I don’t drink. Alcohol that is. Before this post, I would still go to the bar and watch others around me slowly make their way to inebriation, but the atmosphere was never for me. Unfortunately, I’ve found that I don’t make long-lasting relationships with people I meet in a bar. Used to think I was weird for not hanging out with other people my age at the most popular type of place for us to gather, but I’ve found more sober outlets to connect with people where memories are still intact at the end of the day.
So for someone who doesn’t drink, why would I go to Ireland, of all places? All they do there is drink, right? Well, not quite, but I too asked myself those questions. I suppose the wanderer in me wanted to see if a good time could be had without alcohol in hand in a pub ridden nation, and the answer is a resounding YES!
I could write a novel on my pet peeve of traveling to a different country just to do the same things you do at home. More than anything, this includes drinking all night and sleeping the day away. Yes, my friends, there’s more to Ireland than beer and whiskey. Though I do acknowledge they are an important part of their culture and an easy in with the locals, it would be an injustice to the country not to explore beyond the pubs and bars.
Self-Guided Pub Photo Tour
Instead of trying to set a record of having one drink in every pub in Dublin, take yourself on a self-guided pub photo tour. The architecture and facades are something to be marveled at themselves, and if you go at night, you’re bound to capture the people at their best. Being sober, it’ll be quite the comedy show watching people stumble from one bar to the next. In such a situation, however, do be aware of your surroundings and belongings. If you want to capture the essence of Irish night life, this is the way to do it, and it’s free. Plus, you get to move at your own pace and interact with the drunks on the street who try to woo you with sloppy pick up lines.
Castle and Cathedral Hop
Instead of bar hopping, bounce around to Dublin’s different churches and cathedrals. If there’s anything that Europe is best known for, it’s their architecture, churches, and the architecture of their churches and cathedrals. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle, even Trinity College (not a castle, I know, but it looks like one) are all works of art that are to be admired. A good first glance can be seen from a tour, but go back on your own to get a better view and pictures!
Not many bus tours are actually worth the money. They tend to be lame, due to the fact that you have to listen to outdated commentary through a pair of cheap headphones. Turns out the Dublin bus tour is pretty great though because the drivers get to add their own personal flavor. I have to share my favorite joke here from my bus driver. In reference to Molly Malone rumors about working in prostitution but claiming to be celebate, the driver said “many people witnessed her celebate (sell a bit) here and celebate there.” Not funny? Maybe you had to be there. Anyway, it’s 18 euros for a 2-day ticket, and they take you to all the tourist spots, among them Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery, and Phoenix Park.
One of many keys to maintaining sanity while traveling is to balance big city visits with trips into the countryside/getting back to nature. Ireland’s countryside is amazing and not to be overlooked. Did you hear me? AMAAAZZZZIIINNNG! It’s green, clean enough to breathe easy again, quiet enough to hear yourself think, dark enough to see the stars like you’ve never seen them, peaceful, and utter bliss. The outskirts make for great hiking opportunities as well and Dubliners flee to areas like Glendalough, Wicklow, and Carlow for some exercise or even a weekend picnic. If you get the chance, get out of the city and chat with the locals over a nice stroll along the waterfront.
It’s very easy to get anywhere in Ireland by car or train in under 5 hours. With so many great places within reach comes a myriad of day trip options, Belfast and Cork among them. Once you feel like you’ve had enough of Dublin, take the train out to a different city or county to take a breather. Best part is that many areas outside of the big cities are small enough that you can move at your leisure and still be back in time for dinner and a drink in the sea of Dublin’s night life.
More information and impressions on Ireland can be found in my guest post on Reykjavik Boulevard: 10 Things You Haven’t Heard About Ireland.