Twenty-four hours in Dublin. Twenty-four hours after very little sleep, crossing Canada, crossing the Atlantic, crossing the road with traffic back on the proper side. Some off my plane would have gone straight to the pub for a pint of the black stuff. At eight in the morning on a Sunday, I opted for the full Irish breakfast instead, accompanied by HP sauce and several cups of tea.
Unable to check in to my room at such an early hour I instead auditioned as an extra for The Walking Dead in the grounds of Trinity College. I was probably not the only one, given the high concentration of students following in the hungover footsteps of such greats as Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker, Chris de Burgh, and Father Jack Hackett. A few of the students possessed sufficient sobriety to dress like Harry Potter and lead clusters of tourists around the grounds, recalling the rascally deeds of former chancellors and erstwhile academics, tales of privilege and luck, tradition and progress. All the while subtly leading you to the queue for the Book of Kells, some ancient sacrosanct manuscript of religious fastidiousness, painstakingly embroidered on calfskin and difficult to fully appreciate when you think you are going to faint because your body should be sleeping right now.
From one book to many in the Long Room, a library of epic proportions in which the books appear to be arranged according to subject area, author’s surname, and size. So while the small riveting reads clamber for any attention at the top, large tomes of tedium brood all too accessibly further down. Probably to do with weight distribution. Downstairs sits a gift store as gargantuan, for all your novelty leprechaun-themed needs, arranged in equally eccentric order.
By some miracle (thank you Book of Kells) I made it out of there and got back to a hotel room all ready for me to shower and nap. Then, my body decided it was starving and chowed down a mega-plate self-loaded with traditional Irish fare such as sweet and sour chicken and onion bhajis from a food court. Meanwhile, the rest of Dublin was being a multitude of hip, merry, dour, sophisticated, happily pessimistic, and – with rainbows still prominent – a little bit gay (in a jauntily liberal welcome to the twenty-first century kind of way).
It would be fair to say – to be sure – that there is no prominent centrepiece to Dublin. No wow look at me razzle dazzle, no glitzy building housing opera, no distinctive skyline or meandering waterside. Along the Liffey sit video stores and Spar shops, greasy spoons and hairdressers. Perfectly functional and useful, but not so appealing to the tourist unless you fancy egg and chips and a perm. Dublin has clear British city resemblance, and some familiar sights – Tesco, double decker buses, drizzle – are strangely comforting. Other things – like the pedestrian crossings seemingly imported from Australia (which themselves were imported from the Death Star), and the dual language signage – hint at the exotic. It is though everything here points to me being home, but there is something not quite right.
Dazed and confused I naturally headed to the Guinness Storehouse brewery, which is more than a meander along a gritty suburban thoroughfare. I suppose this is the thing to do in Dublin, and many others were clearly of the same opinion, as streams of people passed me in the opposite direction with their exclusive gift shop purchases in Guinness branded bags.
If nothing else I thought a visit here would be something to do to keep me awake. What I thought might be overly gimmicky and tacky was actually a good deal of fun. The building possesses enough crumbling brickwork and iron to retain authenticity (and quite probably fit out 10,000 hipster cafes). A clever renovation has seen a museum and visitor centre encased within the old building, spiralling up five floors offering details of the brewing process, the (double?) vision of Arthur Guinness, and – my favourite at least – a plethora of marketing and advertising icons.
Smartly, the top level is a panoramic bar, offering unparalleled views of Dublin and an opportunity to obtain your free pint of Guinness…after 119.5 patient seconds of course. Inexplicably, some people were drinking water. Perhaps this was to avoid induced joviality leading you back down to the gift shop and purchasing Guinness themed leprechauns and tea towels. I succumbed to a bag of crisps, which became dinner.
Back out into the Dublin air it was clear that being a Sunday night was not going to stop the party and that many more pints of Guinness and other beverages would be consumed and the Irish economy would be perfectly fine. Indeed, my frequent jetlag wakings were accompanied by a muffled background of cheers and jeers, as people spilled out on to the streets of Temple Bar. 2am. 3am. 4am. Tick followed tock followed tick. A final, sporadic night to get through before making the final turn for home.