Walk around Dublin and you very quickly notice all the attention to writers and the Irish literary tradition. And not only James Joyce. In fact, walk around most towns and you'll notice lots of independent bookshops. I counted three in two blocks in Kilkenny. And many of the tourist sites promote the literary heritage of a particular region or locale. Even the touristy Medieval dinner in a castle we attended in Kinvara made homage to the writers who had stayed in the castle, include Yeats and Synge, but also local authors whose names, stories, and poems I did not know. Maybe one reason I felt at home in Ireland was the deep respect for literature.
In Dublin we participated in the Literary Pub Crawl. Two actors lead a group to four pubs and stops in between while acting out scenes from Beckett, sharing Wilde stories, reciting Heaney poems, etc. Each pub was associated with the literary heritage of the country, frequented in the past and often present by its writers. We were warned, though, that Dublin pubs are full of "writers" who are actually just alcoholics.
The literary pub crawl included a quiz at the end. Guess who won?
I arrived around 5 a.m., and as the cabbie said, there's not much to do at that time. I would come to realize that the Irish don't get going till around 9. Breakfast in most places we stayed wasn't served until 8:30 and the one time we needed to leave a place at six, the day we were returning to the airport, it was an effort to get someone to unlock the carpark, check us out, etc. I mentioned that in the states everything is hopping by 6 and was given a disdainful grunt in return like we Americans are stupid. "Not in Ireland," he said.
So, that first day, I napped. Then Mom, Kelli, and I went on a historical walking tour of Dublin. The tour is provided by history students from Trinity College. Ours was informative and fun and very interested in asking about the American election, which happened almost every time we talked to an Irish person for any length of time.
It was while listening to his tour that I was first struck by how an experience of Ireland is coloured by the history of colonization and revolution. Dublin is currently celebrating the centennial of the 1916 Easter uprising and notices were all over the country and Dublin was dotted with historical markers of where various battles occurred.
After a late lunch of seafood chowder at the Stag's Head we walked through St. Stephen's Green and did some shopping before the pub crawl that evening, one of the highlights of the trip.
On day two we visited Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room of the library. Walking into the library I had a spiritual experience akin to the one I had five years ago standing before the telescope of Galileo, overwhelmed with admiration for the power of the human intellect.
That evening Kelli and I attended choral evensong at St. Patrick's Cathedral. I like hearing the good, old words of the liturgy.
That day I also bought five books to read.