I spent years living and working in Dublin from my student years and between travels abroad and while I wouldn't swop country life for city life any more, I loved the buzz of the city when I was footloose and fancy free. It's a great time to be in the city: no cares in the world other than studying, working and getting from one party to another by bike, in no particular order of importance!
We had a lovely day driving up from Lismore -we drove via Cork as we dropped Shayne and Jany and Sofia back home before driving on the nice nearly-new motorway to Dublin, with not a plane in the skies, which were fluffy cumulus clouds all day long, no sign of the Icelandic Volcanic ash that had grounded every plane in Northern Europe. (The link above gives you some jokes on the volcano!)
We parked at our friends' house in Glasnevin which is one of the few free-parking streets left in Dublin, and walked into the city centre, down Dorset Street and O'Connell Street via Temple Street and Parnell Square, by the Garden of Remembrance and the Gate Theatre and the GPO, scene of the Easter Rising in 1916, all famous and historical landmarks.
After our meetings we came back by Kildare Street, home of the Dáil (Irish Parliament) at Leinster House, and Trinity College. While Jan stopped to take a call on his mobile on College Green, I took some snapshots of Irish "mounties" - Gardai on horseback riding around by Trinity College (home of the Book of Kells) and of the statue of Thomas Moore, the 19th Century poet whose ballads were collectively known as Moore's Melodies.
Some are cited in some Joycean works - there was a plaque in the footpath (pavement) to mark one quote from Ulysses. That's a book I confess to not having read, Dubliners being the only one of his books I could master. Mind you there are many Irish people who are defeated by his writings even if he is the father of Irish literature - the greatest Irish writer nearly never read. This plaque is at the foot of the statue of Moore, directly opposite the Bank of Ireland which in colonial days housed the Houses of Parliament.
Across O'Connell Bridge to "de Nortsoide" of the once-whiffy River Liffey - now pristinely unpolluted and repopulated with fish and university rowing club kayaks and canoes - to O'Connell Street, the main drag of Dublin.
The photo from the bridge shows Liberty Hall, SIPTU trade union HQ and still the tallest building in Dublin. This street has undergone major refurbishment in recent years, including wider footpaths, a car-free roadway only open to public transport (taxis, buses, Luas trams) and the dubious crowning glory of the Millenium Spire. This needle has spawned colloquialisms that true to Dublin wit are far more apt if cruder than the official title. The Skewer by the Sewer, the Stiffy by the Liffey, and the Stiletto in the Ghetto are but some of its more printable monikers. The photo of the Spire also shows the statue of that hero of the worker, Big Jim Larkin, founder of the ITGWU and honoured in Irish Labour Party circles to this day.
We had something to eat with our son who's doing his Graphic Design MA in Dublin Institute of Technology this year - I had a treat I only enjoy in Dublin from the Perky Chick Italian Chipper on Dorset Street - Curry Chips and Battered Cod (Joke alert - why are chefs cruel? 'Cos they whip cream and batter the fish!) which is the tastiest around. I love real chipper chips which are chunky and made from real spuds, and fish that's a proper fillet in batter that's deep-fried before my eyes, by a genuine Italian chipper proprietor (even if they are often 2nd or 3rd generation, it's a unique trade they pursue and they have even lately formed a brand organisation ITICA.
We collected our car and had a cuppa tea and a chat with our friend and his son, and were on the home stretch before 8pm. We listened to The Arts Show on Radio One and watched an amazing sunset on the way home, again thanks to the Icelandic volcano (we tell ourselves, though there's no real proof of a link - just romantic speculation), and arrived home about 10.30pm.
I enjoyed being a passenger as I was able to take some photos (including the one of the iconic Irish Independent printing press on the Naas Road and Avoca in Rathcoole), and have a snooze en route.
By the end of 2010 it should be motorway all the way from Cork to Dublin, which will shorten our trip even more as the current bottleneck of Abbeyleix will be bypassed. Hard to believe that 10 years ago there was hardly any motorway between our two main cities. All that'll be needed then are some Services - there are no pit stops anywhere on our motorway network and tenders haven't even been requested, so strong bladders will be needed for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, enjoy the views of our stroll through our historical capital city.
The photos from the top are:
- The Spire and Big Jim Larkin on O'Connell Street
- The M1 near Fermoy, Co. Cork
- College Green with Bank of Ireland and Trinity College
- The Joycean Plaque at College Green
- The Statue of Thomas Moore, College Green
- O'Connell Bridge with Libery Hall
- Irish Mounties on College Green by Trinity College
- Bank of Ireland (ex-Parliament Houses)
- Avoca cafe Rathcoole, Naas Road
- Independent Printing Press, Citywest, Naas Road
- Sunset from M1 near Portlaoise