Going to Dublin was a personal triumph for me since I was basically the travel agent/mom for our group because I’m a control freak.
I found our flights via Google Flights. It’s super easy to compare different airlines and dates, plus you can combine flights and airlines for cheaper trips if you’re fine with layovers. You still have to book through the individual airline, but it’s a helpful search engine.
We ended up booking with RyanAir. They are a really great airline for these short jaunts. They operate a lot of international flights, but not as many transatlantic flights. So for getting around Europe once you’re already overseas, I’d highly recommend them. They also run so frequently that they’re on the cheap side. Our London Stansted to Dublin was $38 and our Dublin to London Stansted was $88–$136 round trip (€110 | £96)!
We packed light since we essentially only needed one change of clothes and toiletries. This saved us a carry-on fee, too, because RyanAir is cheap but not an all-inclusive airline like some of the bigger names (i.e. British Air, American, Delta, etc.). We did opt to pay $4 for assigned seating next to each other.
We could only afford to stay in a hotel one night so we booked our flight for Saturday morning at 6:30, landing in Dublin at 7:55. This meant our cabbie picked us up at 4 am, which is cringe-worthy to remember, but we were young and I was childless for the first time in two years, so carpe diem.
Getting in at 8 am meant that we could spend the whole day wandering the city, then spend the night at our hotel, head out on our coach tour to the Cliffs of Moher Sunday morning, bus back to Dublin that evening, head straight to the airport for a flight back to London Stansted at 21:55 (9:55 pm), and be back in our dorms by approx. 2 am.
We got a cab from Dublin airport to The Belvedere Hotel at Parnell Square (pictured below) in the hopes that we could check in early or at least drop our backpacks off. They allowed us to check them in the cloakroom, which was lovely. Our room was $400 via Expedia, which split 4 ways was only $100. The room we booked was clearly meant for backpackers and the like, a much more common occurrence in Europe, because it had 4 separate twin-sized beds rather than the two queen-sizes you’d find in any American hotel.
We tried Airbnb and such to see if we could find cheaper, but anything that didn’t seem sketchy was the same price as the Belvedere and, since we didn’t need the convenience of a kitchen, we decided to book the hotel because it was so central to everywhere we wanted to explore.
So as soon as we dropped our backpacks, we set off in the direction of Grafton Street. At least as far as we could tell. None of us was willing to turn our international data on to GPS and face the insane phone bill charges.
The city was a lot calmer than I expected, even more so than London and a lot more than New York. We passed the post office, which was the site of the Easter Rising and is now a museum. Definitely on my list for next time.
As luck would have it, we stumbled on Trinity College, which was something we had all agreed we wanted to see. The architecture is amazing, it’s historic (founded in 1592), and it’s the alma mater of literary greats like Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Johnathan Swift, and Bram Stoker.
We bought €14 tickets for the student-led tour. Our guide was Cornelius, a German economics major with an Irish-English accent. I found that odd since my Dickens professor has a British-English accent and she’s also from Germany. I guess you adopt the English accent that you hear around you.
Included with the tour is admission to the Book of Kells exhibit and the Old Library’s famous long room (see below). The Book of Kells, in case you didn’t know, is a Latin illuminated manuscript–text with decoration such as initials, borders and miniature illustrations–of the four gospels in the New Testament which dates back to the 9th century. It is particular in its use of the Celtic cross–a combination of Christian imagery with the pagan circle symbolizing the sun/son. Our guide said that it is allegedly the most expensive book in the world.
The Book of Kells is Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript.
The Old Library’s long room was so impressive and just as beautiful as all the photos on Pinterest made me believe, which is rare. It was lined with the busts of “Shakefpear,” Aristotle, Locke, Newton, and so many more. I was so in awe (and so tired) that we just sat there for a while starring around.
Afterward, we stopped in at Gallaher & Co. Bistro for brunch because it was in a beautiful building and we’d passed it on the way to Trinity. I had Eggs Florentine (poached egg on toast with spinach, smoked salmon, & hollandaise), plus ‘skinny fries’ as opposed to ‘chips.’
We then wandered into a little place called Books Upstairs (there were three levels) and I had to buy a copy of Dubliners by James Joyce. After that, we made plans to go out to a local pub for dinner later that night and went back to the Belvedere to check in and take a nap.
There was no air conditioning in the room which I hadn’t expected since the hotel was so nice, but Ireland itself was significantly cooler than Britain on the whole (which never got above 75 degrees anyway).