Dynamic first day in Dublin

2006-08-17

in Books and literature, Daily updates, Travel

Trinity College, Dublin

Today was superb; I’ve found my bearings in Dublin as quickly as I have come to realize what a great place it is. Despite the sheer length of the period of time I shall denote ‘yesterday,’ I got up in timely fashion this morning. Within an hour of doing so, I had acquired some needed provisions and set off for the day’s explorations. They would prove both extensive and diverse.

To start, I crossed the O’Connell Street Bridge into what is now central Dublin. Close by is Trinity College, where I had a look at the general grounds and the Douglas Hyde Gallery before going to see the famous Book of Kells. Despite grave warnings about Vatican Museum-class lines, I waited no more than three minutes to get into the gallery. The exhibits that precede the book demonstrate beyond dispute what an enormous amount of effort must have gone into the tome, though it’s really hard to comprehend in a post-Gutenberg era.

Above the Book of Kells is the spectacular Long Room: a barrel-roofed library made of dark wood. While other people milled about looking at the busts of great thinkers and a few volumes on display, I read Sweetness in the Belly. Between there and The Pavilian – an on campus pub beside the cricket pitch where I wandered for a bite to eat afterwards – I finished Camilla Gibb’s very engaging book. I will write a more comprehensive review once I return to Oxford.

At ‘The Pav,’ as the students apparently call the place, I met a group of physicists working on applied nanotechnology and the development of magnetically based random access memory for computers (the big upside of which is that it maintains the information in it without a current being applied). One of the nicest things about Dublin is how easily you can insert yourself into the conversations of strangers in pubs, or be drawn in, as I would later learn.

Other excellent things about Dublin include the size – no more than a fifteen minute walk from the farthest point I reached today (St. Patrick’s Cathedral) to the internet cafe near my hostel. Complimenting that are the pedestrian-only streets: a truly excellent element of urban planning anywhere. I haven’t used Dublin’s public transit, though trams and buses seem to be frequent and popular. After only a day here, I am willing to speculate that I could live here happily for some time.

After leaving Trinity, I went for a bit of a wander. I saw both cathedrals (Christ Church and Saint Patrick’s, both smaller than expected for such a traditionally religious place) before crossing over eastwards past Saint Stephen’s Green. At the suggestions of people I consulted before leaving, I then dropped in for a while at a pub called Kehoe’s. Over the span of a couple of hours, I had conversations with Americans about Arabica coffee beans, a fellow Canadian about Irish history, and a pair of native Dubliners about our respective countries. That pair very heartily endorsed the plan to visit the Aran Islands and Galway, suggesting that the smallest of the three islands is definitely the one to visit. One of the men also showed me a pub, about thirty metres away, where the protagonist of Ulysses famously had a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy for lunch.

As the night is still fairly young, I may have a wander past the hostel to see if I can find anyone who is interested in a bit of additional exploration. I have the sense that most of those with whom I spoke last night – including an aggressive ‘Young Republican’ American woman, intent on proving the virtues of gun ownership and and sheer villainy of the Democratic Party – have already departed. That said, the place is positively crawling with curious travellers.

PS. After finishing Sweetness in the Belly, I picked up a hardback copy of John Banville’s The Sea for half the normal price of a paperback copy, at a discount book store near Trinity. After I finish that, I will take another stab at finding a used copy of Dubliners, or possibly fork out the Euros for a crisp new edition.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan August 17, 2006 at 11:34 pm

I also sent my first batch of (twenty) postcards today. If you think you might have been missed, email me your address.

Mark August 18, 2006 at 1:18 am

Glad to see you’re having such a good time in Dublin! Meeting random strangers in pubs is something I’ve never been able to manage, so I am impressed you seem to do it so easily.

I’m flying to Dublin myself tomorrow to see my family for the weekend. Reading your post reminds me why I like the place so much.

Ian August 18, 2006 at 6:05 am

Have you read/seen Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World? If not, equip yourself with a copy before proceeding Aran-wards. The people don’t quite speak the way J.M. heard them 100 years ago, but the language of the play isn’t the fanciful invention of its author that some think, any more than O’Casey’s burlesque was his, nor even that of JJ…and where in the name of God did you get that spelling of the “U” book from?

Ian

Milan August 18, 2006 at 10:54 am

Mark,

It’s good to hear that you are heading over to Dublin. Would you like to meet for a drink before I leave for Galway on Sunday morning? I need to work out the timing of buses and ferries later today, as well as whether it will be possible to stay anywhere on Inis Oirr. Otherwise, I suppose I will go to Galway on Sunday, take the ferry over to Inis Oirr for the day on Monday, then come back to Dublin on Tuesday before my Wednesday flight back to Oxford (hopefully not as wrenching as the one to here).

Ian,

I’ve written down the name of that book and will have a look for it in bookshops I pass in the next two days.

The spelling of Ulysses has been corrected. Without actual rules governing their usage, doubled letters in English are very confusing. I still cannot spell apartment without the aid of a dictionary (partly because French has confused me).

R.K. August 18, 2006 at 11:37 am

Twenty postcards? I hope you are getting a bulk mailing discount.

Have fun in Ireland.

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