Dublin: Seeing Live Music

Dublin Live Irish Music by Natalie Parker

I was pretty psyched to experience some live Irish music during our trip to Dublin.  I read so many bar reviews that said “live music” — right on!  But, I quickly learned that live music can mean many many different things.

The Different Types of Live Music in Dublin

Honestly, I felt like Goldilocks figuring this all out.  I wanted to go to a bar where performers were singing Irish music and I could hear it, but come and go as I pleased and not buy a ticket.

1. Live contemporary/popular music.  This means people playing instruments, maybe singing, and the songs are current/pop.  We saw this often walking by the pubs in Temple Bar.

2. Live, un-amplified Irish music.  We visited a neighborhood pub that had “live music nightly,” which was 2-3 guys playing traditional instruments.  This was meant to sort of compliment the scene at the bar and wasn’t a “main event.”  At this particular place, you had to be sitting close to the instruments to hear them and there was no singing.

3. Live, amplified Irish music with singing.  This was “just right” for us, exactly what I was looking for!  We visited a couple of bars that had 2-3 people playing instruments and singing with microphones.  The music was an “event” rather than just a din.  You could still go to the bar to have a drink without purposefully going for the music.  The music could be heard throughout the bar but it wasn’t the only thing going on.  This may be hard to understand, but it’s not what’s described below, which should help.

4. Live Irish show with or without dinner/dancing.  This is what the guide at the Tourist Information center tried to steer us to.  Forgive the mental picture, but this is what you would probably do if you were older, in a tour group, and wanted to see some Irish music — kind of like paying to go to a tango show in Buenos Aires.  I’m sure it’s great, it’s just not what we wanted.

Thinking in Goldilocks terms, option 3 is just right.  Not too little music, not a huge production.  Just right!

Stay tuned next week and I’ll give you a rundown of all the bars/pubs we visited and which type of live music they had.

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on Ireland

Mr. P and I traveled to Dublin for a long weekend in March.  Learn how to plan a trip to Europe for the weekend (even coming all the way from California) here


Dublin: Visiting Guinness & Jameson

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

The Old Jameson Distillery and The Guinness Storehouse are two of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions.  When I asked Mr. P what he wanted to do in Dublin, he said “Guinness and Jameson.”  Noted.

Here’s everything you need to know before you go, including some things I wish we’d known!

Important: you will not actually see alcoholic beverages being made at either of these places.  More details below, but I’m mentioning it here in case it’s a deal breaker.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

Both places are very centrally located in Dublin.  We did both in one day but I would not recommend that (read on for why).  We did the basic ticket for each — both offer an enhanced tasting experience for an extra fee.

The Old Jameson Distillery

I think it’s called the “old” distillery because Jameson is no longer made on site.  It’s manufactured in a larger facility in County Cork.

Guided Tour: a ticket to the Distillery gets you a guided tour by an actual human.  The guide shows you equipment that used to be used at the facility, explains how Jameson is made, and answers questions.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

Tickets: tickets are €15.00 for adults at the door or €13.50 purchased online in advance.  Tickets sell out, so I recommend booking in advance.

Whiskey Tasting: the tour includes a quick whiskey tasting to compare an American whiskey, Jameson, and a scotch.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

Free Drink & Certificate: After the tour, you get a free Jameson neat or a Jameson with ginger ale and lime.  You have the option to print a whiskey taster certificate.

The Shop, Restaurant, and Bar: These are all accessible without a ticket.  There’s a neat bar in the lobby of the distillery, which has glass floors to show the old foundation.

Jameson Thoughts

We preferred Jameson to Guinness.  I’ll explain more below but I liked the personalization of the guided tour.  Our guide knew the word for barley in an obscene number of languages.  I will say that if our guide hadn’t been great, the tour might not have been worth it.

Tour was a bit fast.  The website says that the tour lasts just under an hour but it felt a lot faster.  Our guide was awesome but it did feel like we were being moved along quickly.  The tasting was lightening fast.  I can understand that they need to set up the tasting for the next group, but it’s worth noting.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

Glad we bought our tickets early.  Really glad.  When we got there, the tours for the entire morning were sold out already.

Get there about 10 minutes early.  If you buy your tickets online, you still need to check in so they can print them for you.

If you’re not really into Jameson, maybe skip the tour.  Here’s the thing — we know how whiskey is made.  But Mr. P was really into seeing the whole thing and the tour was fun, if a little light.  But, if you just want to see the building and say you’ve been there, you can just as easily visit and get a drink at the bar, which looked cool.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

The Guinness Storehouse

Guinness is actually made on site in Dublin, but you will not get to see that during your visit.

Tickets: €16.20 online for adults, €18.00 at the door.  There is no set date or time for the tickets, so you can visit whenever you want.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

Not a tour, an “experience.”  The whole shebang is seven massive floors each with a different thing, such as how Guinness is made, advertising, the barrels, and more.  You kind of file along at your own pace.  There are things to read and TV monitors that explain things.

Free Drink: Your ticket gets you a free drink either at the Gravity Bar at the top of the Storehouse or you can use it to practice pouring yourself a pint.  You can’t do both.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

The Shop, Restaurants, and Bar:  You must have a ticket to access these.  You can’t simply go for a drink or dinner without a ticket.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

Guinness Thoughts

How do I put this . . . overkill?  Artificial?  The place is a huge temple to Guinness, but it was almost like it lacked substance.  Different than Jameson, it’s all new and modern on the inside.  Maybe it just wasn’t our thing, but I don’t find it really interesting to watch a monitor explain things to me or just read a bunch of placards.

Go for the Gravity Bar.  The Gravity Bar at the top makes the ticket worth it.  If it were me, I’d head straight there to get a good seat and my free Guinness, then head downstairs to look at the other stuff.  The bar has the best views of the city.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

It can get crowded.  This is where we should have done things differently.  I recommend getting there early.  It was crowded working through the “experience” and it was shoulder to shoulder in the Gravity Bar.  There were long lines for all of the hands-on stuff.  If we did it over again, we’d do Jameson and Guinness on two separate days, each in the morning.

Guinness and Jameson Visit by Natalie Parker

I’m not saying I don’t recommend it.  It would be hard to be in Dublin and not go.  But, know what you’re getting yourself into and enjoy it for what it is.

I hope this helps you plan your trip!  Have you been before?  I’m interested to hear if anyone else had a different experience.

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on Ireland

Mr. P and I traveled to Dublin for a long weekend in March.  Learn how to plan a trip to Europe for the weekend (even coming all the way from California) here

Dublin Trip: Aer Lingus Economy Review

Aer Lingus Review by Natalie Parker

Mr. P and I ended up in Dublin for a long weekend because we found a good deal on flights.  I was really excited to try a new airline!

We flew Aer Lingus direct from SFO to DUB and back in economy.  SFO/DUB is the airline’s longest route.  A direct flight is always best in my book!

We got a good deal, but we assumed (wrongly), that we’d get the same level of service and amenities as we’re used to on other international long-haul flights (I’m thinking Delta, American, Air France, Virgin, etc.  Not United, United is terrible on economy long-haul).

I’m not saying this is a bad thing — flying direct and getting a good price is great.  We were just a bit preturbed at the little differences because we weren’t prepared for them.  I feel like if we’d known this ahead of time, we would have prepared and it would have been fine.

Overall, I’d recommend this route as long as you know what you’re getting into!  We’d definitely go again!

Cool Things

Outlets at the seats.  I didn’t notice this until the way home, but there are power outlets between each seat.  They’re tucked between the seats behind your legs, so you have to feel around a bit for them.

Wifi & mobile network.  I didn’t use either of these but they were available.  It’s sold in 1-hour and 24-hour increments.  The price for 1-hour is so close to the 24-hour that you may as well buy the 24-hour.

Seatback entertainment.  This is a must for me on a long flight.  The selection wasn’t quite as big as other airlines, but I appreciated it.

Customs pre-clearance at Dublin.  I’ll write more about this in a different post.

Selecting seats is free.  Many airlines (ahem, British Airways) charge for selecting a seat on international long-haul flights.  I think charging to pick a seat on an 8+ hour flight is completely ridiculous, so I was happy we could pick seats for free here.

Take Note

Delays.  We were delayed taking off from SFO because the inbound flight from DUB was delayed.  We were delayed on the way back home as well.  I looked up historical averages and they are rated as “average” and “poor,” respectively.  The delays were about 30 minutes each.  Not a huge deal, but it made us wait even longer to eat dinner (see below).

Seat pitch is just a tad slimmer.  The seat configuration on the Airbus A330 felt just a tiny bit tight.  Looking up how it compares to other flights we usually take, it was listed as having an inch less space.

No free alcohol.  I’m used to free alcohol of some kind on international long-haul, even if it’s just wine.  There is no free alcohol on Aer Lingus economy.  Again, not a huge deal but it was just a surprise.

Drink service.  This was a bit odd.  The drink service after takeoff was the only drink service until breakfast (except for tea and coffee).  Meaning, the drink you got had to last you through dinner.  We didn’t realize that until dinner was served and we got a tiny water on the tray.  On other airlines, there is usually a drink cart following the food cart.  It was difficult to make that drink last because . . .

Lag time for food.  Again, something we just found odd.  It took them a while to get the food carts going.  We took off (late) around 7pm so it was definitely dinner time.  I found out later that economy passengers can pre-buy the business class meal.  I don’t mind the regular meal.  However, everyone who ordered the business class meal got served first (it was a while before they got served in the first place), then there was a lag before we were served.

No overnight snacks.  Usually overnight, airlines will put peanuts, crackers, or some basic item in the galley (even ice cream).  No overnight snacks on Aer Lingus — if you wanted something you had to buy it.

Breakfast a bit slim.  Before landing in DUB, we got a cold sandwich.  Before landing in SFO, we got a granola bar.  Contrast that to my recent American Airlines flight to London, where we got a yogurt with granola to mix in, plus a bag of dried fruit.

Luggage issue.  This is probably unique to our flight, but back in SFO, there was a bag jam (don’t ask me what that means, that’s what we were told).  We had to wait over an hour to get our suitcases.  I would have been okay with this, stuff happens.  But the Aer Lingus agent in the baggage claim and the SFO rep were totally uninterested in figuring out what the problem was until we’d been standing there for 40 minutes with no information.

So again, none of these are deal breakers.  They can seem a bit nit picky, but I think if we’d known the above before our trip, we still would have taken the flight but would have prepared differently.

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on Ireland

Mr. P and I traveled to Dublin for a long weekend in March.  Learn how to plan a trip to Europe for the weekend (even coming all the way from California) here

Weekend in Dublin: A Summary and Some Thoughts

Weekend in Dublin by Natalie Parker

I can’t wait to tell you about our long weekend in Dublin.  We had the best time!  We’d never been to Dublin nor Ireland before, so we tried to strike the right balance of exploring but not overdoing it.

We let ourselves do what we wanted to when we wanted to — we didn’t worry about what we should be doing.  If you’re familiar with Dublin, you’ll see quite a few sights missing from the list below.  We split our time between tourist attractions and just getting a feel of the city.  We chose sleeping in over trying to cram our days.

We were very lucky with the weather, but it was cloudy the day we were supposed to see the solar eclipse.  Can’t win ’em all!

Note: Keep an eye on this post, I’ll add links as I post more details for each thing.

Travel, Transit, & Lodging

Aer Lingus Economy Class direct to/from SFO to DUB.  We only do weekend trips where we can fly direct and Dublin was the cheapest of all European locations on the weekend we wanted to go.  We learned that the lower prices came with fewer amenities than we’re used to in transatlantic economy.  Next time, we’ll consider that when comparing prices.

AirBNB: Benedikt’s 1-bedroom flat.  Really happy with our choice to stay here.  The location was top-notch and we were able to walk to most places.  Despite being close to the action, it was quiet and we slept really well.  We didn’t use the apartment for apartment-type things like eating in, but we couldn’t have gotten a better price on a hotel.  The apartment is more lived-in in person than the pictures, but we were happy overall.  Benedikt also gave us some great food and drink recommendations.

Public Transit & AirLink Bus.  We walked and used public transit exclusively.  The hop-on-hop-off buses were very popular with tourists but we thought public transit was better and more fun.  The AirLink Bus from the airport could not have been simpler and it was really popular!

Weekend in Dublin by Natalie Parker

Eating and Drinking

There was such great food in Dublin.  We had a great time picking out places to eat.  On top of that, we were impressed at how much cheaper it was than London.  Our dollar went a lot further (not just because the euro is in the tank).

The variety of cool watering holes was also awesome.  Guinness is king, of course, but there were plenty of other local brews to try.  We learned that “live music” can mean very different things and finding a bar to watch a sporting event is more difficult than one would assume.

What We Did

Day 1 (arrival):

AirLink Bus to Dublin & check-in
Lunch at the Pie Man in Temple Bar
Dinner at L. Mulligan Grocer
Drinks & Live Irish music at the VAT House Bar

Day 2:

Quick breakfast at Little Brother
Tour & whiskey tasting at the Old Jameson Distillery
Visit Tourist Information Centre in Temple Bar
Explore Trinity College, visit the Long Room and Book of Kells on a whim
Drink at Grogan’s Castle Lounge
Lunch at Fallon & Byrne’s food counter
Visit Guinness Storehouse
Drink at the Porterhouse
Dinner at the Larder
Drink at O’Donoghue’s
Drinks and Irish music and dancing at O’Neill’s
Drink and Irish music at the VAT House Bar

Day 3:

Brunch at Meetinghouse Square Farmer’s Market
Cheese shopping at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers
Shopping in the Creative Quarter
Watch Ireland versus Scotland in the Six Nations Rugby Tournament at Bruxelles (plus lunch)
A bit more shopping
Watch France versus England in the Six Nations Rugby Tournament at the Church Bar
Dinner at The Port House Pintxo
Dessert at Murphy’s Ice Cream
Drinks and Irish music and dancing at O’Neill’s

Day 4:

Brunch at Brother Hubbard
Walk to DART and train to Howth
Explore wharf and town
Lunch at the Brass Monkey
Wander around Howth
Train back to Dublin
Pack suitcases
Dinner at Fade Street Social

Day 5 (departure):

AirLink Bus to Dublin Airport
Eat at airport
Duty Free shopping + whiskey tasting
Fly home

Over the coming weeks, I’ll write up a bunch of posts about all of this.  You can refer back here because I’ll add links as posts go live.  I’m excited to share it with you!

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on Ireland

Mr. P and I traveled to Dublin for a long weekend in March.  Learn how to plan a trip to Europe for the weekend (even coming all the way from California) here

Planning a Weekend in Europe

Green Door in Dublin by Natalie Parker

Spend a long weekend in Europe!  When I talk about this, it’s pretty high on people’s list of “you can’t do that.”  It can be done.

If travel is important to you, you can do this.  We live in California, which is pretty much the most extreme location to just hop to Europe from.  We’ve done a weekend in Paris three times.  This year we changed it up and did a weekend in a city we’ve never been to: Dublin.

Thinking about making the leap and taking a weekend trip to Europe?  Here are some things to keep in mind:

Planning a Weekend in Europe

Where can you go directly?  If you live in a major metropolitan area, understand what cities you can fly to directly.  Layovers really add unnecessary travel time on such a short trip.  Plus, if you miss your connecting flight, you don’t have much time to get there later and make it worthwhile.  If you don’t live in a major metro area, consider driving to the closest one, or narrowing your options to where you can fly with one short hop to the metro area.

Stay close to the action.  We don’t waste our little time in a city commuting.  Mr. P researches the best neighborhood for us to easily walk to at least some sites.  If a centrally located hotel is expensive, consider renting an apartment, as we did in Dublin.

Understand that you can’t see everything.  This is a big one.  A weekend away is no fun if you run yourself into the ground trying to see every “must-see” thing.  We’ve done it to ourselves.  Take a look at what matters most to you and do those things.  Don’t be hard on yourself that you spent $x to get out there so therefore you have to see every attraction Rick Steves says is worth seeing.

Have a plan to deal with jetlag.  I talked about our jetlag strategy here.  It worked well on this trip — we did lunch and a nap after we arrived and had dinner reservations.  We ended up finding a pub with Irish music and stayed out until after midnight.  Mischief Jetlag managed.  We took melatonin the entire time.

I’m excited to share all the details about our Dublin trip!