Sunday, 5 August 2012


Jenny and I have just spent a few days in Dublin. We saw some great art and great theatre, and had some fabulous food. But oh dear, Dubliners don't exactly welcome you with open arms.

Ask them for directions, or any information, and they give you vague and monosyllabic replies as if you've asked them about their sex life or their incontinence, or asked some unbelievably stupid question that isn't worth answering.

I can only assume their offhandedness is either because they want to keep all the cool places to themselves; or because they dislike non-Dubliners/ the English/ tourists in general; or because they just can't be arsed.

But you get the feeling that what they'd really like to do is build a moat and a 20-foot wall round Dublin to keep everyone out except the Very Talented, the Very Rich and the Very Beautiful.

So we tended to find our guidebook and streetmaps more helpful than the natives when it came to getting round the city and visiting the places you might imagine Dubliners would be proud of and only too eager to show off to the world.

We did see lots of interesting art at the National Concert Hall, the Royal Hibernian Gallery, the Hugh Lane Gallery and the National Gallery. We saw the Abbey Theatre's first-rate production of Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars (set at the time of the 1916 Easter Rising). We toured Kilmainham Gaol, where many rebel political leaders were imprisoned or executed. And we had some fantastic food at The Farm, Dunne and Crescenzi, and Cornucopia.

But Dublin doesn't look or feel like a capital city, more a provincial city like Birmingham. There's little spectacular architecture, little open space, much of the city centre is run-down and shabby, and many of the streets are narrow and clogged with traffic. Nor did the people look very happy or prosperous, unlike Belfast.

So I don't think we'll be back for a while - not unless there's some stunning new attraction to lure us south. Or unless the locals decide outsiders might actually be worth talking to.

PS: I should point out that whenever someone asks me for directions in Belfast, I'm always extremely helpful, and I think that applies to most Belfast folk. In fact we not only give very explicit directions but check the inquirer has fully understood them. 

Pic: The Halfpenny Bridge, Dublin 


  1. Wow Nick, not a good experience at all for you. I saw that very same play a few times at the Abbey, with decades of gaps!

    I had the exact opposite experience in Dublin last year and the year before, talked to a lot of strangers even, found the economic collapse depressing a lot of them but also inspiring them too.

    I will be curious as to my experience this year.

    PS I found O'Connell Street quite horrible, like a drug addled old lady, given to not caring about how she looked, her makeup sliding all over her face.

  2. Nick, I am sorry you had an negative experience while visiting the city of my birth. Pity I was not down there to share some secrets about the wonders of Dublin. It can be very crowded and the present financial situation - closed shops etc., can give the place a dilapidated feel.

    Now tell me, do you have a favourite place from those you visited?

  3. www - Maybe you have the knack of drawing out Dubliners. And the fact that you're Irish must help as well.

    Grannymar - Actually we thought the city centre was less dilapidated than when we were both there in the nineties! What happened to all that Celtic Tiger money?

    My favourite place would probably be the Grand Canal.

  4. Did you take the photo? That's nice, anyway. I always feel a bit of a let down when I go somewhere and the natives are not friendly. I've had that experience in the US more than abroad.

  5. e: No, the photo comes from cyberspace. You'd think at a time of economic crisis they'd be falling over themselves to welcome visitors, but it seems not.

  6. I visited Dublin in 1988, yes almost a quarter century ago, immediately after having visited Belfast. My experience was exactly the opposite of yours. Admittedly, my visit to Belfast was on business and it was during the troubles and so my experience different than what it is today. Dublin visit was pure pleasure because I stayed with a friend who escorted me everywhere for three days and I met a lot of very interesting people and had a grand time generally.

  7. Ramana - It makes a huge difference if you have a friend to take you around and give you all the information you need. Jenny had a much more positive experience when she was working in Dublin for a year with very welcoming and helpful work colleagues.

  8. don't wish ANY city to be like Birmingham! p l e a s e !

  9. John: My favourite British city would be Edinburgh, Brighton or Liverpool. My worst would probably be Glasgow. And there's absolutely nothing to tempt me back to Birmingham!

  10. Did they pick you as a Northener? I can't say much since I've never been there but I've heard a lot about D4 snobbery and know a kid who went to Uni there and found it pretentious compared to the rest of the Republic...shame...although I have to say, it's low on my bucket list.

  11. Baino: The first thing they'd pick me as is English! Though one of the people who were so offhand was English as well. Interesting that your friend found Dublin pretentious. There's a bit of that as well.

  12. Generally, in the USA, we feel that way about New Englanders. LOL. Glad that you had some time away.

  13. Bijoux: I wasn't aware of that. I take it that means people seen as over-educated, pretentious, snooty, and materialistic?

  14. I find regional differences utterly fascinating.

    I'm hopefully planning a trip on my own to the UK this autumn, possibly Wales, though I have friends all over England and Ireland too-- don't worry, I won't appear on your doorstep without warning ;-) --and I love to hear about different areas: the good, the bad, the welcoming and chilly...

  15. Leah: You're more than welcome to drop in for a coffee if you're ever in Belfast. The regional differences in Britain can be huge, especially the accents!

  16. We spent a couple of days in Dublin a few years ago. I don;'t remember the natives being particularly unfriendly but we tend not to ask and just wander.
    Further west - Dingle etc - much lovelier though.

  17. Liz: Wandering and not asking is what we resorted to in the end, since questions met such a frosty response! We've been to Dingle, and it's lovely indeed.