“Dubliner seems to me to have some meaning and I doubt whether the same can be said for such words as Londoner or Parisian” – James Joyce
I was enjoying Dublin but have to confess that I was a little disappointed with the banks of the river Liffey, I thought that there would be more activity there and it would be postcard picturesque but I found it more workmanlike than touristic and slightly down at heel. All of the action in Temple Bar is in the streets immediately behind the riverside and this was exactly what I had anticipated.
Narrow cobbled streets with beer bottle tops crushed for near eternity into the tarmac joints, winking like silver coins and capturing the memories of wild party nights and happy drinking, brightly coloured buildings decorated with hanging baskets with brassy flowers spilling over like floral waterfalls and street entertainers on every corner. All along the main street a succession of pubs and restaurants with happy music leaking out of the open doorways like the song of the Siren’s enticing people to go inside and get wrecked and a lot of people were falling for it so they were!
It was lunchtime now and we wanted somewhere to eat but a lot of the pubs were full to overflowing until we found one with table space, The Auld Dubliner, where we had our lunch time Guinness, ate toasted sandwiches and listened to a singer belting out a medley of traditional Irish songs mixed in with some soft rock classics.
There was still more of Temple Bar to see so after lunch we continued along the main street, diverted to the bridges over the river Liffey and then explored the side streets and looked for the statue of Molly Malone but when we arrived at the spot where she should have been singing about cockles and muscles she had been taken away for repairs and a clean.
We were on our way to Dublin Castle which is not a castle in the fortress sense of the word more like a Palace I would say. This is where the British governed Ireland from until 1921 when it was ceremonially handed over to the Republic on the occasion of independence and it is easy to get a sense of guilt walking around a place like this especially as the information boards are fond of making a point about British colonial injustice.
Except for the church, where there was free admission, we didn’t go inside but opted instead for the adjacent memorial gardens set around a helicopter landing pad where important visitors arrive before being taken to the state rooms inside the castle.
After the castle we took a dangerous route along Grafton Street back to the bus stop at St Stephens Green; dangerous because it was lined on either side with shops and there was the constant fear that at any moment we might be dragged inside by Kim and Pauline. We were a little earlier than planned so we spent ten minutes in a curious place, The Little Museum of Dublin, which chronicles the modern history of Dublin through faded photographs and aged bric-a-brac.
We had allowed ourselves an hour to make the second stage of the bus tour and to get back in plenty of time for the return train journey and it was a good job that we did because it was Friday afternoon rush-hour now and the traffic was crawling at snail’s-pace away from the city centre.
We passed the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Guinness Brewery and then through the site of the original Viking settlement. Previously we have been to Haugesund in Norway where the Vikings started their sea journeys and it was cold, barren wet and miserable and I can only imagine that when they found this place they must have been delighted to find somewhere less (but probably only marginally) less cold, barren, wet and miserable.
But the sun was shining today as we sat on the top deck and nervously kept our eye on the time as the bus made several diversions from the direct route to pass the places of interest along the way, going as far west as Kilmainham Gaol where in the past the British used to detain anyone who stirred up any nationalist trouble before executing them and then eventually arriving back at Heuston station with just a few minutes to spare.
On the return journey I reflected on Dublin, I had liked it but half a day was so not enough time to do it justice so I mentally added to my list of places to return to one day.
The train arrived back in Galway at eight o’clock which gave us a few minutes to get changed before walking into the city that was swaying with pavement music and bursting with people thronging the main street until we found our chosen restaurant that we had selected the previous day and enjoyed a second excellent evening meal. After that it would have been nice to find a pub with some Irish music but we were all too tired so we decided to postpone that until the next night.