Dublin was an incredibly easy city to explore on foot as most of the city sights are compacted around the river and the city center (although PLEASE do not take the horse-drawn carriages because the horse’s safety in heavy traffic was dangerous and constantly worried me as we walked about). We traipsed across the famous Ha’ Penny bridge, where Cameron spotted a cloud that looked like a UFO, and I promptly tumbled down the bridge steps while trying to catch a glance. The city’s Museum of Archaeology (free of charge) showcased a fascinating exhibit of “Bog People,” centuries-old bodies of people amazingly preserved in the surrounding bog countryside of Ireland. The Guinness Storehouse was surprisingly like an adult Disneyland with a multi-level barrage of media and advertising history, waterfalls, hops vines that were four times my size, and, of course, your reward for climbing the many stories – a pint of Guinness in the sky bar overlooking the city. We took a step back in time with the beautiful Georgian doors that lined the streets of St. Stephen’s Green and tasted/learned about the evolution of whiskeys past at the Irish Whiskey Museum. We caught a show of the 20th anniversary of RiverDance (a little disappointing with no plot and piped in sounds) and visited sites such as City Hall (where they were setting up a beautiful wedding) and Dublin Castle (where we saw a really cool exhibit on up-and-coming Irish designers of all sorts). While Cameron attended to conference responsibilities, I took long walks through the city to learn about Irish hurling and Gaelic football at the newly rebuilt Croke Park. My favorite site by far, however, was the Chester Beatty Library where old manuscripts and relics of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism (to name a few) were magnificently presented in a thoughtful/respectful manner.
I was amazed by the great diversity of food, restaurants, and bars that tempted us during our stay in Dublin. We steered clear of some of the pricier joints and still found really great service and dedication to a well-crafted product. We tasted great Mexican food at a Chipotle-like burrito joint, tasty Chicken Tikka Masala at a local Indian hotspot, and some delicious flat bread pizza recommended to us at a place called SkinFlint. Our favorite go-to craft beer spot was called Porterhouse, which had hundreds of bottle options and great local selections on draft. For coffee (because everyone knows Cam loves his coffee), we were soon fast-friends with the baristas at Roasted Brown, who were enthused to have Cameron try some of their new Kenyan brew on our last day. Our hotel had a cool vibe and excellent happy hour that had us partaking in our fair share of margaritas and tapas, and a great find called Staple Foods had us filling up on some of the tastiest salads I have ever consumed (my Jamaican Jerk Chicken salad was FABULOUS). Finally, our favorite spot was a locally owned brunch spot called Brother Hubbard, whose Moroccan flavor, innovative dishes, and delicious coffee had us reveling in the simple marvels of chickpeas and saffron. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Our main reason in going to Dublin was for Cameron to attend and present a poster at the UMAP (User Modelling, Adaptation, and Personalization) Conference at Trinity College. In addition to presenting a successful poster, he also gave a talk for a local meet-up and met with another music technology company in Dublin (he is quite the Gracenote representative!). I got to participate in some of the excursions organized by the conference. These included a fantastic tour of the Wicklow Mountains where we visited the Glencree Center for Peace and Reconciliation, the highest pub in Dublin (Johnny Fox’s), and the Glendalough Monastic Ruins and Lakes. I also got to attend the conference’s Opening Reception, which featured a viewing of the Book of Kells (a really old book) and wine/ hors d’oeuvres in the Long Hall at Trinity College (a beautiful, HUGE, old library), as well as the Gala Reception in the Dining Hall that featured a 3-course meal, singing, and Irish dancing. My favorite event, though, was the Literary Pub Crawl, which featured a local actor taking us to the pubs frequented by past literary figures such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, etc. Cameron introduced me to a few people before he had to leave to go give a talk, but after I offered one guy from Germany the last of my pint, I made some fast friends who didn’t care that I knew next to nothing about machine learning or recommendation systems. By the time Cameron rejoined us, we were having a rollicking good time drinking Guinness and eating Irish stew!