Insider’s Guide: Dublin

My dear friend Gigi kindly featured me on her blog, The Global Organizerhere. I am posting my featured post below, but I highly recommend checking it out on her blog – because the format is much better (and there are more photos!).

FROM CHELSEA

I’m Chelsea; my passport says I’m American but my heart will tell you I’m Irish. I grew up in Florida, but have known my entire life that I’m meant to live in Ireland. I moved to Ireland in September 2010 (Cork for 6 months, then Dublin) and I genuinely fall more in love with Dublin every single day. It is by far my favourite place in the world and even though my favourite hobby is travelling, I am always happy to come back to Dublin. Dublin has everything: the sea, mountains, beautiful parks and is a city that can either feel like a bustling capital city or a tranquil town, depending on where you are. I even like the Irish weather, which is especially funny coming from someone who is from Florida.

EAT

When people think of Ireland, they usually don’t think of food. Or if they do, they think of meat and potatoes and maybe Lucky Charms. This is changing hugely! When I first moved here in 2010, the foodie scene was non-existent. I am now convinced Dublin has one of the most amazing foodie scenes in the world: I actually think it’s even better than London’s, though I’m a bit biased. We have some incredible restaurants here and you can have top-notch cuisine from just about everywhere around the world. Dublin really knows how to do brunch! P.S. Lucky Charms do not exist here. Well, they do… you can buy a box for 10 euro from one specialityshop! I’d say Ireland produces the best beef, butter, milk and strawberries in the world.

  • Bunsen– Nothing compares to Irish beef. You must try a Bunsen burger: melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Bunsen has a cult following and luckily, there are four locations.
  • Full Irish breakfast – Surprise, potatoes are not generally part of a full Irish! A full Irish usually consists of eggs (usually fried, but you can request otherwise), rashers (bacon), sausages, baked beans, black and white pudding, fried tomato and toast. Make sure you try some incredible Irish butter on your toast… even better, if you have an option of having brown bread / brown soda bread, choose that!!
  • Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse or most pubs (it’s debatable who has the best Guinness!) My vote would be for a pint at the Cobblestone because of the atmosphere – you can listen to live traditional Irish music if you’re there in the evening.
  • Brunch is a way of life in Dublin. I have many favourite brunch places – one of them is Two Pups Coffee, in a great old neighborhood called The Liberties. They have great coffee, unique food (avocado toast with peanut butter!! Trust me, it’s fantastic) and the staff is super friendly.
  • Modern Irish (Whitefriar Grill and The Winding Stair) – Irish pub food (L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter / O’Neills / The Hairy Lemon) –Fish & Chips (Beshoff Bros or Leo Burdock) – Neapolitan pizza (Cirillo’s) – Sushi (Musashi and Kokoro) – Indian (Pickle) – TexMex (Boojum) – Ice cream (Murphy’s or a 99 cone from Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire) – Vegan (The Happy Pear and Cornucopia) – Salads (Sprout) – Lebanese (The Cedar Tree or Damascus Gate) – Vietnamese(Pho Ta and Aobaba) – Michelin Star (Chapter One) – Tapas (Las Tapas de Lola or PortHouse) – Pasta (DaMimmo and Rosa Madre) – Unique fine dining experience(Taste at Rustic – Peruvian and Japanese fusion) – Best Egg’s Benedict (Wuff) – Best scones (Emer’s Kitchen and Brother Hubbard) – Favourite newcomer(Nutbutter – healthy food) – Sandwich (Green Bench Café) – Amazing views (Sophie’s at The Dean) – Dessert (Nutella Cheesecake at either Taco Taco or San Lorenzo’s; though unfortunately, you cannot go only for dessert) – Donuts (Rolling Donut) – Coffee (Proper Order, Clement and Pekoe, Il Valentino, Butler’s)

PLAY

  • Cliff walk: Either Bray to Greystones and lunch at The Happy Pear if you feel like eating healthy or Howth cliff walk followed by fish and chips
  • Guinness Storehouse
  • On your way to Trinity College to see the Old Library and the Book of Kells, wander through St. Stephen’s Green park and then down Grafton Street, stopping to listen to various buskers.

STAY

This is something I can’t really comment on, seeing as I’ve only ever lived in Dublin. I’ve never been here as a tourist. However, I know if money were no object and I could stay anywhere in Dublin, I would choose either the Merrion or the Shelbourne. For someone on a major budget, I know the Generator hostel in Smithfield is great as far as hostels go.

The best areas in Dublin to stay in are: Dublin 2 (safest and nicest part of the city centre), Dublin 4 (just a bit outside the city centre and very posh), Dublin 6 (very local neighbourhood), Smithfield/Stoneybatter in Dublin 7, Dublin 8 if you want to be near the Guinness Storehouse and Phoenix Park. Stay away from Temple Bar in Dublin 2 if you want any peace and quiet.

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Ireland is the land of a hundred thousand welcomes (Céad Míle Fáilte) and is, in my humble opinion, the most magical place on earth.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what that love is for; for some it’s the friendliness Irish people are famous for, or the beautiful landscapes or the incredible produce we are becoming renowned for. Or perhaps it’s something a little less tangible. Perhaps that love of Ireland is more an emotion, a moment, an elusive feeling that we know intimately well but might find hard to describe. It’s what makes us love this country no matter the weather, it’s how we feel landing in Dublin Airport after a stint away. It’s the taste of a proper strong cuppa, it’s the craic, the kindness and the bold humour. It’s the thought of holing up in a cosy pub with a creamy pint of Guinness and the deep conviction that when the sun shines there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. It’s the sight of the Phoenix Park in the autumn when the trees are molten amber and the deep, burgeoning pride when our county takes home the Sam Maguire cup.” ~Author Unknown

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FAVORITE TRAVEL HACK

  • Charles Schwab bank is my best discovery – they are my American bank of choice and I adore my Schwab debit card because they refund ALL ATM fees – local or international! Bonus: they have fabulous customer service.

Iceland Road Trip: Days 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir) & 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri)

Here’s the link to my post about Days 1 & 2 in case you missed it!

Day 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir):

This day was our most uneventful day, which was good timing because day 2 was our longest, busiest day so we were quite tired. We were also happy there weren’t many sights along the way because this was the worst weather we had our whole trip. It was very rainy and terrifyingly foggy which made driving quite an experience! There were long gravel roads on this journey which certainly were an adventure in the rain.

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Photo courtesy of Courtney Allen of courtingadventure.com

Photo courtesy of Courtney Allen of courtingadventure.com

This drive takes approximately 3 hours (in good weather) and when we were about half way there, I REALLY needed to pee. It was raining quite hard so I kept holding it, but it got to a point where I simply could not wait anymore. Of course, the moment I got out of the car was when it rained the hardest. It was certainly a memorable experience to relieve myself behind a mound of dirt on the side of the road in the lashing rain and heavy fog in the middle of nowhere in Iceland.

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Our sweet Opel getting dirty!

Our sweet Opel getting dirty!

Egilsstaðir is a lovely town and there is a Bonus grocery store, FYI. This is where I first found Goldfish, which I was extremely excited about since they don’t have them in Ireland. Iceland has more American foods than Ireland does, which I certainly wasn’t expecting! We really wanted to buy some alcohol since we arrived early and had no plans for the evening, but we forgot it was Sunday and the liquor store closed at 4. I was craving vegetables, so I went to Subway and got the most amazing salad of my life. I love pickles more than anything and she literally gave me about 75 pickles. I made sure to tell her Subway is better in Iceland than in any other country.

Accommodation: (in Egilsstaðir)

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This was probably my favourite place we stayed, which says a lot because I loved our accommodation every night. The decor was beautiful and very modern. I would highly recommend this place.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4599984

Day 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri):

This was a very eventful day. This is approximately a 3 1/2 hour drive non-stop but there are many sights to see along the way, so prepare for a long day if you’re doing this drive!

Our first stop was Dettifoss – aka the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Wow. Its vastness and power is awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, the weather was bad when we were here. The small “trek” there is difficult when it’s raining hard because to get to the waterfall, you have to walk for awhile on lots of big stones, which are very slippery when wet. When we got to the waterfall, we didn’t want to stay long because the weather was so bad, but regardless, it is a must see. Before we left, I used the public toilet and laughed at the irony of the sign above the sink that said “There is a shortage of water in this area”.

Dettifoss

Dettifoss

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All of us soaked at Dettifoss

All of us soaked at Dettifoss

Our next stop was Námafjall, a high temperature geothermal area with mud pots in the Mývatn region. The temperature inside the mud pots reaches 200 degrees Celcius. The steam produces fumarole gas (hydrogen sulfide), which is where the horrific smell comes from. You (sort of) get used to smelling sulfur everywhere in Iceland, but I promise you could never get used to the extreme smell of this area. Revolting. No other word for it. At first, I thought it was bad, but then it got to the point where I was physically gagging and had to get out of there immediately. Having said that, I highly recommend visiting this area, just don’t expect to stay long. It’s a very interesting experience and I really did enjoy it despite what it may sound like! The surrounding area is also very colourful and beautiful.

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Next stop: Viti Crater, near Krafla volcano. We stumbled upon this stunningly vibrant turquoise-coloured crater on accident while searching for Krafla (we never found it, mostly because we didn’t have the patience due to hunger!).

Viti Crater - photo not edited at all!

Viti Crater – photo not edited at all!

Viti Crater - it was freezing!!

Viti Crater – it was freezing!!

Next stop: Godafoss, personally my favourite waterfall that we saw in Iceland. It’s extra impressive because it’s multiple waterfalls in one. There was only one disappointment for me: there was no sun. I’ve seen many photos of this waterfall with the most spectacular rainbows and was really hoping to see that, but we weren’t lucky in that department. Oh well! The 4 of us had the song “Waterfalls” by TLC (“Don’t go chasing waterfalls“) stuck in our heads for a lot of the trip, but we didn’t take that advice, especially not at Godafoss. In fact, we decided to go for a bit of a swim. We crossed a good bit of Godafoss to get closer to the edge and what an experience that was! We had quite an audience and a lot of laughs. We felt very victorious at the end and I still smile when I think of this memory. My hiking shoes took 4 days to dry and I was SO thankful I brought an extra pair of shoes!

Godafoss

Godafoss

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Crossing Godafoss

Crossing Godafoss

I don’t have any photos, but when you are coming from Egilsstaðir and are nearing Akureyri, be prepared for the landscape to be absolutely stunning. Akureyri is set in a stunning setting with unbelievable landscape surrounding it. I wasn’t expecting to love the Northern capital city so much, but we all did!

Gravel road

Gravel road

Random sulfur spring we passed

Random sulfur spring we passed

Note: We also visited Lake Mývatn, which was, not surprisingly, a beautiful area.

We stayed in Akureyri for 2 nights, so in my next post, I will detail our accommodation (another Airbnb).

Still to come: Days 5-7 of our road trip plus 2 bonus days of adventure!