Thursday, July 15, 2010

Literary Tour Redux

So, in high school, a group of us came over here with teachers as a "British Isles Literary Tour," and while we did in fact see some literary sights, my dad has teased me since then that we talked more about pubs than literature, which was doubtless the case.

Of course, one could make many arguments about the intertwined nature of Irish literature and her pubs, or of Oxford intellectuals and their charged debates afforded by bonhomie in the pubs of that village, but it's at best disingenuous to imply that anything that high minded was going on amongst us at 17 and 18 when turned loose upon the pubs of the UK.

However, I've finally made up for it. Last night, our first night in Dublin after a short flight from Heathrow, we took the Literary Pub Tour of Dublin, guided by professional actors, from the Duke to Davy Byrne's, with various stops in between for stories and acted out scenes from Beckett, Wilde and Behan. You get a hugely entertaining and colorful sense of the city and how it is enmeshed with Trinity College, England, and the pub scene itself.
Plus, you get to drink beer.

Let's call it ale-fueled nerdity. How can you imply that watching a scene from the existential masterpiece, Waiting for Godot, is anything less that high-brow, pint on knee or not?

If you go to Dublin, do that tour. Period.

We had an easy drive from Oxford to Heathrow, and we dropped off our faithful little donkey the Polo, sadly not the Harlequin edition. See the pics for evidence that such a thing exists. We filled it up, and from dead empty it took 41 liters, and we went 273 miles. Not great, but not too bad considering how much was in town, and the rest was on the motorway doing 80+, which is a little astonishing, but when in Rome...
Seriously, despite all the warning signs for speed cameras, everyone in England seems to want to go 90mph all the time. I've never been brushed off at 80mph so frequently and thoroughly before.

Once in Dublin, we found that our Arab cab driver didn't really know where he was going when he stopped the cab and said "This it. You close. This the street." as he eagerly unloaded our bags and drove away. Luckily, the area is quite compact, so we did find our hotel without issue, and we have a great view of the River Liffey.

We headed out to lunch across the Ha'penny Bridge at the Winding Stair, which is a bookshop with a gourmet cafe above, up a very winding stair...
It's a charming space, and while waiting for a table we were seated at an old button back leather couch in front of a bookshelf. I read an essay on the faults of Twelfth Night that indicate that Shakespeare really was a provincial writer and not some scholar in disguise. What a way to wait for lunch!
I had duck confit with cherries and sweet potato mash and it was amazing. The soaked cherries were the best I've ever eaten, and healthy no doubt.

After lunch we wandered back across the river to Temple Bar, an overstuffed touristy area that nonetheless is very charming and packed with pubs and restaurants. We stumbled across Dublin Castle on the other side, and while waiting for the guided tour to start we had a pint at Kearney's, a tiny old school place serving pints across barrels.

The castle tour was interesting, but it's really a Georgian state office, not a medieval castle, so don't be deceived. We did get to see the excavations from under the corner of the modern building (finished around 1750) and the old foundations of the Powder Tower (1230) are there, along with an earlier (maybe 800 AD) Viking wall fortification.
The Vikings had come up the river and settled the area, intermingling with the unambitious local Irish population after building their fort. They are in fact the reason for the signature red hair and fair skin of the Irish. The native Irish would have had black or brown hair and been a bit darker skinned.
So, all you ginger kids out there, if you think you're just a wimpy Irishman, forget that, you're a bloodthirsty Viking and you should act accordingly.

That's all for now. We're off to lunch and more sights and pints. See the pics for evidence.
As Amanda mentioned, I'm not taking much time to edit or delete pictures, so you're getting quantity over quality at this point. I'll edit them later, but it seems a shame to sit and do that when Dublin calls.

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