I first visited The Emerald Isle in September 2017 (read here), which I thoroughly enjoyed, and upon returning to the UK this year, I got invited along to a friend’s belated 30th Birthday week there. Savings were quickly running out after leasing and kitting out a flat from scratch, but why not, eh? I came here to travel more and to re-connect with my old friends, so off I went!
We got to the airport at 5am, ready for our 8am flight, which I oddly didn’t question at all – I just assumed that the timings were stricter now and went along with it. To my great surprise, we entered the 1903 Airport Lounge, which has changed my travel life. With an all-inclusive menu and drinks bar, and quite importantly for Manchester Airport’s terminal 3 – peace and quiet before you board – it was amazing. There was a breakfast buffet, a fancy coffee machine, open bar (plenty of bucks-fizz and liquor coffees) and as many magazines as you want. I’d love to do this again for an afternoon/evening flight. Of course, we all took advantage and literally made our flight by mere seconds. In fact, we were the last people on the plane, slightly worse for wear, but it’s one of those stories we laugh at the most from this trip. 😁
Upon arrival at 9am, we picked up a 72 Hour Travel Card, which is excellent value for money. As we couldn’t check into the apartment until 4pm, we had a day to burn, so we wandered to Temple Bar for cheesy tourist pictures and lunch at Checkpoint Pizza. Prior to this trip, we browsed Groupon for meal deals and that’s another thing that has changed my travel life when in a group. It’s much easier to know exactly where you’re going for lunch/dinner, so there’s no arguing or “I don’t mind what we have” chats. You also get some amazing deals, so it’s definitely worth a look before you go anywhere.
With a full stomach, we began to lag from the lack of sleep and early drinking, so we used our travel passes to get on board a Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. With the cold wind in our faces, this worked very well, and we got to see half the city from up high. We ended the afternoon with a drink at The Confession Box and headed to the apartment for naps and plenty of card games, ready to refuel for day two.
We were up bright and early for pancakes as Nicksy told us it was Pancake Day. It was not Pancake Day. The Guinness Storehouse Tour was first on the agenda, where our biggest achievement was getting two free pints of Guinness each (always sneak in your own red cordial), instead of the usual one drink. Rachel (Fred) even got to ring the Guinness bell for being the Birthday girl!
Educational morning, followed by further history at Kilmainham Gaol. This was a county gaol from 1796 to 1924, and you’re guided around with a running commentary. There is a LOT of information to digest, but I notably remember that the word ‘hangover’ comes from when people would come along to public hangings with a picnic and bottle of wine, and then the body would be “hung over” the wall.
After a quick nap and freshen up, we were ready for our first night out. Dinner was at Al Vesuvio (thanks Groupon), followed by a free stand-up comedy show at The Stags Head. I came to The Comedy Crunch show on my last visit to Dublin with Joe, and we still laugh about it today. For a free show and free ice cream, I definitely recommend it. We finished the night at Slattery’s Bar listening to live music in the upstairs lounge and enjoying their FREE food (chips and crumbed mushrooms), which the bar staff kindly shared around.
Another early morning to join in on the Free Walking Tour (usually worth €10) that we got with our travel pass. From the scene of the rising that shook the nation in 1916 to the gorgeous Trinity College, the tour takes 2.5 hours and covers many places around the city, with plenty of history along the way.
Many, many steps later, we had built up enough appetite for a late lunch at the Old Town Chinese restaurant, to enjoy a delicious 3-course meal with a glass of wine. This was another Groupon gem, although with it being Chinese New Year, we were restricted to a 3pm booking (really, it was the perfect start to a night out).
During my last visit to Dublin in 2017, I wrote in my blog post that I hoped to return one day so I could find a great Irish coffee. At Slattery’s Bar last night, we noticed their Irish coffee advertisements, so of course, we had to return. Slattery’s Bar is a genuine authentic Heritage Dublin bar with all the character and buzz you would expect. I got a Baileys liquor coffee and it was beautiful, with a perfect layer of fresh cream on top. Now I just want more!
We moved onto a few more pubs, but most notably, I enjoyed O’Donoghues Bar, which is known for its traditional Irish music. The entire bar is adorned with drawings and photographs of some of Ireland’s finest musicians, who have all played their part in adding to what has become the unique musical heritage of Dublin.
Sadly, our last day in Dublin arrived, so we treated ourselves to an Irish breakfast at Wuff. A Dublin local recommended this cosy, neighbourhood bistro to us, which just happened to be opposite our apartment, so a lovely morning stroll. One thing on my list today was to look in some gift stores for an Irish Christmas Bauble. Throughout my entire adult life, I’ve always collected postcards at every single place I’ve ever visited, but I felt this year like I wanted to collect something new as well. I really like the idea of bringing out my travel baubles once a year to hang on the tree so I can reflect on where I got them and the memories made there.
With a few more hours to burn until our flight, we headed to Trinity College – The University of Dublin to explore the grounds, before our final Groupon meal at The Hungry Mexican. We arrived back in Manchester exhausted and ready for a very big sleep, but I had such a lovely time feeling 18 again with my friends, so all very much worth it. I definitely have a sense of ‘closure’ with my need to see more of Dublin now, but I wouldn’t say no to a third visit! Always lots to do, and more to see each time.