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Jul 30, 2007

Dublin and Roma in 1 week (or, how to lose weight in a week…) Part I

The typical Irish hillside.

It finally happened. Finally got a chance to visit the little country, Ireland. It was the attraction to Celtic music (which is actually the wrong term – more details later) that drew me towards the country. The pacy rhythm of the fiddle set against a rhythmic triplet or 4/4 beat… The violin is probably one of the most difficult instruments to play. And playing at this pace without missing a beat or a note certainly sets new standards to music. Oh yes, their accents and beautiful countryside were draw cards too…

The multitude of stones lining the beach front at Bray.

Anyway… twas with great bubble that I landed at Dublin’s rather small airport. Ireland has been experiencing rapid growth in its economy (dubbed the Celtic Tiger) especially in its financial industry. This growth was apparent throughout the city by its big cranes, efficient public transport system, different multinational companies etc. The airport authorities though didn’t predict how great the necessity for a bigger airport would be.

Christ Church cathedral. Handel's Messiah was performed for the first time in this church.

We reached our hotel by midday on Saturday by taxi (the driver spoke English throughout but I battled throughout to get past the accent… hmm’s & aha’s helped the conversation along). After a quick drop-off, we hit the streets of Dublin with a trusty tourist map.

Temple Bar in the Temple Bar area. Widely popular with the locals and tourists.

Dublin’s gardens (like St. Stephen’s Green) and churches (Christ church, St. Patricks) are truly, remarkably, savage. We did a city bus-tour that touched all the major attractions of Dublin including the malt-scented Guinness store-house, the notorious Temple Bar area, the many churches, and the houses of parliament.

St. Stephen's Green. Greens within Dublin's concrete jungle.

We met a few friends in Dublin for a stand-up comedy show that evening in one of the many, many, pubs near the river Liffy. That night was perhaps the highlight of the Dublin trip – the comedians and MC were hilarious and interacted with the audience very well. The on-the-spot one-liners proved yet again why I find comedy nights so brilliant. I became the South-African drug dealer – was picked on a lot but it was all in good fun...

The Liffy river that divides the city into north and south. Division of classes exists too...

The next day we hit the DART railway system to the northern most seaside stations in the region. Noteworthy visits included Malahide Castle & Howth coast. Each little town in Ireland has its own special little something that makes the town the way it is. The pubs were also pretty grand. All the walking and rushing around made us pretty tired so we hit the beds early on Sunday.

Malahide castle - in Malahide. Old castle owned by some rich English count.

The sea lions waiting for fish from onlookers at Howth. The dogs were going wild. Felt like tripping one over just for kicks...

We managed to spend the rest of the week doing many other different Irish activities. A few below:

  • Riverdance concert – at the Gaiety theatre near St. Stephens. Awesome, awesome, awesome! Lovely mix of Gaelic jigs, tap dancing, fiddles… it was packed even for a weekday. The Irish sure know how to support their culture.

  • The Seaside villages of Bray and Greystone – southern most part of the DART. Did a climb up the hillside in Bray. Took some lovely pics. Ate traditional fish & chips.

The sea village of Bray. We climbed the hill in the background past the wheel. Got great pics. Greystone lies behind the hill.

  • Traditional Irish musical pub crawl – hosted by 2 musicians who explained the history and traditions of Irish/Gaelic music (and not Celtic – it’s a common tourist mistake) while visiting some of the famous pubs in Dublin. The terms jig, reel, sessions etc. meant something after this one…

  • Johnny Foxes pub on the Wicklow mountains – the highest pub in Ireland, splendid views, the interior in the pub was absolutely phenomenal. Many presidents and celebrities have visited the pub before and it made sense why. Bloddy shoddin’ expensive food though. I ate my food real slow.

  • The national museum and Dublinia – fascinating look into the history of Ireland and Dublin. The role of the Vikings and the English was explained in detail in these 2 places.

  • The pubs – off course, Ireland would not be Ireland without its pubs. Overwhelming atmosphere with crowds of people, Irish musicians, good food, Smithwicks beer, pretty colleen duns… The crack was good…

The disappointing aspect of Ireland has to be its younger crowd. The influence of money and alcohol is very apparent in the kids of Ireland through their behaviour and actions. I saw kids as young as 10 smoking cigarettes with a beer can in the other hand, doused in make-up, walking in skimpy clothes through the streets and DART stations.

A field overlooking a church in Malahide.

But, in all, the scenic beauty, the quality of life, the opportunities and the prospect for growth in a competitive market makes this place an ideal spot for the young career-focused individual.

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