In the 15 or so times I have visited Ireland, and even when I lived there as a student, Dublin has never been the focal point of my travels. I pretty much fell completely in love with Galway at the age of 19, studied there a couple of years later and loved it 5,000 times more, and though I didn’t think it possible, found even more to love when I became part of a family that’s partly based there. You might get tired of me writing about how much there is to see and do in the West of Ireland, but it’s so true. I still haven’t seen it all, and once you’ve seen one gorgeous, rugged vista, you want to see it again and again. There’s just a feeling, and I probably don’t do a very good job of describing it.
Dublin, on the other hand, while a great and special city in its own right, has never seemed that exciting to me. I live in a city, I grew up not far from a city (New York), and I have visited many world cities. It’s just not my favorite, especially when contrasted with the rest of the country. As I get older, I am also finding that when we go away, I prefer quiet country settings to cities for the bulk of the trip.
On this last trip, however, it so happened that our flight back from Italy left us with a night in Dublin. We actually considered taking a bus back to Galway, then back to Dublin the next day to fly to Boston, but eventually decided to have Galway family come to us. The result? A brilliant last night out in Ireland.
Visiting Dublin in early December definitely was a good idea; with its Georgian and Edwardian architecture and cobblestone streets decked out with twinkling lights and musicians, it felt festive and magical, the perfect setting for a family night out.
We had dinner reservations that fell through at the very last minute. A restaurant I won’t name actually decided to change our reservation for us, splitting our party into three groups across the restaurant. Because when we don’t see them more than few times a year, that’s exactly how we want to spend our last night.
Luckily, the Tearoom at the Clarence Hotel had an opening for our party of nine early enough that my baby nephew could come along. It ended up being perfect.
The Clarence might sound familiar, as it once had a famous owner, my other husband, Bono from U2. Unfortunately there were no Bono encounters on that particular night. There was, however, a lot of great food and wine.
The prix fixe menu was extremely reasonably priced and offer more selection than we could ever want. We all had a hard time deciding and ending up sharing plates. My husband and I shared the smoked salmon, which came with crostini and beautiful pickled vegetable relish. I had to have Irish smoked salmon on my last night in Ireland. We also shared the deep fried brie with cranberry chutney because who could turn down deep fried cheese? Both dishes were creative, fresh, and locally inspired.
My main was an interesting mix of fish and legumes, a response to my body’s need for something comforting yet really nutritious. By this point in our 15 day trip, I was exhausted and hoping to really start feeling great in order to start a new job on my return. I was only able to eat about a third; the combination was incredibly filling. If I wasn’t staying at a hotel, I most definitely would have brought it home with me.
I was definitely too full for dessert, but since it came with the meal, I decided to try the rice pudding.
I wasn’t crazy about the consistency of the pudding; it was thin and a little watery for my tastes, but the flavor of cardamom, along with the cherry compote were really delightful. A few bites were all I needed before I was ready to bundle up and wander around Dublin’s Temple Bar area.
It was a frosty night, and we made a fairly long trek to Dublin’s oldest bar, The Brazen Head for a night of drinks, music, and dancing.
Fun times with a good dose of sadness mixed in; we miss Ireland when we’re not there. Our fun night out in Dublin got us thinking that we should give it a little more attention next time we’re visiting.
Do you prefer city or country vacations?