Storytelling is a gift Dubliners own. “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story” is what our tour guide told us as we travelled on the top deck of the open top bus around Dublin. He bemoaned the use of Google by his passengers who could check up on the ‘facts’ he told them during the tour. Was this all tongue in cheek? I don’t know as none of us went to the bother of checking up on him. We were too busy enjoying the banter and the scenery.
Three of us traveled to Dublin. This was my second trip to the Emerald Isle, albeit 21 years after the first trip! I went with friends who I met 10 years ago when we embraced upon our degrees in Early Childhood Studies. The others were actually in a different class to me but we have stayed in touch and see each other fairly regularly.
We were greeted at the hotel by the super helpful Siobhan, who we would subsequently seek out as she was the friendliest and most helpful team member we encountered. We headed out and were warned by Siobhan not to go to Temple Bar. “There’s more to Dublin than Temple Bar” she informed us. She kindly showed us on the map where we would find a more authentic experience.
And so we headed out into the metropolis that is Dublin. It reminded me a lot of home and I found it rustic rather than the cosmopolitan city I was expecting. We found a great cafe for lunch. Vegetarians may not find too much variety on offer – I ate the same type of sandwich for lunch three days in a row! We then headed across the street to Murphy’s for ice cream. We were given many samples and then had to chose! The two flavours I chose were brown bread and butterscotch, which were both amazing.
Of course, having been warned no to go to Temple Bar that’s where we headed next! On our travels we spotted a sign for The Leprechaun Museum and decided that would be the evening’s entertainment. Two nannies and a teacher could not resist the lure of some good old fashioned storytelling.
At 3.30 on a Friday afternoon, Temple Bar was rather sedate. There were blooming hanging baskets a plenty, many a drinker, live music, and even the obligatory hen do. It was all rather pleasant ,but we only stayed for one!
In the evening we headed off to The Leprechaun Museum, much to our taxi drivers amusement! What a friendly driver, he told us of the centenary of the Easter Rising, something we heard a lot about during our stay. And also proudly told us of many of Dublin’s sons, the famous authors and poets. The taxi driver himself was a gifted storyteller, passionate about his city and heritage.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect at The Leprechaun Museum, but we were not disappointed. Paudie was our gifted storyteller who guided us and told us of the darker subjects found in Irish folklore. Dark Land tours of the museum take place in the evenings and are for adults only as they feature stories of torture, evil, leprechauns and faeries. We got to imagine what life would be like as a tiny leprechaun in a room full of oversized furniture before the storytelling began. The settings were very atmospheric and the delivery of the stories was pitch perfect by the charismatic Paudie.
On Saturday we jumped aboard the open top bus for a tour of the city. Our first stop was the Guinness Storehouse, recommended by many. The tour tells the story of the Guinness family, and of course of the black stuff itself. You get a free pint included in the cost of your ticket which we sipped whilst listening to a live band, and watching others part take in some traditional dancing involving brooms! We had really wanted to visit the Kilmainham Gaol, but we left it too late and there were no tickets available! This meant we spent the afternoon wandering around Galsnevin Cemetery reading the tombstones of the dearly departed. There was even a brief drizzle of rain to ensure the occasion felt aptly sombre.
And what do you do an a Saturday evening in Dublin? Well you tap your foot and clap your hands along to some live music. You watch in wonder at the flying feet of the dancers, and you shout encouragement at the volunteers who jump up on stage to partake in the tricky dance moves!
We heard ‘The Wild Rover’ on many an occasion during our trip. The bus tour driver even sang it for us and we joined in with obligatory clapping/foot stamping. The thing with the songs is that they all have a story, and they’re all so damn catchy that you come away with them lodged in your brain and are likely to burst into song at any moment. I found myself in this position whilst driving home on my scooter from work one evening. I think the helmet muffles the noise though, and I don’t think anyone can actually here me!
On Sunday morning we had time to squeeze in a bit more culture before we headed to the airport. We had past Sweny’s chemist on the bus tour and our guide recommended we stop by. He described PJ Murphy, the man behind the running of the chemist, as a Doc from Back to the Future lookalike, he was not wrong.
Sweny’s chemist is featured in James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is set in Dublin and which covers events of a 24 hour period on the 16th of June 1904. Joyce wrote Ulysses in 1922, and the chemist has been maintained by volunteers since 2009 and has been preserved as it was in Joyce’s time.
Leopold Bloom, a character from Ulysses, buys lemon soap from Sweny’s, and if you drop by, you too can purchase a bar of the lemon scented soap. Sweny’s curator, the aforementioned PJ Murphy is, as you can imagine, a Joyce enthusiast. Murphy claimed to have read Ulysses 37 times, several times in different languages. Murphy and the volunteers do daily readings from Ulysses. I had to confess to never having read it! (But I do have a copy on the bookshelf) We were given our own private performance of a song in Gaelic. I was welcomed by Murphy as “one of us” and he informed me that my surname is of Irish aristocracy!
We also paid a visit to rather fabulous statue of another famous Dubliner, Oscar Wilde. An author and poet, did you know that Wilde has also written several children’s stories? He also left a catalogue of fantastic quotes, many of which we read at his statue. One however is very apt following our visit to Swenys. “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is not use in reading it at all”.
In a city full of storytellers, poets and authors, Dublin is highly recommended to those who enjoy a good yarn!