I have returned from Dublin. I will share some of the highlights of the trip, but first I think it necessary to get some of the basic details out of the way. You know, that stuff you read in the back of the guide books about how to get around, what things cost, the weather, etc. Ireland is big enough that I wouldnt dare make sweeping generalizations about the whole country, but here is what I learned from Dublin.
First, most cities in the world claim to have such a fantastic variety of weather but I dont know of one who can claim to have all 4 seasons in a 24 hour period! It was amazing the weather that goes on in this city and also very difficult to prepare for. Within one day, I got bright sunny skies, near hurricane level winds, rain, sleet, hail, snow and back to warm temps and sun! I thoroughly enjoyed Dublin--its a great city with much to offer and for a fleeting moment, I thought I could actually live there, but then I realized this weather thing is for the birds. I need my sun and warmth at all times! :-)
I thought the Maltese people were friendly but they got nothing on the Irish....happy folk they are. Not sure if this has to do with the fact that they drink all the time (which often crossed my mind when I lived in Wisconsin as well!) or if they are just happy to be Irish. At any rate, it was really a great atmosphere.
Now, about the prices of things. Its true--Dublin is very expensive. I ate at TGI Fridays in Prague and Malta and was going to do the same in Dublin for the fun of it but when I saw that the basic hamburger price was 19 euro (that would be $27!), I decided better of it. A pint of beer will run you about 5 euro and a cup of coffee about 3 euro. The upside is that the food and beer are all so heavy and filling, that you really only need to eat once a day.
And while we are talking about food, lets mention the complete lack of corned beef and cabbage in this city. It was the one thing I truly wanted to eat. I searched high and low but to no avail. They serve what they call bacon (american ham) and cabbage and I did enjoy it but no corned beef anywhere! I did have some Irish stew (tried the lamb one but prefered the beef one), and more potatoes than I think I person should be allowed to eat in 4 days (mashed, baked, whole, fried, crisps, etc. you name it). Not being a huge beer fan, I was reluctant to try the 'hard stuff' but when in Rome.... I was pleasantly surprised at the taste of Guinness but really had more fun making the foam mustache than drinking it!
The city itself is all abuzz all the time. Its a hugh financial and corporate town with all the big guys having offices and European headquarters there (Chase, Microsoft, etc). The roads are very busy and the amount of city buses that transport people was amazing. Hundreds and hundreds of them everywhere. They also drive on the wrong side of the road in Ireland so once again, I was always paranoid about crossing the street. Luckily, the Dubliner's decided to help me out by giving me directions of which way to look painted on the road.
And too bad you cant hear me speak on this blog, because I managed to learn a few words with a great Irish brogue...its actually harder to imitate that I thought it would be and I imagine I will soon forget what I have learned. There is only a small portion of the community who actually know the traditional Irish language so I didnt really hear it spoken at all. I did misunderstand alot more that I thought I would as well because of the accent--some of it hilarious, like playing the game of telephone.
Finally, politics. Not a day went by when someone asked me who I was voting for in the US! In the bars, in the streets, in the sauna, in the newspapers, everywhere, people are watching the US and what is happening. If nothing else, hopefully that will remind you to keep your head up and watch what you say---people are looking!