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Dun Laoghaire 11th August
11th August, 2005
Today I visited Dublin for the first time. How exciting.
We showered early, well, early for us, and were headed into town soon after 11.00 aboard the DART, the Dublin Area Rapid Transport system. We landed at Connelly Street and set off to discover the shopping district. We walked for what seemed like miles, seeing lots of people loaded with bags and packages but not actually seeing any shops. We must have walked all round it because we turned a corner and were suddenly looking up the grand boulevard which is O'Connell Street.
I got all excited, pointing out shops which I must visit but insisting that I needed coffee and a sweet pastry first. Clive showed some enthusiasm for the coffee but seemed to sink into gloom at the thought of shops.
We looked up and down Abbey Street but no likely coffee houses. But I did call in on a number of shops in passing and this seemed to affect Clive even more as he stared at the floor trying not to catch the eye of a shop assistant. This man does not like shopping, poor thing. In the end I suggested that we should go our separate ways and meet back at the boat in the late afternoon. After all I had pledged to race in the evening.
Clive and I parted company and I ducked into Clary's where I immediately found a coffee shop! I sat and wrote postcards and a birthday card for my little sister. Then, having visited the magnificent post office building and seen the paintings which record the monstrous siege and destruction by the English in 1916, I continued with my shopping, wandering into Arnotts' and having so much fun. But I keep seeing those pictures of the English in Ireland and have decided that I must read the history of the English in Ireland and the formation of the Republic about which I know nothing.
I saw a poster advertising an exhibition commemorating Ernest Shackleton at the Irish Museum at the Collins Barracks and decided to spend an hour or two there. It was very graphic with Frank Hurley's film and photographs of the 'Endurance' working through the ice floes and the final abandonment of the ship and its crushing in the ice. The barracks themselves are also worth a visit.
Before long it was time to return to the boat. I was having second thoughts about racing that evening as it was continually raining, quite cool and with very light and intermittent winds. By the time I got back to Dun Laoghaire I had decided that I would much prefer spending the evening in Dublin with good food and hopefully listening to some good Irish music. We still hadn't found any. Clive was easily convinced to adopt plan B and before long we were back on the DART heading for Dublin.
On the way in to town Clive told me of his day, a few pints in a bar and a visit to a bookshop with which he was impressed, Chapters in Middle Abbey Street.
Earlier in the day I had spotted a tiny traditional bar in Liffey Street, all glass and dark wood, with a large, modern dining room and entertainment area behind and advertising food and music. We made this our first port of call.
We got off the train at Tara Street and found the bar with little difficulty. We ordered a pint of Guinness each and asked until what time food was served. Of course, we had missed it by ten minutes, so we enquired where we might find food still being served nearby. We had asked the wrong person. The barmaid was from County Durham and didn't know Dublin too well, but she did suggest going back across the Halfpenny Bridge and into Temple Bar. So we finished our pints and left.
We settled on Gogarty's bar where we could hear good, loud, Irish music coming from the upstairs bar and which was advertising an excellent menu. So we joined the restaurant queue. We were seated within half an hour and ordered traditional Irish fare and a couple of pints of Guinness.
Before the food arrived we suffered some concern, because, looking round the restaurant I noticed a poster for medication for diarrhoea and cholera. Let's just hope that it is not a problem for most of their customers.
The main courses were huge. We should not have bothered with starters. Clive had pate followed by Irish sausages which were very tasty. I had a potato, sausage and white pudding dish called a Coddle (which was enough for a small family) followed by Irish Stew!
After another pint of Guinness, we waddled downstairs to the music bar, and wouldn't it be just our luck, the band was going off. I asked a glass collector whether there was to be more music tonight, after all it was 11.00 but was assured that music continued until 2.00 am, so we waited.
Eventually musicians congregated around the stage, exchanging banter and trying to get the guitar pickups to work. It looked like they'd never start. Then one guy pulled out a tool roll stuffed with whistles and started to play. It was very good. Compared with what we'd heard in Newlyn and Arklow, it was fantastic.
The atmosphere was terrific despite the odd drunk lurching against me and spilling my hard won Guinness. The queues at the bar were epic.
The band was excellent. The guitarist was the principal singer and did some excellent stuff, sadly marred by a request for the 'Wild Rover' which he felt duty bound to sing, and very well, but with a look of distaste on his face. His performance of Finnegan's Wake was marvellous.
Both the fiddle player and the whistle player were brilliant, playing reels and jigs at breakneck pace and the banjo was very good, playing superbly, even more so when one considers that he had been playing, and drinking, with the previous band too.
The clientele were interesting. As well as a smattering of 'older' people like us, there were lots of students of every race, lots of 'chubby' girls in tight tops and very short skirts which did nothing to enhance their curves and bulges, and lots of swarthy men with dark hair and beards.
The girls all insisted on trying to dance in the Irish manner while the swarthy men all leered at these gyrating bodies, clapping in time in time with the Irish rhythms and bouncing flesh, a sort of cross between Riverdance and Viz, sponsored by al-Qaeda. Bizarre, and possibly damaging to the foundations the way that the floor was vibrating.
Suddenly it was 2.00 am and the band were finishing. We lurched into the street and, realizing that the train service would be long finished, we hailed a cab for Dun Laoghaire. It's buggered the budget but what a great evening.