Monday, March 29, 2004

Dublin (and photos)

Dublin, city of pubs, pedestrian bridges and a four-meter monument to an orator, politician or writer on every corner.

If, indeed, you can no longer see a six-foot plinth surmounted by a six-foot bronze national figure, or a pub, you are probably in a cow-field deep in county Meath.

Also, in a variant on the old game of tacking words onto the end of fortune-cookie fortunes, some things sound better with the worlds "in Dublin" added.

Such as -

Dancing badly to an Irish accented Abba cover band ... in Dublin.

Sitting in a smoke-filled local pub talking to American geneticists on their night off ... in Dublin.

Giggling at the wit of Oscar Wilde ... in Dublin.

Browsing a teeny book-market ... in Dublin.

Buying a M&S shirt you could just as easily have bought at home ... in Dublin.

Yup, the commonplace is never more entertaining than it is on holiday.

I had a pleasant three days on the ground, wandering about looking at things and two nights pub-crawling the town on two rather different organised outings.

The literary pub-crawl on Thursday drew an older crowd, other than me it seemed thirty – retirement, but was a good deal of fun. Two actors lead you around four pubs, not necessarily the watering holes of literary notables (one I believe was simply the closest surviving pub to the former pub where Michael Collins met with spies returning from the government offices at Dublin Castle) – but what they did add was a dash of history and four acted scenes of street theatre from the work of Dublin greats, opening with Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”.

The backpacker’s pub crawl Friday drew a predictably younger crowd, and zoomed through half a dozen night spots including a rather nifty, airy Japanese-themed cocktail bar Sosume and the art nouveau wonderland Café en Seine (pronounced “café insane” by locals). Café en Seine seems to have a local reputation as a hang-out for the uber-trendy and cooler-than-you crowd, but on a less busy night it would have been amazing for a quiet drink: three stories, chandeliers, enormous mirrors, prints of nineteenth century Paris cabaret poster-art everywhere, rather like wandering into the set of Moulin Rouge and drinking with suits but still very pleasant.

Met a lot of Americans and Canadians both nights. (And reflected that the night-life I like invariably reminds me of life in Melbourne ... )

I did find the writer's museum and the James Joyce house faintly dissapointing - thought it must be a bit of a struggle to make an "exciting" musuem for people with essentially inward lives (here is a typewriter, it was owned by someone famous).

Still, I also liked the little markets scattered through Temple Bar on a Saturday (especially the small food market) and the Guiness Storehouse museum/exhibition centre was surprisingly entertaining and brilliantly designed. (The free pint at the end in one of the best look-out points in Dublin didn’t hurt.)

I got the impression it would be somewhere I could live happily for a year or two, though flat rental in the inner city did not look at all cheap.

It was the fulcrum of my week of travel: three days in Dublin through to Saturday, then I spent Sunday in London for the 150th Oxford vs Cambridge boat race on the Thames, we have people round to dinner tonight and three days in Berlin starting tomorrow.

And I’m excited about everything. Other than the 4 am start (again!) tomorrow.

PS The Boat Race

So yesterday I went to see the Cambridge/Oxford boat race on the Thames (the 150th individual race, and 175th anniversary of The Race). Through the kindness of others, I was invited on a friend-of-a-friend basis to watch the race simultaneously on the teev and out the window of a house with views over the river near Barnes Bridge.

Bit odd to find myself in a house full of Shakespeare academics, but great fun.

After some astonishing oar clashes (the boats so close they looked like two parts of a fighting zipper), Cambridge won by an astonishing four boat lengths (having lost last year by 12 inches), and the Oxford cox did not take it well. In a bit of a blow for the concept of sportsmanship he managed to spend some quite time talking to the cameras about how Cambridge should have been fouled for cutting in on the Oxford boat, disputing the umpire’s decision and then congratulating Cambridge, “much as it sticks in my throat”.

Ah, ancient rivalries.

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