I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland. Firstly, because I’m part Irish and secondly, I believe my future husband is there. He just doesn’t know it yet. His name is Adam and one day he’s going to bump into me on the street on his gypsy horse or knock over my wine in a pub while walking past with his Irish Wolfhound on return from his Irish castle and say ‘Madam I’m Adam’ which is “Madam I’m Adam” backwards.
And he’ll look like Cillian Murphy . . . just taller. I’ll have to move to Ireland and live in his castle and we’ll ride across the green green Irish fields together on our wild black gypsy horses and swim naked in the Irish sea and probably freeze to death but at least we’ll be together.
In Gaelic, Adam or Adhamh means ‘red earth’ or ‘ruddy’ but my Adam will have the palest skin to bring out the colour of his intense blue eyes.
Why Adam I hear you ask? Well when I was seven I developed a crush on a fictitious character in a book called Adam. I then boldly declared to my parents that when I grew up I’d live in London, work for the BBC, have houses in London and New York, drive a red Ferrari and of course marry Adam from Ireland.
I did actually manage to tick two off my list – moving to London and working for the BBC – and I’m not entirely completely grown up yet so there’s still plenty of time to achieve the others. Apart from Ferraris which are a bit eighties cheese so I’ve wiped them from my list.
A soggy start
I began my search with a recent weekend in Dublin with my friend Alice from Berlin. We had two days to achieve my mission and as neither of us had done any research, it was going to be a tough assignment. Plus it was raining in Dublin. And I don’t mean the kind of soft, spitting rain you get in London which makes your hair go frizzy.
This rain came in sideways, backwards, frontwards, in a whirlwind; it did 360 spins off the pavement and whipped us in the face; it tore our umbrella to pieces and never ever stopped. Occasionally we’d spy the sun, it would rush out, burn and shine as hard as it could before the black clouds rolled across the sky and chased it away.
So what with the rain and me with a back injury, we certainly had our work cut out for us.
Luckily our hotel called Number 31 – a chic boutique guesthouse is in a classic Georgian townhouse and a contemporary mews house near the centre of Dublin – wasn’t too far so we could have as many nanny naps as we needed during our relentless search.
Armed with a tiny guidebook, Google maps and a sense of optimism we started our journey on Friday afternoon with a cup of tea and Irish soda bread at the hotel before venturing out in the freezing rain towards St Stephen’s Green. I knew we were off to a good start when we unexpectedly stumbled across Dublin’s own Love Lane – a small street tucked behind the restaurant and bars in Temple Bar.
Here we discovered beautiful heart-shaped murals on the floor and a colourful wall installation of hearts and poems on little tiles created by artist Anna Doran. Surely this was a sign! Nothing quite screams love than a lane completely dedicated to it. I was giddy with excitement and briefly became attached to an enormous mural of a handsome Irish-looking man with dark hair, blue eyes and … er … blue earrings before realising that he was probably too big-headed and one dimensional for a potential mate.
Navigating the sea of tourists at Trinity College where luminaries such as writers Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett had once studied, we poked our head into a beautiful ancient building where students were watching a movie about a famous American transgender. No Adam in here. In fact I felt as far away from my Adam as I could at that point although the students were very friendly when they saw our bedraggled selves staring through the door and beckoned us to come in. We politely declined.
After several hours ducking the rain showers, we spied a colourful cafe called KC Peach. It was warm and cosy inside with more friendly Irish people. I had a piece of springy mango and coconut cake and a strong coffee for energy while we planned our next move. We were soaked to the skin, not a great look when you’re searching for the love of your life, and so decided to head back to the hotel, have a rest and get changed before dinner.
Salad hearts in The Rustic Stone
Two hours later, refreshed and eagle-eyed, we were back in the Temple Bar – a tourist favourite for its nightlife and street life – having been dropped off by the friendliest taxi driver in the world. We found The Rustic Stone – a nondescript restaurant serving the most delicious meat and fish in tasty marinades cooked at the table on a hot stone.
In keeping with the theme of our weekend, we ordered crunchy salad hearts with an assortment of chutneys, and Tempura of salmon with crunchy broccoli. I had a slab of fresh tuna with coriander, dill, basil and rocket with a hint of orange and confit ginger which really was as delicious as it sounds. Alice had fresh Halibut with walnut relish and we sat there and talked about my quest.
“Is Adam even an Irish name? “ I asked Alice at one point during dinner.
“I think so,” she replied optimistically . “Although I haven’t met many Irish Adams. Adam Clayton from U2 is Irish isn’t he? Or maybe he’s English. Um. Still you never know! Your Adam might even be dining in this restaurant!”
I looked around. It was mostly couples staring into each other’s eyes or out the window apart from a group of big breasted blonde women laughing like hyenas and having a good time at a table in the far corner. No Adam here.
After dinner we staggered home passing scantily clad teenagers in dresses and suits obviously on their way to a prom. Most were either snogging each other, fighting or vomiting. Teenagers in love – ugh! It was a surreal scene and a world away from my romantic vision of a cantering black gypsy horses across fields of green.
I’d spent a total of eight hours in Dublin so far and the closest we’d come to finding love was a giant lifeless mural, drunk teenagers and a heart salad. Still, we always had tomorrow.
Mummified rats, cats, the letter J and a love bracelet
The next day, after a hearty Irish breakfast prepared by the wonderful friendly hosts of Number 31, we went to the medieval Christ Cathedral, founded by Vikings and complete with a mummified rat and cat and gift shop in the crypt. It was still raining.
After wandering around the cathedral and saying a few prayers for it to please stop raining and for me to find Adam, we wandered into the gift shop where a lovely Irish sales lady encouraged us to buy a silver bracelet each for luck and ….. love. Did she say love? Mine had a four leaf clover, a teeny heart and the words love, friendship and loyalty. This had to be a sign that I was on the right track to finding Adam!
With renewed enthusiasm and the sudden unexpected arrival of sunshine we returned to Trinity College to visit the ancient and famous Book of Kells. Do not miss this place if you’re in Dublin. It is so impressive and contains an ornate 9th century book of text containing the four Gospels and some of the finest illustrated medieval manuscript in the world.
Upstairs in the Trinity’s Long Room or Old Library is a chamber stacked with Trinity’s oldest books, including a Shakespeare Folio, resplendent with a barrelled wooden ceiling, marbled busts, ladders and all the numbers of the alphabet except the letter J which technically doesn’t exist in the Latin language. While this might seem like a travesty of justice to all those whose names start with J, like mine, don’t let it put you off.
We left the library an hour later to be greeted by an angry thunder storm which soaked us to the skin and turned our umbrellas inside out. The search for love, the sights, the weather ….I was exhausted.
We needed a Guinness toute de suite and began the long walk against the elements up through Temple Bar towards the ultra modern Guinness storeroom west of the city centre, past the big council estates where horses and carts thundered up the street and cars splashed us as they drove through enormous puddles on the road. This was no longer a walking tour of Dublin, we were now having to swim everywhere.
A lovely day for a Guinness and foam moustache
Completely soaked to the skin, we squelched our way up flights of stairs to the Stylish Gravity bar with its 360 degree views of Dublin from which we could view the green countryside. Despite Alice being teetotal and me never having drunk Guinness before we thought we’d better get to grips with it especially if I was going to marry an Irishman.
We ordered two pints from our European Guinness Ambassador who decorated our beer froth with a four leaf clover, gave us strict instructions on how to cultivate a foam moustache and told me I had beautiful Irish eyes. He was also an amateur photographer, like me.
“You both love photography – you should keep in touch!” declared Alice pointing at the ambassador. She was a little glassy-eyed from her few sips of beer and I was already swaying from half a pint. “I’ll connect you on whatsapp!”
“What? Wait! No, he’s not Irish!” I hissed.
“Well you can have some fun until the real Adam comes along,” she said whipping out her phone.
The bar was packed with steaming foreigners – Chinese, French, German and Americans – and smelt like wet dogs and hops. We even spied a catholic priest in his brown robes suspiciously holding a pint. Was he even allowed in here? It was then I realised they’d never let Adam in with his wet Irish wolfhound anyway so decided to have a break from my search and let the alcohol take over.
Two hours later, smiling and swaying with a belly full of Guinness and the ambassador’s whatsapp number in my phone, Alice and I gingerly navigated our way down the spiral staircase (at least I think it was spiral) and out the door where a couple of Irishmen with hairy gypsy horses and carts offered us a ride. “Adam?” I asked blearily before Alice dragged me in the opposite direction.
It was time for another nanny nap so we swam home, rested for a couple of hours and then realised we hadn’t booked anywhere for dinner. We rang every restaurant from the hotel to Temple Bar and incredibly they all rang us back to apologise that they were all full. That never happens in London. The only place we could get into was The Rustic Stone. Our old haunt. Off we went back to Temple Bar and walked into The Rustic Stone waving at everyone as though we owned the place. “We’re baaaack” we said. Embarrassingly no-one recognised us not even our waitress from the night before.
We skulked to our seats and perused the menu again. As we were discussing the merits of steak or fish, I felt someone standing beside me and looked up. I heard Alice’s sharp intake of breath. It was our waiter. He was tall, gorgeous – a bit like David Gandy although I prefer Cillian Murphy – and had piercing blue eyes, dark hair and white skin. His body was mmmmm. My heart began to pound. He smiled at me and began to speak. I watched his lips move, waiting for the sound of his melting Irish accent…
“Bonjourrrrr, how are you zis evening?!”
Ah Merde. He was French! Not that there’s anything wrong with French but I was on a quest for an Irishman. He also didn’t have a castle or ride ‘orseez’ and like Mr Guinness Ambassador was way too young. As lovely and beautiful as he was, he just wasn’t for me.
After dinner of delicious fillet with mushrooms, again cooked on a hot stone, Alice and I wandered up the street to an Irish bar where we danced solo to Hip Hop until about 2am and then staggered home to the hotel.
Day two and we’d met two friendly young men from Europe, drunk our first Guinness and bought a love bracelet but there was still no sign of Irish Adam. Were we looking in the wrong place?
Hurricane in Howth
The next day was Sunday – our last day in Ireland. Alice had to leave early to catch her flight so I decided to take myself to Howth Peninsula – a pretty fishing village with a lighthouse and clifftop walks, just about half an hour north of Dublin on the DART. The sun was shining, people were eating fish and chips (the best I’ve tasted by the way – buy them from Beshoff Bros but be prepared for queues), everyone was smiling, the sea was sparkling. It was heaven.
As I was walking towards the lighthouse I noticed with dismay that a biblical black storm was gathering in the south over Dublin and moving across the skies very quickly towards Howth. Without any shelter whatsoever I knew I was about to get the soaking of my life. I managed to get to the lighthouse just as the skies opened up and shelter against the far side away from the wind, the tower structure acting like a giant concrete umbrella.
Across the harbour entrance, also sheltering against a wall, I could see a tall figure in dark rain gear. He began to wave at me. I waved back. He waved again. I looked to check he wasn’t waving at someone behind me but I was completely alone. I pointed up at the storm and shrugged and he did the same. It was like seeing a mirror image of myself across the seas.
Could it be?… Adam, is that you?!!
But then something in the water caught my eyes – a long line of little sailing boats being gently led to safety by a bigger boat like a row of ducklings following their mother – and when I looked back, my waving mirage had disappeared. I looked all over the pier but he was gone. I waited another twenty minutes for the rain to cease its pounding and walked back to the village marvelling at what a surreal encounter that had just been.
Sadly I never did find Waving Man again or Adam for that matter at Howth, but I did meet lots of friendly people and walked across the most beautiful clifftops admiring Tara Hall with its expansive views and walled garden down to the sea. And suddenly my quest was over. It was time to return to London.
I didn’t give my heart to an Irishman this trip, but I did fall in love with the beauty of Dublin, its surrounds and the friendliness of the Irish people. My taxi driver on the way to the airport insisted I try West Ireland next time for its wide open countryside and single men (he said this without me prompting him by the way). You never know, one day this Summer I might be walking down a little Irish lane and Adam will run me over with his horse.
Until then, I’m still looking…
Flights: Dublin is about 50 minutes from London Heathrow. I flew with British Airways (£144) but there are plenty of no frills airlines servicing the city including the Irish airline Ryanair.
Hotel: Number 31 in Leeson Close is divine with a central courtyard, gorgeous interiors and fantastic hosts. Our twin room was unfortunately on the ground floor and although beautiful, it was also a bit dark and noisy. Ask for a room upstairs. Two nights cost us: €483 (Ireland uses euros as its currency) http://www.number31.ie
Dining out: Try The Rustic Stone in Temple Bar on South Georges Street their delicious fish and meat dishes served on hot stones. Meal for two with bites, starters and mains came to about €80 without drinks. http://rusticstone.ie/menu.html
Getting around: You can pretty much walk everywhere in Dublin apart from to Howth Peninsula which is easily accessible by DART from most of the city’s railways stations. Otherwise taxis around the city are cheap and the drivers super friendly.