Wednesday, May 21st, 2008
Photo by Frank Yang
So before I get too caught up in all things London, I should recap the first leg of my trip to the Emerald Isle. After a relatively comfortable overnight flight, I arrived in Dublin on Friday around noon and made it into town relatively quickly – would have been quicker if I hadn’t turned around about 100m before reaching the hostel and gotten lost for about 20 minutes, but whatever.
Point is, I arrived and with my traveling companion for this city – childhood friend Enrico who would probably cease to be such if I didn’t name-check him here – not due to arrive till the evening, I went for a mosey through the city. Checked out the rather underwhelming and inappropriately-named Dublin Castle (not a castle at all), the more impressive Chester Beatty Library, the notorious Temple Bar, which is decidedly more benign in the day, and stopping in at the Dublin Gallery of Photography which featured a rather depressing exhibit on cluster bomb victims. After that it was some aimless wandering until evening, when Enrico arrived and it was back to Temple Bar for a pint and to fully understand why Temple Bar on a Friday night is such a bad idea. Hen parties. Shudder.
For the first full day in town, we started at Trinity College, home to the Book Of Kells, then a little shopping down Grafton Street. A first attempt to hit the Guinness Storehouse was aborted because of an excessive lineup. After lunch, we met up with a native Dubliner friend for more wandering around town, spending the afternoon at St Stephen’s Green and the National Gallery. The evening was spent having more pints. When in Rome.
And beer was again the order of the day for Sunday, getting to the Guinness Storehouse early enough to beat the lineups but not so early as to be drinking the free sample pints before noon. I think. Or it was close. We followed that up with a visit to the Kilmainham Gaol, a Victorian-era prison steeped in Irish history. After this my feet were rightly killing me so we retreated back to the hostel to rest up before meeting up with a friend from home, also gallivanting across the British Isles, and another wander through the downtown for the evening.
Sunday was an early night because Monday was an early morning – 5AM early, to be precise. The last full day in Ireland was going to be spent in Northern Ireland on a bus tour, so we had to catch a bus up to Belfast before heading up along the northern coast of the island. First was a stop at the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge which wasn’t tempting enough to pay admission to cross but did offer some spectacular scenery for free. Likewise, the Giant’s Causeway was a rather stunning bit of nature, all hexagonal basalt columns leading into the Irish Sea.
And though that was originally the main attraction of the trip, the highlight turned out to be the stop in Derry, where we got a crash course in the roots of “The Troubles”, including a visit to the site of Bloody Sunday and Free Derry Corner. Granted, the recounting was from the point of view of someone who obviously had little love for the British, but even taking that into account it was a stirring experience. Rarely have I had the opportunity to stand on the site of such recent historical events. And I should mention that though my mental preconceptions of Northern Ireland were of the post-apocalyptic nature – all I’d even known about the region were reading about bombings in the news – both Belfast and Derry were quite handsome and non-destroyed cities. The peace process does appear to be working, and it’s something to see.
And that closed things off for Ireland. Dublin was really a lovely little town, surprisingly compact and very friendly. I don’t know if or when I’ll find the occasion to visit again, but I certainly had a good time of it. Some photos from the first couple days are already up on Flickr – hope to have some more up soon, but it may be a while depending on how busy the next few days are.
And some… whatsitcalled? Oh yeah, music stuff.
Pitchfork talks to Paul Westerberg about The Replacements legacy. Also worth reading is the piece on the band in the new Spin, which should be available on their website in their electronic version, but I can’t find boo on that site… If you do dig it up, it’s worth the hunt.