Dispatches from Ireland: Days 1 through 4

Posted By Mike Padgett

Aug. 17, 2008

I was sure another cute little beagle would nab me, like the one in Australia on the customs officer’s leash in 2006. That beagle at the airport sniffed my luggage, sat down and turned its eyes to its handler, the cue that I was the bad guy.

How was I to know? I had been misinformed when told that my candy bars and trail mix would be allowed into the nation down under. I was ordered to throw them in the trash.

But on this trip to Ireland, after a quiet flight on Aer Lingus from Chicago to Dublin, there were no beagles sniffing luggage at the airport. My protein bars for between-meals energy were safe.

Construction cranes fill the skyline in Dublin. Traffic is busy. The narrow streets, some marked one way, make the traffic seem busier. Our taxi driver said his country’s economy has some of the same troubles as in the states, including lenders too quick to approve loans for unqualified borrowers, homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, and even some new owners walking away from their down payments.

Many of the street and highway signs are in English and Gaelic. The light rail system in downtown Dublin appears popular. One of its stops is next to St. Stephen’s Green, a central city park that on this day was busy because the sun was shining. Across the street were dozens of parked and chained bicycles, a clear sign that pedal power is a popular transportation option in this busy city.

There were street performers on Grafton Street. A teenager played his violin. A few storefronts away, a man in a muscle shirt played solo hard rock on his electric guitar. Two mimes, one in dressed in silver and the other in gold, went through their routines.

Grafton Street

Grafton Street has been for pedestrians only since 1982. It is lined with “four-story Georgian buildings that are home to a mix of familiar international stores and chi-chi local retailers,” according to Lonely Planet Publications’ Dublin City Guide.

Our waiter at dinner our first night is from Portugal. He took a year off from his studies in mathematics to live and work in Ireland. And like foreign visitors we know in the states, he points to our country as a goal for those who dream of furthering their studies and launching their careers.

We were on foot for a couple of days in Dublin. On a Friday night, we found ourselves temporarily lost on our return to the hotel. It was rush hour. Traffic moved slowly, and the occasional driver on the horn. Just like home.

On Saturday, we went back to Grafton Street for breakfast at Bewley’s Café & Restaurant, opened in 1927. Then we walked a short distance in a light rain to Trinity College. Our guide on the campus was a student studying French and German. Later, we boarded a bus for a tour of the city.

Knowth burial mound

Today, Sunday, we took a tour to the Boyne Valley, called the cradle of Irish civilization. Next to the River Boyne, which is swollen with runoff from heavy rains, we took a walking tour of the Knowth burial mounds. They are about 5,000 years old and are decorated with some of the best megalithic art in Europe.

Aug 17th, 2008

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