The Celtic Tiger may have lost its growl, but this auld town is as energized as ever, with bustling pubs, fast-evolving culinary and theater scenes and the warm, witty hospitality that’s given the Irish such a good name
Author Jon Marcus Photography Brian Park
DAY THREE | Start today with a light breakfast at the Dawson Street location of Lemon Crepe & Coffee Company (1), a creperie popular with locals for its sweet crepes and Belgian waffles, hip design and music, friendly service and fun vibe. Then spend the rest of this late morning shopping on Nassau Street, around the corner and across from Trinity, for real Irish goods, from Donegal tweed and scally caps at Kennedy & McSharry (2) to walking sticks and Dubliner hats at Kevin & Howlin (3), to Irish music old and new at Celtic Note (4). You’ll also find the Kilkenny Shop (5), with more contemporary Irish crafts and crystal.
Then make your way to Pearse Railway Station for one of the frequent DART trains to Bray and the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt (6) in suburban County Wicklow, a rich agricultural region where much of what you ate in Dublin came from. The 40-minute ride takes you along the scenic coast and through what’s known as Irish Hollywood, where celebrities including Enya and U2’s Bono and the Edge live.
This Ritz is inside the private Powerscourt estate, owned by the Slazenger family of sporting goods fame. Opened at the peak of the Celtic Tiger, it’s set down in a hilly forest with an uninterrupted view of the 1,644-foot Sugar Loaf Mountain across the green Irish countryside. It has two championship golf courses, a spa and a black marble heated indoor pool inset with Swarovski crystals. Ninety-three of the 200 rooms are suites, impeccably furnished and high-tech with TVs set inside the bathroom mirrors and a button by the bed that parts the drapes, rain forest showers, feather beds and walk-in wardrobes.
Activities here range from biking to fly-fishing to hiking and even archery, but you decide to unwind with a lavish dinner at the new Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt fine-dining restaurant, the fiery chef’s first in Ireland, with new takes on classics such as lobster ravioli, roast sea scallops with crisp pork belly, and Wicklow venison and lamb. As you dine alfresco on the balcony, taking in the extraordinary mountain view, you’ve seldom felt so very welcome.
A frequent visitor to Ireland and resident of Boston, writer JON MARCUS likes to consider himself Irish by association.
THE PINT AND THE PEN
Dublin has a world-class literary pedigree entwined with a rich drinking culture. To learn about both firsthand, join the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, where actors and literary enthusiasts Colm Quilligan and Frank Smith will show you pubs and other landmarks associated with the rich body of Irish literature, reciting from famous books and letters and singing traditional drinking tunes, like the cheerful “Waxie’s Dargle,” about two Dubliners in search of funds. Dublin has been newly designated by UNESCO as a city of literature, and, perhaps unshockingly, much of Irish writing originated in these pubs. Playwright and dedicated pub-dweller Brendan Behan, for instance, once dubbed himself “a drinker with a writing problem.” The crawl begins in the The Duke (shown above) just off Grafton Street, near where, in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom asks a blind man if he wants to cross the road. It ends in a pleasant fog some indeterminate time later, depending, as Quilligan puts it, on how quickly you walk or how slowly you drink.
(1) Lemon Crepe & Coffee Company 60 Dawson St.; Tel: 353-1-672-8898
(2) Kennedy & McSharry 39 Nassau St.; Tel: 353-1-677-8770
(3) Kevin & Howlin 31 Nassau St.; Tel: 353-1-633-4576
(4) Celtic Note 15 Nassau St.; Tel: 353-1-670-4157
(5) Kilkenny Shop 6-15 Nassau Street; Tel: 353-1-677-7066
(6) Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry; Tel: 353-1-274-8888