06/16/2004: "A Day in Dublin"
This morning we got up around 7:30. I took a shower, but as usual neither one of us shaved. It was quite sunny, like all mornings in Ireland thus far except one, but it could rain at any time, so we packed the rain gear as well as some long-sleeved shirts in case it was cold. We walked to the hotel which runs the apartment we're staying in to see if a parking space had become available -- it hadn't yet but they said it would in an hour or so as soon as someone checked out. We walked up Harcourt Street a ways until we caught up with a Dublin Bus going our direction -- the driver said it wasn't the one we wanted but he told us which one that would be and how much it would cost. A minute later the right one arrived and we took it to the end of O'Connell Street, the widest street in Dublin, north of the Liffey. We walked a block to North Great George Street, where the James Joyce Center is located. The entire street was blocked off for the Bloomsday Breakfast, a massive party attended by a couple thousand people, many dressed up in Edwardian outfits, and many more spectators such as ourselves. It reminded us of going to Castro Halloween parties not wearing a costume, ie as straight people.
The breakfast itself, which required a ticket we bought the day before for 12 euro apiece, constisted of: a roll containing two pieces of sausage, two slices of bacon, a potato patty and two other sausage/grain patties, one of which is called "black and white pudding"; a cup of coffee (for me) or tea (for Ray); and a pint of Guinness served in a commemorative glass. After we finished the Guinness, we washed out the glasses with some water we had, and carefully packed them in our raincoats and put them in the pack.
There were performers reading passages from Ulysses from the top of a bus and various other platforms. Ray spent awhile talking to an acting student who had been hired to crawl into a box painted as a Ulysses book. There was a string quartet playing music mentioned in the book, and there were lots of interesting people in the crowd, most of whom had presumably read the book. I haven't, but I have learned a lot about it in the past weeks and especially hours, and if I think I'm up to it someday perhaps I will. I could read it anytime because it's on Ray's computer as a HTML file.
After the breakfast we wandered back down O'Connell street, pausing at several places shown on a little map we bought to read quotations from various Joyce books which refer to those places. We crossed the Liffey, stopped in the Bank of Ireland to see a Monopoly board redecorated with the street names of 1904 Dublin, and then proceeded to Davy Burns pub just off Grafton street, which was, like the breakfast, chocked completely full of Ulysses fans. This pub is also mentioned in Ulysses -- it's where Leonard Bloom had a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy (which many people paid a good 9 euro to have themselves). The whole scene reminded Ray of a Star Trek convention.
Then we walked the few blocks from the parking garage we'd left the car the previous morning, paid 39.50 euro for the 28 hours it had been in there, hopped in it and drove it down to the hotel, got the parking permit and the key, and drove to the apartment basement and parked it in the assigned spot, not to move until tomorrow. We went in to the apartment, where Ray was down to 16 remaining pictures on his camera, and copied the pictures in his camera onto the computer so we could free up room in the camera for more. We took the Guinness glasses out of the pack as well as the rain coats because it definitely didn't seem like it would rain.
Then we headed back outside and stood on Harrington Street outside the apartment waiting for a #19 bus, which inexplicably had a completely different fare, 1.25 instead of 85 cents. We took it towards the Kilmainham Hospital, home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. We walked from the bus stop to the museum on a tiny little street that I became doubtful would go through to the museum, but amazingly it did and we didn't end up having to backtrack as I feared. The museum had a small gallery of artists inspired by Joyce, and a few other galleries with some nice pieces. It seemed pretty small -- several of the wings were closed or had installations in progress. One of the best pieces was called "Property", and consisted of all the photos of properties advertised in the Irish Times pasted onto cardboard and assembled into a little 3-d city on the floor, maybe 12 feet across. We left to the north, caught another bus which we took along the river to O'Connell street.
We then crossed the river in search of pub food for that Irish Food experience. Another pub had pointed out two pubs with food but without televisions showing the Euro 2004 soccer tournament games, and one of them had a Traditional Irish Restaurant. Presumably the Irish don't eat there -- it was occupied entirely by Americans, and staffed entirely by immigrants (Thai, Indian, Arab). We had an expensive but actually quite good Traditional Irish meal: I had a coddle of sausage, ham, and potatoes followed by a roast duckling (recipe from 1852), and Ray had a Kilkenny ale and a chowder followed by a beef stew (recipe from 1850). We realized our mission had drifted when the restaurant didn't offer as much beer selection as its pub downstairs, but by then it was too late -- perhaps we'll still have pub food at some point this trip. We were a little annoyed at having the credit card run through in dollars (which I think results in a higher exchange rate) and being overcharged for the ale, so we left a mediocre tip.
As we left the restaurant we saw two guys who were taking a picture of something, and we stopped to see what it was. One of the losers in Ireland's European elections of last week had a poster in a parking garage directly under a "No Entry" sign, and they thought that his picture under that sign was an amusing statement of his failure to get elected. We speculated that since election posters say absolutely nothing about what a candidate's position is that many elections are beauty contests; we also talked generally about politics in Ireland and the US, what constitutes a "good-looking" person, and from there onto how people make sure movies don't offend anyone.
Then we walked back across the river to the Spire of Dublin, also called the Millennium spire. I don't know if it was put up for Dublin's millennium in 1998, or our calendar's one in 2000, but I do know it's really really really tall. I don't know how they could have put it up -- no crane is that tall; it must have been some kind of Iwo Jima move. O'Connell Street was entirely blocked off from cars, and there was a big performance, a kind of talent show really, celebrating Bloomsday with dancers from many Dublin groups (including a Chinese group with a dragon). A replica of the column which the Spire replaced materialized via a scissor-lift, and a crane lifted an actor high into the air, perhaps symbolizing Joyce as an angel or something.
After the show we started walking back to the hotel, and came upon, of all things, an Italian wine bar, so we stopped and had two glasses of wine recommended by the waitress, some fruity red wine and a fairly dry Moscato. They were the most dessert-y she could come up with, but they were very nice.
Then we walked across the Millennium bridge, and back towards the hotel. The internet cafe I've been using had just closed, so we kept going until we reached "Does Not Compute" where I am now posting this note. Ray went back to the apartment to write postcards or go to sleep or to get ready for another day of hunting ancestors.
All in all, was it a fun day? Yes, absolutely, yes, it was.