The Dublin Tourist Circuit

Thursday, May 19, 2011 | Dublin, Ireland (map)

The Temple Bar district makes a fun hangout for bachelor/bachelorette parties, tourists, and locals alike.
For as long as I can remember, in the back of my mind I have been able to hear my mother's voice reciting "Before I die, I have to see Ireland." The land of her great-grandparents loomed large in her mind as much for the ancestral connections as for the cool weather, rolling green hills, and friendly, English-speaking locals.

As my mother's Christmas gift last year, my sister Maggie and I agreed to shoulder the bulk of the costs for a 10-day tour of Ireland. Maggie found a solid travel provider that organized self-driving tours along a variety of routes—we picked the dates and a loop across the country and they made all the arrangements.

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Our plans were interrupted right off the bat at the Dublin Airport, where my mom and sister announced an unscheduled stop to watch "the royal wedding." European and American tourists were
clustered around big-screen TVs set up throughout the airport. Based on the fire hose of news coverage surrounding the nuptials (even in Ireland, a land with a history of friction with the British monarchy, to say the least), someone who didn't know better might have thought the ceremony was the most important global event in decades.

Soon enough, however, we were in downtown Dublin. We grabbed lunch at food stalls beside a canal, walked to the Oscar Wilde statue at Merrion Square Gardens, and watched white-clad cricketeers play on the neatly clipped front lawn of Trinity College. That afternoon we picked up a hop-on/hop-off bus, which featured colorful commentary on the city's attractions. (The famous Molly Maguire sculpture was "the tart with the cart" and the Spire of Dublin was "the stiletto in the ghetto.") We took the obligatory tour of the Guiness brewery and ended the day with live Irish music and dancing at the Irish House Party, where the performers delighted in pulling audience members from the crowd for awkward impromptu dance lessons. (Just my luck, I got picked, and fumbled through a swirling jig with a young Scottish girl.)

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The next morning, while the girls shopped, I spent the morning at Dublin Castle, perusing the gardens and the Islamic manuscript collection at the Chester Beatty Library. Next, I wandered through the Temple Bar area, which reminded me strongly of Lisbon's grungy Bairro Alto district.

As I walked down the sidewalk past a pair of Irish lads in track suits and gold necklaces, one pointed a chubby finger down at my neon yellow sneakers and remarked, "Lovelies, those." He could have been right out of Snatch or Layer Cake. (Note to all people from the British Isles: This is what Americans think of you when you talk and dress like that.)

We spent the night out in Temple Bar, dining, pub hopping, and watching the buskers perform and Dublin's many bachelor and bachelorette parties flit from bar to bar.

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