Dublin: the most crack I ever had in a single day.

Because of its difficult history, Ireland has been for many centuries a land of emigrants. My home province of Quebec has had three Premiers of Irish descent, a father and his two sons. Perhaps indicative of Irish character, they were elected as leader of three different parties!

Every time a dignitary visits Ireland, the government looks up their ancestry to see if they can find them an Irish ancestor.

1280px-Barack_Obama_meets_Irish_cousin_in_Moneygall

“Barack Obama meets Irish cousin in Moneygall” by Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States) – WhiteHouse.gov. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

They even did it to Obama, finding him a maternal great-great-great grandfather, who immigrated to New York City in 1850!

Ireland also has a history of political oppression, still visible in some of Dublin’s architecture.

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The statue is quite different than most justice statues, indicating that it is not blind to prejudice and that the accused are presumed guilty. It has no blindfold, the sword is drawn and the balance is not quite level. Also, instead of facing the people in the city, it faces the palace. This led Dubliners to compose this little poem in her honour:

“The Statue of Justice, mark well her station, her face to the castle and her arse to the nation!”

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The Castle she is looking at. While it was established in the 12th century, most structures date back to the 18th century.

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Today everything is predominantly indicated in Gaelic.

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And Christ Church Cathedral is used to celebrate mass. For centuries, Catholic mass was forbidden and the church was used as a distillery and brothel. It is known for its mummified animals. When restoration began, they found the organ out of tune. Inspection of one of the tube revealed the presence of a cat which had become wedged inside. Finding the tube still out of tune, they inspected further, and found the rat the cat was chasing when it got caught!

A walking tour guide made these comments on the freedoms gained by the Irish in the last century.

(…something about travelling with pride with her Irish passport) “I have the right to speak Gaelic, if I could. And I have the right to practice Catholicism, if I was interested in it”.

While Irish independence is now almost a century old, these comments made me think that lack of oppression probably has an impact on the extent of support to secessionist movements in democratic countries. Be it Catalonia, Scotland or Quebec, some of the things minorities were fighting for have become anachronistic. Religion is irrelevant to most people and nobody is forbidden to speak whatever local language they have. Even politics is less relevant, since the vast majority of people in the West support a capitalist, democratic system with some measure of social safety. It becomes a debate on details of this and that, and this is perhaps something people are not willing to take big risks for. Just a random though.

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Trinity College, where Courtney Love studied theology for 2 semesters before being expelled for dealing drugs (or so I was told). What I know for sure is that I would hate to study on a campus constantly full of tourists; it must be terribly annoying.

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The Garage Bar, across the street from the Project Arts Centre. After performing a gig there, Bono was denied entry in the bar. He apparently said that if he became rich he would buy the place. Today, U2 owns all the structures in this photo and most of the rest of the block.

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Graffton Street, the pedestrian commercial centre of Dublin.

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St-Stephen’s Green Park, where fighting took place in the early 20th century rebellions. Apparently, every day the fighting would pause for one hour, to allow the caretaker to feed the ducks!

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St-Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. I don’t know what they sell in that old style place, but you can pee there for 20 Euro cents.

Without doing any research, the first thing that comes to mind when I think about what to do in Dublin is touring the pubs. But I had also been told to rent a car and go drive in the beautiful countryside. Since airline problems had cut my already super short Ireland stopover in half, I opted for a combo: a rural pub tour, the highest recommended Dublin activity on Tripadvisor. I now know why. Small groups driving around the countryside and stopping in village pubs. Opting for quality over quantity, they don’t run unless they have 5 customers, because it doesn’t create “the atmosphere”, and they keep the groups small, so you don’t end up with a 48 pax bus descending on a little local joint.

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The countryside was indeed lovely, although for someone from Eastern Canada, the area south of Dublin is not that remarkable or different. The guide first started by making sure nobody would suffer the humiliation another visitor had suffered a while ago. “Don’t order a “Snake bite” (half Guinnes / half cider). First, nine out of ten barmen will refuse to make it, and all will scold you loudly in front of all the customers. If you must have one, order two half pints, grab an empty glass and go in a dark corner to mix your potions!”

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The first stop, The Blue Light, was more suburban than rural. Established in the late 18th century, it got its name the following way. Located in the hills high above the port, it would send boys on horses down to the port to spy on the customs offices. When the tax collectors would lock up, one of the boys would race up the hill and the pub owner would light up the blue light, signalling to captains anchored in the bay that it was time to come unload their merchandise.

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Of the 6 pubs visited, Johnie Fox’s (est. 1798) is the only one regularly frequented by tourists. Known far and wide, it is the final resting place of an Irish-American pub owner. Since he never managed to make it to Ireland in his lifetime, his family asked the owner to embed a bottle of his ashes in one of the walls!

I forgot to take a photo of the third pub, but it had the distinction of being the highest pub in the nation, standing high on top of a stratospheric peak, about 250 meters above sea level. Considering last year I had a beer at over 5,600 meters, with Mount Everest in the background, I won’t pretend I was particularly impressed by that fact!

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The fourth pub was the dinner pub, where I indulged in a pretty good salmon fillet. A big place that also runs a B&B.

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By far my favourite spot. The grocery store where you can have a pint when the wife sends you on a pre-dinner errand. I played darts with a medical student from Chicago and chatted with a few locals about the destruction of the Malaysian Airlines flight in Ukraine, breaking news at the time. Really authentic and fun experience. In fact, I was having too much fun to remember to take pictures. I only thought about it in the van, but taking pictures after 5 pub stops, in the dark and in a moving van is not exactly easy.

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As you can see.

I was saddened to learn that there is a big crisis in the Irish pub business, with many small rural pubs folding. The pubs are on the losing side of the battle against drunk driving. Of course I don’t advocate driving drunk, but it is sad that “drinking responsibly”, in a rural context, means don’t drink or drink alone at home. Public transportation or taxis simply don’t exist.

So, Ireland? On my top 5 list of countries to re-visit soon. Oh and the crack? “Where’s the crack?” means “where’s the fun” in Ireland. Don’t worry, I have no plans to replace Toronto’s mayor.

#Ireland

7 thoughts on “Dublin: the most crack I ever had in a single day.

  1. Mon ami Georges Belmont, mort à près de cent ans, a enseigné à Trinity College. Il a été le traducteur de Samuel Beckett et de Henry Miller, entre autres. Tu as aussi connu Georges, qui t’a invité au restaurant, boulevard Décarie, et qui t’a offert un épingle à cravate. Il te trouvait intelligent et c’est aussi mon opinion.

    • Apparently both spellings are acceptable, but one is much more fun than the other – and easier to understand for people from Toronto! One day you can be my guide in the Windy City and make it in the blog again 😉

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