Dublin with Mr. Raven

Dublin with Turkish Airlines

A guided trip, by Lucas Raven

 

From swerve of shore to bend of bay, said James Joyce. Intimate, accessible, informal Dublin has been my summer and winter refuge now for close on 4 years. However, I’m no tourist to the city – and I think that this insider-outsider view has enabled me to maintain a certain freshness as I tread the streets of the Irish capital. Hopped on a business class flight from Doha to Dublin with a quick stop in Istanbul via Turkish Airlines, that set the tone of the beginning of my Irish wandering.

Landed in Terminal 1 with a smile on my face and a speck of snow on my nose as I walked out of the airport. It’s an easy city to explore: central Dublin is relatively diminutive and flat, a pedestrian’s city – and as my Irish friends explained, a flâneur’s city, made for wandering and listening. And happily, Dublin is good for eating and drinking too: a fine cup of coffee is as ubiquitous today as a perfectly poured pint of stout.

I always send friends to my three favorite museums: one large, one small and one tremendously evocative. The large one is the National Gallery of Ireland, which has housed a splendid concentration of Irish and international art on Merrion Square since the mid-19th century.

Chicken dish at Alfie Byrne’s in The Conrad. Delicious dish: enjoy craft beers and gourmet cuisine at Alfie Byrne’s.

It’s even more impressive in the winter. The place has been renovated in spectacular style, its interiors remade, it is simply unmissable.

The small? – Marsh’s Library is an early-18th century gem, all crooked oak bookshelves and precious leather-bound volumes, tucked into a quiet street behind St Patrick’s Cathedral. And the evocative: Kilmainham Gaol – to my mind the most powerful of Dublin’s historic sites.

It’s a chilling place (literally; bring jackets – must layer up), but it tells a truly compelling story of Irish national history, from the 18th century to the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. The museum has recently expanded to include the adjacent former courthouse – and note, it’s one of the few attractions in Dublin where it’s prudent to book.

Of course, Dublin isn’t all about history lessons. The great outdoors beckons invitingly: board the coastal DART railway to Howth (for cliff walks and tea) or Dún Laoghaire (for swimming, promenading and more tea).

Or make tracks, as I like to do, for the Phoenix Park – a vast, undulating expanse of meadow, woodland and ponds just west of the city centre, and one of the world’s great civic spaces.

The park is home to Dublin Zoo, and it offers fine views of the city and of what the poet Sheila Wingfield called the “plum-blue hills” on the southern skyline – but it’s also a marvellous way of getting out and about.

Rent a bike from Phoenix Park Bikes and take to the traffic-free paths for a few hours – it’ll provide a wholly different take on Dublin and it’s a great activity for the children.

Return to the city centre, and there’s no shortage of pleasant diversions. Visit Camerino for wonderful baking; the three-screen Irish Film Institute for the best of cinema under one (glass) roof; Ely for a giddying list of world wines; and the Irish Design Shop for authentic gifts.

My own corner of Dublin, a walk from the city centre, stretches west from Conrad Dublin, Fitzwilliam Street through the red-brick Victorian streets of Portobello and Leonard’s Corner towards regenerating Newmarket.

Here, Teeling’s Distillery dispenses Irish whiskey – note the spelling – to the world. Even if, like me, you know nothing about the world of whisky, tour this excellent place and sip the amber fluid on offer; you’ll become a convert (again, do book ahead).

Also hereabouts: smart, contemporary Indian cooking at Pickle; the colourful indoor Saturday food market at the Green Door; wonderful French pizzas baked by Gaillot and Gray (always Emmental cheese, never mozzarella); and the smashing array of craft beers in 57 The Headline, for my money the best pub in the city. Not a bad way to round off a Dublin day.

There’s poetry here: the windows of Brown Thomas, echoing melody of singers in Grafton street and the merriest pubs in the universe. There’s nothing like the holidays in Dublin. Turkish Airlines flies to Dublin, daily!

 

Only the best,

Lucas Raven

 


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