As I sit and type this, watching the rain slide down the window outside, it seems incredible that I was sunning myself in glorious Dublin only three days ago. It was my first trip to Ireland and I was totally expecting rain – it’s Emerald for a reason…
My reasons for being there were as a last minute stand-in for a friend, who had bought tickets to the Lion King in Dublin as a grand romantic gesture for his girlfriend, just before they split up – d’oh. That’s a pretty expensive break-up precursor… There was a certain amount of subterfuge involved in the weekend, in order that his ex didn’t find out he’d gone anyway, and with another female, shock horror, but I’m pretty confident that my readership is sufficiently lowly to avoid any cats being let out of any bags (eek).
Knowing myself well, I knew that, although I would embrace and love being in the big city, there would inevitably come a moment where I craved the ‘great outdoors’, as I always do when I travel. As such, I arranged that on the first day we would head out to rural Ireland for an outdoor climbing course in the village of Dalkey, around half an hour south of Dublin. This all seemed fine in my head as I booked it, but the reality of arriving at our 10am appointment on time, after a 6:30am flight, soon hit me as being classic beckymayhem madness of the highest degree. Still, despite almost missing every form of requisite public transport, we ended up being the first people there, waiting for the locals to amble in – me? Smug?!
Anyway, I could bang on about all the things we got up to, in the tone of a post summer holiday school English lesson essay when the teacher can’t be bothered to think of anything else for the students to do. However, I have already posted a photo-story of the weekend on facebook and, seeing as most of my readers are also likely to be facebook friends, I shan’t repeat the telling here. Suffice to say we ‘did’ Dublin – clocking up many miles of ambling through the streets and many hours of parking our bums on a piece of grass to soak up the totally unexpected sunshine. A brief list of highlights include: puffing away on a cigar in Pheonix Park, watching the Lion King meets Riverdance (added extras especially for the Irish audience), Guinness in the morning, fiddly-diddly live music everywhere, green postboxes, Euro-style pedestrian crossings, the beautiful harp bridge over the River Liffey, a gorse-strewn quarry and the joy of delicately (and not so delicately) picking my way up a lump of rock, marvelling at acrobatic street artists, pretending to be sophisticated with the Dublin Beautiful People in a swanky art deco cafe (Cafe En Seine), friendly locals (a lady in Dalkey offered for us to use the loo in her own house!), meeting two men who make a living diving to search for dead bodies (they were, as you’d imagine, slightly sinister, but very chatty once on their favourite topic; the deterioration of human flesh in water and the various factors affecting the process), reliving last year’s travels with some al fresco yoga in a park and an amazing NZ-worthy flat-white coffee, finding a very funky cafe and having that lovely feeling of tessellation that sometimes occurs, where you feel instantly at home and, above all else, glorious SUNSHINE all weekend!
However, one thing that did pique my interest enough to blog about it is my slightly unusual approach to being a tourist in a new city. I am not interested in seeing all the ‘sights’ and in fact the idea of doing so makes me shudder slightly. Instead I like to wander around and soak up the atmosphere, people-watch, and begin to feel a sense of what makes the place and its residents tick and, especially, what makes it different from other places. Every village/town/city has its own ‘vibe’ and it’s this that I like to get to grips with. It often means I’m drawn to tiny details that other people miss but, conversely, means that I often miss the glaringly obvious attractions that many people come to a city to witness. This comes through in the photos I take – I often come away from an iconic city with a random assortment of photos that could, ostensibly, come from anywhere – often graffiti, people, food, signs… But, I’ve realised that, to my mind, these are the things that sum up that location’s particular ‘vibe’.
Having often berated myself in the past for my seeming disinterest in culture and apparent allergy to museums, I’ve learnt to appreciate my own take on things. I now realise that my approach is absolutely an interest in culture, but coming from a more oblique, under-the-radar angle. I don’t think either approach is better or worse than the other, they are just different, and the fact that people’s curiosity about a place manifests in various ways is only a good thing, especially if people then share their observations with others. We all need our eyes opening to other people’s way of viewing the world; there is no ‘correct’ world-view and acceptance of other approaches is key to harmony, open-mindedness and personal growth. So, with that in mind, please can someone give me a potted history of Dublin’s history and ‘must-see’ attractions and, in return, here is possibly the most random assortment of Dublin photos you’ll ever see – welcome to my world!