Posted by: bewhatwedo | June 19, 2010

How to (not) be a tourist in Dublin

(from Olivia: This is my second guest blog and I am happy to have Caroline blogging about how her activities in Ireland have changed. Unfortunately the formatting is messed up but I don’t understand HTML so I can’t do much about that. Any help or suggestions are happily received.)

Hi – this is Caroline, guest blogging from Ireland.

I’ve been living in Dublin for 10 months. It’s long enough that I am not really a tourist, but not long enough to really feel at home. Although summer is making me acutely aware that I am much more an authentic Dubliner than a tourist. Here are a couple major differences between me and tourists:

I no longer take pictures of statues.

Just a sampling of tourists at the Molly Malone statue outside Trinity

See her? This is Molly Malone. If you have been to Dublin, you will probably remember her. If you haven’t, then maybe like me, you will have never heard of this statue and be completely confused as to why it is famous. And why hundreds of people congregate around it daily. And why for two minutes out of my day, my accent is in the majority as I walk past it. This statue isn’t a rockstar – it’s a reality TV star, like the Heidi Pratt of statues that no one is really interested in, but for some reason she is still on every damn magazine, so if you were sat next to her at an aiport you still might feel a revolting compulsion to take her picture.

(I am sure it is partly due to her ample bosom, but really, if someone else can explain it to me, I will be grateful.)

However, also note the two guys in the bottom corner – they had set up shop with bag pipes and a bohdran (the drum  – look at me with my Irish instrument knowledge) with possibly the best busking location ever. Fair play to you, lads.

I can almost pull off phrases like “Fair play to you, lads.”

Almost, but not quite. I am still working on “Thanks a mil” which you say at the end of basically every human interaction,”grand” which replaces good in almost all cases, and “aw for feck’s sake” which is particularly useful in US and England world cup matches, apparently.  It’s cursing, but cute, ’cause its Irish.

I never go to the north-side, unless tiny leprechauns force me to at gunpoint.*

There is this crazy divide between north-siders and south-siders in Dublin. The River Liffey is the split between the two, and although there are ample bridge crossings, in talking to people here, you would think they were completely different countries. You can tell the difference in addresses by the postcode – Northside is odd (e.g. Dublin 1) and Southside is even (Dublin 2) so that you can judge restaurants, etc immediately. I have lived on the south-side since I moved here, and I think I honestly believe it is that much better. Good beaches, better restaurants, nicer houses. See? Look how awesome my south-side suburb is.

Bikes, pubs, pharmacies, and nary a derelict building to be found

This is what I imagine the north-side to be like, although I have never been:

(by the way, Google image searching “hell” is extremely disturbing)

All right, maybe that is a bit extreme. Maybe it just looks more like this lovely blog, Derelict Dublin (which, I can’t believe actually exists). But it doesn’t matter, bc I am just a south-sider.

I don’t have Guinness at 12:30 in the afternoon (except on Sundays).

I am glad I do not have to experience an airplane bathroom on a Sunday evening flight from Dublin, after the 48 hour beer soaked hen party booze fest that most people here seem to be on (I am looking at you, English person).

Guiness does not do great things for one’s GI-tract.

If you squint, you can see the shamrock and superman symbol that the nice bartender drew into our pints at the Guinness Storehouse. This was at 11:45am, before we moved here.

I have never lived in a city that has a magnetic pull towards alcoholics before. It’s a bit odd to see people wandering down the street completely wasted at 1pm while wearing a mankini or a tutu. (Thank you British bachelor – or stag – parties). Even normal visitors suddenly feel the need to drink a Guinness along with their breakfast.

I, however, am a model of sobriety. I wait until 4:00pm on Sundays, when a traditional music session starts at my local pub. Because amateur fiddle and pipe playing matches perfectly with a beer or cider

These trad sessions vary greatly in their quality and trad-ness depending on who decides to show up. The players range from a guy who plays fiddle and guitar (one of my favorites) who has a deep-love of ridiculously patterned sweaters and busts out old-timey Appalacian music, to a guy who always sings the same Rufus Wainwright song (I hope that I don’t fall in love with you – the name of the song, I am not going to fall in love with trad session man), this 75 year old (ah-mazing) banjo player, and a woman who seems to play nothing, sing pooly, and drink quickly. I love them. Its like musical grab-bag every Sunday.

I navigate Grafton Street with military precision.

Grafton street is the main shopping street on the South Side of Dublin. It’s pedestrianized, and its also one of the closest places for me to grab a bite to eat. It is also a touristic black hole.

Efficiently navigating Grafton street in oh, say the 30 minutes you have to fill a prescription, buy a Father’s day card and get a sandwich, requires skill, focus and cunning. You must avoid the numerous street performers (like the Golden retriever sand sculpturer-man, or the man who smoothly rolls a glass ball around his body – sorry, that one is a bit harder to describe) and their ever expanding circles of followers. You must dodge ATM lines. You must avoid the sign-on-a-pole men, like the one below (side note: who spontaneously is on holiday and decides to get laser hair removal?). And most importantly, you have to avoid the slow walkers. I recommend staying on the far left, and lane changing when you see anyone wearing a US-university sweatshirt or leprechaun hat, because let me tell you, they will be walking slooooooooooowly.

A not that busy Thursday afternoon on Grafton

So see? I am totally not a tourist anymore.  And because this blog sounds really bitter, (I love tourists! I do! Come visit me!) I am going to leave you with sheep (and LAMBS!) and funny signs bc they are the exact opposite of bitter.

Little baby northern Irish lambs! I realize you can't really see them in this picture, but I have a crappy camera. Trust me, they were adorable.

*and by tiny leprechauns at gun point, I mean unless there are good sales at the shops on Henry Street. Although if leprechauns did carry guns, they would probably live on the north side.



  1. haha wifi radiation….tin-foil hats at the ready

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