Magical Alchemy of Dublin Still Luring Travellers - Part Two
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We also recommend the Avoca Handweavers on Suffolk Street for breakfast, lunch and terrific confectionery. This is the smallest of their eight Cafe & Craft shops scattered around the country. Wheelchair accessible. 11-13 Suffolk Street. Tel: 353-1-677-4215. www.avoca.ie
For quick, satisfying pub grub, including Limerick ham with parsley sauce, roast beef and leg of lamb, drop into O'Neill's historic establishment that's been a landmark for 300 years. There's live traditional music on Sundays and Mondays after 9 p.m. You can get a slap-up dinner for two here, with beer, for less than $50. 2 Suffolk Street. Tel: 353-1-679-3656. www.oneillsbar.com.
The Brazen Head Pub is even more atmospheric; there's been a tavern here since 1198 and its ancient walls harbored many a rebel. Oysters and Guinness are specialties and rollicking music sessions are a Sunday afternoon tradition. 20 Bridge Street. Tel: 353-1-678-5186. www.brazenhead.com.
Caravaggio's 'The Taking of Christ' at the National Gallery of Ireland is a must-see if you're interested in art or have read of the painting's sensational history in Jonathan Harr's book, The Lost Painting. The masterpiece was brought to the gallery for a cleaning by someone who had no idea of its importance. Equally treasured is 'Lady Writing a Letter' by Vermeer, which had been abducted by the IRA from Russborough House in Blessington. After being ransomed, it was found in Amsterdam and returned to Ireland. Wheelchair accessible. Merrion Square West and Clare Street. Tel: 353-1-661-5133. www.nationalgallery.ie.
The Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, is believed to have been the world's first museum of modern art when it opened in 1908. After a magnificent two-year renovation, it reopened in 2006 and is now a proper venue for the treasures it holds. Sir Hugh Lane, who perished aboard the Lusitania during World War I, had intended to leave his collection to Ireland.
However a codicil to his will was not witnessed and the National Gallery of London claimed the rights. Eventually an agreement was reached allowing both countries to share the collection. Impressionist treasures include works by Manet, Monet, Degas, Pissarro, Vuillard and Renoir's marvelous 'Les Parapluies.' Also on display are contemporary Irish paintings and a reconstruction of Francis Bacon's studio. Look for Harry Clarke's masterful set of stained glass windows, 'The Eve of St. Agnes,' just inside the entrance. The gallery's cafe is just the place for hot scones heaped with whipped cream and rhubarb jam. Wheelchair accessible. Charlemont House, Parnell Square North. Tel: 353-1-222-5550. www.hughlane.ie.
Around the corner from The Hugh Lane, is the Gate Theatre where both Orson Welles and James Mason got their theatrical start. Dublin's much-acclaimed Theatre Festival takes place in early October, with the Gate always a key venue. Wheelchair accessible. 1 Cavendish Row. Tel: 353-1-874-4045. www.gate-theatre.ie.
Dublin Castle, once an infamous symbol of tyranny and torture, is now the location of the Chester Beatty Library in the Clock Tower. Beatty was an American mining magnate who bequeathed an astonishing collection of riches to Ireland, where he spent the last years of his life. Religious artefacts, illuminated manuscripts and icons from Oriental, Middle Eastern and Western cultures include awe-inspiring Qur'ans and the earliest papyri of the Gospels. Within the castle, the Silk Road Cafe serves acceptable food. Wheelchair accessible. Tel: 353-1-407-0750. www.cbl.ie.
At Islandbridge on the River Liffey, you'll find the Irish National War Memorial Gardens. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, they are among the most beautiful of such memorials in Europe. If you visit in June or July, you'll see some 4,000 red roses blooming in two great amphitheatres. Tel: 353-1-677-0236.
Malahide Castle was the seat of the Talbot clan from 1185 until 1973. One of the most colourful tales told about the Talbots took place in 1690, when 14 members of the clan sat down in the Great Hall of the castle, to what would be their last breakfast. Before nightfall they had all been slain at the Battle of the Boyne, fighting for James II against William of Orange in the protracted contest for the English throne. The magnificent 12th century property is set in parklands and botanic gardens and is open for tours. And if you should be looking for a site for a private party why not hire one of the castle's stunning medieval halls, complete with minstrel gallery.
The castle grounds are the home of the Fry Model Railway, one of the world's largest, including handmade miniatures of virtually every train that has ever run in Ireland. Elsewhere within the precincts of the castle, you'll find Tara's Palace, a magnificent doll house with miniature paintings for the state rooms contributed by major Irish artists. And don't forget the obligatory pots of tea and scones with blackcurrant jam in the castle kitchen. The picturesque town of Malahide is on the DART line, and the castle a 15-minute walk from the station. Tel: 353-1-846-3779.
We rarely drive in Dublin because of the city's heavy traffic. Instead, we heartily recommend using taxis. Not only will you avoid the nerve-wracking challenge of the roads, but there's a good chance you'll find the drivers to be enormously entertaining. When we leave the city, we rent from Murray's Europcar which offers the option of returning the car at Shannon Airport. Tel: 353-1-614-2840. www.europcar.ie.
There's an entertaining city tour called the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl that takes you to many of talk-and-drink shrines patronized in former times by the city's literary giants, including Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Brendan Behan, William Butler Yeats and others. It's great fun, and you may be lucky enough to have one of their shades take a liking to you and brighten your days thereafter. 1 Suffolk Street. Tel: 353-1-8780227. www.dublinpubcrawl.com.
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