TRAVEL with pat and lew

our first day in Dublin

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 28, 2007


We arrive by taxi, in the dark, on Sullivan Street near Phoenix Park.

It’s a working class neighborhood and the small red brick row homes are not pretentious, but the neat flower boxes and painted doors are charming. One of the reasons to do home exchange is the chance to live in a real neighborhood instead of a hotel, and this is surely a real neighborhood. We’re thrilled.

The next morning, it’s time to reconnoiter.

Our exchange host has left a large pile of maps and instructions, including where to take the bus. We walk a block or so, and find the #10 bus, which of course, but surprisingly at first, is on the left side of the street.

Now the question is how to pay. Exact change is required, and fortunately we have it. This begins two weeks of making sure we always have the change needed to go wherever we’re going, and to get back.

It’s a double decker bus and we go topside for the view. The trip is slow in the morning traffic, but we enjoy the sights of the city as we roll through neighborhoods suggesting a variety of economic levels. In 20 minutes, we’re on O’Connell Street in the center of Dublin.

We get off across from the General Post Office, the place where the 1916 rising began and the bullet holes are still proudly displayed. Pat of course, is Irish, and I have read many books and listened to many Irish ballads. This place is a shrine … to persistence, to failure, and, ultimately, to success.

We walk along O’Connell, past the luxurious Gresham Hotel and across the River Liffey, flowing from 75 miles away in the mountains of County Wicklow (the source also of the clear pure water which makes Guinness beer).  

First on our agenda is the main Tourist Office, located in a magnificent former church on Suffolk Street, the office Samantha Brown featured on her Passport to Europe show about Dublin. It’s a fantastic place, with lots of useful books and merchandise, a very friendly staff, and a charming café. We will return several times in the next two weeks, for information and for reservations.

I purchase another city map. I need a durable map that folds into my camera bag, and that has all the streets. Until I have a map that exactly fits my needs, I can’t be comfortable.

I also buy Fodor’s Ireland, for our out-of-town trips, and we pick up Dublin brochures, tram routes, bus routes, theatre announcements, everything that’s free. Now I have the tools to plan our two weeks.

Grafton Street, the pedestrian shopping street in the center of Dublin, is mobbed. Our first impression is that it’s not quite as elegant as it was before, ten years ago. Street musicians play in front of McDonald’s.  

We buy an Irish Times and head off to St. Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre park at the end of Grafton Street, first enclosed in 1664, a place of peace in the center of the city, except when it too hosted riflemen in 1916. We share a bench in the shade with a young father and his three small sons. A brass band plays at a nearby gazebo.

For lunch, we wander back down Grafton, and one block over to South William Street, to the Georgian mansion built in 1774 for Lord Powerscourt, now an elegant center of galleries, boutique shops and restaurants. We climb to the third level and enjoy panini and penne with Peroli beer at La Corte, watching the action in the atrium below.

Not so Irish, you say. Well, much of Dublin is not so Irish anymore. Dublin has become a sophisticated international city, fully immersed in the European Union, and doing very well, thank you.

For example, over the course of two weeks, we had maybe 15 meals in Dublin, and only once or twice was the waiter or waitress Irish. Even some of the bartenders in the pubs were not of the land. This led to many interesting conversations, and a feeling that, on balance, progress has been very good for the Irish.

The Marks & Spencer food court on Grafton Street provides wine and chocolates for our dinner tonight at Una’s home. Una, you may remember, is the lady from whom we purchased our home in Collioure (see finding our home in Collioure). We haven’t seen her since, and we are excited about our upcoming evening.

We take the spanking new Luas light rail tram to the Heuston train station in West Dublin, a 10 minute walk to our apartment.


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