(Apr. 5-7 2002) Rose, Mal and I got to Dublin about 2:30 and took a cab to the Harcourt Hotel where I was meeting up with my friend Carole who's been in Dublin a couple of days on her own.
The weather is warm, overcast. We are meeting up with some other friends who are arriving at various times, some here already. We set up a time to meet in the hotel pub for 7 tonight for drinks. Eoin, Carole and I headed out and down Harcourt Street to Grafton Street. We ended up in a cafe for lunch in the top floor of the St. Stephen's Green shopping center, a lovely glass roofed structure with lots of light streaming in.
Grafton is a pedestrian shopping area with some lovely stores, and lots of cafes and restaurants including the famous Bewley's. We went to a cashpoint and continued along, window shopping and popping up side streets. We saw St. Anne's church which seems to have associations with a number of famous former Dubliners including Bram Stoker of Dracula fame!
Next stop was a gawp at the Mansion House, former home of the Lord Mayor since 1715 but now used for civic functions. We headed back south to St. Stephen's Green which is really lovely. It was an ancient common land but enclosed in the 18th C. and laid out in it's present form as a Victorian park in the 1870's. There are ponds, gazebos, flower beds, lots of ducks, statues and lots of trees, bushes and memorials.
Back to the hotel to freshen up before meeting the rest. We had reservations at TGI Fridays, just across from Stephen's Green so headed there en masse. The restaurant was really busy and even though we had reservations they weren't ready for us for over 3/4 hour and we didn't end up getting our food until 10! Luckily they have an extensive cocktail menu. Ahem.
Back to the hotel later and the residents' bar. We got stuck in to drinks and an old friend of Rose's arrived. A musician. Rose is a singer, and has sang in bars and pubs for many years on and off. She and her friend Martin entertained us with some traditional Irish melodies and her voice is absolutely stunning! It really topped off the evening.
April 6 Dublin: Looks like the weather is going to cooperate again today, a bit nicer than yesterday. Breakfast was a buffet in the pub of the hotel, the usual full cooked fare. We all scattered around 11 to pursue our own interests, planning to meet back at the bar for about 6.
Carole and I planned to walk around the city to see some of the major sights, as much as our feet can stand! Down to Grafton Street, we paused a couple of times to watch some buskers performing. I bought a couple of silver rings from a vendor and promptly slid them on a thumb and forefinger that had been wanting new rings for ages!
We walked down Exchequer Street west of Grafton and came upon a huge old building that may have been a treasury building perhaps but which contains a covered market now. It's very hip, funky, with books, records, cds, clothes that were gothic and flowing, lots of inventive jewelry and organic food kiosks. I bought a small bag of Turkish Delight. Carole purchased some dried lavender so her suitcase will smell lovely!
Again we walked, and while looking for Dublin Castle, we came upon Christchurch Cathedral. We navigated across the busy corners to the cathedral close. The cathedral has the most marvelous tiled mosaic floor, in dark cinnamon reds, terra cottas, black and white and which matched the loveliest baptismal font I've ever seen. Inset into the cobbled surroundings are paving stones imbedded with ancient brass artifacts discovered in architectural digs and there's the foundations of an old chapter house.
Leaving there we stopped for a cup of tea at a small cafe next door to a very unusual craft shop called Whichcraft. The items are unique, modern art and are all made by Irish artisans.
We found Dublin Castle near city hall. The castle is now mainly offices though you can go into a few of the buildings to see the paintings and ceilings. There's an old Norman tower, a gatehouse tower, an old chapel and state apartments in the compound. On the other side, where we discovered some edifices of the castle painted shocking colours like blue and yellow and green (ugh!) was a circular lawn with a celtic knot tiled into it and then a cafe built in a castle looking structure which I guess was built to reflect the real thing. There's the Chester Beattie library that has some lovely paintings in it as well (and public washrooms and some benches of which we availed ourselves to rest our feet again)
We headed down a side street and discovered an enclosed courtyard hosting a gourmet market! Most goods were organic, with cheese, meat, baked goods, pies and quiches, fruit and veg on offer. People were milling about eating things like pancakes with fresh cream, bananas and Bailey's Irish Cream poured in!
Down to the River Liffey which looked desperately filthy with a lot of debris floating in it. It's lined on both sides with brightly painted buildings along side some really large official edifices like the Four Courts and the Custom House. The river is crossed by a number of bridges, both vehicle and pedestrian, including a very pretty one with white painted wrought iron decoration called the Ha'penny bridge, which is what the toll to cross it used to be. Pictures taken and then we headed into Temple Bar proper, an old quarter of Dublin, now filled with restaurants, pubs, a few hotels and lots of tourist shops. Streets are narrow and cobbled, buildings have bright signs and murals on the walls. Temple Bar is also very near Trinity College so there are a lot of young people in this area of the city. Later, we decided we would get a taxi back to the hotel even though it wasn't all that far to walk. Our feet hurt and we wanted a rest and a cuppa before the evening's get together.
Dublin looks a little run down around the edges in places but it's very colourful and vibrant. There are startlingly large ornate buildings and churches that spring out at you as you come around a turn in a street or glance down a side road or alley. They look all the bigger because most of the buildings aren't that high. There isn't a lot of green around but there are some large leafy parks and squares around. There are more cobbled streets than I expected, not just the pedestrian areas.
Rose made a reservation at a restaurant in Temple Bar but not until 9 o'clock and most of us didn't want to wait that long because likely *if* we got sat down then, we still might not have eaten until a good while later. She, Mal and Rosalind decided to go there anyway and the rest of us walked down into Grafton street to try our luck. This isn't always recommended because the restaurants and pubs in Dublin of a Friday and Saturday night are usually heaving and difficult for larger groups to get tables. We ended up at Captain America, another American restaurant like a version of the Hard Rock Cafe with music memorabilia all over the walls. We had a little wait at a very crowded bar but were able to sit all together. The food was really good and the service was excellent!
On the way there, at the corner of Grafton by St. Stephen's Green there was a bank of horse and buggies. Annie and I broached the idea of a buggy ride to the others on the way back. Four of us opted for a half hour tour around the area, with an enjoyable running commentary by the driver. We saw the area around Merrion and Fitzwilliam squares with the lovely famous Dublin doors, the large museums and government buildings, and the Grand Canal. We even got a ride right to the door of the Hotel! It really did feel magical, wrapped in a blanket against the cold night air, with the echo of the horse's hooves on nearly empty streets.
The musicians on tonight at Barney's were especially talented though didn't sing as much. We got to hear Rose sing a little in between the musician's breaks. Not long before Carole and I decided to head to bed, Annie came upstairs with us for a visit and to clear her lungs of the smoke as well before bed.
Tomorrow is our last day with our friends. Breakfast together, a drink to say farewell in the early afternoon and we all go our separate ways.