22 May 2013, Wednesday
In my notes I wrote, Slept until 7am! Late! It was nice. I’m pretty sensitive to sound and light (and felines who think I should get up), so I’m astonished to report this late rising.
I had several sites north of the Liffey that I wanted to see today, and I’d scheduled lunch with a friend in that area too. Yes—lunch with a Dublin friend! I use Twitter in my professional capacity, and I’d struck up a Twitter friendship with another freelance editor. When Robert learned I was going to be in Dublin, he’d suggested we meet for lunch. I was really looking forward to it.
So Gerry and I piddled around at breakfast, then mapped the places we planned to go and found a convenient car park. We could drive and park and drive and park and drive and park … but Dublin’s not an easy city to find parking in. So we just wanted to park once. And in retrospect, there were several way cool things I would never have seen if we hadn’t walked. All. Over. Dublintown.
No joke. The natives are used to this walking thing, but we Americans, not so much. Or at least this American. So as it turned out I earned my Dublin-Girl Card this day. 🙂
I was going to be meeting Robert at the Church Café Bar on the corner of Mary and Jervis Streets. And wow! What a building—yes, a church, St. Mary’s, designed in 1697 with the foundation stone laid in 1700. And now … it’s a restaurant. Gerry and I parked in the Jervais Street Car Park, then walked the couple blocks to the restaurant just to scope out the neighborhood.
Across Jervis Street is a large mall-like shopping center; Mary Street becomes Henry Street and is for pedestrian traffic only. (Have a look at the map, you’ll see. Be sure to zoom in—you can see Jervis Street already, and Mary/Henry Street is just under the D in Dublin.)
Fantastic. We ducked in at the mall to kill a few minutes before my lunch date, and I was introduced to the delights of the upscale food market in Marks & Spencer. It was with great restraint that I kept myself from splurging on cheeses and baked goods and—ooooh! It all looked so good. But food is really heavy in a suitcase and I was about to have lunch.
James Plunkett’s Strumpet City was the 2013 title chosen for the Dublin municipal libraries’ Once City One Book promotion, which had just ended. Isn’t that wonderful, though? A monthlong promotion of a particular book that might or should be meaningful to local readers. Strumpet City is an epic historical novel set at the time of the Dublin Lock-out of 1913; some say it’s the Great Irish Novel. (I bought it last fall; haven’t read it yet.)
So I left Gerry by the big book on the street—“I’ll see you right here when you’re finished”—and went into the restaurant.
Robert is a delight. We talked shop and laughed like old friends, which I believe we now are. 🙂 I could have sat there all afternoon; you know I’m a talker. But he had to get back to work and Gerry and I had other stops to make, so we stepped outside and took a photo.
(A digression: I never do well with these self-taken photos; the person who shows up in them doesn’t seem to be the same woman I see when I look in the mirror. Those of you who know me know my issues about weight and looks go way back into my childhood—I hated having my photo taken as a child—and that I rarely allow photos of myself to appear on Facebook or elsewhere. Every once in a while I get the angle right and the photo reflects who I think I am—just not often enough, and certainly not without taking a dozen or so. But recently I read this article, and was convicted by it. I rarely take what I think is a “good” photo, I just don’t. But that’s only what I see, not what others see. Sure, I wish my hair looked better or my chin weren’t quite so … well, double, but I had a lovely time with Robert and this is what I have to commemorate it. Thank you, Robert, for posing with me!)
And then we were off. Gerry and I walked down Mary-cum-Henry Street (the pedestrian street is Henry; the map is confusing about this) with the Spire in the distance. It’s the largest shopping district in Dublin.
I love the names Dubliners assign to their various monuments and statuary. They love their wordplay, their rhymes, and have an utter disregard for sacred cows. Thus we have the Tart with the Cart (Molly Malone), the Prick with the Stick (James Joyce), and so on (you can see it all here). The Spire of Dublin is known variously as the Nail in the Pale (there’s always some bitter history involved, and language, too: the origin of the phrase beyond the Pale lies here), the Stiletto in the Ghetto (it’s on the northside, which had to some eyes become less fashionable than the southside), or, simply, the Spike. This 398-foot monument sits on O’Connell Street—we were headed that direction—just catty-corner from the GPO. (That’s the General Post Office, but no one in Ireland calls it that.) It replaced Nelson’s Pillar, a British monument to Lord Nelson built on the spot in 1808–09, which was blown up in 1966 by Irish republicans, perhaps in recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising. (For six days—until Irish army engineers blew up the rest, it having been judged too unsound to repair—Dubliners called the pillar the Stump, which cracks me up every time I think of it.)
So there we were, walking down Henry Street. Like another pedestrian shopping district on Grafton Street (it is south of the Liffey), there was a lot to be seen … shops, people, street buskers, statues. I stopped and took a lot of photos—though I didn’t get one of the James Joyce statue, as people were sitting on it (sigh). As we walked, Gerry told me a lot of Dublin stories.
One story I enjoyed was about Henry Moore, Earl of Drogheda (pronounce this DRAW-hed-uh), who developed this street. In fact, in a two-block area we can see Henry Street, Moore Street, Earl Street, Of Lane, and Drogheda Street. Oh yes! (It should be noted that Drogheda Street became Carlisle Street, and now it is O’Connell Street. A lot of history goin’ on here.) Moore Street is a famous open-air produce and flower market, although it is perhaps not quite what it once was in its heyday.
You and I probably call this street MORE, but Dubliners pronounce it the way a cow (mooo) would: MOOOr. Like Shakespeare’s Othello (the Moor), like the heather-covered moors in England. You can hear it in this little video made in 1983, which gives you a glimpse of Dublin not so long gone. The market these fellows are purchasing from, seen briefly at the beginning, is the Smithfield Fruit Market, about which more later.
We were on our way to St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral on Marlborough Street. Pro? you ask. It simply means “acting”—this is the acting seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland. Although Christ Church Cathedral has been the property of the Anglican church for five hndred years—since Henry VIII broke with Rome, that is—it is still considered Dublin’s official Catholic cathedral by the pope and his church. It is likely to remain so. You can read more here.
The building—primarily Greek Revival in style—was finished in 1825, and there is much history here. The state funerals of both Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera, among many others, happened at St. Mary’s.
We stepped back outside (through the couple about to argue) and crossed the street to see if we could take it in.
From St. Mary’s we backtracked a couple blocks to the GPO.
There are a lot of historic buildings in Dublin, but this one means a lot to the modern Republic. Built in 1814, it became the site, a hundred (and two) years later, of the Easter Rising. “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible,” Patrick Pearse read from the portico of the post office. (You read the accounts of this event and it always says “from the steps of the GPO,” but I have searched and searched and can’t see that in 1916 there was any more than one step from the portico to the street, more like a curb, really. Today there’s no step at all.)
Militarily the Rising—an armed insurrection by Irish republicans in an attempt to end British rule in Ireland—was a failure. It was suppressed after six days of fighting and its leaders executed. But those executions turned the tide of public opinion against the British, and by 1919 the Irish War of Independence began in earnest. (Read more here.)
Inside it’s … well, a post office. Busy place. 🙂 In point of fact, the building was destroyed during the course of the rebellion; the façade is all that remains of the original building. There’s an original copy of the Proclamation, though, and a statue of the mythical Irish hero Cúchulainn. But mostly it’s folks going about their post office business.
Across the street is Clerys (no apostrophe) department store, a Dublin landmark (I have more than one of those iconic blue shopping bags). This building, too, was destroyed in the Rising (although the business dates from 1853), and rebuilt in 1922.
In the center of O’Connell Street—aside from the Spire—there is a monument to James “Big Jim” Larkin, a trade union organizer and a heroic figure to many in Dublin.
We walked a little way further up to Eason’s bookstore—because my first rule of travel is never pass up a bookstore—but they didn’t have any of the books I was looking for.
I’ll continue my tale of the rest of this day (hint: it involves mummies … and carrots) in the next post. Stick around!