A couple of months ago there was a group of the folks I work with at Automattic, who live out in the States, heading over to Dublin to work on some projects. Given that flights to the Republic of Ireland can be so cheap for us in the UK, and since it’s not too often that we get the chance to hang out, it made sense to have a meetup for the UK/Irish staff at the same time.
I’ve been to Belfast a few times when I was younger, and even managed to cross the border on occasion to go to Enniskillen (no passports required – take note, those who are anti-independence), but despite living less than an hour by plane away, I’ve never made it to Dublin.
I’m not sure whether it’s age, previous experience, or just the result of the comfort that comes from knowing the ebb and flow of one particular place so well (Glasgow, that is), but there are some cities that I just don’t feel particularly at ease in. It isn’t really anything to do with statistical crime levels either… Chicago felt a lot ‘safer’ than a number of English cities, for example. In truth, I was beginning to fear that I had begun the seemingly inevitable spiral into a period of life where people can’t go outside after dark because of a perception that the yoofs are running amok.
I am more than happy to say, that this was not my experience with Dublin.
It was easy to feel comfortable in Dublin. In a strange way, it felt a bit like returning to a home that you had never visited before, which shouldn’t be all that surprising really. As one of my Irish colleagues explained over dinner one night to our American friends: ‘The Scots are like cousins’.
Despite the clear influence of tourism on the city, it still had some sort of realness about it. There wasn’t the lack of character that you can so often find in popular destinations thanks to foreign visitors, in amongst the plastic souvenirs and badly made flags that adorn so many street corners. It felt a bit like what a combination of Edinburgh and Glasgow might look like. Happy to throw open its doors to the wider world to come and look around, but not selling its soul in the process. I’ve always thought that the Irish were better at marketing themselves than the Scots.
Speaking of which…
We were staying right on the infamous Temple Bar area. I had been warned that this area was a complete tourist trap by some, and received glowing recommendations about its atmosphere from others. The truth was somewhere in the middle (is it ever not?). There were plenty of tourist traps, with bars ready to charge well over the odds for a pint of terrible beer, but these weren’t difficult to spot. If you don’t know to avoid the garish, over-done establishments draped in tri-colours, then you probably deserve to end up there.
What was really cool was the amount of colour that adorned the whole area.
I’ve no idea whether it’s a more relaxed regulatory environment, or whether it’s that people just don’t give a toss about the enforcement, but the art brought a whole extra feeling of life and vitality to the place, that could so easily have been quite different.
I wish there was more of this sort of thing in Glasgow.
This was part of the grounds of Trinity College Dublin.
Not quite sure why they had this statue of some anal beads in their grounds, right enough.
On the final day, having booked slightly later flights back home to take advantage of a couple more hours to explore, myself and the Welsh Siobhan headed over to the site of the original Jameson distillery, to go on the tour. As tours go, it was nae bad, but not great. It was more of a visitor centre, designed to capitalise on the city centre location to rake in the tourist Euros rather than anything else. Since it is no longer a working distillery, a lot of the bits weren’t the originals – more like a museum recreation. There was a taste test at the end where we compared an American whiskey, a Scotch single malt, and the Jameson. They used some Johnnie Walker blended pish from Scotland, so I don’t think it was a fair fight to begin with… but even then, I was vindicated to see that they gave us the choice of either taking Jameson straight (with ice, no less), or mixed with ginger beer. Wouldnae catch that happening on Islay, that’s all I’m saying.
I presume ‘chipper’ is the Irish version of our chippy?
Aye, I liked Dublin.
Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Lomo LC-A – Konica VX-200 (expired film)