There are certain things that everyone enjoys experiencing when in a place for the first time. For me, those things are architecture and culture—referring to culture more as the disposition and general attitude of the local people rather than their collective accomplishments. Whatever reasons you enjoy traveling, what really makes a trip is who you're enjoying it with.
I wish we could have gotten more acquainted with the true Dublin. Ironically, Dublin on St. Paddy's Day weekend held more foreigners than Ireland natives—word had it the locals like to escape the madness on holidays to the countryside. The only Dubliners we interacted with were wait and retail staff, and they seemed less than thrilled at the mobs of people in for the holiday weekend.
St. Patrick's Day
It's not very often you have the chance to experience a notable holiday in the country of its origin. The place to go in Dublin on St. Patrick's Day is The Temple Bar—or the place to avoid as the entire square was flooded with people (drunks) of all nationalities waiting to get into the historic bar. Not even willing to try, we (my good friend, Kara, and I) found a place around the corner that looked quintessentially Irish and not so packed that we couldn't get a Guinness on St. Paddy's Day in Dublin.
We ventured around the Temple Bar district to grab a bite to eat and check out some more bars. We were drawn into one club's live music filtering into the crowded street. We had a couple beers there, listening to the band play, before we headed back to the less hectic atmosphere of the first bar we found. We gave into our exhaustion from the day's travels around 10—yes, we were in bed by 11 on St. Paddy's Day.
The rest of the weekend, Dublin bars weren't any less busy than on St. Patrick's Day—they were just less hectic. The city had calmed down enough for us to meet some interesting bar-goers—German brothers on holiday touring the country, U.S. military guys stationed in Germany. We finally made it to the Temple Bar on our last night in Ireland (a Sunday) and barely made it through a Guinness before we couldn't take being packed into a mob of strangers.
Getting around Dublin
If you're okay with looking like a complete tourist, the Hop on, Hop off buses are a great way to get around Dublin. We bought the Freedom pass at the airport, which was definitely worth the €33 since it covered our transportation from and back to the airport and all around Dublin (including the green Hop on, Hop off buses) for three days.
We mostly used the Hop on, Hop off buses to get around the city, but they were a great way to see all the major sites in Dublin (Guinness Storehouse, Teelings Whiskey Distillery, Trinity College, etc.). It was easier for us to get off at a major attraction stop and walk to our destination rather than try and navigate the city bus routes. Plus, all the drivers were cheerful (like the Irish are) and entertaining—some were down right hilarious.
My idea of a beautiful city is one flourishing with remarkable, historic architecture. Between the castles, cathedrals, and Trinity College, Dublin earned a spot among the most beautiful cities I've been to.
There was no way I was going to be in Dublin and not visit one of the most famous libraries in the world. Trinity College Library's Long Room—known for eliciting sighs of envy from intellectuals everywhere—flaunted floor-to-ceiling shelves of worn books, guarded meekly by busts of men who helped shape the literary world.
It also housed the Book of Kells, a lavish Medieval copy of the four gospels. I found the book's display to be a little underwhelming. They designed a whole exhibit leading up to the Book of Kells, which ended with the book open to one page inside a glass table, surrounded by tourists elbowing each other to get a glance.
The rest of campus was as interesting to lazily absorb as the library. The more we walked around, the more I wanted to sit in the middle of the courtyard and watch what the goings-on around us.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Kara had a trend of attending holiday masses in notable cathedrals and wanted to continue that with mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on St. Patrick's Day weekend. It came as a bit of a shock to find out St. Patrick's Cathedral is actually Anglican, not Catholic. We came back the next day to fawn over the glorious cathedral.
Our weekend in Dublin was the close to a big first for me. Not only was it my first time in Ireland, but it was also my first long trip with a friend as close to me as Kara is. I'll admit I have friends that I couldn't share week-long trips like this with. This trip affirmed that who you travel with can make the difference between simply being in a new country and savoring the trip of a lifetime.
I couldn't have asked for a better friend with whom to share such a marvelous trip.