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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In Dublin's Fair City

Ireland's Old Parliament, Now The Bank of Ireland
Sweet Molly!

In Dublins fair city, where the girls are so pretty,
I once met a girl called sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow, through the streets broad and narrow,
Cryng cockles and mussels` Alive alive o

Hey, don’t just go breezing off to a pub the moment you hit town.  Stop by and pay your respects to Molly, or as she is known by the locals, “The tart with the cart.”  She hangs out on Grafton Street.  Her statue, with its eternally rotund features is not as old as you’d think.  1988.  At the same time, city fathers proclaimed 13 June Molly Malone Day.  What does that mean, exactly?  Far as I know, there was no Molly Malone, or at least not just one.  Lots of fishmongers, many of them women.  And, the song, written by James Yorkston, a Scotsman, wasn’t published until the early 1880s, in Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England.  See, those sneaky Irish are at it again.  A Scot mentions Dublin in a song published in America and England and the Irish claim it as their own and make it Dublin’s ‘unofficial anthem.’

But, a country that brews Guinness and distills Jameson can be forgiven any number of transgressions.  Amen! And we’ll all drink to that!  The secret is safe. I won’t tell a soul.

Entry to the old Jameson Distillery 

View of Dublin from the top floor of Guinness Brewery

Besides gazing longingly at Molly’s assets, what else is there to do?

How much time do you have?  I’ve already written about Guinness Stout and Jameson Whiskey.  Between tours and drinking, those two alone will use up the best part of a day.

Yep, you can see castles and churches.  Figure those out for yourself.  But, the first thing I’d do is grab a hop-on-hop-off bus and take a whirlwind tour of the city, which will take you right past Molly Malone.  Don’t worry; the bus supplies earphones and commentary. Dublin ain’t New York.  Won’t take any time at all to spot a bus and buy your ticket right outside the train station.  A complete circle of the ville takes about an hour.  Gives you a great overview of Ireland’s largest city, with a population of over half a million souls.  Hop-on-hop off is not just an expression.  When you find something interesting and decide to hop off, another bus will come along ten minutes later.  A ticket lasts all day.

Another thing to consider that combines two of my favorite interests:  a literary pub tour.  The hours for the tour change with the seasons, so you’re on your own for scheduling.  However, if you’re not familiar with Irish writers, I’ll carelessly drop a few names:  James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, George Bernard Shaw, to mention only a few.  This is not to say they lived their entire lives in Dublin, but there is a connection to the city. But as James Joyce famously remarked, “Ireland sober is Ireland stiff.”  A pub tour is a good compromise between literature and sobriety.  A good many writers felt the same.  My favorite quote about Dublin comes from J.P.  Donleavy, author of The Ginger Man, and other novels:  “When I die I want to decompose in a barrel of porter and have it served in all the pubs in Dublin.”

Always time for a pub and a Stout!

And of course a pub lunch

I’ve given Joyce’s Ullyses a good shot, both sober and otherwise.  No dice.  Couldn’t gulp down the prose under any conditions.  The pundits call it the greatest novel.  I found it a disconnected ramble.  But, if you want a taste of Joyce, Dubliners is a wonderful collection of sketches of Dublin life.  Many of the sentences in that short book are cogent.

A bit about the Irish Republic’s government:  parliamentary system, much like other European parliaments. The original parliament building was closed with the Act of Union (with England) in 1800.  Since then, the old parliament building has been The Bank of Ireland.  It sits right next to Trinity College.  Ireland is a part of the European Union and the currency is the Euro.

Best of all, Dublin is a city for strolling, soaking in the atmosphere and chatting with people you didn’t know five minutes ago.  The first thing you notice is the charm of Dublin’s historic shabbiness.  That’s just another way of saying “a comfortable pair of well-worn shoes.”  Easy to fit in here.  Do a bit of shopping.  Stop in a pub.  Make a hundred friends.  Sketch out the plot for your first novel.  You can always marvel at the crusty vellum (calfskin) text of The Book of Kells (800 A.D.) at Trinity College later, or read about the long hard road to Irish independence and visit those sites where Irish statehood was written in blood and tears.  See Dublin Castle and The Garden of Remembrance.  Don't neglect those. But, first, let’s rub elbows down tha pub, have a pint of your favorite, and breathe some air in Dublin’s fair city.

Butler's also offers tours of the factory

From the Book of Kells

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