I used to have another blog. Technically speaking I still do. It has the rather Byronic name: Wild Dan’s Pilgrimage. For those unacquainted with nineteenth century poetry (and why would you be?), this is a reference to the long poem that had the author “wake up and find myself famous.” I affectionally reblog the post here. For the fifty-odd posts that make up my former identity as youthful traveller, visit Wild Dan’s Pilgrimage.
This was written during my first trip to Europe. Ireland’s still part of Europe init.
Day 19 – The Incredible Zany Ineffable Opentop Bus Tour
Yes, I said in London “why do a tour?”, especially one of those open top bus tours. I studied history at university and literature – a large part of this was of the English variety hence I was well equipped to explore London on my own initiative. Dublin is a different story. I know James Joyce hung out here for before heading to the continent. Yeats is Dublin’s darling poet. Guinness, Kilkenny. But what else do I know about Dublin, let alone Ireland? I therefore submit to an open top bus tour.
As opposed to most of these tours I am given commentary by the actual driver, and not a cheap pair of plastic ear buds that keep falling out and a pre-recorded voice that is out of sync with where you are. The tour is acceptable. I must go to the Guinness Factory, Trinity College, the Jameson Distillery … The Writer’s Museum. For most of the circuit I’m the only one aboard. In Sydney you see a lot folks cruising through Pyrmont atop these red double deckers. This was frustrating: I worked in Pyrmont and seeing these people cruise past as if there wasn’t anything else made me, well, want to hop on.
The driver points out a statue of Oscar Wilde, reclining in gaudy clothes and grinning at the house where he lived before he left Ireland to become, for awhile, part of the English establishment.
I hop off at O’Connell St, the main thoroughfare north of the Liffey and have a beer and meal at the pub chain Madigans. An Irishman of the last generation recounts tales of the town. I can’t understand a word he says. Yes he’s got a thick Irish accent, but he’s drunk more than … me! One thing I do understand. His round blue eyes sparkle when he says, “Better get a taxi if you’re heading to Lower Gardiner – that place is a bit rough. Rather be safe.” He sways. “Wouldn’t want to see you” – he rocks back and forth – “knifed would I?” This statement is accompanied by an upward stabbing motion. “This city has drug problem.”
I take my leave during a pause in his ramblings and eat a hearty Irish stew. Later I forget his advice, luckily without consequence.
This was definitely a time of discovery and the first time I embarked on solo travel. My ‘Grand Tour of Europe’ began in London and took in Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy. On the second day in London it occurred to me that as my father was English, I could come and live here. Dublin was very different to London. I was there in the middle of winter and the sun doesn’t get very high. Highlights included seeing a play by Nikolai Gogol at the famous Abbey Theatre, and a visit to the Writer’s Museum where they have the very piano James Joyce played on.