Thursday, July 7, 2011

A New Yorker in Dublin

So many impressions of Ireland and of Dublin—here are a few. The Irish are an unpretentious folk, friendly, with a pleasant sense of humor. It actually felt 'familiar' to be there, because it reminded me of some of the residential areas around New York City--the Irish neighborhoods. Not surprising since the Irish who immigrated to the USA settled in and around the city. I felt as though I fit in with the culture and that didn’t surprise me either, because I grew up in the New York City area and because my mother was of Irish ancestry (as well as of English and Scottish ancestry). The people don’t seem to get too excited or stressed or angry. I cannot remember that we heard much yelling or cursing or that we saw angry people yelling or screaming at the world around them. There were a few beggars who sat in the streets hoping for some change. I ate Irish food each night—fish and chips, bangers and mash (pork sausages and mashed potatoes—delicious), and Irish stew. Didn’t get a chance to sample shepherd’s pie, but my mother used to make that and Irish stew as a matter of course especially during the cold winter months. So I knew what to expect and I wasn’t disappointed. And the beer was good. I am not a beer drinker, but I enjoyed the Guinness beer and the tour of the brewery that makes it.

We made our way to two interesting library exhibitions: the first was about the famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats (my favorite poet)--‘ The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats’ that took place at the National Library of Ireland and (virtual tour). It was a fascinating collection of his manuscripts, photo albums and books and told the story of his life in an effective and moving way. The second exhibition was The Book of Kells at Trinity College library, with a trip at the end of the tour to the second floor of the library to visit the Long Room—a fantastic room lined with marble busts of ancient philosophers, writers and medical scientists as well as with ancient books from floor to ceiling, of course off-limits to the public. The Book of Kells was fascinating—an amazing book put together by scribes and illustrators and holy men. I have a new appreciation for libraries and the incredible work that goes into creating these exhibitions. They do such a good job.

We also enjoyed the Temple Bar area in the evening with its many pubs with live music and dancing. We spent one evening at The Old Storehouse and enjoyed a good meal and live music—a duo—a young female violinist and a male guitarist. The woman sang and the two of them were terrific, performing traditional Irish folk songs as well as some American songs. Many of the singers in the different pubs seemed to have a fascination with Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen. I really enjoyed the Irish folk songs, e.g. Wild Rover comes to mind, a classic song that seemed to be a real crowd-pleaser; the public clapped and sang along as though they knew the song by heart, which they probably did.

Dubliners are not much different than other Western Europeans when it comes to walking on city sidewalks; there is only a halfhearted attempt at staying to one side of the sidewalk in an orderly fashion. Pedestrians spread out all over. You bump into them when you meet them. Everyone says excuse me and all that, but it would be easier to walk if there were ‘lanes’ like if we were driving cars on the highway. But it isn’t much better in Manhattan, except that people tend to be a bit more proactive in terms of moving to the right side of the sidewalk when they see folk coming. Dubliners also flock to cafes and outdoor restaurants to enjoy the lovely sunny weather when it arrives (sporadically), just like Oslo city dwellers. Of course there were a lot of tourists there now at this time of year, but a good number of them were Irish (we could hear the accent), in addition to the French and Italian visitors.

I will be posting some Dublin photos in upcoming posts. It is a lovely city with interesting storefronts and clever names for its many shops and pubs, as well as versatile architecture—very old or modern. Both seem to work. I’m glad I got to see the city, and I know already I will be going back.

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