us into stories in The Dubliners, such as The Dead. I thought the tour was great, and anyone interested in 20th century literature will enjoy seeing Dublin through Joyce’s eyes. The James Joyce Center offers several different tours that change from week to week, and when I return to Ireland, I’ll try a different one.

While I easily loved The Dubliners the first time I read it, Ulysses deviled me as a college student. The stream of consciousness style of James Joyce’s writing can be difficult to handle — it requires dedicated attention. Yet it is listed as one of the top 100 novels in the English language, and for a lover of writing, it’s a must-read. The Joyce Center has inspired me to attack the book again, this time with both Ulysses: Dublin Illustrated Edition and the audio version with two narrators: Ulysses Audiobook (additional information about the narrated version is at the bottom of this article).

Following our Joyce tour, we went to see the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial to those who died in the Easter Rising of 1916. Then, still on a literary high — we noticed the Writers Museum across the street from the garden, and went in to explore. I found it disappointing. While they do have a small, interesting collection of letters and books, the displays were incredibly dated, and for most people, this is not a great way to spend limited time in this special city.

Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Photograph, Marc Lechanteur — iStock Photo

The Book of Kells, Trinity College

Book of Kells
Page from the Book of Kells, one of the world’s great illuminated manuscripts.

On Sunday, we made our way to Trinity College. Mission: see the Book of Kells and the Long Room in the Old Library. The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the gospels of the New Testament dating from ca. 800 AD, was created at the Columban monastery in Ireland. It is one of this country’s great national treasures.

I would strongly recommend booking tickets for the Book of Kells ahead, and even with this, expect to stand in line for at least twenty minutes. You’ll see the Long Room of the Old Library after you finish viewing the exhibition about the manuscript.

When you know you have to return . . .

The clock was ticking down towards our train ride to the conference.

On our last Dublin afternoon, we drove past the bullet-riddled columns of the GPO, the General Post Office — rebel headquarters for the Easter Rising. I turned my head to watch the building recede, knowing that I’d have to return to “go deep” in Ireland, to really know and understand this country. So I raise my glass to Dublin, and simply say — “I like you too well to leave. And I’ll be back.”

Ah! Ow! Don’t be talking! I was blue mouldy for the want of that pint. Declare to God I could hear it hit the pit of my stomach with a click. — Ulysses, James Joyce

Practical Notes: Hotels

We stayed at the Conrad Hotel near St. Stephen’s Green for our first three nights in Dublin, which was outstanding. It really exceeded my expectations. The service level of the staff was outstanding, and the room very comfortable. Breakfast was included in our rate, and I thought the buffet was very good.

Hotel in Dublin: The Conrad

Our one unpleasant experience was at Harrington Hall in Dublin on our final night after our rail trip back from Killarney. The Conrad was not available when I booked, so we chose the Harrington for the last evening before we flew home. It is also near St. Stephen’s Green, but unfortunately right across the street from very noisy nightclubs. There is no air conditioning, and we had to open a window because the room was a bit stuffy. Even though our room was at the back of the hotel, we listened to racket from the bars all night long — things didn’t go quiet until around 4:00 am. Never again.


Reading James Joyce

For anyone who’s struggled with Ulysses, and would like to have another go at it, I found Tadhg Hynes comments on recording the audio book interesting, and the audio excerpt on Amazon engaging. I’ve just started listening to this version on Audible, while reading the Ulysses Dublin Illustrated Edition — makes SUCH a difference. If you’re thinking that this approach might work for you, I’d encourage you to listen to the audio excerpt to see what you think.

 

Narrator Tadhg Hynes: “I first decided to record Ulysses in October 2015. Little did I know then what an unforgettable 18 months lay ahead. Having already recorded Dubliners and Portrait (and being terrified of Ulysses), I decided to give myself a year just to read it. However, after about four episodes I started recording it and became hooked.

Being a Dubliner and having the privilege of walking the pages of this book daily, it became a world that absorbed me totally. Almost everywhere I went in Dublin, Joyce was there. I kept coming across phrases from the book in real life. I was born in Holles St. Hospital some 60 years after the Oxen of the Sun episode was set there. While the city has moved with the times, it’s still unavoidable to get the sense of Joyce’s Dublin even now. . . . I’ve tried to bring out the Dublin wit and the unique language of its people, and I hope that this adds to the enjoyment of this great book.

“I would like to add a special note of thanks and admiration to the wonderful reading of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, given by Kayleigh Payne. Famed for its lack of punctuation and rambling nature, this iconic piece of writing is beautifully interpreted and sensitively portrayed. Kayleigh’s work has brought a new dimension to the recording, and I am eternally grateful.” — from Victorian Classics Audiobooks


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