One of the questions I get a lot from people back home about living in Ireland is “what is it like?” And to be honest, Dublin, and Ireland in general doesn’t feel all that different from living in the states. I’m not the only one, most North American expats in our circle of friends feel the same. After awhile, the Irish accents fade, and you stop noticing them. And although you hear accents from all over the world, having spent the majority of my adult life in major cities, this doesn’t feel at all foreign. Basically, I forget we’re in Europe. And indeed, Dublin shares many common aspects to living stateside. One of which, is the lack of adequate public transit. And nothing makes me feel like I’m stateside more than not being able to rely on public transportation (outside of New York).
Dublin has public transit, but it leaves much to be desired. Though arguably, it is better than stateside. Unlike other major European cities Dublin hasn’t conformed to mass, efficient, public transit. It is improving, but for now, if it isn’t in walking distance I’ll have to be pretty motivated to go. If you want to explore Ireland, a car is pretty essential, or you have to do one of those mass bus tours. The problem is, cars are ridiculously expensive to rent here, so it’s a rare occasion we have one. Trains are a good way to get places, but once you reach that destination a car is necessary to explore further than town center (generally). While we’ve seen a fair bit of Ireland in our 20 months of living here we certainly haven’t explored as much as we thought. And although the public transit system is prohibitive, it does have some access. The dart, one of the two tram systems that services the Dublin area can take you north to explore the seaside port of Howth, or the castle at Malahide. South, you can go all the way to Bray and hike along the coast back up to Dublin, or visit the farmer’s market in Dun Laoghaire. But our favorite trip is to Blackrock.
From city center it’s a quick 15 minutes down to Blackrock along the coast. It’s a small sea-side suburb, a quick escape from Dublin city center. Though you can see Dublin in the distance from the beach, it’s notably calmer here. At low tide, the flat beaches, too cold for swimming, extend far towards the Irish sea. If it isn’t too windy, which it often is, you can climb on rock walls and watch the sea swell. But we come for something else; fish and chips. If you read any guidebook about Dublin, inevitably, you’ll encounter a recommendation for fish and chips, likely at the famous Leo Burdocks. We’ve tried it, and in general, haven’t been impressed with the offerings in Dublin. But out in Blackrock there’s a small shack doing fish and chips right. And it’s the only place we’ve found thus far that we want to return to.
Part of it is the atmosphere, the small shack set up behind the Blackrock market, with only a few seats and blankets to keep you warm. There’s something so satisfying about eating perfectly executed fish and chips near the sea, away from the mild chaos that is the city center. It’s such an easy escape, it’s a wonder we didn’t discover it sooner. So on that rare sunny day, we’ll take the dart south, eat our fill of fish, wander the streets, watch the tide change and return to city center.