Originally posted on October 29, 2012
As I took the train south from Coleraine to Dublin, I could sense the change from the North Coast. Off the train, my first breath affirmed that it’s harder to breathe in Dublin. That painfully pure sea air was long gone, and it was time to brace myself for 36 hours alone in the capital. The city has its shining moments, but it ain’t pretty– tainted by the ghost town of Smithfield where I stayed to the menacing Guinness brewery that loomed like some Industrial Era factory oozing century-fermented stout. But it’s all part of the joy of traveling, right? Even the places that lack the warm and fuzzy are worth exploring.
Cup | Bolivia filter coffee at 3FE
No run of Dublin’s coffee scene will pass up 3FE, or Third Floor Espresso. There is a care for coffee here that’s rare in most shops. Trust me, you can trust these guys. The company went from an espresso machine in owner Colin Harmon’s third floor apartment to two brick-and-mortar locations in Dublin. I retreated to the 3FE in the Twisted Pepper lobby (Abbey Street) where I was somewhat taken aback by the experience the baristas created. I asked them to choose my coffee which they delivered in a pitcher on a wooden board and proudly poured at my table. The first line of the journal entry I wrote there reads, “I don’t feel so crazy when I’m in a cafe.”
Plate | Salad bar + bread from Avoca Foodhall
Five-story Avoca is such a guilty pleasure. For a traveler, you can drop in to the shop, the fifth-floor cafe, or the more-casual basement foodhall in between jaunts across the city. I went through for lunch after being in earlier browsing kitchen wares and paper goodies and ended up going back a third time to grab a free loaf of bread as they closed. Like I said, guilty. For lunch I made up a salad box of broccoli, beef, sugar snaps, and balsamic baby onions, and covered it in sesame seeds for the crunch. I took it up to this tucked away deck on the fourth floor of Avoca, took off my boots, and admired the rooftops.
Because I didn’t have any friends in Dublin, I didn’t share a table with any. Usually I can make a friend, but I was to tired and time seemed to short to even do that. I did however find two spots where community clearly happened. Roasted Brown is a new cafe and breath of fresh air in the cluttered Temple Bar area. It’s just up the staircase of filmbase, a non-profit go-to for local filmmakers. That kind of communal center cries out for a spot like Roasted Brown, a gathering place. They serve the same beans 3FE offers, acclaimed Has Bean Coffee, and even have house-made meaty stews. For another communal experience, check out traditional Trad music at The Cobblestone in Smithfield every night. (Thanks Caroline!) There will be more musicians than bar patrons.
Sight | River Liffey bridges and city parks
Dublin definitely has a Dutch vibe with the way it’s divided by the River Liffey. Now, the people aren’t quite as beautiful and the language isn’t near as intriguing, but I found the river to be a key part of Dublin’s overall appeal in the same way Dutch towns are canal-centric. Other sights were the urban parks in Dublin. St. Stephen’s Green is right in the city center and can’t be missed, especially as a picnic spot or a book break during a day of robotic walking. And Phoenix Park is a bit farther outside the center but shows off more locals and more wide-open space to stretch your legs.