Dublin's big-city sights and Irish charm
I'm less enthralled with one of Dublin's most popular (and congested) sights -- the Guinness Storehouse, sort of a Disneyland for beer lovers in outer Dublin. Housed in the company's old fermentation plant, this place is a pilgrimage for many -- but it's expensive and not a typical "brewery tour" with conveyor belts of beer bottles. Instead of historic artifacts, you'll find high-decibel music and a tall, pint-glass-shaped glass atrium -- 14 million pints big -- soaring past four floors of exhibitions and cafés to the skylight. A highlight for many here is the top-floor Gravity Bar, with a commanding 360-degree view of Dublin, and vistas all the way to the sea.
No visit to Dublin is complete without some good traditional Irish music. Joining a trio of local musicians for a three-stop musical pub crawl, I get a real education in trad music (and a nice Guinness buzz). With much good humor, the players explain and demonstrate their instruments at each stop, clearly enjoying introducing rookies to their art.
No matter what you see or do in Dublin, it's an exciting time to visit. This dynamic city has a fine story to tell, and people with a natural knack for telling it.
IF YOU VISIT...
SLEEPING: Buswells Hotel, a pleasant Georgian-style haven with 67 rooms, is in the heart of the city (splurge, www.buswells.ie). Roxford Lodge Hotel is a great value, with 24 tastefully decorated rooms a 20-minute walk from Trinity College (moderate, www.roxfordlodge.ie).
EATING: The Brazen Head hosts "Food, Folk and Fairies" evenings with a hearty four-course meal punctuated with soulful Irish history and fascinating mythology (20 Bridge Street, www.brazenhead.com). The Hairy Lemon is a pub with friendly staff, a central location and a creative menu (41 Lower Stephen Street, tel. +353-1-671-8949).
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GETTING AROUND: Traffic is terrible, but it's easy to sightsee on foot, and public transportation -- by bus, light rail and train -- is readily available.
TOURIST INFORMATION: www.visitdublin.com.