Dublin, ye drive me barking bonkers but I love ye anyways!

You know, Dublin is a lovely place. It's very easy to fall in love with. Most people I've met/spoken too said "it was love at first sight". Personally, it took me about five minutes to make up my mind. Dublin pretty much at me at hello even though I arrived at Dublin airport in the middle of the night - you can read about that adventure here. That was more than half a decade ago. Although I sometimes vent a lot these days, I still love Dublin with all my heart. I will tell you why but first up here's a few reasons why Dublin drives me bonkers:

1) Dublin Bus

The culprit - Bus Átha Cliath!

There's a bunch of things very wrong with Dublin Bus. For one there is the fact that the blasted things are never on time and seem to follow a calendar rather than a clock. With some bus numbers you're best of to jump on when you see the bus, because, trust me, you never know when you may see it again. I joke not. Improvements have been made to better the service but there are gaping holes that require some serious attention. I'm not quite sure when these will get some attention but I can only hope it's sometime soon. Then there's the fact that you need the exact fare to board the bus unless you have a pre-paid ticket. Paying the exact fare isn't necessarily a bad thing and you do get a receipt, which you can redeem at Dublin Bus on O'Connell Street, when you overpay but well let's face it when the actual fare you have to pay ends up being less than a weekly / monthly bus ticket...annoying! Then there are those lunatic bus drivers who seem to lack a distinct knowledge of the rules of the road or those who are just downright rude and drive right by you even though you quite obviously indicated for the bus to stop*. Strangely enough you'll still say "thank you" when you stumble off the bus some half an hour later, battling a vicious bout of motion sickness.

*For those of you who don't know, Dublin buses won't actually stop even if there are people waiting at the bus stop. If you want the bus to stop for you, you hold out your hand and indicate to the driver.

2) Dublin City Centre

Getting from A to B - a piece of cake, right?

Google Maps advises that a leisure stroll from Stephen's Green Shopping Centre to The Spire on O'Connell Street (just over a kilometre in distance) should take less than 15 minutes and I'm going to shatter that blatant white lie now. That stroll does not take 15 minutes, especially on a Saturday afternoon when half the world decides Dublin City Centre is the place to be and don't even try to cross O'Connell Street on Paddy's Day (this year it took me and my friends 45 minutes!). If you're lucky you'll manage to fight your way down Grafton Street (which at times resembles a fully packed Japanese subway) in 15 minutes and that excludes stopping to window shop (any girl who tells me she manages to walk down Grafton Street without a spot of window shopping, well I ain't buying it!) or to admire the street performers and let me tell you street performers on Grafton Street are anything but dull. You'll find practically anything and everyone showing off their talent. I've rarely come across someone without talent. There are artists, comedians, rock bands, saxophone players, Irish trad bands, people who paint their entire body and / or wear funny costumes and stand still all day (and just when you pass, minding your on business and lost in your thoughts they decide to move or yell and scare the living daylights out of you!). If after all that you have arrived at the bottom of Grafton Street, good luck getting past that gorgeous gal everyone knows as Molly Malone*...

Dublin's Icon ;-)

Enjoy the live version by The Dubliners LIVE at Vicar Street

In Dublin's fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"
"Alive, alive, oh,
Alive, alive, oh",
Crying "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh".

*June 13th is Molly Malone Day, incidentally that is also my birthday, not that this has any thing at all to do with this blog but I felt like putting that out there ;-).

3) Snow, Irish Winter

A slightly more pleasurable side

An Irish Winter, with snow, ice, bitter cold minus temperatures, snow storms and all it's amenities is something you should experience at least once if you're prepared to go ice-skating on a side walk which was fit for walking only yesterday. You may also be forced to abandon your car in the middle of the road because it's completely snowed in and you can't move even an inch and if you really can't drive you may also end up skidding across the road and getting intimately acquainted with a tree. Getting to work may result in the exciting adventure of walking along the Luas tracks from Beechwood all the way to Sandyford (that's 15 minutes on the tram so you do the math!). After falling on the side walk and breaking your ankle some six times you may also struggle to get to the hospital, well not you but quite possibly the ambulance driver. Grafton Street will transform itself into a beautiful ice rink and you may quite possibly spend a few days at Dublin airport counting snowflakes should you have the insane idea to attempt to leave the country (Ireland loves you, don't like!). On the bright side, your work may call you and tell you not to come in because there's no way you'll make it without ending up with your car floating in Dublin Bay...unless of course you are the lucky one who lives down the road from work, then you'll be the only one, out of 29 team mates, in doing roughly six jobs at the same time. My condolences, I'll go make some coffee and buy some chocolate!

4) Dublin Traffic

Picture taken from an article in the NY Times

The mere thought of Dublin traffic induces panic, cold sweats, shivers and nausea in me. Sometimes I truly wonder how I am still alive because really, the amount of times I have narrowly escaped a wheel, side mirror, bumper or some other part of a reckless driver's car when crossing the road...if I had a penny for every time I got to the other side unscarred, well I could probably afford a holiday in the sun. Crossing the road in Dublin is definitely an adventure...especially because it seems that in Ireland a red traffic light means "walk" while green means "stop and stare". I have to admit I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to that but Dublin is home so to heck with it - and no crossing the road at a red traffic light is not the reason for my frequent near death experiences. Apart from fighting for your life when crossing the road on foot you should also be prepared for the fact that when riding your bike you will frequently get acquainted with the side mirrors of those cars that pretend to overtake you but really there's only one thing they're after and that's a free hug or a strand of your hair... Next we have the learner drivers, of which I am one (but at least I have an instructor with a second set of controls by my side) and well due to personal involvement I will not indulge in the subject any further.

After all that, I recommend for your own health and safety, you find the nearest pub and order a pint of the Black Stuff for medicinal purposes! After a couple of those you'll be fit for a good ol' sing-along to epic tunes such as "The Irish Rover", "Molly Malone", "The Fields of Athenry" or "A Fairytale of New York"! Let me tell ya, it's not only the Chinese who love Karaoke, the Irish love it too and when they get going the whole pub will join in - those leprechauns know how to part-ey.

Guinness, baby!
Yes, folks, I drink Guinness and I love it too! In my opinion you can't not drink the Black Stuff, heck President Barack Obama drinks it! A real pint, pulled properly from a fresh tab, well folks, their ain't nothing quite like it (feel free to disagree!)...that alone should suffice for me qualify me as a true Irish lass, especially cos I'm a picky Guinness drinker. If it's not perfect I sure as hell won't be downing a whole pint of it!

Swiftly moving on...too much drink without some good food, well I wouldn't recommend it although then I'm sure if I was to walk into any Irish bar now and do a survey, most people would strongly disagree with me...or shove a pint into my hand. But back to the subject of food...Ireland is the home of amazing breakfast fry-ups, soda bread, Black Pudding, Irish Stew, bacon and cabbage, boxty, coddle, and colcannon - I'm not even going to indulge you what half of these things are! In my humble opinion fish'n'chips is distinctly Irish too along with a good steak, chips and pint of gravy in a dark corner of yer local pub (with a pint of Guinness of course, whatever were you thinking of drinking with that?!)!

Bewley's Café, Grafton Street

But one of the best places to get some good food in Dublin (and I'm horribly biased on this, I apologise!) is Bewley's Café about half way down Grafton Street. The place is always packed, buzzing with what sometimes feels like 1000 different languages, the sound of glasses being clinked and dishes clattering. When you walk in your nostrils get assaulted by the pleasant smell of freshly ground coffee and your eyes almost pop out of your head as you admire all the fresh cakes (Bailey's Cheesecake, anyone?!) on display while trying your hardest not to walk into either  a waiter or another guests. The entire restaurant / café spans over three floors (it also includes a theatre well worth checking out) and if you're popping in for some coffee, tea, a cold apple juice and or some sandwiches / a small lunch head up to the Balcony or the James Joyce room.

Both have an excellent views over the buzzing Grafton Street and you can indulge in a spot of people watching while enjoying a hot/cold beverage. You may even snap the one or other awesome picture while admiring the décor and slapping your friend's magpie-ish fingers for the umpteenth time in hope that she will get the message - you will not share your pastry with you, she will have to order her own! If you're not into coffee, order some Bewley's Apple Spice Tea - I swear you won't regret it - and if it's too warm, there's a lovely assortment of Iced Coffees (with or without the coffee) on offer and the Irish Apple Juice is always worth a treat. If it's late and you'd prefer some actual dinner, head down into the restaurant and order away. The restaurant's specialities are pizza and pasta but they also have some amazing salads, soups and home-made bread dips...and don't forget the desserts!!! On a personal note, I'd like to recommend the olives as a starter...no really don't have to understand, in fact I believe it's better that you don't.

Now, after that biased account on where to eat in Dublin, if you're in the mood for a drink after that amazing dinner you won't be left stranded in Dublin. There's a pub or bar at every corner and Dublin isn't short of clubs either. There's some big no's but mostly agreeable yes's. I generally only tag along with friends when something is organised so to actually find a proper place in Dublin to recommend to you would take me a while... but in my humble opinion World's Best Bars has a good few recommendations with ratings, maps, pics and additional info. I've been to a few of those places myself although I must honestly admit I don't remember all that much of those nights (*cough* ...ahem... *cough*)! Instead let me recommend you three more restaurants that offer really good Italian food (I seem to have a preference for that when going out)...

Carluccio's Caffe on 52 Dawson Street
Ciao Bella Roma on 24/25 Parliament Street
Il Posto on 10 St Stephen's Green

I have been to all three and they are fantastic but for the best Italian food, do head down to Ciao Bella Roma, a cosy little place near Dublin Castle that's buzzing with Italian chatter, herbs, great food, great atmosphere and fantastic deserts. I will make a concious effort to add some great places for some food that's a little less "worldly" and a little more Irish but please bear with me as I'd like to recommend you something good which means I will go there myself at least once before I send you there.

With good food and good drink out of the way, one would think I'm now going to get started on things to see in Dublin...oh you couldn't be more wrong. I'm going to leave that entirely up to you when you get there because let's face it I'm just gonna send you to The Guinness Storehouse or the Jameson Distillery - all of course because I have your best interest in mind, that goes without saying. :-)

Okay, seriously, I'm going to hook you up with a few things worthy to see but not in this blog post...if I told you everything now you'd never come back to visit and well I don't like that. I like guests on my blog, especially when they bring coffee and maybe some chocolate too - yes I am that easy and predictable, bite me! Another reason would that I'm presently starving and as much as I love you all - really - I get rather grumpy when I'm hungry so I'm sure you'll forgive me while I go and find something (read: a chocolate cherry muffin) edible in my kitchen. I'll be back sometime soon and I'm sure I'll have something to talk about and if not well then I'm just going to single out some bloggers and let them do the talking, that worked quite well the last time.

One more thing though, because, like I already said, I love you all so much, I leave you with this...and maybe a few hugs. Or leprechaun gold? I'm sure you prefer the latter although I don't actually have any of that but I have it on good authority that you're sure to find some if you walk to the end of a rainbow...sorry if that's not all that helpful. Want those hugs after all maybe?

Sunset over the river Liffey