After visiting Dublin for the first time, I was struck with an odd sense that I missed something. That I didn’t get whatever seeped into the pores of thousands of men and women throughout history who seemingly stopped by the River Liffey for a visit and found themselves living alongside it for decades. Perhaps it was my impression that the advertised activities cater to two types of tourists: college kids and AARP members. Or my irritating jet lag. Whatever it was, I was confused by my feelings for it. But I have sorted it out since.
Dublin is not for tourists. Sure, outsiders are welcome. But don’t come with a map in hand and an agenda to follow. You won’t enjoy yourself. Instead, embrace the pace. Breathe deep. Stop for a pint. Skip the tour. And forget the schedule. Weekending in Dublin is about escape. It’s about being in Dublin more than seeing it.
As such, it seems almost foolish to follow the traditional Geek Travel Guide format. Instead, this guide will take the form of the city and its famous river. It will flow from my memory to your mind. Think of me as your friend in the pub, sharing a pint and entrusting you with my greatest secrets for enjoying Dublin.
Start your day in Dublin on the river. It’s an incredible guide for the city, as it arches through the most iconic parts of town, it literally can be your savior should you get lost. The Bakehouse is a suitable place to start with two locations on the river, one in the newly renovated CHQ Building and the other on 6 Bachelors Walk. This adorable and bright little shop serves up amazing pastries, breads and soups. Forget takeaway. Just take a minute. Grab a seat, enjoy the light flavor combos (a raspberry lemonade cupcake for breakfast? Yes, please. ) and the company.
After you’ve filled your gut, walk along the river to the Temple Bar neighborhood and keep your eyes open for the Dublin Castle. You really can’t miss it - its’ a freaking castle in the middle of the city. It’s a charming and I feel, quite representative piece of history for Ireland. In other cities across the globe, castles go through so much trouble to keep the properties separated from the people. Guards, fences, sheer acreage, moats. Not in Ireland. The Dublin Castle is just there. Open to the public and free of fussiness. Don’t pay for the guided tours, instead, walk the grounds, which are beautiful but unpretentious.
By the time you’ve found the castle, you’ll be ready for another break. Remember, this isn’t about crossing items off a tourist checklist. So, take a minute and get a pot of tea and a biscuit from the Castle Cafe at Dublin Castle. Sit on the terrace for lovely views of the grounds and a bit of rare quiet in the Temple Bar.
Once you’re rested, head to the other side of the river to the Dublin Writer’s Museum. It can be easy to miss, but don’t fret. The nearby Parnell Square is a nice rest stop for a quick moment to admire the scenery. It’s also ridiculously easy to spot this modest house from the park. The Writer’s Museum is not for everyone. If you don’t know who Oscar Wilde is, don’t care what James Joyce wrote and aren’t particularly interested in Yeats - well, then skip it. But seeing as you’re reading Being Geek Chic, well, I’m assuming you’ll be in good company. It’s a small and quiet gallery with original manuscripts, letters and diaries. It’s easy to spend an hour there - or three. Just don’t rush through or you’ll miss the scraps humor from Wilde.
After perusing the museum, make your way to really any pub on the river with music. I loved The Ferryman Pub, just across the Liffey from the Dublin Convention Center. It’s heritage and history are abundant, the food is pub food, but that’s what you are looking for anyway. And the decor is like a freaking museum. I spent hours wandering the halls, gazing at old newspaper headlines and admiring long-since-extinct products from Dublin’s past. Plus, the pints were affordable at about 3 quid.
On your second day, wake up and head over to the Science Gallery on the Trinity College Campus. While all the other tourists are off to check out the Book of Kells, you’ll be enjoying a hot latte with a croissant at the cafe within this nifty exhibit. After chowing, head into the free gallery space for the latest exhibit. The museum specializes in the combination of art and science - a field all to often relegated to Neil DeGrasse Tyson YouTube videos - but deserving of much more attention. The Illusion exhibit runs through the fall and is a stunning compilation of audio and visual experiences that are meant to draw the mind of the viewer in. This is active art, friends.
Since you’re now near The Trinity Library and the Book of Kells, saunter on over to this historic little spot.
While the book itself is really fascinating, nerds will have more fun walking through the 1500 year-old Old Library, which houses some of the oldest texts from the world’s most famous philosophers, poets and general geniuses. And yes, the name really is Old Library. In addition to being historic, it’s also just beautiful. The wood is warm, the busts are gorgeous and the lighting is lovely. It’s certainly no place to plop on a leather chair and read a book, but you’ll want to.
At this point, you’ll be so thoroughly filled with literary inspiration that you’ll be longing for some new texts. And since Oscar Wilde is a native son, it’s only fitting that you visit The Gutter Bookshop. Named after a famous quote from the author, it’s a quiet and lovely little stop for picking up a new adventure or two.
Some might say that no trip to Ireland would be complete without a trip to the Guinness Storehouse. I can’t disagree. But for nerds, it’s not about the beer. It’s the incredible scientific process that combines water, hops, heat and time to create the famous beverage and the view you’ll get while drinking it that ultimately makes it worth the stop. And the hefty price tag. Every admission to the experience comes with entry to the rooftop bar and a pint of Guinness. I don’t love their beer, but I give them points for appealing to the scientist in my heart.
Don’t forget to check out all the Being Geek Chic Geek Travel Guides before you take your next trip!
For the uninitiated, I grew up in northern Minnesota, so it holds a bit of a soft place in my heart. I will try and divorce these overwhelming feelings of delight about the place in this guide, but I’m going to be honest right now: chances are I will be shit at it. If you’ve spend any time in the North Woods, you know why. Yes, yes, the winters are cold. GOT IT. I’ve lived there, I KNOW. But, the summers are the very DNA of joy, peace and calm. I hope this guide is proof of that.
The north woods is working hard to bring new experiences off the lakeshore to tourists and natives. One such experience is the Canopy Pines Ziplining Tour up the Gunflint Trail. The tour is only a year old, but it’s already a highlight in the region for many visitors. It’s easy to understand once you’ve done it.
Bob Dylan made Highway 61 famous with his kazoo music and lyrical recalls to Lake Superior, but it’s the Indiana Jones like living that can be achieved along the Gunflint Trail and Boundary Waters Canoe Area that keeps people coming back. An experience like the ziplining tour is further proof. It’s a two hour experience, with full training on how to control your speed and move around on the line should you get stuck, so it’s got a true survival instinct like much of the activity up there. The staff are fun and silly, so it’s great for all ages (you must be at least 10 years old and weigh less than 250 pounds). Don’t forget to wave hi to Canada while you’re up there.
Kayaking and paddle boarding on the North Shore is prohibitively expensive and not all that fun on Lake Superior, because the water is freezing and you can’t jump in when you’re done. To be honest, save the paddling and swimming for a BWCA trip, which is a whole additional guide. Instead, bike and hike. Minnesota deserves a medal for maintaining their hiking trails so well and making it so easy to find them. The most satisfying 45 minute hike of your life can be found just 15 minutes south of Grand Marais on the Cascades River Trail. The path is pristine, but mostly uphill, so it’s a great workout. In addition, you literally can not hike more than 10 minutes without running into a waterfall or series of rapids that belong in Disney movies.
The hiking is equally satisfying, although a lot less difficult at Gooseberry Falls, which is especially fun in the middle of the summer. The park is halfway between The water levels have been unusually low in recent summers, so for the first time in my lifetime, people can walk on top of the falls and even shower underneath them. But leave the soap at home.
For history buffs, the Split Rock Lighthouse is just 10 minutes north of Gooseberry, so it’s an easy twofer day trip. While the lighthouse is a lot of fun to look at from the outside, I recommend paying the $9 to take a peak at the interior works and the Light Keeper’s Cabin. These two spots are filled with beautiful design details, which have been restored for historical accuracy. The lighthouse is right off the Superior Hiking Trail, so once you’re done taking in a history lesson, grab your bike and peddle the shore for a while. The cool lakeshore air is especially helpful for sweaty summer afternoons.
If you decide to name something the “World’s Best” anything, you are creating a lot of expectations. Cue my eye rolls at the very thought of "World’s Best Donuts" when I first rolled into Grand Marais. Like a teenager who acts like they’re too cool for Harry Potter, I was proven so, so gloriously wrong about this bakery. It’s beyond. BE-YOND. Get the sugar cinnamon and cake varieties. You will thank me later.
When you’re ready for something a little more hearty, you can always get Sven’s Pizza - but that’s hardly anything you won’t find everywhere else on the internet. So let me suggest an alternative. Get the double thin crust Taco Pizza at My Sister’s Place instead. Sour cream on pizza is weird at first, but you’ll soon develop intense cravings for it afterwards.
On the way home, you’ll want to get some pie at Betty’s Pies. Skip the food. Just trust me on that. It’s just plain ol’ diner food. Actually, the chili was pretty killer. BUT, the pie. Yes, the pie. Literally any flavor is amazing by the Butterfinger and Chocolate Mint slices are personal favorites.
I can’t say enough about the East Bay Suites. There’s lots of great little places to get a bite to eat on the North Shore, but when I’m up there, I like to have a kitchen and fireplace. This joint has it all: free bike riding (even a tandem bike), free s’mores every night and free fire wood. You’ll forget just how far north you’ve traveled, because the people at this place put Southern Hospitality on notice. Plus, the boaters who can be found out the front window every morning make the place feel downright magical. It can’t be beat.
Don’t forget to check out all the Being Geek Chic Geek Travel Guides before you take your next trip!
It’s well-documented, but I love movies. I love to watch them, re-watch them, talk about them, write about them. Even bad movies are still… movies. And I have to appreciate the work required for each to be born unto my eyes.
This fall will be particularly amazing. Just look at this lineup:
Touchy Feely - September 6, 2013
What can I say? Initial buzz on this movie is so-so, but I love an obnoxious twee movie about obnoxious twee people. Maybe it’s because it makes me feel better about myself. I don’t know.
Gravity - October 4, 2013
This movie could literally be Sandra Bullock floating around space for 90 minutes and I think I would like it. I would get a stomach ache, but I’d like it.
Thor: The Dark World - November 8
I am the only person I know that feels this way, but maybe one of you agrees: Thor is the BEST of the round one Marvel movies. Yeah, I know. BOLD. No wonder I’m so excited for the next movie.
About Time - November 8
I sense a double header weekend. Time travel? Check. Domnhall Gleason aka Bill Weasley? Check. Bill Nighy. Done damn deal.
Catching Fire - November 22
I don’t think I even need to explain why this is so exciting to me.
After these movies come and go, we still have so much to look forward to. Hobbit 2. Sherlock S3. Doctor Who Christmas Specials. We are in for a really great remainder of 2013, my friends. If you like that movie clapper necklace up top, you can buy it. I did. And I love it.
It’s a work in progress, but I’ve been trying to find a fun and clever way to keep track of all the places I’ve been with my travel partner and love booger. This map is a work in progress, but it’s a nice snapshot of what we’ve been able to cover in five years.
Pinterest is full of great ideas for memory books and special map crafts for travel lovers, but I want something I can edit over time. This is why Illustrator is my best friend for this endeavor.
Do you have a method for keeping track of your travels?
San Diego is home to a lot of beautiful things. Gorgeous beaches. Incredible marinas. Delightful tacos. But perhaps the most beautiful thing about San Diego is the arms it opens to throngs of geeks every year. I have long said going to The Comic Con was on my geeky bucket list, but it turns out that the San Diego Convention Center is really only about 10% of the fun to be had in this dynamic city.
Go for San Diego Comic Con, but arrive at least one day early and stay at least one day late. It’s impossible to appreciate everything this beach town has to offer over the course of a long weekend and you’ll be so tired by the end of SDCC that the only thing you’ll care to see are a soft blanket and some pillows.
I can not recommend spending a day on the Coronado Boardwalk enough. There are plenty of easy and affordable water and non-water activities for all ages. I’m a huge fan of paddle-boarding and a rental cost about $25 for two hours of serene entertainment. If motorized sporting is more your style, there are Jet Skis available for $99 or you can take a Silvergate Ferry Ride for $4.25. For those that don’t like water activities, bike rentals are also available, but two feet and a little time will offer an equally relaxing workout.
For history nerds, there’s no shortage of ship tours worth checking out. The Maritime Museum of San Diego is home to an incredible collection of wartime ships, some of which still sail. Sailing Adventures are expensive ($60 for an adult and $48 for a child), but if the comprehensive tours aren’t enough and feeling like a pirate for a day sounds like a treat, then there’s nothing else like it.
Balboa Park offers a bit of respite to those looking for a chill post-Comic Con day trip. With beautiful gardens, approachable museums and lots of lovely people watching, this Park is one of the best in the country.
I know so many non-West Coasters who make it a point to get In & Out Burger the second they land in California. I’d like to steer you in another direction if you’re headed to San Diego. Check out Burger Lounge. With locations in the Gaslamp Quarter, Del Mar and Coronado (plus a few others), it’s easy to find a convenient spot. The restaurant boasts a 100% grass-fed menu, plus lots of other orgatnic treats. The Fresh Vegetable salad is hands down one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten. Try it with the lemon basil dressing. Yum. The burgers are juicy, fresh and kick In & Out’s ass. Sorry folks, it’s true.
If you’re looking for tacos (and who isn’t) - nearly every local I talked to suggested Humberto’s Taco Shop. It’s a modest place, but it’s got one thing most people can agree is awesome: lots and lots of cheese. Plus, it’s reasonably priced. You can eat a pretty big lunch or dinner for less than $10.
Since most nerds come upon San Diego for the first time via Comic Con, they also tend to spend a lot of time in the Gaslamp Quarter. It makes sense, there are tons of bars, endless entertainment options and smart marketers have turned Petco Park into a zombie apocalypse hamster ball. While Ghiradelli Chocolate might attract the more traditional tourist, skip it in favor of Chocolat on Fifth Ave. and Island - just a few blocks away. The bistro offers lots of food, but the real treat is the espresso drinks and gelato. There’s plenty of classic flavor offerings, as well as some humble combinations for the new foodie. Dark Chocolate and Orange is one of the most popular and with good reason.
The Marriott Coronado is a wonderful relaxing spot outside of the Convention Center insanity. Sure, it’s a $15 cab ride from the mainland or a $4 to $6 ferry ride, but I honestly found it refreshing to get away from the chaos every night and just unwind.
The best part is the wonderful beach front fire pits with bar side service. I found myself spending many nights watching the waves slowly crash on the shore thinking about what next year’s Comic Con will have in store.
You can find all of Being Geek Chic’s Geek Travel Guide’s Here.
Have I ever told you I have no patience? Zero minutes, 12 seconds and 2 frames is the total patience I have in me. When someone tells me I need to be more patient about:
I get angry. If I’ve got coupons, I can muster another 2 minutes worth of tolerance for the third one. But with the first two, well, I can be a little harsh. I firmly believe when others tell you to be patient, it’s an indication of their insecurity about the pace of their own life. The point is I have none of that “smile and wait” bullshit in my bones. But somehow…
I managed to wait in countless lines. For not just hours. For entire days. I managed to tolerate the irritation of eating rarely… or on some days, not at all. I managed to smile and be cheery on less than four hours of sleep every night. All because of San Diego Comic Con. Yeah, SDCC brought out something in me that no mentor, family member or boyfriend ever could. That’s pretty damn remarkable.
The reason? Well, if you’ve been to SDCC you know it’s not real life. It’s suspended geek reality where that obscure thing that only you really care about suddenly becomes something universally understood. Waiting in line with thousands of other people to see Tatiana Maslany, Matt Smith and Jane Espenson - I wasn’t just “waiting,” I was communing.
So thanks, San Diego, for being such a great home for nerds. And for hosting our ridiculous party. And thanks to my internet friends, now real friends, for making it especially memorable.