Ireland: How to have a Craic-ing good time in Dublin – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: March 20, 2020 at 3:46 am


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"Craic"is Irish for drink more, you're falling behind.

Okay it's not, but at 11am on St Patrick's Day in Dublin, it might as well be. All around me, locals and tourists in various stages of inebriation keep slapping each other on the back and shoehorning the words "good"and "craic"into the same sentence (for the record, craic is a Gaelic word that means a fun time).

Who can blame them? Ireland is, after all, the spiritual home of drinking. And Paddy's Day (March 17), as the locals fondly refer to it, is one of the most celebrated holidays on Ireland's calendar.

"In Ireland, we say you should never have just one drink. After all, a bird never flew with just one wing," says my taxi driver.

I take his advice and subsequently can remember very little of my first visit to Ireland's capital (note to self: Guinness is the work of the devil).

Thankfully, late last year I got the chance for a do-over, when I discovered Dublin is a city of many faces.

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Pack an extra suitcase because no atter what your style, you'll find something to buy in Dublin.

READ MORE: *Kiwi expat tales: Returning to Dublin, Ireland 20 years after I first lived there *A traveller's sporting guide to the Emerald Isle *5 of the best places to celebrate St Patrick's Day

LITERARY DUBLIN

"English has only been spoken in Ireland for about 250 years but we were quick learners," laughs our Luxury Gold guide Siobhan. "In fact, Ireland has produced so many award-winning writers, literary masterpieces should be recognised as our chief export."

The heart of all that scribbling is Dublin, one of only 39 UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world (a list that also includes our own Dunedin). Once home to writers such as Jonathan Swift, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, Dublin is like Mecca for English lit grads (even those of us who can remember very little of tedious Monday morning lectures).

Because there are few cities that care as much about the written word as this historic capital. Wander down skinny lanes, stroll through Georgian squares and cross the River Liffey and you'll find heritage plaques dedicated to famous writers, bridges named after them and numerous literary place names.

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Temple Bar is the heart of Dublin's "good craic".

If time is limited, a Dublin Literary Pub Crawl is a good way to visit pubs and landmarks associated with the enormous body of Irish literature. A bonus is the entertaining tour guides who'll recite from famous books and letters, sing traditional drinking tunes and truly understand the meaning of the word "craic". Takeaway message: writers throughout the ages have been partial to a drink, such as poet Brendan Behan who described himself as "a drinker with a writing problem".

It's just past 3pm on a Saturday when I visit the Dublin Writer's Museum, but it's packed with students in black turtle-necks and serious glasses. Wedged into a grand 18th Century mansion (don't like literature? Come for the architecture), the museum was opened in 1991 to document the lives and works of Dublin's literary rock-stars over the past 300 years. That includes Swift, Shaw, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett whose backstories are told via books, letters and personal items. If these kind of things are important to you, check out the first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Sharon Stephenson

You're never far from music in Dublin, especially in lively Grafton Street.

HISTORIC DUBLIN

Dublin was originally founded as a Viking settlement way back in the 10th Century, so they've had a long time to work on their history.

And what a history it is from wars and famines to financial crises and Bloody Sunday. This being Ireland, there are also no end of churches, including the medieval Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick's Cathedral, where you'll find ancient tombs.

It's quirky and more than a bit cheesy, but the Little Museum of Dublin surely gets the Oscar for the World's Cutest Museum. It's tucked into a quaint 16th Century house and details the history of Dublin through the lives and possessions of its residents, including an early edition of James Joyce's 1922 classic novel Ulysses, U2 memorabilia and autographed photos of Sinead O'Connor and Brendan O'Carroll (of Mrs Brown's Boys fame).

Can you say you've submerged yourself in Dublin history if you haven't visited Trinity College? Probably not. Ireland's oldest university was founded in 1592 and boasts the country's largest collection of historic manuscripts and early printed texts, with an entire collection of around five million books. It's where you need to go to see the iconic ninth-century Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament, as well as, somewhat creepily, Jonathan Swift's death mask. Be prepared to queue.

Sharon Stephenson

The Samuel Beckett Bridge, by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, cuts a striking form over the River Liffey.

GREEN DUBLIN

You don't have to go far to find a slash of greenery in Dublin and when the sun comes out, so dothe Dubs (the locals' nickname for themselves).

"Dublin can be heaven with coffee at 11 and a stroll in Stephens Green", run the lyrics of the 1986 song The Dublin Saunter.

Even without caffeine, the 8ha St Stephen's Green is beautiful. Nature seems to have dialled up the green to maximum (all that rain is good for something)and it's easy to forget you're in the heart of one of Europe's most exciting cities.

A few leaps east of the city centre is Phoenix Park, at 707ha one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. It's where Pope John Paul II held mass in 1979, but it's also well known for its 400 or so wild deer.

Sharon Stephenson

Bewley's Cafe was founded in 1840 and has fed and watered numerous Irish literary stars over the years.

DRINKING DUBLIN

We had to get to alcohol sooner or later.

"A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub," says Leopold Bloom, a character in Ulysses.

Dial forward almost 100 yearsand not much has changed. If Paris has its cafs, then Dublin has its pubs close to 800 in a city of about 1.36 million. The HQ for Dublin watering holes is Temple Bar, a honeycomb of lanes filled with the highest concentration of bars in Dublin (there are also restaurants, boutiques and galleries).

Order a pint at the Oliver St John Gogarty bar, which features live traditional Irish music throughout the day. At The Porterhouse Brew Co, a bastion of Dublin's craft beer scene, I listen to bearded blokes with tattooed arms talk about the finer points of hops (or something like that; I get so bored I tune out).

Sharon Stephenson

This work by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro sits within the historic Trinity College grounds.

But Dublin has form with beer. Visiting the city and not stopping by the Guinness Storehouse is a little like going to New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty. The Storehouse's historic 22ha site is where Arthur Guinness gave his name to Ireland's national drink in 1759 (it's also Dublin's top tourist attraction).

Located at St James' Gate, it's the largest brewery in Europe and the interactive tour is a fascinating look back at the history of the iconic stout. The tour also details the story of Arthur Guinness and how he helped shape Dublin.

Afterwards, head to Gravity Bar on the top floor, where everyone gets a complimentary drink of what's been called Irish Champagne or the Black Stuff (I've sworn off after last time but my travelling companions tell me the Guinness here tastes fresher than anywhere else on the planet). The bar also boasts the best views in town and, of course, excessively good craic.

The writer was a guest of Luxury Gold's 12-day Ultimate Ireland journey. Now priced from $8035 per person, this journey includes dining experiences at Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury coach transportation, a travelling conciergeand luxury boutique accommodation, such as Ashford Castle, which is situated on a 350-acre estate in the countryside. See your travel agent, call 0800 568 769, or visit luxurygold.com

A return trip for one passenger in economy class flying from Auckland to Dublin would generate 2.66 tonnes CO2. To offset your carbon emissions head to airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset.

STAYING SAFE:Checksafetravel.govt.nzprior to travelling to stay updated on the latest travel advisories.

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March 20th, 2020 at 3:46 am

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