Middle Aged World Travelers, Chapter 5, Walking in Dublin

On our last day in Ireland, which was Thursday, May 21, we were feeling muchmore confident about getting around in Dublin and so made quite a day of walking and seeing as much as we could see in a rather casual, haphazard way. We crossed the street from our hotel to the little mall that was over there. We had crossed the street before and it was quite the nightmare with crosswalks telling you when you could go and not go and mums with prams and babies, teens and others all trying to cross at the same time. You see, in front of the mall was where you caught the bus to downtown Dublin. On this particular adventure as we zig-zagged across the intersection to the mall, we met a Polish mum with a cute little toddler jabbering away. They were going to the grocery store at the mall and she was quite pleasant to speak with. Many Polish people have immigrated to Ireland and Scotland over the last several years, seeking jobs and wanting to start over in a better economy. This young mum said she had just been home for a week to visit her family in Poland and it was a bittersweet visit. She loved seeing her family, but it was so hard to go back to Ireland where the only family she had was her husband and baby son.

After we all finally managed to get across to the mall, we went our separate ways as we were just stepping into the mall out of curiosity and she had groceries to buy. This was the most unusual mall I’ve ever been in, ever. On the first floor was a sort of hair salon that looked more like a barber shop, a candy store, and then the grocery store. You could then ride up an escalator to the second level where there was another part of the same store (I wish I could recall the name of the place, they were quite common in Ireland) and the second floor sold clothes, women’s accessories, children’s clothing, toys, and all the things you’d see in a Walmart or Target, but more along the lines in design of a K-Mart. I looked at women’s clothing out of curiosity and some things were ridiculously expensive and some things were ridiculously inexpensive. I could make no sense of their pricing strategies at all. I found a pair of jeans for €12 and tried them on, but their sizings didn’t make sense either. They were so large, two of me could have easily worn the jeans so at that point, I gave up on my clothing browsing and went to find Alan. We browsed a little more and then left the mall to catch the bus to downtown Dublin.

By this time we were feeling quite confident in downtown Dublin and when we were dropped off in front of Trinity College, we knew we wanted to see St. Stephens Green, which is a lovely, huge park in the middle of everything. We went through Grafton Street to get to the Green. Grafton Street was alive and hopping on this particular Thursday. It was the day before the national election to vote on same sex marriage in Ireland and there were all kinds of bands playing along the street, families walking through, young college age students handing out flyers, and overall a happy feeling rather like going to a fair here in the States. I loved it all and even taped part of a band playing where a little girl kept walking up closer and closer to them as they played. She was adorable!
(I tried to upload the video I made here, but it won’t let me do it.)

We thought St. Stephens Green was just a block or two farther on, but it was several blocks farther on. Grafton Street is where you go to shop for just about anything and/or go to pubs to drink just about anything! Amongst the typically Irish shops and pubs, there were American businesses like McDonalds, Burger King, and even a Starbucks or two as well.

Finally we arrived at St. Stephens Green, and honestly, it did not disappoint! It was quite one of the loveliest parks I’ve never seen! There were random ponds scattered throughout, hedges, flowers, and winding trails and it truly is very green! There were families, lovers, ducks, doves and sea gulls, a few of which decided we were friends as they kept hovering. (Ducks, doves and sea gulls, I mean.) They became quite our little entourage until we stopped at a fountain to sit and rest a moment. I was talking to our entourage of birds and they were all talking back to me. I kept assuring them I had no bread or food of any kind for them, but they just kept conversing with me. Finally Alan said we were drawing attention from people around us and to send the motley crew of birds away. So I told them once again I had nothing to feed them, I had enjoyed my visit with them and sent them on their way. I actually said “Goodbye, goodbye, it’s been lovely speaking with you!” and they went along their way! Here is one of the bird friends we made. Mr. Seagull was quite friendly. I had never seen one just follow people around on foot before! I suppose that living in St. Stephens Green, they are quite accustomed to people and their livelihood is found by begging food off of people and small children. It was fun!

After the birds left, we walked on through the park. We kept thinking we had seen everything, and then we’d walk around another hedge and see another fountain, with even more park beyond! There was a a petting zoo, monuments, and yet another pond! The hills began to feel like mountains to our tired legs and aching feet, and we felt we had enjoyed all we could of St. Stephens Green! Finally, we found the exit from the park on the complete opposite corner of where we had started and when we walked out of the park, we discovered we were in the Georgian area of Dublin! I oohed and I aahed over all the pretty houses and the lovely doors with the famous fanlight window design over them. Most of them are now part of schools and little colleges rather than private residences. I loved this one the best because, well, look, it’s a lovely colored door! Most were shiny black and very stately, but this one had some personality!

By the way, see those little motor bikes there all in a row for hire? If we hda been smart, we would have rented a couple of those for the rest of our Dublin trekking, but didn’t even think of it. At the end of this block, we found more shops and stopped and had coffee with a fabulous dessert. I had one of the best cheesecakes there I’ve ever had in my life. I never wanted it to end and almost needed some privacy as it was so heavenly tasting.

I’m sorry to say that by the time I noticed this placard on the table, my cheesecake was long gone or I would have been happy to post a photo of it on Instagram! This place was so busy, I could have sat there and people watched for hours. Sitting immediately to my right, about two feet from me, was even an actor who was meeting a play director/producer, quite smoothly, for a part in her latest, smash hit. (I don’t think she was convinced, as she hedged politely for a bit, took his card, and then left.) This was the view from the window outside our cafe table and I found it particularly inspiring because of the election to take place the next day. Both sides of the issue were politely represented and that was the way the entire election seemed to be anticipated. A very polite, happy voting campaign from both sides. It was also here, that I realized there were cameras everywhere on the streets. I mean, look at the top of this pole. There were two different cameras right there, both pointed toward St. Stephens Green!

After our intake of sugar and coffee, I was bound and determined to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral! Google Maps showed us the way, and after a 20 minute fast walking, high stepping trek through very old streets where I kept tripping over cobblestones or short curbs, we arrived, at the exact right time of day to hear the church’s carillon bells ringing, with clarity and skill. The sounds stirred our souls, and are in my memories still. There is a park where you can sit and listen to the bells play, see the church in full view in front of you and where along the side, we found literary memorials to Ireland’s famous poets and writers. I took pictures of as many of the memorials as I could, but it was as though all the famous writers and poets were all jailed, with decorative bars keeping people from getting too close so basically these pictures are awful. It was still fun to walk along and see each memorial and read about the artists of Ireland.

We spent some time listening and resting to the carillon bells until the sun started to fade. It was a very pleasant restful interlude.  (Again, I tried to insert a short video here of the church square and the carillon bells, but haven’t been able to do so yet.)

After consulting our Google maps again, we decided to find Dublin Castle because it was between the church and our bus stop on Dame Street. Dublin Castle is where England ruled for centuries, but now Ireland governs its own. Dublin Castle did not disappoint. Walking cobblestone streets so old and so worn, I felt spirits of the past, both glorious and spirit torn. We didn’t get to stay long, but I was so glad to see and experience that part of Ireland’s history.

We then hurried along Dame Street, past stores and full pubs, pushed along by the five o’clock people eager to get home. I pulled out of the traveling horde, needing a breather, you see, and leaned on a wall, panting a bit breathlessly. A very nice gentleman, dressed for business or law, stopped and asked kindly, “Ma’am are you alright? Do you need assistance?” Though my answer was still breathless, I answered, as Alan walked up, “Oh no, sir! My husband and I were just separated in the crowd, so I thought I would wait for a moment.” The man smiled cordially and then left, convincing me once more, the world has more kindness, than meanness by far.

We rounded a corner back to Dame Street and right there on that corner found an old stationer’s store and being an addiction of mine, we had to go in, to see what I could find. I sigh longingly over the journals and pads and bought two, one for me, and one for my lad. As we waited to pay for our purchases, I practically drooled at the sight of their fountain ink pens. They were gorgeous and perfect, but expensive as sin!

We then had to hurry to bus stop 22 and missed two buses going our way, so we had to wait longer, but oh it was great! We were in the heart of our Dublin town and I swear I heard it’s heart beat, in the footsteps of those hurrying by and in the people’s lilting voices lifting up to the sky.

There was an art school with a mural just over our shoulders, past the National Bank and it’s beautiful columns.

That shop across the street, The Pen Corner, was the old stationers store we visited.

We hopped on the bus to return to our hotel, this time riding on top so we could see Dublin as we rode. We passed bridges with banners for the election the next day, people handing out pins, it was really quite gay! As we packed our bags that night, we reflected on all we had seen, what we heard, and the fine people we met, and decided we loved Ireland. It’s beautiful in just about every way, as long as they don’t talk too fast, so we can understand what they say! LOL!

© Elaine Wood-Lane

I must admit, I got off-track with my travel logs from our trip to Europe in May. This has been a busy summer! This piece started out as a poem so if part of it sounds rhythmic in places like poetry, that’s because it was poetry at first with perhaps a Dr. Seuss quality to some of it. I would apologize for that, but the language of Ireland and the rhythm of Ireland brings out that poetic quality in everyone I think. The edges are softened and blurred somewhat with an upward cadence and lilt that sounds positive and hopeful, even if just discussing the weather. I loved Ireland and would go back there for another visit in a heartbeat! It’s nice to know that my ancestors came from a place that I came to love and easy to see why it was so hard to leave there and settle in west Texas of all places! From green, lush, and poetic to dry and flat, but fertile. What a transition!

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