When considering where to have our staff Christmas shindig, we thought it was only sensible to head over to Dublin, Ireland, sample the local sights and hospitality (all in the spirit of research, mind you!) and then pass on our travel tips, photos and the details of where we visited and what we did in our whirlwind weekend visit – we’re only thinking of you!
Seven of the core Go Walkabout Team took a RyanAir flight from London Gatwick to Dublin airport, we then headed to the brand spanking new Holiday Inn Express Dublin City Centre, which is right in the heart of this compact capital city (which is also the largest in Ireland). It is home to 1, 345, 402 inhabitants in the urban centre, and was busy when we visited, with many shoppers no doubt picking up Christmas presents in the city’s shops.
Apart from shopping till you drop, you have got lots of other options for things to do – from a bar crawl in the buzzing Temple Bar area to having a leisurely wander around, taking in the many monuments and landmarks that the city boasts – you really are spoilt for choice. The city isn’t too large to be overwhelming, but there are plenty of cafes, bars, restaurants, theatres and other tourist attractions to give you ample and varied choice of what to do.
We were lucky enough to have booked a group walking tour of the city with a local guide, which perambulated around areas of interest and educated us on events that happened in the city’s recent and more distant history. Our guide was obviously a very knowledgeable man, who was very engaging, and happy to answer questions as we went. Rather than wandering aimlessly and not really getting beneath the skin of the city, we had the benefit of knowing what we were looking at – and hearing about its relevance and role in the city’s cultural and historical story.
Highlights of what we saw included:
– The University Trinity College, on the grounds of an old Augustinian priory, where the illustrated manuscript The Book of Kells is kept in the Library
– The towering and controversial Spire of Dublin, also known as the “Monument of Light”, which was erected at the start of the new millennium
– We crossed the O’Connell Bridge over the River Liffey, which is said to be unique in Europe, as the only traffic bridge that is wider than it is long
– the General Post Office, (GPO), Dublin, is the headquarters of the Irish Post Office and was the headquarters of the uprising’s leaders during the Easter Rising rebellion of 1916. The facade is all that remains after the original building was destroyed during the failed rebellion against British rule.
The majority of us had never visited Dublin (or indeed Ireland) before, so it was great to find out about the key moments, buildings and people in Dublin’s eventful past.
Another excursion that we were lucky enough to take, was to the Guinness Storehouse in St.James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin, which was established by Arthur Guinness, when he signed a 9, 000 year lease, back in 1759. The iconic Guinness stout is now famous the world over, and a visit here not only educates you on how the perfect pint of Guinness is created, but also gives you a complimentary Guinness to taste for yourself – which most people opt to drink in the amazing rooftop bar with a 360 degree view over the city. We timed (it was a lucky coincidence) our visit as the sun was setting and the sky was a vivid canvas of purples, pinks, oranges and inky blue, which was obviously enhanced by the liquid alchemy in our glasses! It was a great way to finish the tour, which is very visual, and doesn’t bombard you with reams of dusty facts and figures, but you still feel that you learned lots about Ireland’s ‘national drink.’
A few more Guinness’s were sampled as the evening wore on, and we relocated to the Bleecker St. Cafe Bar, which comes highly recommended on Trip Advisor, and certainly lived up to our expectations for a night of typically Irish hospitality and festive fun. Whilst the exterior didn’t look particularly out-of-the ordinary, we were bowled over by the generosity, charm and friendliness of all the staff, who welcomed us as if we were regulars, and genially invited us to “dance, sing, come behind the bar for photos or dance on the bar” if we felt that way inclined. We did take them up on a couple of their suggestions, after a hearty meal and a few liquid refreshments – but I’ll leave you to guess which ones…! Our host warned us that the Bar was likely to be invaded at some point during the evening by Christmas revellers donning Christmas jumpers, or more imaginative festive attire who were manfully attempting a ’12 bars for Christmas’ bar crawl en-masse. They did indeed arrive, and made for an amusing (and in some cases, cautionary!) spectacle before they headed off into the night to find the next bar. We also enjoyed sampling the delights of the eclectic jukebox selections, with all eras and tastes represented across a broad spectrum of songs…
All in all, we all thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Dublin, and it was a timely reminder that one of the best gifts of all, is to get the opportunity to travel…
Tips for travelling in a group
– When planning your itinerary for a weekend away, whilst it’s tempting to squeeze as much in as possible, be realistic about how many things you can do without feeling rushed. Also, we were delayed on our way over due to fog, so it was helpful that we hadn’t booked our first activity in, too soon after the flight was due to land, and we had plenty of time to drop our cases at the hotel, and head off to our first activity, without missing anything (especially if you have to pick a certain time slot).
– Book as much as you can in advance, including taxis and restaurants, as they may have to make special arrangements to accommodate a larger group. Plus, it gives you a chance to check reviews on Trip Advisor to see if they are a good option, based on the experiences of others.
– See if you can find any discounts online for attractions that you want to visit, that you can use if there are enough people in your group.
– Understand that people don’t always want to do the same thing, and allow some free time in the schedule if individuals want to go off and explore, in their own way. Let people know the times they need to meet up and where, and trust that everyone will make it!
Tips for flying to a mini-break weekend
As you will probably be travelling light, due to the relatively few days that you will be away, plus the added expense of checking bags into the hold on some airlines – you will probably just be taking hand luggage on your flight. This may require a little bit more forward-planning than usual, as you will need to think about what is allowed to be taken in hand luggage, in order to get through security without problems, but still have the toiletries and make-up products that you just can’t do without!
The key thing to remember is that liquids include:
– All drinks, including water
– Liquid or semi-liquid foods e.g. soup, jam, honey and syrups
– cosmetics and toiletries, including creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lip gloss
– sprays, including shaving foam, hairspray and spray deodorants
– pastes, including toothpaste
– gels, including hair and shower gel
– any other solutions and items of similar consistency
As you will be carrying the liquids that you take with you, in hand luggage, none of the containers can hold more than 100ml. Also, you will need to put them all together in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag which measures approximately 20cm x 20cm. They usually have these bags available prior to getting to security, should you need them.
Perhaps, surprisingly, small scissors (with blades no longer than 6cm and or round-ended scissors, are allowed in hand luggage, as is a disposable razor blade. With regard to electronics, you can take your mobile phone and your tablet, plus most other electronic devices. You must make sure they are charged up though, as if it doesn’t switch on when requested, you wont be able to take it on the aircraft. Check up-to-date FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) advice here about what you can and can’t fly with.
Many supermarkets and chemists (especially ones at the airport itself) will sell travel-sized toiletries, plus transparent bottles that contain 100ml, so you can pour your own toiletries into them, if you prefer.
If you’re staying in a hotel, check what facilities will be in the room, to save you carrying them over unnecessarily – things like towels, hairdryers and irons will probably be available. Similarly, if there are a few of you travelling in a group, you can pool your resources, and save the weight and space in your individual cases.
Before packing your hand luggage and cases, it’s best to check the latest FCO advice about what you can and can’t pack in your hand luggage, just to make sure that you don’t have any lengthy hold-ups at the security desks.
Where we went, and what we did
Holiday Inn Express Dublin City Centre – A modern hotel with spacious rooms and good facilities, free wi-fi and breakfast included. It’s a 20 minute drive from Dublin airport and gets good reviews on Trip Advisor for being clean, well appointed and well served by helpful staff.
The Bleecker St.Cafe Bar – For reasonably-priced food in generous portions, a relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff, this is a great chance to experience the legendary Irish hospitality. Facebook & Twitter See what others think, via Trip Advisor.
Don’t forget that you still need to arrange travel insurance for a few days in Europe, just in case something unexpected crops up, and a valuable item is lost or stolen, for example – or your flight away from the UK is delayed for a prolonged period. You can cover short trips (usually for up to 31 days) under an Annual Multi Trip policy , which is often an economical choice, if you have got a couple of other trips booked within the same year. We can also cover trips within Europe on a single trip basis, get a quote here. Take a look at our Feefo reviews to see what our customers think about our policies and service.