Having grown up just outside of Dublin and lived in the city for the past six or so years, I reckoned I knew town fairly well - where the hotspots are, the best cafes, and areas for a weekend stroll, y'know?
Well, there's one area I was seriously missing: The Liberties.
One of Dublin's most historical areas, I knew there were antique shops and bargains aplenty to be found here, yet for some reason I'd never go out of my way to explore this part of the city, until I stumbled upon an Airbnb Experience, The Liberties By Day, and I was intrigued.
Me, an adopted Dubliner, do a tour of the city? Turns out it was actually one of the best mornings I've ever spent in town.
The Liberties feels like the real soul of the city, with true Dubs and locals shouting across the street to each other to say hi, and hawkers still selling fresh fruit and of course, millions of JoJo Bows.
My mini-adventure was led by Nathaly of Taste My Dublin, who moved to The Liberties area from the US over 10 years ago and is more local than the locals themselves.
Curious as to why I'm so keen on this part of town? Check out what I discovered...
We started off with chocolate milk and freshly baked cookies...
Never been to The Dublin Cookie Co.? You need to change that fast.
Delicious American style cookies are made here and come fresh outta the oven for a cookie that is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. It's SO yum.
We tried a chilli dark chocolate one, a lemon-y cookie, and a regular choco chip, all washed down with chocolate milk made with cookie crumbs. Mmm.
Then strolled on to a hidden church grotto - with holy water ON TAP
I'd never even heard of St Catherine's Church before, but this beautiful church on Meath Street may just become one of my fave "hidden gems" in Dublin to tell visitors about.
Colourful stained glass windows lit up the inside, while outside is where the magic happens: a secret grotto complete with holy water on tap. Is that not the most Irish thing you've ever heard?
Feeling peckish, Legit Coffee Co. appeared just in time...
One of the city's slickest coffee shops calls Meath Street home, and Legit Coffee Co. is well worth the walk over to this side of town.
These guys are true coffee masters, doing everything from your standard flat white to Chemex brews, all alongside some of the tastiest grub you can get.
Homemade sausage rolls, falafel plates, gourmet sambos and a mean weekend brunch makes this a serious spot.
A wander through local market stalls, and authentic Dublin eateries is next...
The best part of The Liberties is the people who live there: They still have their market stalls on the street selling everything and anything you could ever need, and you'll have great craic doing your shopping where people are actually chatting to eachother instead of staring blankly at the till.
Fusco's Cafe is the place to go if you're dying of a hangover apparently - they'll cut up your bacon sambo into little triangles and nurse you back to health with bottles of Cadet Soda that look straight outta the 90s.
If ever you walked into a cafe and thought "this is a real Dublin institution", this is it.
Never seen racing pigeons? You'll meet them here
Yep, and hundreds of them too. Nathaly knew everyone in the community, and took us down to some flats to check out local racing pigeons.
Basically just lots and lots and lots of feathers, and more chats with people. I've never talked so much to strangers in one day before, after being so used to going about my daily routine with the head down.
The Liberties will inspire you to stop and say hello to your neighbours, to the butcher, to the lady selling flowers outside the supermarket, and you know what? It's a much nicer way to be.
Finally, the last treat of the day - a self-poured pint of the black stuff...
Ahh, The Liberty Belle. All that exploring is thirsty work don'tcha know.
This is the kind of pub that you just know Americans would LOVE, yet it still retains the charm to keep Dubliners coming through its doors time and time again.
We got a masterclass in how to pour a pint of Guinness, and I have to say, I've been feeling pretty proud ever since. The Liberty Belle is one of those pubs where you'll say you're only going for one, but before you know it you're having the absolute chats with the barman, the Tayto crisps are shared around and you're having the best catch up with your mates you've had in ages.
It's not often that you spend an entire day in Dublin and visit places you've never been before, seeing new things for the very first time.
I know where I'll be spending my weekends from now on, that's for sure.