Started the day by taking a train into an Irish Springs commercial. Half an hour from Dublin is Hoath (say h then “oath”), a small fishing town but, much more importantly, the starting point for a walk along seaside cliffs. A hike, actually: for a good 3 hours, we followed a trail past beautiful ledges along green water, through which the occasional very warm-blooded sailor piloted his craft. “Caution Dangerous Cliffs” signs ensured we wouldn’t mistake these rocky crags for baby hills. Best was the coastal cave. Accessible only because we happened to arrive at low tide, Mike and I hiked down a steep trail onto the coast and into a tiny, rocky, water-carved room. We didn’t find any treasure or decaying pirates, but I did find a blued penny and a chunk of rope; not much, but they’ll make better souveniers than anything I could buy in Dublin.
After finishing our hike by being rained on for half an hour as we searched for the train station, we got back to Dublin right in time for the end of the Spain vs. Ireland World Cup game. Although we watched by peering into a hotel’s window, we could still hear loud Irish reactions from via a bar across the street. Ireland lost in double overtime, but our worries about riots were unfounded: we walked into a bar to loud singing of “Ole, Ole.” In addition to the usual annoyingness of this 1-word song, it was ironic that Irish were singing a Spanish song right after being knocked out of the tournament by a Spanish team, but I wasn’t going to complain, especially after a few Irishmen half-jestingly (I hope) asked me if I was from Spain! I tried to take a few pictures of the more enthusiastic soccer fans, but this was a mistake: family and friends across the bar decided to pose for portraits, so I ended up with a bunch of pictures of random Irish people.
Before catching our train home, we headed for the most highly acclaimed attraction in all of Ireland: the Guinness brewery. Arthur Guinness’ 9000-year lease of the factory was one of many oddities in this testament to product loyalty; others included loving references to the passion that goes into every pint of “black gold” and an ad with a physician’s letter supporting the slogan “Guinness is good for you!” The Guinness storehouse, even built in the shape of a pint glass, shows how far companies will go to build and maintain a brand name; the fact that I and many others visited this PR ploy shows just how successful slick marketing can be. Nevertheless, I must admit that the panoramic view from the top floor was very impressive.
While we relaxed with our very bitter meals of beers (a pint’s included with admission), I discovered that June sixteenth of every year is Bloomsday. As a flamboyant man dressed in early-twentieth-century garb explained to all in the Guinness bar (whether they wanted to know or not), June sixteenth, 1904 is the day on which all the action of James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place. I’ve never read it, but this novel is supposedly the first modernist masterpiece. Tack one more on the reading list, I guess…
The best part of flamboyant Bloomsday man’s soliloquy was a quote from Virginia Woolf. While explaining that Ulysses had originally been dismissed as smut, he cited Woolf’s description of the author: “James Joyce is a member of the working class, and we all know how they can be.” Woolf probably wouldn’t like this city too much, with 75% of the elderly in poverty and not 1 skyscraper among the millions of people. Whatever: its main attractions may be a beer factory and poor poets in the streets, but Dublin’s still a great place to be.