It was the worst of times, it was the best of times – from Two Tales of a City, by Joyce James.
The first impression of Dublin was not encouraging. Our hotel seemed over-priced. The room needed a facelift. The neighborhood would never be described as charming. The pub in our hotel had stopped serving food fifteen minutes earlier.
On our first foray into the city, we got totally turned around, and when we finally stumbled into the Temple Bar region the crowd was do dense we thought it was the Hajj – well, perhaps not, given the role of alcohol in the revelry.
Neither of these places is in Temple Bar.
Things will be better in the morning. There’s a nice breakfast restaurant just down the street . . .
. . . which didn’t open until nine because it was a bank holiday. And we had a bike tour to catch at ten.
We grabbed a pastry and tried to find the bike tour. It was hidden in a parking deck just around the next corner, or the next, or the one we just passed, but we did arrive in time to join our tour.
Every day looks better from the seat of a bicycle (well, every day save one). Our tour was led by Kate, who was great.
The upbeat day continued into the evening, when we joined a literary pub crawl led by Culm Quilligan, a dead ringer for Kelly Bunning. Culm and his protege began the tour by acting a scene from “Waiting for Godot,” in fact the very scene Steve Schaffer and I read to our inattentive senior English class. Had anyone been paying attention, we undoubtedly would have gotten in trouble for crossing the boundary of indecency.
We hadn’t planned on going to the National Gallery, but, well, there’s a Vermeer.
There’s also a portrait of Henry Shefflin, the Michael Jordan of Hurling.
One of the sidelights of the tour was a trivia quiz. We were given most of the questions in advance, with clues as to where to look in the pubs for answers.
The quiz itself was a free-for-all, with all the tourers shouting answers and the protege giving points to first responders.
Now after the first pub stop, where I found the picture of the bearded Nobel prize winner (G.B. Shaw), I realized it was too much of a distraction to focus on the trivia contest and determined not to worry about it.
Then came the contest, and halfway through I’d not scored a point. I got a point for the Shaw question in a tie, another point for something that must have been about Beckett. On the last question, “What Beatle withdrew from writing O Calcutta? everybody screamed out John Lennon, but the moderator did not give a credit. Then I realized they’d all jumped the gun, answering before he’d finished delivering the question, so I said “John,” and got the point. Putting me in a tie.
The tie breaker was “What Nobel winner also won a Tony?” to which I essentially rattled off all four before coming up with Shaw first. So I won a t-shirt.
On our final full day in Dublin, and in the British Isles, we went to the national archaeology museum, where we saw several bodies of ancient people who were discovered well-preserved in Irish bogs.
We wrapped things up with an amazing meal at Da Mimmo restaurant, possibly the best Italian eatery in Dublin, if not all Ireland, located near the Five lamps.