Riverdance, leprechauns and Guinness on tap; whatever it is that springs to mind when you think of Ireland, Dublin has all of that and more. The multicultural city is a world away from the sheep-filled moorlands of rural Ireland, inspiring generations of artists and literary talents with its blend of edgy modernism and rich historic roots. And while the saying may be true and you will likely never out-drink an Irishman, Dublin’s buzzing music bars and traditional pubs are a great place to experience the Irish party culture.
Dublin is not just about the late and the great, there is a vibrant cultural scene putting out good, innovative theater and art as we speak. One organisation that has been important in spawning new talent since 1966 is the Project Arts Centre. Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, U2 – they’ve all done a turn on the stages of the Project Arts Centre.
Dublin is a city of pubs. It is the place people go to eat, drink, relax, laugh, and for the craic, as they say in Ireland. You’d be hard-pressed to go to Dublin and not end up in at least one pub. And once you’ve experienced the history and atmosphere of one Irish pub you’re likely to want to explore a few more, some for their music, some for their literary connections, some for their party atmosphere and some for their food and quiet relaxation.
Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature. There are only a few of them in the world (Dublin, Edinburgh, Melbourne, Reykjavik and Iowa City) so it’s significant and worth adding into your planning of a trip to Dublin. In fact, in Dublin it’s quite difficult to ignore its literary status and history. There are libraries, bookstores and museums in writers’ houses dotted all over the city, and many of the pubs claim to have been the haunts of the more famous Irish writers: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde – although many of them spent years away from Dublin and spent more time at their typewriters than in the pub. Still, even writers need a drink at the end of the working day and in Dublin that means a visit to the pub.
Springtime. The end of the long cold winter. Time to get back out onto the streets and into life, to enjoy walking through parks with spring flowers and blossom on the trees. In Dublin, spring is the driest time of the year, and May the sunniest month. But I’d still pack a coat, gloves and a scarf. Oh, and a hat. Ireland can be sunny yet cold, dry but raining an hour later.
That’s what the pubs are for: warming up with a Guinness and checking your photos of those spring bulbs blooming in the park half an hour earlier. But spring is a great time to go to Dublin for several reasons: the flowers are coming out and the parks are coming back to life. This is a great time for walking along the river and enjoying the smiling greetings of the locals – they are really as friendly as they’re reputed to be.
Travel is increasingly facilitated by smart phone. Forget dragging an unwieldy travel guide around in your backpack, you can slip your phone into your pocket and have so much of what you need to know right there at hand. The Temple Bar Cultural Trust in Dublin has seen the way of the future and developed an app for a culture trail in Dublin.
Launched in 2011, it features 16 of Dublin’s top cultural venues including Trinity College, the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle, Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin City Hall, The Hugh Lane Gallery, Christ Church Cathedral and Project Arts Centre, some outdoor markets and other places in Temple Bar which is the heart of Dublin’s contemporary arts scene.
Is your name Pink, Patsy, Tricia, Paddy? If it’s Patrick or any of its world-wide and gender variations you’ll gain entry to the Guinness Storehouse for free on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. There’s nothing new there – they extend this handshake to Patricks every year.
What is different this year is that they are aiming to set a new record for the Guinness Book of World Records. No, it’s not the greatest number of Patricks in one place, though perhaps it should be, it’s the World’s Friendliest Day record. It makes sense. Ireland has always had a reputation for being friendly, they’re known for their welcome to tourists, the craic in their pubs.
In 2010 Dublin was named one of UNESCO’s Cities of Literature (of only five) which is hardly surprising given the rich literary scene, both past and present.
Each year in April, the city holds One City One Book, a festival during which they encourage everyone to read the same book and they hold events to celebrate that book and author. This year the book is Dubliners by James Joyce. This collection of early short stories is by far his most readable work and gives a great insight into the characters of Dublin.
Yes, the day of green beer is growing closer, the day of the year when all of Ireland goes crazy for their patron Saint Patrick, he who rid the country of snakes and made it the green and pleasant haven it is today.