Day 11 – Fri 06 May 2005 – In Dublin’s Fair City

Went out for a morning walk along the southern pier or breakwater of the harbour, and later took a train into Dublin to Connolly Station.

Dublin’s southern suburbs are a surprise. I expected the city to be pretty grotty, much like London or worse, but it’s actually quite delightful. The closer you get to the city the larger the buildings become, but they’re all still mostly very neat and well kept. I know it’s the northern suburbs that are supposed to be down market, but for some reason I really was only expecting a small part of the whole city to look good.

Dublin’s River Liffey

Before Connolly Station we cross the Liffey River which runs through the centre of the city. The city looks remarkably bright and vibrant; lots of people everywhere, nice buildings, brightly coloured buses and heaps of traffic. As I begin to explore Dublin I’m more astounded. This is what I expected in London, or for that matter of a city with a reputation like Vienna. It has a large shopping district with spacious malls and squares, and lots of buskers (and often awfully good ones at that).

Dublin City Centre Scene

Interesting things have been done with some buildings. At Grand Canal Station there is a converted gasometer. The outer metal frame has been refurbished and the gas ‘cylinder’ has been converted into a big, circular, multi-storied, glass walled office building.

Public buildings look nicer than in London; probably because a different and more durable stone is used which gives it quite an attractive patina. Many were obviously British buildings from before the Irish Republic. Nelson’s column is now gone, replaced by a tall metal ‘needle’. Dublin castle is interesting. Not a castle in the classic sense, although part of it is a 13th century Norman tower, it’s made up of an assortment of buildings and a garden area. Parts of it are official apartments, some are offices for government agencies and so on. Next to the Norman tower is a very beautiful chapel chocked full of exquisitely carved, ornate, wooden furnishings and fittings.

Dublin Castle Norman Tower and Chapel

Amazingly, entry to Dublin castle is free and unencumbered. You just walk in. There is a Garda Museum and they also have an office for their Traffic Branch there, but the whole place seems completely unguarded! In London there would be bobbies everywhere toting sub-machine guns. This is not to say the place has no rules. In the chapel there’s a little sign (actually more like a note) that says ‘Please don’t take photographs while religious services are in progress’. Seems fair enough. In the garden area is a similarly unofficial looking sign which reads ‘No dogs, No football’. Makes you wonder what mischief inspired the latter proclamation.

Dublin Pedestrian Mall

Dublin looks very alive, feels very ‘free’ and is very clean. Little things happen that delight and pleasantly surprise you all the time. For instance, I was walking behind three ordinary guys in their 20s chatting to each other. All of a sudden one broke off to one side of the footpath to pick up some litter and place it in a nearby bin. Then they just carried on as if that was the completely normal thing to do.

Statues Commemorating the Potato Famine (1840s)

Finally heard my first person really swear today (apart from one woman I overhead say to her kid, ‘I don’t give a SHITE what you want, we’re not go’in in that toy shop’). Some feral lloking dude was arguing with four Garda as they came out of the station and got into their Police car. It seems his mate had been arrested and he couldn’t get in to see him. Kept throwing the ‘f’ word around a lot. The Garda seemed unruffled. One said ‘Come up to the station in about an hour and you can see him then’ and drove off.

Beautiful St Stephens Green – Scene of bitter fighting during the 1916 uprising

Apparently there is a bit of a youth drinking problem, but I can’t say I personally saw any evidence of it. The hotel I was staying in was a music venue, but I was never disturbed by noise or rowdiness problems. The place is run by two Irish guys and two Asian girls (Vietnamese at a guess) with another Irish girl helping out casually. I decided to stay an extra night to see more of Dublin and to avoid arriving in Liverpool or Manchester on a weekend with major football games in town.

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