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Linda-Marie Singer is The Live Wire

Linda-Marie Singer - Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

In Ireland, "You're Very Welcome!"

By Linda-Marie Singer

View from Dublin's River Liffey (Photo: Linda-Marie Singer) - Click to Enlarge
View from Dublin's River Liffey (Photo: Linda-Marie Singer)
Click to Enlarge

DUBLIN, Ireland: Go anywhere in the Emerald Isle and you'll hear  "You're very welcome!" This cryptic but always lyrical greeting warmly ushers in visitors to Ireland, the western most island on the edge of Europe, and also its most rapidly expanding economic center.

With a population of only 5 ˝ million -- not to mention 4.9 million sheep, Ireland may only be the size of Kansas, but it makes up for its lack of density in its homegrown hospitality.  Last year over four million vacationers were introduced to Gaelic, Ireland's second language, surveyed its sweeping countryside and Irish mist, and rekindled their appreciation of Ireland's illustrious literary tradition.  And yet there's something many guests may find surprising -- the award winning cuisine.  In fact, "Ireland The Food Island" is the country's new slogan where cuisine invokes an exquisite exploration of the palate.  Maybe that's why The Food and Drink Industry accounts for approximately half of the total exports by Irish owned companies.

Oh, those welcoming Dublin doors! (Photo: Linda-Marie Singer) - click to enlarge
Oh, those welcoming Dublin doors! (Photo: Linda-Marie Singer)
click to enlarge

Of course any tour of Ireland includes Dublin, the capital city.  A sure bet for shopping, dining and entertainment is Temple Bar whose shop doors and windows swing open to some of the capital's most colorful streets. 
 

Jurys Hotel in Dublin (Photo: Linda-Marie Singer) - click to enlarge
Jurys Hotel in Dublin (Photo: Linda-Marie Singer)
click to enlarge

A restful, comfortable night at Jurys Ballsbridge Hotel will bring you to one of the city's most fashionable districts.  There you'll feast on the typical Irish breakfast of bacon rashers, eggs, sausages, black and white puddings, and fried breads.  This is just for starters.

Since dining is such an important pastime in Ireland, you may want to spend an evening sampling the award winning menu at Thornton's Restaurant located near Stephen's Green Hotel.  Start with The Terrine of Foie Gras and Rabbit Truffle and Leek ($30), and move on to the Bresse Pigeon with Tarte Tatin of Shaillot ($46).  The all French staff offers impeccable service, and, did I mention artistic desserts ranging in the $20 category?

Fado Restaurant on Dawson Street offers a more festive ambiance and a lesson in Irish history.  The $32 menu furnishes such starters as Chicken Liver and Cognac Parfait or Salmon and Herb Fish Cake, and then continues with varied entrees from Goat's Cheese and Tortellini to Grilled Salmon Fillet and Mussel Risotto.  Fado, first opened to the public in the millennium year of 2000, is a part of the Mansion House that has been the official residence home to the Mayor of Dublin since 1715. 

But, if like me, this is your first trip to Ireland and especially to Dublin, getting to know the "Dubs" will mean exploring its medieval, Georgian, and modern architecture along with its castles, churches and cathedrals, theatres, museums and galleries.  Dublin is also renown for stately homes and gardens, marketplaces, fine dining and affordable shopping. Yet no matter what you see or where you go, you'll always be reminded of the proud Irish culture and its native literary sons: James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats.

Did I mention pubs?  There are hundreds of pubs making Dublin the world's most famous drinking city.  Guinness, anyone?  Undoubtedly the most requested drink in the country, the "black stuff" can be traced to Arthur Guinness who founded The Guinness Storehouse in 1789.  Visitors who tour the premises receive a complimentary pint while they sip the dramatic views of Dublin.

Centuries ago Dublin was the focus of craftsmanship and shop keeping.  Now it's all that plus a global center of computers and communication -- a city steeped in education.  Trinity College, established by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, is one of its most famous sites with its Old Library of Trinity housing two million volumes in "The Long Room."  But the great treasure is The Book of Kells, an eighth century illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels.

Another great discovery is The National Gallery.  Established by an Act of Parliament in 1854, there are 2,500 paintings and 10,000 other works including watercolors, drawings, sculpture and prints.  Every major European School of Painting is represented, and there is also an important collection of Irish work plus the Yeats Museum.

If you tingle when you see old cathedrals, watch what happens when you visit Saint Patrick's.  Established in 1191, writer Jonathan Swift (Gullivers Travels) was Dean from 1713-1747.  It was also at Saint Patrick's in 1742 that Handel's Messiah received its first performance.

But for those who long for the tranquility of the countryside, head thirty minutes south of Dublin to The County Wicklow, "The Garden of Ireland."  A lush landscape fills the horizon with sheep frolicking in the farmland.  In between counting sheep, you may want to visit the twenty championship golf courses with Druids Glen Golf Club, host of four Irish Opens, among the best. 

Tinakilly Hotel Country House
Tinakilly Hotel Country House
A place to hike and horseback ride, Wicklow is also a locale where you can walk along the coastline, visit gardens and castles, partake in the award winning cuisine, and stay in traditional Irish accommodations like Tinakilly Hotel Country House.  Member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Tinakilly, with its romantic setting, contains Ireland's only surviving seventeenth century gardens. 

Malahide Castle a fortress and private home for 800 years.
Malahide Castle a fortress and private home for 800 years.

Visit Powerscourt And Gardens, one of the country's most beautiful estates, and Malahide Castle with its 250 acres of parkland.  A fortress and private home for nearly 800 years, Malahide Castle is furnished with period pieces together with an exquisite collection of Irish portrait paintings. 
Kilruddery House And Gardens dating from the eighteenth century
Kilruddery House And Gardens dating from the eighteenth century
Another in the fine series is Kilruddery House And Gardens dating from the eighteenth century, and famous for having the oldest formal gardens in Ireland.
 

Now as you make your way back into Dublin, take a good look at the doors.  No, not the rock group but actual doors of homes that are painted in vibrant blue, red, yellow, and of course emerald green.  And remember that when the Irish say hello, answer back "You're very welcome!"

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How to Get There:

Start learning Gaelic on board Ireland's official airways, AER LINGUS.  With impressive service, the crew seems eager to give tips about their favorite cities in Ireland.  Just ask.  Aer Lingus is offering specials to Ireland: $99 One-way New York, Chicago or Boston and $124 from LAX.  www.aerlingus.com

Dublin Accommodations:

Jurys Ballbridge Hotel
Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge
Ireland

Email: Ballsbridge@jurysdoyle.com
Web: www.jurysdoyle.com 

303 rooms, 3 suites  Pool  Gym  24-hour room service.  Standard room rate $258 to Executive rate $299.

Stephen's Green Hotel
St. Stephen's Green
Ireland

75 rooms, 9 suites.  Standard room rate $303.  Executive rate $336.
Email: stephensgreens@ocallaghanhotels.ie
Web: http://www.ocallaghanshotels.ie

Tours:

WILD WICKLOW - http://www.wildcoachtours.com 
DUBLIN BUS - http://www.dublinbus.ie 
DAY TOURS UNPLUGGED - http://www.daytoursunplugged.ie
DUBLIN LITERARY PUB CRAWL.  Guided tour by actors who perform humorous extracts from Dublin's best known writers. 
Email: info@dublinpubcrawl.com

Places of Interest:

GUINNESS STOREHOUSE at St. James' Gate.  $12 Admission.
Arthur Guinness and Son is synonymous with Ireland throughout the world.  Taste the "black stuff."  One of the the world's most famous breweries.  http://www.guinness.com

THE DUBLIN WRITERS MUSEUM at 18 Parnell Square.  $5 Admission. Set in an eighteenth century mansion, examine the past 300 years of Dublin's most celebrated writers from Shaw and Wilde to Joyce and Yeats. 

Classic Irish Linen - click to enlarge
Classic Irish Linen - click to enlarge
 


IRISH LINEN CENTRE AND LISBURN MUSEUM.  Free Admission.  Follow linen's history in its heartland beginning in Lisburn's seventeenth century market house where cottage weavers brought their cloth to sell.  Learn how linen cloth was made from flax.  Watch experts spinning and weaving, and you can also have a spin.
Email: arts.information@iac.lisburn.gov.uk.

DUBLIN'S CITY HALL on Cork Hill. $4 Admission.  Watch the multi-media presentation tracing evolution of the city from 1170 to present.

EXPLORE THE COUNTY OF WICKLOW:

MALAHIDE CASTLE is set on 250 acres of parkland in the seaside town of Malahide.  A fortress and private home for nearly 800 years, the house is furnished with period pieces together with the exquisite collection of Irish portrait paintings.  Email: Malahidecastle@dublintourism.ie. Web: http://www.visitdublin.com.

TINAKILLY HOTELS COUNTRY HOUSE AND RESTAURANT in The County of Wicklow.  Romantic setting and once home to Captain Halpin, Commander of the Great Eastern that laid the Transatlantic telegraphic cables joining Europe to America. Tinakilly is now one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World fashioned in Victorian-Italianate architecture.  Nineteenth century gardens, ornate interiors in period furnishings, oil paintings, and seafaring memorabilia.  51 bedrooms and many with sea views.  Email: Reservations@tinakilly.ie, Web: http://www.tinakilly.ie.

KILRUDDERY HOUSE AND GARDENS.  Ireland's only surviving seventeenth century gardens.  House dates from the eighteenth century, and was home to the Earls of Meath. Kilruddery Houses and Gardens has the most extensive early formal gardens still in their original style, and are the oldest gardens in Ireland.  www.kilruddery.com.

POWERSCOURT HOUSE AND GARDENS.  One of Ireland's greatest treasures with forty-seven acres of gardens, and one of the most beautiful estates in the mountains of Wicklow.  The Gardens were constructed between 1843-67, and the terraces are ornamented with statuary.  Try the Terrace Café featuring dishes from "The Avoca Cookbook."  Specialty shops and even the Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland's highest waterfall.  Email: Gardens@powerscourt.ie, Web: http://www.powerscourt.ie.

DRUIDS GLEN MARRIOTT HOTEL & COUNTRY CLUB.  400 acre Golf Resort that is spacious and modest situated between the Irish Sea and Wicklow mountains.  In 1995, a championship golf course was opened at Druids Glen and has hosted four Irish Opens.  In 2000, it was voted "European Golf Course of the Year."  The hotel overlooks the 13th hole.  There's also a spa and health club with an indoor pool.  148 guestrooms and 11 executive suites.  24-hour room service, two restaurants and one bar. Standard room rate $225.  Suites $335.
Email: events.druids@marriotthotels.co.uk, Web:  http://www.marriotts.com/dubgs

Dining Out in Dublin:

Thornton's Restaurant on St. Stephen's Green
Email: thorton@mdiolfiee.ie

Fado Restaurant
Mansion House
Dawson Street, Dublin

Email: info@fado.ie

For More Information:

Irish Tourist Board 
Email: www.tourismireland.com
http://www.shamrock.org
Phone: 800-SHAMROCK

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Linda-Marie Singer "The LIVEWIRE" for Travel Watch. Former President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, and created the national writers conference, "The Days of Wine & Proses." She is a travel and entertainment reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area. (More about this writer.)

Email: lindamari@aol.com - Web: http://www.i.am/lindamarie  

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