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  WINDY CITY TIMES

TRAVEL Ireland, Northern Ireland: A land of rainbows
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2019-12-13

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Possibly the friendliest country anywhere, Ireland is a lush, green island in the North Atlantic.

The Republic of Ireland is divided in two, with Northern Ireland being a part of the United Kingdom. This splits the currency, as the northern region uses pounds and the southern uses euros. Much of the culture is still influenced by Great Britain, including sports and traditions.

Residents speak English with some even use the original Irish language called Gaeilge. Knowing some local expressions can be helpful and avoid unexpected confusion. Searching for "good crack?" This translates to fun or gossip and is actually written "craic." Instead of cursing, many people will politely exclaim "sugar" when they are frustrated. You may hear, "That's grand," which really means "That's fine with me."

The airline Aer Lingus currently has direct flights from Chicago to Dublin. The company spotlights the typical hospitality of the Irish that can be expected. Be a smart travel and pack light to save room for shopping.

The Iveagh Garden Hotel makes a central place to stay right in the heart of Dublin. The surrounding nightlife can be loud; however, at the same time, the front of the hotel is a bit unassuming and hidden from tourists by blending into the architecture in the area.

The cuisine has improved over the years, with the country tapping into the nearby Atlantic Ocean. The seafood is fresh at Sole Seafood & Grill and will give travelers a true taste of what Ireland has to offer. Brasserie Sixty6 on Georges Street uses locally sourced ingredients for dishes and is strongly recommended simply for freshness alone.

If you like a little religion with your lunch, look no further than The Church Bar, which is fittingly located inside a converted church. World-class cocktails can be part of a guest's communion while visiting the cafe. Still thirsty? Head over to Roe & Co Whiskey Distillery for a cocktail-making class and hourly tours of the distillery that the Roe family established in 2019. Many tourists visit Guinness' St. James' Gate brewery across the street, but this spirited place is less hectic.

History is such a vital part of the fabric of Ireland, so turn the page at Marsh's Library, which still remains unchanged for centuries, originally opening in 1707. It has a collection of over 25,000 books and served as inspiration for Irish author Bram Stoker.

Secret Garden to MoLi-Ireland's Museum of Literature just opened in September 2019 and is a beautiful place to relax. Once inside, learn about Kate O'Brien, who was a lesbian playwright and novelist way ahead of her time. Her book The Land of Spices was originally banned by the Irish State. Luckily, times have changed with the 2015 same sex marriage referendum and the current Irish minister Leo Varadkar who is out and proud.

Pop in to Merrion Square to find the statue of Oscar Wilde, one of the country's most celebrated gay authors. This campy homage to Wilde is one of three sculptures unveiled in 1997 by artist Danny Osborne.

Glasnevin Cemetery has the iconic O' Connell Tower, which allows tourists to march up its steps and take in a view. Chicagoans might be interested in the fact that, in 1893, a replica of this tower was made of empty whiskey bottles and displayed at the World's Fair in Chicago.

The nearby John Kavanagh bar—better known as The Gravedigger's Pub—will be full of locals telling ghost stories, if you're lucky. The bar is located where the original entrance to Glasnevin's Cemetery was until it was moved in the '70s.

Another scary place to visit is where an organization called the Hellfire Club practiced ancient rituals; it can be found by climbing Mount Pellier Hill. Some of the Hellfire Clubs are still in existence and celebrated at colleges in Ireland.

Sometimes the horrors of the past are real. Look how commerce has changed at 14 Henrietta St. with an immersive experience about tenement housing and the poverty that Ireland once faced during the Georgian period.

For LGBT nightlife in Dublin, look for a rainbow flag at The George, where drag shows and lively events will have you entertained until the late hours. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, visit Maverick Bar, where RuPaul's Drag Race UK contestant Blu Hydrangea performs regularly.

Out actor Kristian Nairn is someone many will know as Hodor from the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones. He was once the resident DJ of the Belfast gay club Kremlin; when in town, he works some tours of the set locations of the popular series. The warehouse where the show was filmed is near the Titanic Museum, on the pier where the ship was originally docked. Belfast—the capital of Northern Ireland—is a short two-hour train ride from Dublin and well worth the day trip.

With the rain throughout the year, there are plenty of rainbows to see along the way while visiting Ireland and Northern Ireland. While you probably won't find a leprechaun or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you might run into some of the most helpful locals on the planet. The people treat visitors like guests in their homes—a breath of fresh air to any tourist.

Visit TourismIreland.com and start planning a trip today!


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