One Irishman in London said, “Get out of Dublin soon after you get there. Dublin is a city, like London is a city, and cities are the same everywhere.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but there was a fair mix of generic, touristy – especially that, and global corporate blight. If London compares most easily to NYC in the States, then Dublin though would seem to compare to Portland, Oregon or maybe Chicago. A mix of argh and yeah! With the yeah stuff being rooted in neighborhoods. As they say about Portland, it’s really more of a big town. If you go, be prepared for a town pace, and a town level of excitement, unless there for the Gaelic games. Dublin shops shut down around Six, and open around Ten in the morning. After Six, it’s to the pubs, the center of social life.
We found the so called authentic pubs in Temple Bar area to be annoying, fake, populated with hucksters, and the whole area to be a tourist trap rife with mall-like features (like every store you’re used to in US malls – Aldo, etc) and high prices. In short, Temple Bar, while the biggest draw, is one big veneer, and after an hour on O,Connell Street, you’ll have had enough of that too.
Instead, we preferred PhilRyan’s pub on North Circle Road across from Croke Stadium for the friendly bartender, whose sense of humour was that of a stand up comedian, for the truly local clientele, especially the old timers who do their smoking at the back door, “old school”, and also some of the best Guinness anywhere. Likewise in Smithfield, where King Street meets Queen Street is The Cobblestone pub, which is about half visitors who are more low key than ordinary tourists and half locals, for a great eclectic mix without the sham front. The draw is superb there (for a pint of Guinness) and the local Irish music is truly remarkable. Prepare to stay from 7pm until they close around midnight, and get a cab after all that malt beer. I think I had eleven. I got my iron supplement that night, in other words.
Like a lot of places, it’s probably good to get in a walking tour on day one to get an immediate lay of the land, pick your two monument disappointments from the guidebooks, and then head back to the local stuff, get in tune with the relaxed pace of Ireland, and maybe get a train to something besides the city when you can. Nearby Howthe has a Sunday market, but it’s small and the rest of Howthe around the station is a tourist trap. Next time in Ireland, I’d like to fly into Shannon and spend some time an hour away in Galway, and maybe go up the coast by bus a few hours and rent a seaside straw thatched kind of place.
As with everywhere in this side of the world, the fresh fruit is wonderful. The nectarines I had in Ireland were so laden with juice you could bathe with them. Great cherries, too.
There are several hostels in London we looked at before deciding ultimately on AirBNB for accommodations in England, Ireland, and Europe. One would say free breakfast included, another would have an internet cafe, and another would say ‘we’re run by an Irish family’. In other words ‘enough said’. We found, generally speaking, the Irish are incredibly hospitable, whether in Ireland or elsewhere. We don’t mean they wait on strangers like servile people, which is what the ugly traveler expects. We mean they are warm and welcoming very quickly.
We happened to be in Dublin staying right at Croke Park for the Irish hurling semifinals and spent some time in lively conversation with Galway folks at a pub the same evening. We’re not really sports people, but couldn’t miss how the Galway fans would greet each other wherever they met. No offense to Cork, but of course we wore Galway colors.
RyanAir wasn’t as bad as they say. We had a smooth experience, but the rules are draconian and the pricing is a shell game, and don’t expect any exceptions. You’re better off with EasyJet or the ferry or flying a major carrier. We used Skyscanner to book our tickets. I still think it’s funny tho to think of RyanAir as the only Irish airline run by ex-Stasi agents and relatives of the Soup Nazi. Full cavity search, and that’ll be fifteen euro for using a glove. Six more to get it over with quicker that most.
Free ATMs in Ireland, so that’s nice. A pint is four and ten. I like to travel by finding things to enjoy about each place. Something every day, preferably. Or at least three. Experiences, people, food, whatever. Top of my list are a Saturday evening at The Cobblestone, the first pint at Phil Ryan’s, and the evening with Galway guys at the Oval Bar just off O’Connell Street. I’ll add to that the little candy shop on O’Connell, the cafes on Dorsett, and our host for lodgings, Fergus, who put us on to so many interesting things.
The most interesting statement I heard from an Irishman was to say of Americans, “you evangelist c*nts.” i thought it quite an apt description of how the ugly American tries to reproduce the world in his own image, despite the fact I was in a pub three times older than the US. We’re not all off to invade Poland, or France, or Iraq or Iran, but I own up to my part of the dominant culture. I both explained that we’ve got to get a strategic foothold before we can get around to Ireland, and that my country is controlled by a minority who mostly don’t have passports and think the sun rises and sets over Texas or Oklahoma, because all states have the same vote, even if Wyoming has one fiftieth the population (guessing) of New York, and it’s a useful set of conditions to the financial elites – another minority. The most interesting statement I heard in London was when recounting that Irish comment to a Londoner, and he said, “like the Irish have never tried to force their religion on anyone!”
A great benefit of the Guinness is glowing skin, more energy, and less need for sleep. Since coming to Paris, I’ve enjoyed some great Belgian beer and head schnockering Amaretto, but I miss at least having one pint per day for health reasons and good cheer. One thing I’ve noticed is that once you start drinking the black stuff where it’s made, and it truly is different in Ireland, you can’t really stop drinking it without getting a headache. Maybe in Sunnyside or Woodside I can get regular infusions of the real deal.