What I’m still trying to find out is, “Where are all the actual Dubliners?” The guide books uniformly exhort us to spend as much time as we can in pubs engaging in craic (unfortunately pronounced “crack”) with the locals, which translates roughly as “witty banter.” We’ve spent our evenings attempting to do that, and on our third day in the city I still haven’t managed to exchange words with a single actual Irish person here who wasn’t paid to be speaking with me. There’ve been waiters, shopkeepers, bartenders and tour guides, but whenever we’ve leaned over to the next table for a word, the couple is inevitably from Charleston, Baltimore or Ohio. Occasionally Norway. The closest we’ve come to finding a local was last night when we found a Welsh man upstairs at Gogarty’s. But his tablemate was from Florida and was keen to hear how we folks from “those liberal states” were managing with “all those illegals.” Didn’t feel particularly like a craic’ing good opportunity for banter.
But Dublin, oh, Dublin would be easy to fall in love with. It feels like we’ve seen her without her makeup on, flat-lit and dowsed with drizzle under scud-blown skies. She begs you to turn inward, to contemplate your footsteps, as you meander her cobblestone streets. How could she not be mother to such poets and playwrights?
We really have spent the better part of our time here simply wandering streets. There were, of course, obligatory visits to the Irish Whiskey Museum and the Disney-esque Guinness Storehouse. The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. And, as I said, a lot of pubs, seeking out trad sessions and craic. But mostly walking, getting a feel for the flow of the streets, of the sound of passersby.
Tomorrow will be our last day in Dublin before skipping town, and we’d saved it for some of the officially-recommended cultural sites (What? I said it was a literary pub crawl). We’re apparently not allowed to leave the country until we’ve seen the Book of Kells, and the archeological museum also looks pretty awesome.
Which left us today for the rest of Ireland (Sorry, sorry, sorry!). What with the average of eight daily miles of cobblestones we’ve been racking up, it seemed unwise to walk to the surrounding counties for their historical spots, so we Googled up a last-minute tour bus that seemed to sweep an arc of the area’s greatest hits and settled in for the ride.
Tara, the hill from which Irish kings ruled for thousands of years, was magnificently gloomy. Crows wheeled overhead the desolate, windblown and rutted summit (this is Ireland – everyfreakingthing is windblown). Apparently, from the records available, the average reign of Tara king looked to be just over four years. Gloomy, indeed.
Our guide for the tour was a fascinating young man whose name I could not pronounce, despite hearing it several times through the course of the day. It sounded to me like “Firen,” but felt like it had a whole cat-walking-across-the-keyboard of consonants lurking just below the surface. He’s probably still wincing from our attempts.
Regardless, he’d just completed a dissertation at Trinity focused on historiography of Irish mythology. Prior to that, he’d been a soldier. Needless to say, he had some wide-ranging, well-informed and century-spanning thoughts to share.
We rode through the Boyne River valley, oo’ing and ah’ing at cows and sheep on our way to Newgrange. Yet another hill, but this one an artificially-constructed, solstice-aligned collective tomb that dates well back into the neolithic era. We pretty much know nothing about the people who built and maintained it for centuries other than that, after 3000 years, the hauntingly primal central chamber is still intact and dry (sorry – no photos permitted, and it would have felt disrespectful to sneak one).
Back to town with more commentary on the parallels between the Battle of the Boyne and Brexit, and we bid goodbye to, uh…, our guide. Sorry!
We’ve somehow managed to snag seats for the opening night of the Abbey Theater’s “Druidshakespeare Richard III” tomorrow, and then we’re off to Accra the next morning. Which means we’ve really just got tonight to wind up the rest of our business here in Dublin. I figure we’ll give it one last go and hit a pub or two. Who knows – maybe we’ll even meet some actual Irishmen.