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Trip Report A Few Days in Cultural Dublin

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May 2014

Dublin is a city with a fascinating history dating back to the Vikings (Dubh Linn is Viking for "black pool"), but modern Dublin is a city of culture and literary greats. George Bernard Shaw was born in its Portobello neighborhood. Oscar Wilde lived there and loved it, William Butler Yeats was born and is celebrated in it, and James Joyce followed his most famous character, Leopold Bloom, through a day in it.

After touring Ireland for two weeks with Grand Circle Travel, my husband and I decided to spend several days exploring the city on our own. We had seen the better known tourist sights, watched how Guinness is made, admired the lovely new exhibit of The Book of Kells in Trinity College and learned the history of St Patrick's Cathedral. We had also spent a day in the lovely fishing village of Howth, and we were now ready to go off on a cultural adventure.

We visited Christ Church Cathedral (6 euro entry fee for seniors) where Handel's Messiah was first performed in 1742. There is also an excavation of the chapel built by the Norse king Sitric dating back to 1028, and a fascinating medieval crypt.

We discovered that there is a reading of James Joyce most days in the Sweny Pharmacy on Lincoln Street which is immortalized in Ulysses, so we went there to meet some very interesting people and to read two stories from Dubliners. The owner of the shop, P. J. Murphy is a cousin of Samuel Beckett. He distributes copies of a chosen book and people, sitting in chairs placed along the walls of the small shop, take turns reading and discussing whatever comes to mind.

The National Library of Ireland has a wonderful free William Butler Yeats exhibit containing original manuscripts and letters to his loves. Yeats had several unrequited loves before he married. Maud Gonne, the first of his loves, was his muse. There is a multimedia exhibit in which his poems are read by various people as the words and evocative pictures are projected on a screen. The poignant poems are about Ireland and love.

We visited The Little Museum of Dublin located in a three story townhouse at 15 St. Stephen's Green. One floor is dedicated to U-2 and Bono memorabilia. I was happy to learn that Bono was awarded, among other things, a Nobel 'Man of Peace' Prize in 2008 for his humanitarian efforts. On the second floor is a touching photo exhibit by Brendan Walsh showing Dublin in the 70's when carriage by container was changing the shipping industry and many people lost their jobs. The first floor is dedicated to an extremely clever history of Brian Boru (who defeated the Vikings and united Ireland at the Battle of Clontar) in cartoon form by Fergal McCarthy. Children are encouraged to make their own cartoons and they are then posted on the walls. The entrance fee is waived if you have a three day hop on hop off bus pass.

Oscar Wilde lived across the street from Merrion Park. There is a delightful statue of him in a rakish pose facing his home. The statue is flanked by two nudes - one a female and the other a male torso which are mounted on columns inscribed with many of his best witty quotations. We learned that Wilde was upset because the park was
locked and available only to rich locals with keys, so he wrote a lovely little children's story, "The Selfish Giant" about a mean giant who wouldn't allow people into his garden. Everything stopped growing there until he learned to share. The park is now open to all. Incidentally, they are currently in the process of building a new playground in the park.

We completed our literary experience of Ireland with an outstanding performance of Wilde's The Ideal Husband at the Gate Theatre (32 euros.) The acting, set and costumes made a perfect dessert to our cultural meal.

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