When we first started looking at travel destinations and eventually picked Ireland and Scotland, we booked our tours first. This meant we could plan around the tour dates and decide how many days we could have to explore other locations in both countries!
Since we booked our tours in December of 2014 (yes, we were very excited and determined to make this trip happen!), this also meant we had extra time to wait for a good flight deal to appear. We pretty much monitored flights through Google Flight Search on a daily basis waiting for an amazing deal to show up. Once we were close to February we thought it was time to book a flight since prices would only increase the closer we got to the date!
En route to Dublin!
Luckily for us, one of our national carriers WestJet was having a seat sale! For around $650 (Canadian dollars) we booked our round trip flight to Dublin, from Vancouver. And from there, we would make our way to Scotland and back to Dublin for our return flight home. Seeing as it often costs $800+ just to fly over the pond from the West coast, we thought we got a pretty good deal! Anyone who is thinking of travelling to Ireland or Europe from either the East or West coast, you definitely should wait for a WestJet seat sale! The prices are affordable and you get there before you know it!
One downside was that we had 2 stop-overs, one in Toronto and the other in St. John’s, but they were direct connecting flights so there was no wait time! Another thing is that you might want to bring some snacks with you or be prepared to pay for your meals in the air or at the connecting airports. Unfortunately, no meals were included on any of the flights. They do provide complimentary beverage and snacks of crackers or cookies. But those will not last you 13+ hours! Tim Hortons is always a good option at Toronto Pearson Airport and it was our last taste of Canada before a month’s time away.
So…after 13+ hours, 2 stopovers, and lots of crackers and cookies, we made it to our first destination: DUBLIN!!!
Our first glimpse of the Emerald Isle
Our Shamrocker tour (which we will talk about in a future post!) would be leaving from Dublin but would not give us any time to explore the city itself. We decided that we should give ourselves a few days in Dublin before its start (3 days to be exact) and explore the capital city before embarking on an adventure and exploration of Ireland.
We landed in Dublin at 7am and were both exhausted but we already had our day planned and decided we would make the best of it!
After we got our luggage, we had to make our way from Dublin Airport to Dublin City Centre. Right outside arrivals was the Airlink 747 Bus service that was a direct route to city centre. It cost €10 for a return ticket and took us very close to our hostel.
Speaking of our hostel, we booked the Barnacles Temple Bar House Hostel which was literally 2 doors down from the iconic Temple Bar! It ended up being an ideal place to stay – having clean rooms, a great kitchen, free breakfast, free WiFi and plugs and light beside each bed (a big plus, as we would find out later on in our travels). We chose it because of its great reviews on Hostelworld and also because of its close proximity to where our Shamrocker tour would be leaving from. It would be an early start that morning, so we wanted to be as close to the pick up location as possible. We definitely recommend this for anyone doing any tours from inside a busy and cobblestoned city such as Dublin – pulling luggage on cobblestones isn’t an easy feat.
Iconic Temple Bar
So what was our first impression of Dublin? Well to be honest, the first thing we saw was a truck carrying about a dozen kegs of Guinness… That’s when we knew our adventures in Ireland would definitely be memorable! Dublin has an old world charm that many cities lose once moving into the modern world. Its low rise buildings, cobblestoned streets, and lively animated people won us over right away.
After dropping off our bags, we decided to explore a little at our leisure before heading to our walking tour. We felt the best way to get the most out of sightseeing was to do a walking tour. Fortunately for us, after doing some research, we discovered that there is a great walking tour company that does tours for “free” in both Dublin and Edinburgh. Sandemans offers guided tours of Dublin in multiple languages and at different times throughout the day!
We originally planned to take a later tour at 2pm but as we were wandering around, we stumbled across the 11am tour getting ready and decided to take it! A big positive of these walking tours is that you can either book it online or you can just show up and join a group! The tour is very flexible and gives the guide the chance to take you to places they personally believe were important for you to see, as well as the touristy sights that you would visit anyways.
In our case, our tour guide Connor (a very animated Irish fellow with some clear acting skills), took us on a 3+ hour tour of Dublin hitting up locations such as:
- Dublin Castle
- Trinity College
- Temple Bar
- The Spire of Dublin
- Whelan’s Pub (The site for the P.S I Love You movie scene)
- Dublin City Hall
- Christ Church Cathedral
- and many more!
The tour was filled with historical information about some sites, like the Viking Village under Dublin City Hall, and some pretty funny stories regarding U2 and the Queen! We won’t share any here because you definitely have to visit and take the tour yourself to get the full experience 😉
The alley off Ship Street – where they filmed parts of P.S. I Love You and also where all the women on the tour got a little starry-eyed and sighed in contentment.
Halfway through the tour, there is some advertising for their other fee-based tours – for example a day trip to Howth and their pub crawls. Then you are given a short 15 minute break and it was here that we discovered The Joy of Cha. This quaint little cafe tucked in on East Essex St. in Temple Bar, supplied us with the best Focaccia either of us had ever eaten! Its home made goodies and delicious drinks definitely made us go back more than once on our trip. It is a definite recommendation for anyone looking for an easy-on-the-budget but delicious lunch or snack spot in Dublin.
After the delicious and cheesy Focaccia was savoured, the last leg of our tour went by quickly and at last our guide took us to Trinity College and told us more stories about the College itself and the amazing perks that come with taking some crazy exams and passing them!
It was at this point that our guide told us about giving him a “tip” if we enjoyed the tour. Yes, the tour is in itself is “free” seeing as it is optional to pay, but obviously you feel that you need to compensate your guide for taking you around for 3+ hours! You decide how much you want to give based on your experience and nobody thinks the lesser of you!
It was an overall informative tour, allowing us to get our bearings in Dublin and showing us the sights that we wanted to return to later on! After the tour ended, we were definitely tired so we decided to go back to the hostel and have a good rest before dinner.
For dinner, we were determined to find a good pub with live music and Guinness!!! Connor, our guide from the walking tour, did not recommend going to Temple Bar as it is overpriced and touristy. It is definitely not a place to meet locals and pints of Guinness were about 7 Euros. Any Dubliner knows that you should not pay more than 5 Euros at most for a pint! Although Temple Bar was tempting, seeing as it was so lively at night and full of people, we decided to venture further and find a place that wasn’t over priced and full to the brim! Even at night Dublin was beautiful. While searching for a place to eat, we couldn’t help but take some amazing photos of Dublin at night!
Dublin in the early evening
It was then that we found The Old Storehouse on Crown Alley. It is about a block from Temple Bar and it was amazing! It’s true that the party only starts in Dublin after 9 pm, usually because that’s when the live music starts! But first, we had to strike something off our Irish bucket list, and that was to order our first (of many) pint of Guinness in Ireland! It was…everything I hoped it would be! I was a Guinness virgin, so for me this was my first time tasting such a dark brew. But I was told that the Guinness in Canada is definitely not the same as the Guinness from its homeland. And this is 100% true.
Had to try the Guinness!
After we came home, I got a taste of the Guinness in Vancouver and I could tell the difference immediately. (And the pouring technique also left much to be desired.) I don’t know if it’s the transport that changes the taste or just the fact that you need to be in Ireland to drink a Guinness, but I know for sure that Guinness will be the drink I’ll save purely for drinking in Ireland!
The food at The Old Storehouse was also delicious. We, of course, started our dinners in Ireland with a hefty portion of Fish and Chips!
Good food, Guinness and fun atmosphere – what more can you ask for!
For such a huge portion, we paid under €15 for a dinner meal AND we had succeeded and gotten the Guinness for €5! So this is another definite go-to pub for any tourist! Good food for a good price and on top of that, a great atmosphere to enjoy!
So, the food and Guinness were delicious, the atmosphere was lively and amazing, all that was left was the live music. In Vancouver, there are very few places you can get a meal and good quality entertainment for free. While in Ireland we took every opportunity to listen to live music! Lucky for us, music was not lacking in any pub that we went to. (There was one exception but it comes with a funny story and a happy ending.) The music for that night was a duo and they played traditional music as well as modern music with a Irish twist! It was so entertaining we didn’t want to leave.
Live music at the Old Storehouse
We spent most of our evening at The Old Storehouse and there ended our first, amazing day in Dublin! We saw so much and had barely touched the tip of the iceberg! There was so much more to see that we could barely wait for day 2 and the adventures it would bring!
From Vancouver with Love,
Ioana and Natalie
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