The Irish economy may be in the doldrums, youth unemployment is truly disheartening, and the rates of significant emigration have returned - but there is no mistaking the reality that in the last 20 years Ireland has changed irrevocably, and there will be no returning to the ways of the past. It probably has something to do with Ireland joining the EU, it probably has something to do with major scandals in the most important institutions of the country, it probably has something to Ryan Air. . . But wherever it is coming from, the presence of change is evident to even the casual visitor.
Of course, you'll find a lot more of that change in Dublin than elsewhere. And of course, Ireland is still and will always be - well, Irish. But at the same time, there's no doubt that Ireland has become less unusual, less of an "outlier" in cultural and social mores - and I don't think that's entirely a bad thing.
St. Stephen's Green is a lovely urban oasis in the center of Dublin, just a little to the south of Trinity College. It was originally semi-private, but through the initiative of Sir A.E. Guinness, a member of the Guinness brewing family, it was fully opened to the public in the late 19th century. The Green is much loved by the current generation of Dubliners, who can be seen strolling through the park in appreciation of the verdant nature which is on view. Daffodils bloom early here, in the first week of March!
The Abbey is one of the most important theatres in Dublin, associated with the Irish Literary Revival since its founding in 1904. The Abbey is still respected and revered for continuing its great tradition of sponsoring new Irish writing for the theatre. It also puts on classic plays from the around the world, often interpreting them with a unique Irish flare. In March 2013 I saw "King Lear" here - only the second time it had been presented at the Abbey.
20 Lower Abbey Street, on the north side of the Liffey
Irish people have an interesting relationship with the concept of 'truth'. This is wonderfully exemplified by the many tour guides who inhabit the plethora of tour buses that ply around Dublin.
They may have to complete the 'Tourism Ireland' course, but that doesn't guarantee you will get entirely truthful utterances.
I recently heard of the tale of a tourist who argued with a bus tour guide that he was incorrect in his story about how Heuston station got it's name. She claimed that on an earlier bus the guide had clearly stated that it was named in honour of Whitney !
Dublin humour of of course - I mean who would believe such a whopping lie ! By the way, the airport in Belfast in named after a notoroius alcoholic...now whose stretching the truth ?
Came across a great website recently. It is called 'overheardin Dublin', part of 'overheardinIreland'. People basically just post any funny story (real-life) or conversation they have heard. Some of the stuff is a bit on the rude side, but much of it is hilarious.
Here is typical example (from www.overheardindublin.com)overheard on the LUAS
A woman scanger got on a packed luas at Jervis Street.She began to shout her conversation down her phone for everyone to hear, with her phone on loudspeaker.She said "What's the next stop after The Four Courts? The person on the end of the phone replied "Mountjoy".
NB . This joke is only understandable to some, and I shan't be explaining it.
I was fascinated recently by a walk through Glasnevin cemetry. It houses over one million souls and still has some room left.
Some of the more modern graves from the late 1970's seem to have started something of a trend. Finding pictures of the deceased was not too unusual (it is quite common in many European countries) but other things were. I started noticing that some people have added where they lived. Not just the area but their house address. I suppose it is only a matter of time before people add their mobile phone number and e-mail address.
Other graves also had their nickname added e.g Patrick 'paddy' Murphy. harmless enough, but a bit unfortunate if your nickname is 'Knobhead' or 'Sweaty betty' or 'Strangely brown'.
More poiniantly, the children's cemetry close to the entrance is an overwhelming rainbow of children's windmills, soft toys, and any number of brightly coloured trinkets. The effect of so many well-tended graves is somewhat overwhelming.
As you stroll through Dublin, you may notice the red brick Georgian houses can be distinguished from one another by their colorful doors, red next door to blue next door to yellow. And if you step foot in any tourist shop, you'll see posters and postcards featuring the "Doors of Dublin".
Several different theories are espoused by tour guides to how these doors came about, one has writer George Moore living next to another writer, Oliver St John Gogarty, Moore painting his door green so that the drunken Gogarty wouldn't think it was his door and Gogarty painting his door red so that the drunken Moore wouldn't think it was his door. Another states that after the death of Queen Victoria England ordered the Irish to paint their doors black and instead they thumbed their noses at England and painted them in bright colors.
I suspect the truth is closer to this theory, the Georgian row houses are all very similar, in order to set themselves apart, they added ornamental things such as door knockers and fanlights and painted their doors in bright colors.
Every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, rain or shine, there is a secondhand book market held at Temple Bar Square. There is an ecclectic but surprisingly good selection books offered, ranging from children's books to classic literature and bestsellers. You think you're just going to have a quick look, and next thing you know you're buying half a dozen novels (OK, maybe that's just me!). Unless they're rare items, books are generally sold at about half the original price. It's truly worth stopping by!
Ireland is famous for its colourful and unique doors. You may see many intersing doors in Dublin. It is said that a door is one of the most important this when you choose a house. A nice looking door may be a proude for all the family.:)
I am assured that there was some kind of law passed in the 1960's that said that some public buildings had to be re-named to honour leaders of the 1916 uprising.
Thus we now have Heuston, Connolly and Pearse stations in Dublin. Whilst I have heard Heuston referred to as 'Kingsbridge station', I've never heard Connolly referered to as 'Amiens st'. At least Sean Hueston worked at the station - so the the historical reference is well founded.
The new station being built at Spencer Dock will probably not follow this tradition.
Whilst it smacks a little of that Eastern Block / Russina obsession with re-naming whole cities, it is at least good to remember a little of the history.
Dublin has many meeting places but generations of Dubliners met for a first date, or just to head off for a night out, at the clock at Easons on O'Connell St. Bewleys Cafe on Grafton St played much the same role on the southside :-)
An Irish friend of mine told me why the doors of Dublin (and in ireland more generally) are so bright and colourful: so that people can recognise their own home when they came back late at night, drunk and in the fog!
Well, probably it's just a legend, but it made me laugh!
In the time I have spent in Ireland I think I am yet to buy my own drink! You will often find that when visiting a bar or pub here in Ireland and people find out you are a visitor, they will buy you a drink*.
Of course you should always offer to buy them a drink in return.
If you are going out with a group in Ireland (with Irish friends), they will sometimes buy drinks in rounds, ie, one person goes to the bar and buys eveyones drinks and then the next round it is someone elses turn to buy. Although this will depend entirely on the group of people you are with, so just watch and see if people are buying their own drinks or it they're going to buy them in rounds.
*no guarantees, sorry :)
Ireland was one of the original 12 countries to adopt the Euro in 2002. When I visited in 1999, the Irish Punt (pronounced "poont") was still the currency du jour.
Money is not much of a problem in Ireland. Your major credit cards are accepted most places, and ATMs are abundant.
Ireland is an expensive place to visit. A 2005 survey found Ireland was the 2nd most expensive of 12 popular vacation spots in Europe and North America. Meals in Ireland ranked as the most expensive of these 12 nations.
After a night out on the town in Dublin, you will find that a lot of people will head to a 'chipper' afterwards. These places can get very crowded, very quickly.
For those of you who don't know what a chipper - it is basically a place to buy hot chips (plain or in gravy or curry), burgers and the like. They will also only sell non-alcoholic drinks ;)
Especially after the clubs have closed, chippers become very popular, as people try to linger and stay out a bit longer before finally heading home. You will usually find a chipper no more than a block or two from most clubs.