Turning Two in Ireland

Shamrocks

Shamrock, symbol of Ireland. The word comes from the Irish Gaelic word, seamróg. Photo by Quentin REY on Unsplash.

a pint of the black stuff, Guinness Stout

A pint of the black stuff. Love Guinness! Photograph, Ann Fisher.

My blog hit its second anniversary while I was in Ireland for the travel blogging conference, TBEX Europe.

There’s a symmetry to this for me: as a traveler delving into a new country for the first time; as a writer and lifelong lover of literature arriving in the home of James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw; as a student in the business of blogging, here to learn more.

So over the course of my week in Ireland, I raised many pints of Guinness and multiple  glasses of Irish whiskey to life, to travel, and to my anniversary. Sláinte!

River Liffey in Dublin

The River Liffey flows through Dublin, dividing the city into two distinctively different halves. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

 Three Days in Dublin

Looking through the gate of Christ Church Cathedral. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

It is impossible to know Dublin in only three days, but my friend Pat Wetzel of Cancer Road Trip and I gave it our all (you’ll find find Pat’s account of our doings in Dublin here). We started with an overview tour, then delved into: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle, Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse, the Joyce Center, and the Writers Museum, drank plenty of Guinness, and sampled some amazing Irish whiskey.

On jet-lag Friday, we went to the Guinness Storehouse to learn more about how the Black Stuff is made.

The Storehouse is in the St. James Gate Brewery in a fermentation building dating from 1904. It’s a slick museum of Guinness, and the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland. What did I think? Well, the words tourist trap come to mind. The Gravity Bar at the very top of the Storehouse has an amazing 360° view of Dublin, and would be an excellent place to enjoy that pint of Guinness that comes as part of your entry fee — except that it was so crowded when we were there that we could barely move.

After preparing for rain, we were blessed with good weather — and when the sun came out during our visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we made a beeline for the green to take advantage of the light.

St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin Ireland

St. Patrick’s was founded in 1191, but most of the current building dates to the 1800’s. It is the National Cathedral of Ireland, and both the largest and tallest cathedral in the country. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Temple Bar Dublin

On the street in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

We wandered from St. Patrick’s to Christ Church, then into Temple Bar to find a good pub for lunch. Temple Bar is an area of Dublin bounded by the River Liffey and Dame Street, then Fishamble Street and Westmoreland Street on the east and west sides. It’s home to things such as the Irish Photography Center, the Gaiety School of Acting, and the Irish Stock Exchange, then in the evening it’s the center of a lively nightlife — so there are plenty of pubs :-).

We found one to our liking (BadBobs) and settled in to review photographs and talk. The lamb shank I ordered to accompany my Guinness was outstanding.

Badbobs Temple Bar

The lamb shank at BadBob’s pub , served with carrots, parsnips, and mashed potatoes was flavorful and tender. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

James Joyce and Dublin

Saturday afternoon found us on a walking tour: Introducing Joyce’s Dublin. Parts of the route followed in Leopold Bloom’s footsteps, and other stops, like the one at the Gresham Hotel, took us into stories in The Dubliners, such as The Dead. I thought the tour was great, and anyone interested in 20th century literature will enjoy seeing Dublin through Joyce’s eyes. The James Joyce Center offers several different tours that change from week to week, and when I return to Ireland, I’ll try a different one.

While I easily loved The Dubliners the first time I read it, Ulysses deviled me as a college student. The stream of consciousness style of James Joyce’s writing can be difficult to handle — it requires dedicated attention. Yet it is listed as one of the top 100 novels in the English language, and for a lover of writing, it’s a must-read. The Joyce Center has inspired me to attack the book again, this time with both Ulysses: Dublin Illustrated Edition and the audio version with two narrators: Ulysses Audiobook (additional information about the narrated version is at the bottom of this article).

Following our Joyce tour, we went to see the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial to those who died in the Easter Rising of 1916. Then, still on a literary high — we noticed the Writers Museum across the street from the garden, and went in to explore. I found it disappointing. While they do have a small, interesting collection of letters and books, the displays were incredibly dated, and for most people, this is not a great way to spend limited time in this special city.

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Photograph, Marc Lechanteur — iStock Photo

The Book of Kells, Trinity College

Book of Kells

Page from the Book of Kells, one of the world’s great illuminated manuscripts.

On Sunday, we made our way to Trinity College. Mission: see the Book of Kells and the Long Room in the Old Library. The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the gospels of the New Testament dating from ca. 800 AD, was created at the Columban monastery in Ireland. It is one of this country’s great national treasures.

I would strongly recommend booking tickets for the Book of Kells ahead, and even with this, expect to stand in line for at least twenty minutes. You’ll see the Long Room of the Old Library after you finish viewing the exhibition about the manuscript.

When you know you have to return . . .

The clock was ticking down towards our train ride to the conference.

On our last Dublin afternoon, we drove past the bullet-riddled columns of the GPO, the General Post Office — rebel headquarters for the Easter Rising. I turned my head to watch the building recede, knowing that I’d have to return to “go deep” in Ireland, to really know and understand this country. So I raise my glass to Dublin, and simply say — “I like you too well to leave. And I’ll be back.”

Ah! Ow! Don’t be talking! I was blue mouldy for the want of that pint. Declare to God I could hear it hit the pit of my stomach with a click. — Ulysses, James Joyce

Practical Notes: Hotels

We stayed at the Conrad Hotel near St. Stephen’s Green for our first three nights in Dublin, which was outstanding. It really exceeded my expectations. The service level of the staff was outstanding, and the room very comfortable. Breakfast was included in our rate, and I thought the buffet was very good.

Hotel in Dublin: The Conrad

Our one unpleasant experience was at Harrington Hall in Dublin on our final night after our rail trip back from Killarney. The Conrad was not available when I booked, so we chose the Harrington for the last evening before we flew home. It is also near St. Stephen’s Green, but unfortunately right across the street from very noisy nightclubs. There is no air conditioning, and we had to open a window because the room was a bit stuffy. Even though our room was at the back of the hotel, we listened to racket from the bars all night long — things didn’t go quiet until around 4:00 am. Never again.


Reading James Joyce

For anyone who’s struggled with Ulysses, and would like to have another go at it, I found Tadhg Hynes comments on recording the audio book interesting, and the audio excerpt on Amazon engaging. I’ve just started listening to this version on Audible, while reading the Ulysses Dublin Illustrated Edition — makes SUCH a difference. If you’re thinking that this approach might work for you, I’d encourage you to listen to the audio excerpt to see what you think.

 

Narrator Tadhg Hynes: “I first decided to record Ulysses in October 2015. Little did I know then what an unforgettable 18 months lay ahead. Having already recorded Dubliners and Portrait (and being terrified of Ulysses), I decided to give myself a year just to read it. However, after about four episodes I started recording it and became hooked.

Being a Dubliner and having the privilege of walking the pages of this book daily, it became a world that absorbed me totally. Almost everywhere I went in Dublin, Joyce was there. I kept coming across phrases from the book in real life. I was born in Holles St. Hospital some 60 years after the Oxen of the Sun episode was set there. While the city has moved with the times, it’s still unavoidable to get the sense of Joyce’s Dublin even now. . . . I’ve tried to bring out the Dublin wit and the unique language of its people, and I hope that this adds to the enjoyment of this great book.

“I would like to add a special note of thanks and admiration to the wonderful reading of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, given by Kayleigh Payne. Famed for its lack of punctuation and rambling nature, this iconic piece of writing is beautifully interpreted and sensitively portrayed. Kayleigh’s work has brought a new dimension to the recording, and I am eternally grateful.” — from Victorian Classics Audiobooks


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13 Comments on Turning Two in Ireland

  1. Congrats on your second anniversary! It’s even more to celebrate it on a special trip abroad, with friends, and with a good pint of Guinness. 🙂 I always love personal accounts of destinations – they give so much more insight into what the tourist sites are really like. Great guide!

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  2. Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy // October 18, 2017 at 9:40 pm // Reply

    Happy Blogiversary and I wish we could have met in Killarney! I had such a wonderful time in Ireland and trust you did too ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish we had met — I somehow completely missed that you were going to be there. There’s so much going on. I think we would have needed to talk ahead to be sure we didn’t miss each other.

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  3. jenruizwriter // October 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm // Reply

    Congrats on your two year blogaversary! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by pursuing your literary dreams over a pint haha, cheers!

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  4. Congratulations to your blogiversary! You’ve seen so much in one day. lamb shank at BadBob’s pub sounds like a fantastic treat. I would love to hear your TBEX experience sometime!

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  5. Congratulations on your blog 2nd anniversary! What a great way to celebrate in Dublin with lot of Guinness too!

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  6. Congratulations on your blog’s 2nd birthday! What a way to celebrate in Ireland. I haven’t been yet but I’d love to go one day, though probably not a literary tour and rather a beer and food tour hehe!

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  7. Congrats on your two year bloggiversy. I love hearing your report of TBEX Ireland. Neither of us has been to Ireland, but it’s high on our list. Maybe not a literary tour but a cycle tour through the green green hills would be just our speed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Happy anniversary! I can’t imagine a better way to spend it than by raising a pint in Ireland. I went to TBEX Dublin a few years ago and felt like I was among the luckiest people in the world to be a travel blogger enjoying all that Ireland has to offer.

    Here’s to many more blogging years ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John Campion // October 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm // Reply

    Ann: CONGRATULATIONS! In the event your journey takes you to southwestern Ireland, I encourage you to visit Old Head golf course. You do not have to be a golfer to marvel at the venue. And, the restaurant is great! http://oldhead.com Be safe! Regards, John

    Liked by 1 person

    • Already back home — it was a quick trip this time. Thanks for the suggestion though — because I plan to go back to Ireland for a month in the fall of 2018.

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