Impressions of Dublin

Sitting at the Dublin airport, waiting to fly home. Deaf ear is ringing like a bastard after a week of continuous noise . I loved Dublin, but I’m so ready to be back home again! I miss my kids, my dogs, my husband. I miss my own bed, I miss the quiet. I don’t miss the rain  and the cold – the weather here was not too much warmer, but it was pleasant this week.

Between the conference and two evening parties, my week was pretty busy. Still, I did manage to do a little bit of shopping too, and saw a nice slice of the city by walking almost everywhere. I saw Dublin in the dawn, I saw Dublin in dusk, in daytime and even late at night – inside a 3km radiuis from my hotel next to the Christ Church, that is. It seems that I picked my hotel from an excellent location, though, right there at the edge of Temple Bar, with the conference center, Jameson Bow St, Guinness Storehouse and both north and south Dublin shopping areas within that radius. Patted myself on my back for that!

My first morning in Dublin I woke up early. I’m not an early riser as it is, but still I somehow managed to wake up by 6am, which is 8am at home; that is of course already half an hour later than my usual wake-up time on weekdays. I tried to idle in bed for some time, but gave up by 7:40, took a shower and was out of the hotel by 7:20, and in search of a nice little coffee shoppe t0 have breakfast in.

There’s no shortage of coffee shops in Dublin, I noticed. However, not all of them are open that early. I had my cappucino and some bacon and eggs in a cozy little coffee shop and continued my walk towards the conference center as the sun was slowly rising behind some cranes at a “skyscraper” (maybe 20 stories high, which is tall for a low city like Dublin, or Helsinki for that matter) construction site.

The first thing I noted about Dublin was the colors. The city is in many ways very similar to Helsinki, very homey in that way for me, but there are some significant differences, the biggest one being the colorful storefronts. I absolutely loved those painted wood fronts that were further decorated with flowers, flags, decorative paintings and the elegantly crafted or painted business names. Temple Bar pub is obviously the most iconic one of them all, but really, the same theme goes all around!

That first day we had drinks at the conference center and after that there were some sponsor parties to choose from. I went to this one at Jameson Bow St, where we got to do the distillery tour. Not exactly in the distillery, but a tour of the distilling process in the old distillery. After that and the Leprechaun museum experience, I was just amazed by the Irish’ ability to tell a story craft a tour. Pretty amazing tours! Guinness Storehouse tour was no exception either, without the narration, though (since I did not take the headphones).

Last night was my last one in Dublin. After the conference ended, I took yet a different route back to my hotel, walking through the main shopping street on the northern side of the river, as I still wanted to visit the Arnotts once more. I also popped into the H&M in Ilac center (cringe, but it was my best bet for a hoodie for my youngest teen) and returned to my hotel for a little rest while plotting my dinner plans.

Decided on Hard Rock Cafe which was not too far from the hotel, but far enough for me to imagine that I might find an ATM on the way. Turns out ATM’s aren’t really any easier to find in Dublin than they are in Helsinki (or most other places for that matter), even though you need cash for such things as taxis and bus fares. I ran into some Anmesty facers, told them I’m already a donator (which I am), highfived them and asked about an ATM. They pointed me to the closest one, which just happened to be one block away from the Hard Rock Cafe.

I had a local specialty – Guinness Bacon Burger – and a strawberry mojito and bullshitted a bit with a young Samuel L. Jackson lookalike waiter. One of the best damned burgers I’ve ever had! Slight bit on the sweet side with the Jameson marmelade and dark Guinness sauce, but absolutely wonderful tasting burger! I left the restaurant totally satisfied and stuffed and started my walk back through the rather crowded Temple Bar. I mean, there is no such time or place in Helsinki. Not ever, not anywhere!

Walking past the actual Temple Bar pub I decided that stepping in for a drink was an absolute must – as it happens, it was the only pub I visited. At that moment, just like at the Guinness Storehouse, I really wished that I could drink beer. Since that is not an option for me, I just got a Bacardi cola and stood in the crowd for the time it took me to sip my drink, listening to the live band play that gay Irish folk music. Listening to that music, I really don’t even wonder why leprechauns can’t resist dancing. I think I’m part leprechaun.

The first thing i noticed about Ireland, as the aircraft was circling towards the runway, was the patchwork of fields, with rows of identical houses lined up neatly in between. Each row was unique, but none of the houses were unique on the outside. Even the mansions on their bigger lots were placed one next to the other, identical with each other, facing the same way. Quite different than the city itself.

One of the Irish curiosities that caught my eye while walking around the city was this interesting fashion of shorts paired with a winter jacket. Another one was the exterminator. I mean, I have never ever in my life seen an actual exterminator, in full suite and with the tank proppen on his back and all that. Only in the movies. And in Dublin.

There’s a whole lot of bicyclists in Dublin. Perhaps because in a city like Dublin it seems to be way faster to ride your bike around than drive your own car or take the bus. Bicycling culture in Helsinki is quite aggressive, with bicyclists rarely taking heed of red lights and whizzing by pedestrians, slower bikes and dogs with warping speed. I’ve been grazed by bikes, leapt to safety from out of their way, frantically pulled my dogs to safety before. Here, the bicyclists are no better. Actually, I think they’re worse if possible. Yep, nope. There’s no love on my side towards bicycling Dubliners, either.

Apart from the bicyclists, I absolutely loved Dublin. The very best thing about the city? Te bookstores! There’s so many of them! Some big, some small, some new books only, some used books only, some both. I visited at least five or six different bookstores during the week and at the end of my stay, I packed several kilos of books in my suitcase. Eight books in total. Also a couple cd’s and a BlueRay, from the big Tower Records on Dawson Street, on the other side of the street form the wonderful Hodges Figgis multiple story bookstore.

This morning I woke up too early, again. Not finding the opening time for the hotel breakfast bistro, I walked in through the open door of the room at 7:2o. A waitress there informed me that the kitchen won’t open until 7:30, but offered to bring me coffee. Before the kitchen opened, two other ladies walked in too, and to my utter surprise, they too were Finns. So there we were, three Finnish women, waiting for the kitchen to open.

I got my breakfast eggs and toast (and such), ate in peace and returned to my room to gather my stuff. I hauled my heavy luggage out, paid and took the bus to the airport. Aerofort. I’d love to learn Irish (Gaelic)! It’s somehow a totally cool language. It’s kinda useless, like Finnish is useless on a global level, but it seems like a total hoot.

[More photos of Dublin in Flicr]