3. City of Saints and Scholars

Dublin, Day 2

Back at our “4-star” hotel, which, according to the online review is “conveniently located a ten-minute walk from Grafton Street, Trinity College, the river Liffey and Temple Bar”, we encounter a long line of people waiting to get into the pub next door. But climbing the stairs to our room, it becomes painfully clear that our hotel is not located next door to a quaint Irish pub – it is built right on top of a nightclub. Boom Boom Boom. The packets of earplugs we’d noticed earlier on the bedside table should have been a sign: “Leave Now!! While You Can!!” But we are too jet-lagged to do anything about it. No worries. It is only for one night. At 2:45 a.m., the dull thud thud and vibration of the beat ends, the shouting and laughter of drunken nightclubbers outside our window diminishes, and we finally get some sleep.

In the morning, I cross the street for lattes, croissants and fruit at Fresh, which proves to be the perfect antidote to our rough nightclub-riddled sleep. By daylight, the street has transformed into a bustling work crowd and tourist mecca. Caffeine-boosted, we plan our morning walk. The tour officially starts this afternoon.

For our visit around the coast of Ireland, I have decided to book a guided tour, mostly for the sake of convenience. My husband will not be joining us, due to the constraints of a new job, and the end of my teaching semester means depleted energy resources for me. I want the luxury of being able to put my feet up and let someone else do the driving, booking, and organizing. lt will be an emotionally-charged trip as well, I predict, with me meeting my biological family for the first time, taking a trip back to my childhood village in England, visiting cousins I haven’t seen in years, and last, but not least, meeting my birth mother for the very first time. I’ll have a lot on my plate. I will need time to reflect on what I am experiencing, and with any luck the bus tour will allow me to do just that. But we arrive a day and a half before the tour begins to have extra time to meet family and explore.

Dublin, city of saints and scholars. The place of my ancestors. My birth mother was born here. Her father – my grandfather – as well. But her mother, who died when my birth mother was two years old, was a Delaney, from away. The ghosts of the past are everywhere here. I can only guess at where they are hiding, what glimpses I’ll get, what they have yet to reveal to me.

This is a great town to walk around in. Dublin feels familiar in some ways. Twin city to San José, Barcelona, Liverpool and Beijing, it could easily be sistered with Montreal – there is talk of that happening as we speak – with its young demographic, Celtic charm and lively culture, bar and music scene. The buskers on Grafton Street take my breath away. Such talent. There is much I’d like to do: see the Book of Kells (which had just closed when we arrived at Trinity College), visit the art galleries and museums scattered about town. But that will be for another time.

Meeting my Irish relatives yesterday was fantastic – this trip could not have started off on a better note. From all appearances, they are a loving, close-knit family. Finding family members who love music as much as I do makes me feel the connection even more deeply. I am reassured that we will stay in touch. A few talk of traveling to Montreal and Canada, at which point a relative jokingly tells me, “Watch out – you’ll have the whole lot of them showing up at your door!”. I hope we have forged new ties and will gladly welcome any visitors that come our way.

After walking through the streets of Dublin, my daughter and I make our way to our new hotel, the meeting point for the start of the tour. And we’re off. We begin with a bus drive around Dublin, followed by a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, dinner, and a pint at the Gravity bar with its 360-degree views of the city. A few of us decide to go on a pub crawl in Temple Bar, while the others head back to the hotel. Accompanying us are two young Australians and a grandmother / grandson duo from Georgia. The Temple Bar district is lively and packed and music fills each pub. People spill out into the streets; talking with strangers is the norm. This is a friendly city. After visiting a few pubs, we hail a taxi. Our driver entertains us with tales of a recent murder in the hotel we are staying at. Great. Not the best story to be telling us after last night’s stay at the Hotel from Hell. But he is highly entertaining, we survive the night, no one gets murdered, and in the morning, we set out for Belfast in Northern Ireland.




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