Hopping off the bus to uncover Dublin’s architectural and cultural gems
By Rita Westerman, 11-time traveler & Vacation Ambassador, Westerville, Columbus
One of my interests has always been history—and the same was true of my husband, Curtis, who passed away in 2005. That’s one of the main reasons we have always chosen to travel with Grand Circle: the wonderful opportunities we have to delve into the rich histories and fascinating cultures of so many countries around the world.
When I lost Curtis, I was hesitant to continue traveling, but my children encouraged me to get out there and do it. And since I’d always wanted to visit Germany, my first trip after his passing was on Grand Circle’s Great Rivers of Europe River Cruise.
Since that first trip, I’ve continued to explore the world and discover the magical histories of so many wonderful places. And although it’s hard to choose a favorite, my trip to Ireland with Grand Circle was one of the best.
Rita visits Irish Heritage National Park in County Wexford.
Because of the large Irish population in Columbus, Ohio—near my hometown of Westerville—we have a pretty big St. Patrick’s Day celebration every year. The city embraces its Irish heritage and revelers take to the streets for a huge parade. When my husband and I were still traveling, he’d mentioned that he’d always wanted to visit Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. So, after exploring the rivers of Europe, I decided Ireland was next.
Although I sometimes travel with my sister, I really enjoy taking these trips on my own. Since I have such a deep passion for learning about the histories of the countries I visit, I tend to explore on my own a lot … which is exactly what I did in Ireland.
During our four-day extension in Dublin, my fantastic Program Director Daren Blake (who was a history textbook himself!) told me about a special bus pass called a “Hop On/Hop Off” pass. Basically, you’re able to board the bus at any of its 35 stops across the city. If you’re interested in any of the stops along the way, you have the opportunity to “hop off” the bus and explore the destination for as long—or as short—as you want.
As soon as I learned about it, I simply had to try it out. So one morning, I woke up early and purchased the pass. Off I went to explore the amazing sights Dublin had to offer!
One of the stops along the bus route was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, also called the Church of Ireland.
I saw Dublin City Hall, Christ Church Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral—also known as the Church of Ireland. When the bus approached the stop for the Guinness Brewery, I just had to hop off. It was time to learn the history of Ireland’s most famous brew. As I entered the brewery, I discovered they were celebrating their 250th anniversary—and I still have my commemorative coaster as a remembrance of my visit. The tour included an explanation of the hops procedures and I was even given an opportunity to sample the beer. A waitress came over to offer me a pint of the famous drink, but since I’m not an avid beer drinker, I asked if there was any way I could have a smaller sampling. She brought me over a half-pint of Guinness—and even that was hard to finish!
Rita tried one of Ireland’s most famous beverages during her visit to the Guinness Brewery.
I hopped back on the bus and continued to explore more of the city, including the Old Jameson Distillery and Smithfield Village area—where I stopped at the General Post Office of Dublin, an enormous building that serves as Ireland’s postal headquarters. We also passed Trinity College, but since we’d already visited the building during an earlier tour, I was able to stay on the bus and prepare for my next “hop off.”
Eventually, I ended my tour at St. Stephen’s Green: I needed to rest and have some dinner. It was a long, but discovery-filled day—and I didn’t even get to see every stop along the way!
I’m so glad Daren told me about this wonderful opportunity to explore Dublin. Although the bus tour’s map claimed the duration—without hopping off at any stops—was an hour and a half, I spent much more time exploring on my own, which is one of my favorite things to do anyway. It gave me the opportunity to explore the amazing architecture and histories behind all of Dublin’s famous—and not so famous—sights.
And I was not only able to learn about a new city, but I was also able to meet some wonderful people along the way. As I waited to board at one stop, I noticed a couple with their young child. We struck up a conversation and I soon learned that they were visiting from Italy—and the family was from the city in which my grandfather was born. What a small world! They asked if I would mind taking a photo with them, and I happily obliged. It’s one of the best things about exploring on your own—you meet such delightful and welcoming people along the way.
Exploring Dublin on her own allowed Rita to meet some wonderful people—including a father and his son visiting from Italy—while waiting for the bus.
My trip to Ireland reinforced just how much history our world still has for me to learn about. My husband always told me that when you visit another country, you should explore everything that you can because you never know if you’ll return there again. And it’s advice that I continue to follow to this day.
Explore the historic sights of Dublin on our Ireland in Depth vacation.