Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nighttown - Dublin's Delicious Underbelly

Do you know your half crowns from you two and six or your plug from your chaw? What about your Dan Bergins from your James Rourkes?
 If so, or indeed if not, having a little knowledge about Ulysses, that incredibly big book written by James Joyce in the last century, can make Dublin a little more interesting and wondrous than many of you already know it to be…sure why else would you be coming?
When pushed, the local ladies denied all responsibility for the street graffiti
June the 16th, this year a Sunday, is every year the day that Dublin celebrates Ulysses, by commemorating various events that happen to the characters on that day in 1904, most particularly Leopold Bloom. Folk dress up in character and follow in the footsteps of Leopold bloom and others to the breakfast rooms and bars of inner city Dublin and beyond.
Ulysses is essentially a day in the life of Leopold and we in Isaacs Hostel are proud to be doing our bit to help folk get, if not a better understanding of the thing at least a chance to take part in this celebration in advance of the day, by providing space for a reading of chapter 16 by The Bloomsday Survival Kit, a group that aims to bring Ulysses to the people.
On Tuesday evenings the 14th and 21st of May from 19:00 hrs to 21:00 hrs in Isaacs hostel there will be readings of this chapter (it’s a long one), the events of which occur all around our little hostel.
This will be a bit of craic (not, we must stress, the type that may have been freely available in this area a hundred years ago), and you may even get the opportunity to read out a smidgeon of the chapter too, in or out of character. Free coffee and dirty buns will be provided for everyone and all we ask is that you enjoy and learn a little about the book that you more than likely never read before…
For further information on this event visit or follow them on Facebook (we do).
And for all things James Joyce go to  to keep up to date on what is happening throughout the year in celebration of the man and his many works.

Monday, September 24, 2012

In Search of the Perfect Pint

Jaysus,it’s a tough job but someone has to do it: In search of the perfect pint (of Guinness) in Dublin. This is a challenge not to be rushed, and considering the sheer volume of institutions serving the aforesaid, this could be particularly time consuming project.  Deadline :Arthur's Day September 27th17.59pm.

The task clearly screamed HELP,so hence the very obliging team at Jacobs Inn and Isaacs Hostel were recruited ( they didn’t take much forcing! ) to hunt out the  creamiest, smoothest pint in our favourite the best pubs in Dublin. We kind of restricted ourselves to the central square mile in Dublin, so apologies if we missed a vital suburban pint in the far flung reaches of Ranelagh, Malahide or Chapeizod (maybe a sequel blog??).  
The RULES? Well there weren’t any really! The pubs/ bars were judged,to be honest not just on the quality of the  black stuff but overall atmosphere and may have been unfairly influenced  by the  mightiness of the craic  and the consumption  levels on a particular  night in question  - so apologies to Arthur - this might not be the “purest”  of surveys .  We have included  on our  “Black stuff list”  some pubs on  the main Dublin Tourist Trail  ( but let’s  face that’s why they are got there  in the first place ) but we did manage to get a few  hidden gems in too ! So here goes: “Our Staff Picks for a PERFECT PINT” and in no particular order:
Martina (a literary soul?) spends her time at the Bernard Shaw: A pub, with an awesome beer garden and wait for it…A big blue double decker bus that sells pizza. Enough said!! If the bus didn’t pique your interest …you don’t deserve to witness it!
The Mercantile: Great looking bar, pretty central to Temple Bar and them also run a pub crawl every night. But great Sunday session with great modern traditional music.

Kevin: always on form for a pint  
Kevin (yes him) Hannigan  has been known to hang at Messrs Maguire –“Pretty cool bar just south of the river. They’re open late on the important nights of the week ( What IS an important night Kevin?) have several drink promotions most nights and have five different bars over three stories – very unusually and uniquely laid out.

Turk’s Head – One of the few spots in Temple Bar I would go to. It has an unusual layout – some parts of the bar are very cramped with people squeezed next to each other, whereas other parts are open and vacuous. Great live music most nights and some great drink promotions too.
The Porterhouse – There are two of these in the city centre: one on Parliament Street and one on Nassau Street. The Porterhouse is a micro brewery, so they have a large selection of beer from all around the world, as well as their own home-brewed beer (do they serve Guinness Kevin!!?). The one on Parliament Street is better; it’s got live music and a better atmosphere. And finally The Brazen Head – It’s second oldest bar in Europe (though they claim to be the oldest) for one thing. A ramshackle, weathered shell of a building from the outside, a lively local on the inside. Always packed with both tourists and locals, live music every night and (literally) award-winning food.

Mulligans gets best pint vote
Ronan recommends The Long Hall (South Great George Street) – a must-visit pub-and it really is a long hall – a taste of Dublin in the rare ole times! And Mulligans on Poolbeg Street – one of Dublin’s oldest pubs (1782) with the best pint of Guinness for miles around – no fancy frills here!. Frank Ryan’s in Smithfield Great Pub with great Guinness… go on a Thursday to see the best Dublin cover band! And Darkey Kellys – Trad Sessions and good pints, often free sandwiches!

Niamh also backs up Ronan on Mulligans but suggested Mcdaids another traditional pub but on Harry Street just off Grafton Street –“great spot for a good pint of the black stuff but get in early if you want to get a seat!” (And park your shopping bags Niamh???)

Elaine  - is she hiding her Guinness moustache
Elaine plumps for: The Globe – on George's Street, cool, bar upstairs and dance floor downstairs, always full even on a weekday and always free in! The Grand Social – cool smoking area, good mix of people go there. Usually live music/events upstairs and different genres music played every night. (Warning: all the staff like this one) Sweeney’s on Dame Street – Always live music and great atmosphere.
Hot spots Andy 
Andy’s Hot spots! : If you are looking for the Irish cultural experience the Celt bar  Talbot Street is a great spot to go. Live music every night and very close to the hostel. Always a great atmosphere. .There other bars I enjoy are The Living Room on Catha Brugha Street  The best place to go for big sports matches. They have  biggest screens in Dublin and a huge smoking area out the back with big screens
The Globe on Georges street is one of my favoured bars for a late drink. It has a nightclub downstairs that plays some excellent indie music. Doyle's on Fleet Street is also a good bar. It also has live music every night and a nice friendly atmosphere always. One of my favourite bars that are also part of the hostels pub crawl is The Old Storehouse on Crown Alley in Temple Bar.
Would you take a pint with this man?
A third vote from  James for Mulligans on Poolbeg Street which is just over Butt Bridge a few minutes from the hostel serves a great pint of Guinness in a traditional pub environment of retired and still working hacks from the old Irish Press offices next door to the pub. A good mix of tourists with business folk and students along with some fun Dublin bar staff that has been there years, quality pub. The Palace on Fleet Street also serves a good pint of Guinness in a traditional old pub frequented by Brendan Behan and Flann O’ Brien back in the day…Further afield Clarkes pub in Drogheda has a good pint and has traditional Irish music quite regularly (James since when has Drogheda been in the Dublin’s central square mile? You will seriously need to buy the pints if you want us to hoik on out there!! ) NB but then if  you are visiting Newgrange ,then this might be  good  watering hole on the way back . 

So thats it! Our personal picks for a perfect pint. (Tis a blooming miracle how these guys ever have time to work?) We could go on (and on and on) but at least you get a taste of some of our “tried and tested” and clearly where NOT to go of you want to give us a wide berth!!.
We would love to get YOUR Perfect Pint feedback .So please send a review of your favourite Dublin watering holes (with a photo of you in a pub with a pint, if you have one) to or tag to our Isaacs/ Jacobs Facebook pages. You will be in with a chance to win a free night with us plus a wild night out with The Hostel Pub crawl for you and a mate!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

St.Ciaran Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound : Ciaran  (Isaacs Ambassador )

I’m sitting in Munich. Tomorrow morning (Saturday) I fly to Ireland. I can’t believe how fast these past few weeks have gone. Yet, I am very happy to be returning to Ireland!

Since I spoke to you last, I swept through Vienna in two nights! Still though, what a cool city! The people seem so friendly! Although, as I lack the language, they could be cursing at me for all I know! Still, I’d interpret them all as compliments! Not only did Vienna give me some amazing sights, but it also gave me a chance to shop! I can’t go away for 3 weeks and arrive home with nothing but a smile! I’m sure that will be appreciated all the same, but thankfully I did find time to do a wee bit of shopping! Presents galore were purchases as well as a few things for myself. A few things in the form of Vinyl Records. I’m a lover of Vinyl and when you find a copy of Sgt Pepper by the Beatles, you buy it!

So by now, I’ve seen the sights, met the messers and travelled by train! I actually did a few calculations of my total travel time today en route to Munich. Trains alone and not taking into account planes, buses or metro underground trains, I’ve been on the railway for around 33 hours in the past 23 days. That’s insane!! Would I change a second of it? No. But those 80 minutes I was stuck outside of Frankfurt that eventually made me miss my train to Prague. I might alter those slightly. Only enough though so that I’d have to run to make my Prague train, resulting in a dramatic photo finish sort of leap of faith onto the train. But no. I missed that train. By 10 minutes!

What do I plan on getting up to when I return home? Tea. My bed. A good relaxing dip in the local pool! And of course my family and girlfriend! Throughout my time abroad I’ve shared with you different aspects of Ireland and what makes it great! However, I realised yesterday that I had made a mortal sin. I, never, not once, mentioned my hometown of Athlone! Could you imagine the local scandal. They even put me in the paper back there for winning this competition! Athlone is a town of around 20,000 people located on the River Shannon in the counties of Roscommom, and mostly Westmeath. As much as Irish people may say Athlone is in Westmeath, it in both. I should know, my address is Athlone, Co Roscommon.

So what is there to do in Athlone? WHAT ISN’T THERE!! Being on a river means that cruisers are always passing through and while you take in the breadth and length of the River Shannon, stop in Athlone for a relaxing break in the very centre of Ireland. That’s right, the very centre! There’s a plaque to confirm it! In recent years Athlone has become a hub for shopping in the Midlands. There are two shopping centres choc o block of designer outlets and high street names. Fashion ain’t my thing so I’ll stop here before I make an arse of myself, but if you like the biggest, classiest brands then you’ll find them in Athlone!

We also have a Clonmacnoise. A link to the Norman past of Ireland that lead to the formation of a multitude of monasteries across the country! I like Clonmacnoise because it has an incredible history, having been raided by the Vikings time and time again and still kept going strong. Not only that, but it was founded by a St Ciaran. Nice one!

Lastly on a list of what to see and do in Athlone, one should not leave the town without a visit to the Castle. Another feature of Athlones rich history and it stands on the riverbank so there is no excuse for missing it! They’re actually renovating it at the moment, so by the time you get there it’ll be even better! There might even be TWO CASTLES! Or not!

And that’s it. I don’t know when my time as the Isaacs Ambassador officially ends. I’m guessing when I leave their hostel tomorrow afternoon in Dublin. Supposedly there’s a big map of Europe in the hostel of where I’ve been. Looking forward to seeing that!

If this were a film, this would be the part where the credits roll down the screen! For this amazing opportunity I must thank a few people. Firstly, all of the Isaacs staff who stood in for the  very cheesy pictures with me before I left! Thanks to Colm Hanratty of Hostel World who sat on the interview board. Without Hostel World, I would’ve been sleeping under a bridge each night! Thanks to Deborah from Isaacs for taking care of the online side of things and in particular the blog! And finally, I’d like to thank Alan Duncan and James Clancy of Isaacs who not only gave me the chance to cross Europe, but funded the damn thing. What were yee thinking!? Sending a leprechaun like me across Europe! The absolute lunatics! Thanks guys! It’s been incredible!

I might be finished travelling, but I’m not finished Tweeting. Follow me at @ciaran_o_connor where I tweet on all subject matter, expect hostels. I leave that to the professionals. You can follow them on @IsaacsHostel or on Facebook their page!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Truth About Leprachauns

Centre of old town Square Parague 

Typical tourist.. camera ready !
The Truth About Leprachauns.

Hello hello hello. Everytime I begin these blogs I feel like Marty Whelan (Irish TV Commentator) as he broadcasts from the Eurovision. “Hello to you all from (Insert obscure city that nobody has ever heard of!)”

Here I am in Vienna. Since I last spoke to you, I experienced all that Prague has to offer! After my delay and stopover in Berlin, I caught a train to Prague on Monday morning. Exploring that city was great! It’s really incredible. Not only is the architecture beautiful, but there’s a cool vibe about the place! What really did it for me however, was the train ride to Prague. The countryside that the train passed through between Dresden and Prague was absolutely amazing. A big river, forests for miles, houses built into the mountainside and of course, the mountains! Talk about awe inspiring. I sat there, wide eyed, mouth open, simply watching it all unfold before my eyes. The train wasn’t too hot either, but that was probably all my drool cooling me down. I joke! But not about the landscape! That really was incroyable!! It reminded my of Irelands rugged natural beauty! Fair enough, the sun may not be shining as much as it was en route to Prague, and if you wish to sunbathe, you may have to do so in 6 minute shifts in between the wind and rain! Yet what better way to experience Ireland than in it’s natural, regular climate. Who needs the Sun. Puuuuhlease!

Again though, I’m not joking! Biased as I may be, Ireland has some of the most mesmerizing natural beauty in all the world. Admittedly, we have a very green image abroad. It sort of ties in with the Leprachauns doesn’t it!? Well, you won’t find any of those little fellas. They only appear to the locals. NOTE*

Whether it’s the green fields you want to see, or our jagged cliffs and wild beaches that lie hidden across our coastline, Ireland has it all for you! This may be of service to you.

So this morning I departed Prague for Vienna! One more train, one more city! I’m getting near the end now. It’s crazy how fast these 3 weeks have gone. It’s feel like yesterday I was grunting down a phone to win tickets to the Olympics. That’s a smashing nostalgic memory isn’t it?

I love it when a hostel is easy to get to! Really makes travelling all the less stressful. Although, as I write this I can already sense the guys in Isaacs thinking “Lazy Bugger!” However, once off the train in Vienna, a quick metro and a 2 minute walk and there I was lying on a bed, chilling out, listening to two Australian girls debating whether or not they would need Havaianas Flip Flops before they leave for the Middle East. This is the good life.....!

Two nights await me here in the home of ….. Wait a second, what is Vienna famous for? JazzI better go find out! Until next time kids, same bat time, same bat channel!

NOTE* You’re really not that gullible are you? Just in case, I  had best clarify, there are no such things as Leprachauns. The Green Fields we do have though!

To follow me and my travels, you can follow me on Twitter @ciaran_o_connor and @IsaacsHostel and on Facebook on the Isaacs Hostel page!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back to Berlin

With Michal  -Poznan hostel worker

View from Hostel
Back to Berlin...

Don't ya just love the unpredictability of travelling..? Ich bein ein Berliner once again. At the time of writing I should be pulling into Prague on my train and getting ready to decode another circuit of streets, alleyways, Metro trains and buses looking for my hostel! Yet, here I am in Berlin once again.

I left Poznan, Poland this morning on a train back to Berlin for a connection to Prague. Sometimes you’re get rightly screwed and have maybe 8 minutes to get to your connecting train, as happened to me In Brussels when I was on my way to Brugge. Today was supposed to be different. I was meant to have 80 minutes to spare between one train and another. How did I spend those minutes? Standing on a platform in Frankfurt watching my train sit idly for an hour and a half. A forest fire outside Frankfurt resulted in our train not being able to pass. So there we stood silently, passing the time in the blistering heat. It was so hot that I was sweating merely by the thought of the heat. Eventually, fire extinguished, we finally made it to Berlin. At approximately 14.52. My train to Prague departed at 14.46. And this was unlike any train in Ireland. European trains leave ON TIME! The cheek. And yes, that was the last train. So one more night in Berlin awaits me. There are worse places to be!

Poznan was an interesting mix of relaxation and information. I wanted to visit Poznan to find out more about how the Irish were perceived in the city while they were there for EURO 2012 in June. I was pleasantly surprised that of all the people of Poznan I spoke to, not one had a bad word to say about our adventures in the city. Speaking to Wojtek Mania, of the Poznan Tourist Organisation, even remarked to me that when the Irish left for our countries second game in Gdansk, those in Poznan were quite sad to see us go. “They drank and sang into the night. When I woke up to come to work, they were still drinking and still singing!” We seem to have made a good impression! This is the thing really. The Irish people are truly unique. A ubiquitous term applied to our social gatherings and having fun is “The Craic.” Irish people love ‘having the Craic’ and what this basically means is “We love having a good time!” In any and every village, town and city on our little island, you’ll encounter these people. Just out to have a good time, with little to no intention to cause any trouble. There is no reading about this, or watching it on YouTube. To experience the true nature of the Irish, you must visit! You won’t forget it in a hurry.

I had the Craic myself last night. The great thing about this trip has been all the different nationalities I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Yesterday, myself and three Turkish guys sat down and got stuck into a few cans! Then one of them pulled out a bottle of Herb Vodka! Incredible, intriguing stuff! Our hostel was no mansion, it was literally a loft apartment converted into a hostel. So, apologies to all those who were awoken. Blame the Turks, I had little part in it. I was busy taking pictures from the balcony!

I have entered my last week on my travels for Isaacs Hostel. One of the greatest aspects of this journey was the relaxed nature of it all. When I won this competition, straight away I was asked “Where do you want to go!?” It was like giving a child the keys to Willy Wonkas Factory. I should’ve been more demanding and called for a stop in all the corners of Europe. Lisbon, Stockholm, Athens, Minsk! Then again, I’m afraid they would’ve said yes! After all, it’s me carrying the bag around Europe, jumping on trains to places you’ve never heard of! They would’ve sat back and laughed at my distraught phone calls. “GET ME OUT OF MINSK!” I think I’m rather happy to be going to Prague considering this!

Next time we meet, I still don’t know where I’ll be. If it’s Minsk...well....  I ain’t go near Minsk! Until next time. Same bat time, same bat channel!

To follow me and my travels, you can follow me on Twitter at @ciaran_o_connor and @IsaacsHostel and of Facebook on the Isaacs Hostel page

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Public Pay Phones in that direction...

Wilkommen from Berlin. I’ve been here roasting in the sunshine for the past 3 days expertly avoiding Sunburn like some well trained acrobatic. Actually, I’ve just stuck to the shade. The shade is my friend!

Berlin has been a reunion of sorts! Not only did I meet my Irish buddy Stephen from home here in the hostel, but also the guys I met in Brugge. So chaos and good times have ensued once again! I got here on Monday afternoon after a not-so-bad 6 hour train journey. That evening myself and Stephen got our map, found a beer garden and went there. We then left after one drink because you know... we’re students and €4 a drink is too much for us. Well, when beer is €1.50 from a street kiosk it is!

Yesterday was a much more interesting day! We visited the city of Potsdam, outside of Berlin. When we got there we trekked to the location of the Potsdam Conference in 1945 in the palace of Cecilienhoff. This is where Stalin, Churchill and Truman met after the end of World War 2 to decide the future of Europe. It was a pretty awe inspiring place, retracing the steps of history that have shaped the modern world. Not just that, but the palace itself was spectacular. Now, we didn’t see all 170 plus rooms, but the 10 we did were quite swanky! Germany isn’t the only country with some historical buildings of note! In Ireland we have a rich past of many Norman and Viking castles and other buildings galore! They literally take you back in time to when our island was conquered by our neighbours from Scandinavia. Their invasion also resulted in the foundation of many Irish monastries and round towers, which dot the Irish countryside and must be included in your stay in Ireland!

This morning, with heads too weary for sunlight, we took off in the blistering heat to view Germanys Parliament. We took in the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and the vast expansive park that is Tier Garten. Tier Garten reminded me of our own parks and greens in Ireland. Not only is there St Stephens Green in the centre of Dublin, but also Killarney National Park in the South West. Really and truly, the whole country is green, so get out there and smell the fresh air! Tier Garten was a cool place to be though, not only does it have expansive green spaces but supposedly there are spots of it which permit nude sun bathing! Madness! That piece of knowledge came to me via Adam of We sat down earlier today and talked of everything from Berlins nightlife to his travels in South East Asia. I really enjoyed his company and he gave me a wider view of Berlin that I haven’t had the chance to experience in my 3 days here. 

What about the German stereotype? Serious, uncompromising and stern. Nope. By now you know a stereotype is a label and nothing more. We Irish don’t sit around drinking all day, munching Spuds and chasing pots of Gold. The Germans are a lovely people who have helped me out along the way, even when I was attempting to speak in their native tongue. Horribly trying too! However, one story must be shared about a German I encountered who didn’t do very much to help me. *COMMENCING RANT* Coming off the train returning from Potsdam yesterday, I went to an ATM in the station to withdraw some money. Card in, screen staring at me and then it froze. Wonderful yeah? So I walked over to the Information Desk and told the man behind it my card was stuck in the machine. He advised me to ring the help number on the ATM. I already had and it wasn’t in service. I asked him could he trying ringing it. “Nein!”. More wonderful! Raising his hand and pointing over my shoulder he put the final nail in the coffin of what could have been a beautiful friendship and he said “Public phones are in that direction”. By now, the machine had spat out my card and I, possibly far too sarcastically, thanked the man for his help and left. Thankfully the card worked and I’m still able to spend gratuitous amounts of my money in Berlin! *RANT COMPLETE*

Where to next? POZNAN in Poland! The home of many Irish fans during Euro 2012. I’m going there tomorrow morning and I hope to see just how bad a state the Irish left it in! Thanks must be paid to the Tourism Ireland office in Frankfurt for their helpful tips for Berlin! Other than that, slán! Talk soon!

Follow me and my travels on Twitter at @ciaran_o_connor and @IsaacsHostels and on Facebook at Isaac Hostels.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Post Olympic Blues ?

Oh boy …on a bit of a comedown after the highs of the Olympics and we really need something new to chin wag about. Luckily things are really hotting up in Dublin with a stack of great events taking place over coming weeks. Here are some favourites for you to ponder chosen by Myra a member of our reception team (at Isaacs Hostel and Jacobs inn.)  Or check out our Dublin events guide here
 A rare variety of sports takes  over Dublin thus week  including the annual  RDS Dublin Horse show from 15- 19th  August . This is is but a dart ride away from the hostels. For those who enjoy all things horsey or in fact just like to be seen this is one of the highlights of the Dublin social scene.

For something slightly more racy you can get up close to the thrills of Motor racing in Phoenix Park on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th. This one’s FREE! or  Just take a leisurely stroll down to the Liffey this Saturday and marvel at the madness  of those 250 men and 100 women who will swim in the historic Annual Liffey Swim Spectators are encouraged to support the competitors from the banks of the river, with the Liffey Boardwalk providing a great viewing point  . Who needs an Olympic pool to show off your speedos? - Michael Phelps eat your heart out!!  
 If rock is more your style then The Boys is back in town … for Phil lynott Thin Lizzy fans check out Still in Love with You: The Philip Lynott Exhibition 19th July 2012 – 30th September 2012 at St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, Dublin.  Gig season is still in full flow and though Bruce the Boss is a hard act to follow you can catch Noel Gallagher & Kasabian, Marley Park on 23/8 or  for a bit of nostalgia Tom Jones and Van Morrison at Marley Park on 24th .
Dublin Tall Ships-Set sail 
Time : Duration : We won’t  miss The Tall Ships Races 2012 arriving  here ( a  mere  hop, skip,  and a splash from  Jacobs  Inn and  Isaacs Hostels ) from 23rd August 2012 – 26th August 2012 at  Dublin Docklands There are loads of FREE   events and gigs,  ideal for our  backpackers on a  budget .

For the unique entertainment experience of American Football Try the American football event on 01/ 09 at the Aviva stadium - the home of Irish rugby opens its doors to a wild legion of American football fans  .

So Olympics though  we will  never forget you  it's  time  to move  on and enjoy  all Dublin has to offer  this August . And if that is just all too much for you and per chance it does get actually hot again (say past 20c!)  then head out to  the seaside  to feel the sand  between  your  toes  ,have an ice cream and  if you are really mad a “refreshing dip “ in the Irish sea  (  we are only a  20 min minute dart ride away from bathing spots at the 40 foot Sandy cove or Malahide etc.  )