~emerald isle part one~

January 7th, 2008

“Half-Eight,” says Liam, our host at the three-story, wind-rattled, Victorian B & B. He is responding to his own question, “What time would you like breakfast?” to which we have already replied “Not before nine o’clock, please.” Ah, B & B travel. How cozy.

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We totter off to our room and sleep all day, recovering from a red-eye flight and a cab ride which featured this dashboard décor (yes, that is Claus-on-Claus action, and the toilet did have a speaker–any guesses?):

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We awake in the midst of a mild storm and head off in search of dinner in Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary), a town on the coast of the Irish Sea, about a 15-minute train ride from Dublin proper.

What we find is Hartley’s, a lovely place occupying a converted railway station built by John Mulvaney in 1844.

Everything both indoors and out is still decorated from the holidays–they take the twelve days of Christmas quite literally. These lights were flashing wildly all over the cobble-stoned neighborhood we wandered on our post-dinner constitutional.

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On our stroll back to the hotel we meet our first kitty lurking about the remains of the Victorian baths, which are similar to the Sutro Bath ruins of San Francisco.

The next day Ali heads off to his first day in the Irish office and I head off to see about Dublin.
Dublin–Dubh Linn or Black Pool–is split into two halves by the River Liffey–on the north side the main thoroughfare is O’Connell Street, on the south are most of the tourist attractions.

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At the train station, I find this gorgeous blue/green bird attempting flight against the crazy sea wind. All it can manage is to hold fast in position. It is incredibly cold, damp, and windy here! Apparently this is a notorious birding destination. Still trying to find the name of this tenacious critter…

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After securing an adapter for all things electric, I have coffee in an upstairs nook at old-school Bewley’s Oriental Cafe, a lovely place with ancient stained glass and hand-painted murals of birds and lanterns. Everyone from U2 to James Joyce is said to have hung out here, tho of course, this is said of much of Dublin….

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Next I wander a bit and find the Dublin Castle, much of which is currently under repair. Given that by the 1500s it had become ‘ruinous, foul, filthy and decayed’, you can imagine the effort! (I just love that description.)

The castle has a long history, beginning as a Viking–or possibly even pre-Viking Gaelic–fortress.
This figure is from the south-east Record Tower, the last intact medieval tower in all of Dublin.
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Then to George Street Arcade, near-by and reputed to have loads of used books, which I plan to stock up on before leaving English-speaking territory. The book stalls are primarily a rumor, taken over by tiny shops filled with cheap, tarty accessories for young Irish lasses.

I do find a lovely antique postcard shop and buy the first decoration for our new home in Neuchatel–pictures of the places we have been in Europe thus far–that I hope to add to considerably! (plus a great Bacchus and scampering satyr by Michelangiolo.)

Here is the arcade pre-Canal Streetization:
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Then to my first pint o’ Guinness at The Long Haul, one of the oldest pubs in Dublin.
Ali meets me here, in his new persona which I christen Dublin Slag. She’s just a regular gal ready for a bit of fun…(I learned from wiki that in Ireland Slag is also used to mean “insult in jest”. To “slag someone off”, is to insult them, not necessarily in a serious way.)

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First impression: it is damn cold in January, the streets are jammed with cars, the food is outrageously over-priced, even for a New Yorker, the dialect is nearly impossible to comprehend (tho fantastic to hear) BUT! the folks are incredibly, endearingly friendly.

Tomorrow, a visit with Mr.Wilde and some stuffed specimens…..

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