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Planning a trip to Dublin? Here's my insider's guide to the Fair City

By Mary Kenny

Published 14/07/2015

Light levies: when visiting Dublin always carry a coin, a piece of chocolate or a banana
Light levies: when visiting Dublin always carry a coin, a piece of chocolate or a banana

Dublin can expect a record number of tourists and visitors over the summer, which is great. So, let me welcome them with a native's advice…

Dear visitor: failte and welcome to the Republic of Ireland's capital. You will have noticed, if you approached from Dublin's only airport (our airport ratio varies: Belfast has two; Galway currently has none) that this is one of the few world capitals without a rail-link between city and airfield. Ah, but that would have required vision by politicians, and 30 or 40 years ago, but alas, that was not forthcoming.

However, you will see that much of the capital is currently dug up, as the city somewhat belatedly decided to join up the two arms of its tram system.

Do not, therefore, under any circumstances attempt to travel down Dawson Street (where resides the Lord Mayor of Dublin in our fine Mansion House) in any form of conveyance, unless you are prepared to endure teeth-grinding delays.

Dublin's trams were featured in Ulysses but they were abolished in 1949, as the various politicians, municipal and national, were committed to the belief that trams were outdated and the future belonged to the private car.

Protests against this decision were impotent against the fashionable thinking of 1949. But everything goes in cycles, and in 2004, the Dublin trams were restored as the Luas. Except not joined up. The current Dawson Street melee is now catching up with 1949.

The Dublin buses are pleasant, except that, unlike in other cities, passengers' ingress and egress are through the same door, thus slowing down the progress of the vehicle considerably. The bus routes are written in Irish alongside the stops, although the new and helpful electronic monitors do give the terminus and time of arrival bilingually.

Sometimes '10 mins/10 nom' can, mysteriously, last 20 minutes. Dublin seriously needs a decent bus guide, yet it's fun asking drivers and passengers for suggestions. When I last sought route advice, I was completely misdirected, but, sure, I had a grand walk getting to my destination.

Dublin taxi drivers are very helpful, and they're always moaning that visitors don't take enough cabs, as you guys are too often shepherded around by tourist coach. So take a taxi. You'll often get a sparkling stream of conversation, sometimes with disarming candour.

As we were taxiing through O'Connell Street recently, the cabbie frankly described our most distinguished boulevard as 'a squalid kip'.

One of our most noteworthy senators, the venerable David Norris, recently declared that Dublin was filthy dirty, and a disgrace ... Ah, sure, a bit of dirt never hurt anyone.

Anyway, wasn't our capital known, back in the day, as 'Dear Dirty Dublin'? It's dear all right, and our very legislators say it's dirty. But it's all part of the colour and character - the world nowadays is too antiseptic.

Always carry a coin, a piece of chocolate or a banana in your pocket, as the tradition of the street beggar is strong in Dublin, and should be regarded as a light levy on the better-off pedestrian.

My advice is to give the chocolate or the banana to a young mendicant - alas, a coin may be used to purchase opiates - and, in my experience, these sources of sugar and potassium are usually gracefully received: Dublin beggars have nice manners. A coin is suitable for the more mature beggar, who is likely to be genuinely in need.

There are many wonderful historical and cultural sites to visit, listed in all the guidebooks.

Some may be overlooked, such as the Viking settlement which is buried beneath a modernist 1960s municipal building at Wood Quay. Dublin Castle is particularly interesting - a very fine Norman erection which has seen all of Irish history: the nearby souvenir shop will sell you delightful articles of clothing bearing the ancient Irish words 'Pog Mo Thoin'.

As Joycean students will know, Dublin's O'Connell Street (in fact, recently improved with wider pavements and more trees) once featured Nelson's Pillar, blown up by the IRA in 1966 because there was an Englishman atop.

This regretful episode could have been avoided if some visionary municipal authority had replaced Horatio with a more native effigy, as suggested by citizens. There were 168 steps to the pillar's platform, which provided a truly panoramic view. The Spire now stands in its place, said by Dubliners to resemble a heroin needle.

Walk by the banks of the Liffey and read aloud (it must be read aloud) 'Anna Livia Plurabelle' from Finnegans Wake, now thankfully out of copyright.

'And there she was, Anna Livia, she darent catch a winkle of sleep, purling around like a chit of a child, Wendawanda, a finger-thick, in a Lapsummer skirt and Damozon cheeks, for to ishim bonzour to her dear dubber Dan.' It's great stuff altogether and you'll be thus eternally bonded to Dublin.

Belfast Telegraph

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