Sunday, December 23, 2012

Thanksgiving in Ireland: Dublin City Bike Tour

One of the best ways to explore a City is on Bike and Dublin is no exception.  With it's flat landscape and ample bike lanes, Dublin is a perfect City for bike explorations.  We contracted with Dublin City Bike Tours and met them a small hostel not too far from the Gibson Hotel (where we were staying).

There was a bit of a hiccup as Brian, our tour guide had forgotten the keys to the bike locker and had to return home to get them.  We still left on time, so there was no harm no foul but I was concerned that if he forgot something as key (pun intended) to this tour, what else would he be forgetting.

Our tour group had 11 people and two tour guides.  There were 5 women in their 50-60s from Scotland, a family with two college aged kids and parents from Birmingham, England and me and MS.  Brian and Cian were our tour guides - Brian was the leader and Cian brought up the rear to make sure everyone stayed together.  This is a great model, unlike in Barcelona where we lost someone and to sit around for about 20 minutes while we looked for this guy.

The bikes we used were single speed folding bikes.  I was a bit concerned at first, but since Dublin is so flat and we kept at an easy pace we didn't need bigger wheeled multi-speed bikes.  I couldn't imagine using this bike for the Bike and Wine Tour in South Africa though.

Brian and Cian unfold the bikes
Safety was a priority on this tour. Not only where we given helmets (which I require anytime we are on a bike), but we were also given a florescent yellow reflective harness. Cars would have to WORK to not see us on the street.
Safety First
Prepped and ready to Ride
We started out heading south of the river and stopped to talk about the Great Potato Famine and the Mass Emigration from Ireland to the US and Canada.
Replica of the boats that took the Irish
away from their home to Canada and the US.
The Famine Memorial depicts several starving Irish people in rags walking towards the dock as they leave Ireland.  There is an equivalent memorial in Toronto, but in Toronto the people are walking away from the dock towards their new home.

Famine Memorial
The next stop was the Samuel Becket bridge over the River Liffey designed by Santiago Calatrava. It was a hinged bridge that swing from being perpendicular over the river to be parallel to the river allowing larger boats to cross.  The bridge hasn't swiveled since it opened though.  In the background of the picture below you can see the modern convention center (the cube building with a glass cylinder offset inside it).  This building is also called God's Guinness or the Stiffy on the Liffey.


We continued to the docklands area and stopped outside of the Bord Gas Energy Theater and heard about the rehabbing in the area, the financial and real estate collapse and the history dating back to the time when the area had a leper colony.  An interesting story came from this area - the men who worked on the dock worked near the leper colony and they would often be quoted as saying "I wouldn't touch that person with my dock pole", which was a 10-foot pole used on the docks.  Hence the phrase "I wouldn't touch that with a 10 foot pole."

These red posts represent the 10-foot dock poles
Mix of Modern and Classic architecture in the Docklands




We continue the tour away from the river and docklands south.  We stopped on a corner and peered up, seeing this woman (statue) climbing the building.  This building housed the Irish Treasury.  The thought was that this woman was attempting to climb up and break into the building to steal the money.  According to Brian, this is now where the IMF is based when they are auditing the Irish books.  The story is now that this woman is trying to escape from the IMF investigators as there is no money left in the Treasury.


We saddle up and continue to Merrion Square, a large Georgian Square on the south side of Dublin.  This beautiful park is home to a street lamp museum -- no two street lights are the same.




The square is also home to a statue of Oscar Wilde - one of the worlds greatest writers, poets and drunks.  Some of my favorite quotes are attributed to Mr. Wilde.  


A seductive statue with Mr. Wilde lounging on a rock in the background.



We stopped by the old home of George Bernard Shaw, but then was turned into a museum that depicted his home when he lived there.  Unfortunately, there wasn't enough interest or money to keep the museum running.


We continue our ride through the City and came across Saint Patrick's Cathedral. I didn't see a single snake or a snake memorial for that matter. We did hear that Saint Patrick was able to fully explain Christianity and the Holy Trinity to the polytheists of Ireland by using a three leafed shamrock.  If that's the case, then why is a four leafed clover lucky?





Many foreign dignitaries were set to be in Dublin while we were there and mostly working at Dublin Castle.  We snaked our bikes through the limited castle grounds and spent just a few minutes gazing upon this 12th century structure (most of it dated from the 19th century though).


As we finished the tour, both Brian and Cian gave us a great list of recommendations - fantastic restaurants or pubs with food and live music. They even drew a map of the route we took and outlined the highlights of the tour and pinpointed other locations we should visit.

Map and route of our tour
If you want a larger version of this map, let me know and I will email you the full sized file.  Brian and Cian did an absolutely amazing job.  I would argue this is probably the best city bike tour I've ever taken.  The worst part of the experience? I left my gloves in Chicago and my hands were quite cold by the end of the experience.

If you are visiting Dublin you must take this tour. If you have a week or just a day, you need to reserve your spot. You will not be disappointed.  If you decide to do this, send my greetings to Brian and Cian - and let me know what you thought about the tour itself.

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1 comment:

Peter Graves said...

Bike tour seems to be very interesting! Being a student, I have not yet been to many places, but it would be my first visit to Dublin in the month of May, I was reading an article on Dublin tourism and I found that this place has some world best places to visit.