09 NOV 2016:  What was the number one tourist destination in Europe in 2015? If you guessed the Sistine Chapel or the Louvre, lower your lofty cultural expectations. It was the Guinness Storehouse in the centre of Dublin. I wonder if that bit of trivia will make the Guinness World Records?

My recent visit proved that learning how to pull the perfect pint of stout is just one of many reasons to visit Ireland’s Capital. Dublin is also a UNESCO City of Literature and there are plenty of ways to discover famous writers of the past and present—from pub walks to writing workshops. Whatever your interests, I’m sure you will enjoy “Dear Old Dublin Town.”

Note: all prices are approximate.


Literary Corner

James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw...

Few countries in the world have produced so many prolific poets and writers as Ireland. Blame the breathtaking scenery, the beguiling history and leprechaun lore or the fact that the Irish seem to be blessed with the Gaelic gift of the gab.

The ideal place to start your literary ramble is at the Dublin Writers Museum. The 18th century mansion was once the home of the Jameson Irish Whiskey family. It seems that the “water of life” and writers are never far apart in Ireland.

Swift and Sheridan, Shaw and Wilde, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett are among those presented through their books, letters, portraits and personal items. The rooms house such treasures as James Joyce’s piano, an 1804 edition of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and the first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Next door the Irish Writers’ Centre offers creative writing workshops, lectures and readings for aspiring authors.
www.writersmu seum.com

Made in Ireland

Beautiful pieces, from Waterford Crystal to Celtic jewellery, will tempt you at the Kilkenny Shops in Dublin. The most central is on Nassau Street. The restaurant on the second floor, overlooking Trinity College, serves delicious Irish grub, such as scones, soda bread and seasonal soups.

Meet the Dubliners

The City of a Thousand Welcomes is an initiative to encourage tourists to immerse themselves in local culture and meet true Dubliners. It’s free. At the Little Museum of Dublin you are introduced to a local ambassador who will take you to a nearby bar, buy you a pint or a cup of tea and tell you a bit about the fair Dublin. Guaranteed good craic.

Soap Opera

James Joyce’s masterwork Ulysses details a single day (June 16) in the life of Leopold Bloom. At Dublin’s 10-day Bloomsday Festival, Joyceans, often dressed in Edwardian garb, follow in their hero’s every footstep. If you want to tread in Bloom’s tracks begin at Sweny’s, the funky old pharmacy where Bloom purchased a bar of lemon-scented soap.  Today they sell used books, a mishmash of antiques and the lemon soap (€4) ($5.90) . Every weekday at 1 p.m. there are Joyce readings by volunteers.

The Pub, the Poets and the Pints

For a night on the town you won’t forget, join Colm Quilligan’s Dublin Literary Pub Crawl where “brain cells are replaced as quickly as they are drowned.”

Start your crawl at the Duke pub where you’re invited to buy a drink (or not) and meet two talented actors in a back room who might recite some lines from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, (“the only play I’ve seen where nothing happened.”) Then it's past a couple of landmark buildings of Ulysses fame and onto the Trinity College campus where the actors delight crawlers with verses and tales of Oscar Wilde. A few more vintage pubs and a lot more lines and you’ll have had Dublin’s best crash course in history, architecture and literature all washed down with merriment and a few suds. Cost is €12 ($17.60) and you buy your own beverage.  

Thanks George Bernard Shaw

As a kid growing up in Dublin, George Bernard Shaw detested school so he played hooky by hiding out at the National Gallery where the curator turned a blind eye. When Shaw died in 1950, he bequeathed one third of his royalty income in perpetuity to the Gallery, thus enabling it to purchase European masterpieces that had been hidden and confiscated during WW2. Highlights include works by Caravaggio, Monet, Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt and Titian. Entrance is free.

Two for One

At The Winding Stair on Lower Ormond Quay, you’ll find one of Dublin’s oldest surviving independent bookshops selling both new and secondhand tomes. Take your time finding what you want and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee at one of two windowside tables. Up those winding stairs you’ll eat seasonal unpretentious fare such as Irish chowder and treacle bread.

The Dublin Pass

The Dublin Pass sightseeing card offers free entrance into more than 25 attractions, including the Dublin Zoo, several castles and museums and the restored Victorian home that was George Bernard Shaw’s birthplace. The Pass includes Hop on/Hop off Dublin Bus Tour that stops at major attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse. You can buy a one (€49) or multi-day Dublin Pass and it also includes a one-way coach transfer (with free WI-FI) from the airport into the city. It’s a great deal.

Mespil Hotel & Market

Located on the south side of Dublin beside the Grand Canal, the four-star Mespil Hotel is just a15-minute scenic walk to St. Stephens Green. Rooms are modern and spacious and the included Full Irish breakfast will keep you fuelled for hours.

Every Thursday, the Mespil Market is open from 11 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. It’s located on the banks of the Grand Canal just opposite the hotel entrance.

Guinness is Good For You

Head to the Guinness Storehouse where you’ll learn all about Ireland’s legendary brew and how it’s made. You’ll be one of about 1.5 million visitors per year. Arthur Guinness, who obviously had great foresight, signed a lease for the Guinness Storehouse for 9,000 years.  You’ll learn that it takes exactly 119.5 seconds to pull the perfect pint.  Pick up a souvenir from an astounding array of merchandise and wind up at the Gravity Bar for a complimentary pint and a fabulous view of Dublin. Adult admission starts at €14 ($20.55) (free with The Dublin Pass). More serious fans might consider the Connoisseur Experience.

The Mother of Irish Tomes

Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university, had a knack for turning out many of the Emerald Isle’s literary giants. Swift, Wilde, Stoker and Beckett…to namedrop a few. Trinity is also home to the 9th century illuminated Book of Kells. Each of the 680 pages in this work of art, surviving from the ages of Celtic Christianity, is decorated with elaborate patterns and mythical animals by the hands of scribes and monks of the monastery Kells.

Epicurean Emporium

Fallon & Byrne cover all of the bases for gourmets. Upstairs, the Restaurant offers a three-course pre-theatre menu for €30 ($44).

The ground floor Food Hall is the grocery store of dreams, also with a fine coffee and sandwich bar. The Cellar houses wine from every corner of the world where you can buy a bottle or linger over a glass or two and some nibbles. They charge just €1 corkage on all wines from the cellar shelves every Monday & Tuesday (excluding December).

Champagne, Oysters and Your Irish Roots

Peter O’Toole hung out at Dublin’s posh Shelbourne Hotel. In fact, the actor bathed in champagne during one of his more infamous stays. In his memory, consider some bubbles and freshly shucked oysters at the No. 27 Bar & Lounge. Guests of the Shelbourne can also unearth their family tree by arranging a consultation with the hotel’s Genealogy Butler. www.theshelbourne.ie

Tea and a Walk on the Wilde Side

Billing itself as the most lavish tea in town (€45 ($66) per person) Art Tea at the Merrion hotel offers exotic brews and infusions, delectable sweets and savouries  (inspired by Dublin artists) in the hotel drawing room that boasts an extensive art collection. Take an audio-guided tour of the Merrion’s exceptional private collection.

Down the street, a plaque beside the door commemorates Oscar Wilde’s childhood home at #1 Merrion Square. Just across the street in the park, you’ll find the reclining statue of the witty writer sprawled out over a large boulder. He flaunts a pink-trimmed dinner jacket and a smug expression. The statue has been dubbed “the Fag on the Crag” and from what little I know about the nonconformist Wilde, I think he’d be tickled pink.


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Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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