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Travel & Holidays in later life

DUBLIN - A NEW LOOK

Bank of Ireland in central Dublin, formerly the 18th-century ParliamentIf you haven't been to Dublin for several years, there are plentiful reasons for taking another look.

Reg Butler started his trip with a classic bus tour operated by rival brands of Hop-on/Hop-off open-top double-decker buses that circulate every 15 minutes.

The full circuit takes 80 minutes, with up to 25 stops along the way at sightseeing highlights. Get on, or get off, whenever you like through the day. The cost is 13 euros.

Along that circuit, nothing has changed, including the drivers' Irish jokes that they've hammed up several times a day over the past decade. During the circuit, they're guaranteed to sing Dublin's national anthem - Molly Malone - in thickest possible Irish accent. It's a fun tour, played for laughs

Travel Facts

 

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TRAVEL FACTS

Getting there: low-cost Ryanair flights from a dozen UK airports, bookable by internet or phone. 

Ask your travel agent about weekend packages by air or sea.

More information: Ireland Tourism, Nations House, 103 Wigmore Street, London W1U 1QS. Tel: 0800 039 7000; 

Best Buy is the Dublin Pass giving free entrance to the 30 leading attractions, and discounts on shopping, restaurants and tours. Cost is35 euros for one day, 55 euros for 2 days, 65 euros for 3 days, 95 euros for 6 days.

Dublin Tourism Centre is located in the converted St Andrew's Church at Suffolk Street near Trinity College. Very helpful for sightseeing advice and accommodation reservations. Tel:(uk) 0800 039 7000 Website: www.visit
dublin.com

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En route, the most popular stop is the Guinness Storehouse which tells the 250-year story of Ireland's best-known export. "I'm driving you all to drink," says the bus driver, when most of his passengers alight. 

The revamped Guinness Experience now rises up to Gravity - the roof-top bar with a superb panoramic view over Dublin and a complimentary pint. But it costs 13.50 euros to enter, unless you get a discount for being a Hop-off visitor, or enter free with a Dublin Card.

On the ground floor is the company's flagship store with a range of funky Guinness merchandise. You can buy a T-shirt and have the pleasure of walking around advertising Guinness. 
Daniel O'Connell
In total contrast, another stop-off point is Merrion Square for those interested in Georgian architecture, art or an outside view of Ireland's Parliament.

The National Gallery
has expanded with an award-winning Millennium Wing that adds another one-third space to the original.  Entrance free.

Merrion Square is Dublin's finest Georgian district, where every house keeps its external style from when Ireland's most famous names lived here. Blue plaques give their names and dates - from Oscar Wilde to Daniel O'Connell and W.B. Yeats, with the Duke of Wellington around the corner.

Oscar Wilde's boyhood home has become the American College Dublin, while his memorial statue reclines in languid pose beneath trees in the gardens opposite. Most of the buildings are now occupied by professional offices. 

Every year new hotels spring up throughout the capital. But I sampled something of the Georgian life-style by staying in neighbouring Fitzwilliam Street, where a boutique hotel called Longfields has been converted from the original aristocratic residence. My room featured a four-poster and antique decorations. A tiny restaurant in the basement has a gourmet rating.

Just along the street is Number Twenty Nine, a restored middle-class house of the late 18th century. Visitors can capture the atmosphere of Upstairs-Downstairs of 200 years ago, when servants were cheap.

Today that's all changed. Dublin is bursting with prosperity at all social levels. The republic has been humming for years with stunning economic growth. More people of Irish origin return to Eire than emigrate. As a result, Dublin is exposed to trendy ideas from New York, Sydney or elsewhere. 

Get yourself a Zulu Tattoo in the colourful area of Temple BarDublin today is a very cosmopolitan city, with coffee-bars and restaurants of every imaginable national cuisine, from Thai and Chinese, to Mexican, Russian, Japanese and Indian. It's hard to find any eating place serving a traditional Irish stew or "Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh." But no continental country can match the traditional full Irish breakfast of bacon, black pudding, eggs and properly-made tea!

Much of the catering business is staffed by workers from everywhere in the world, from China to the Philippines or the Baltic States. Younger hotel staff may come from France, Germany or Thailand - all adding English-speaking experience to their CVs as they gain work experience around the world.

Meanwhile, the famous pubs are crowded every night. You're not regarded as a wimp if you order a glass of wine instead of a pint. But "the black stuff" still remains the prime pub drink that triggers the wild conversation and laughter. It's one of the great joys of Ireland.

Sooner or later most visitors migrate to the narrow cobbled streets of Temple Bar - formerly an area of decrepit warehouses, due for demolition and rebirth in steel, concrete and glass. 

Instead, the district has matured as the Cultural Quarter, full of restaurants, pubs and night clubs. Shops sell everything from old books and records to oddities of dress, collectibles, and craft giftware. You can be tattooed in Zulu style.

From Temple Bar, pedestrians cross the River Liffey on the landmark Ha'penny Bridge, which has now been refurbished with dazzling white railings, granite paving and new lighting. The city also makes better use of the scenic Liffey waterfront witThe ever-popular Ha'penny Bridge across the Liffeyh a Millennium Boardwalk for riverside relaxation. 

Likewise O'Connell Street has been rejuvenated, with something called The Spire where Nelson's Pillar used to stand, and a Plaza in front of the General Post Office where on Easter Sunday 1916 the uprising took place. The shrapnel holes are still preserved.

                                                                                  

Read about these other areas of Ireland

BLARNEY - enjoying the talk in Counties Cork and Kerry

DUBLIN - Pub-crawling for literature

IRELAND WEST COAST - Coach-touring the west

IRELAND - TRALEE TRA-LA to Dingle Bay


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

"Festival of Irish Music" - a two-disc collection of tracks by varied artists, including The Dubliners. A good memento of evenings out in Dublin's favourite taverns.

"Lonely Planet: Dublin"  - a detailed guide to the city, including a good selection of walking tours; and where to go for all the lively evening enjoyment.

"Literary Guide to Dublin" by Vivien Igoe - describes the association of so many famed writers with Dublin, from Jonathan Swift to modern times. Helpful in following --their literary trail around the city.

Dublin by Edward Rutherford - A massive but very readable account, 1215 pages, stretching back into history in great detail.


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