As European cities go, Dublin is not arrestingly beautiful. But what it lacks in visual splendour, it makes up for in charm.
The charm begins with the people: they speak so beautifully and they’re so friendly and ready to chat and joke with you.
Then again, living in Italy, I’m starved of “real” spoken English – English on the streets, random English, English with complete strangers, English for no particular purpose and so on, so sometimes any English is music to my ears.
The Irish people’s humourous stories delighted me, which is just as well, because they had stories about everything.
Stories about leprechauns and their pots of gold, of course, but also plenty of stories loosely based on real people and real events.
During our short stay in Dublin we went on a few guided tours and each of our guides, at some point during their commentary, would begin a sentence with the words: “Legend has it that….” and then they would proceed to relate the popular legend.
Next – and you knew it was coming by the tone of their voice and the story-telling pattern – they would debunk the prevailing myth and replace it with a more colourful one of their own.
– Our guide’s hilarious stories about St Kevin of Glendalough.
– Our hotel receptionist’s directions to the pick-up point for our Kilkenny tour. A great flight of fancy! (Technically this woman was not a guide.)
One of the highlights of our stay in Dublin was a Music Pub Crawl where we heard some songs in which embellishment of the facts was at its greatest.
In particular, one of the musician-guides sang us a song about Paddy and the letter he had written to his boss explaining why he wouldn’t be going to work tomorrow. (Paddy had suffered a series of highly improbable workplace accidents.)
The Music Pub Crawl, in case you’re wondering, was less about drinking beer and more about traditional Irish music and it was told, sung and played from the point of view of two very entertaining musicians.
We visited a total of 3 pubs on the pub crawl and the musician-guides explained that the Irish pub as the globalised planet knows it (and what city worth its salt doesn’t have an Irish pub?) is the last place you should go in Ireland if you want to (a) have an authentic Irish pub experience or (b)rub shoulders with an Irish person.
In Ireland, according to the musician-guides, the locals drink in local pubs with walls that are NOT adorned with every kind of stereotypical Irish kitsch imaginable.
In fact, two of the pubs we visited on the crawl were more like someone’s living room than an archetypal Irish pub. All of the Irishness came from the guides’ music and their witty banter.
Incidentally, there are plenty of tourist friendly “traditional” Irish pubs in Dublin, especially in the Temple Bar area.
(The Irish pub has a lot in common with the much-loved international version of the Italian ristorante/trattoria which of course you CAN find in Italy in places that cater for tourists.)
Other highlights of our Dublin visit were a day trip to the village of Howth, a bus trip to Kilkenny and the wonderful Irish food. I’ll be blogging about these things in the near future.