Walk and talk

Books, bites, Vik­ings and vin­tage buys

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - JANE NI­CHOLLS

POT­TED HIS­TORY: The Lit­tle Mu­seum of Dublin prom­ises the com­plete saga of the city in 29 min­utes flat. With the Ir­ish gift of the gab, the talk, aided by a col­lec­tion of do­nated arte­facts, goes a lit­tle longer, but ev­ery sec­ond of it is gold. Our guide, Ro­nan Carey, is so freshly amazed as he tells the tales of his city that he seems to have heard them all for the first time just then. He shares a mix­ture of witty dit­ties and sober­ing sto­ries, in­clud­ing of the bloody Easter Ris­ing of 1916. Make this mu­seum your first stop in Dublin and you will be set with con­text to en­rich your stay. Ask about the his­tory of the Ir­ish statue of Queen Vic­to­ria, which now watches over Syd­ney’s QVB. More: lit­tle­mu­seum.ie.

IN FULL BLOOM: June 16 is Blooms­day around the world, the date Leopold Bloom walked across the city of Dublin in James Joyce’s Ulysses, the epic novel si­mul­ta­ne­ously held up as the great­est and the most-given-up-on book in the English lan­guage. We’ve just missed it this year but ev­ery day is Blooms­day in Dublin, and plung­ing de­lib­er­ately into the Joycean world leads you to some of the city’s most delightful char­ac­ters. Take a Dublin Lit­er­ary Pub Crawl or Lit Walk for tales, recita­tions and songs from be­guil­ing ac­tor Colm Quil­li­gan and his merry men. You’ll hear about Bren­dan Be­han, Sa­muel Beck­ett, Os­car Wilde and oth­ers (with Joyce writ large) over about two hours, set­ting out from the Duke Ho­tel. Joyce trag­ics should make a pil­grim­age to Sweny’s Joycean Phar­macy, where Bloom bought lemon-scented soap. It’s now a vol­un­teer-op­er­ated shrine selling sec­ond-hand books and cakes of said soap with sched­uled (and im­promptu) readings. More: dublin­pub­crawl.com; sweny.ie.

DRINK UP: When you’ve had your fill of Guin­ness pubs, try the Vin­tage Cock­tail Club in Tem­ple Bar, where the price of en­try is sim­ply know­ing how to find it. Give a solid press on the buzzer next to the rusty metal door; the hard­ware-shop stick-on let­ters “VCC” sig­nify that you’ve found the right place. Pa­tience. Even­tu­ally the door creaks open and you are in­vited up a gloomy stair­case to the in­ner sanc­tum where a fat lit­tle book of cock­tails, di­vided by eras, awaits. Re­cline in a velour booth and or­der up. I rec­om­mend the Martinez, a clever 1862 con­coc­tion. Cock­tails are about €12 ($18); the friendly time-warp vibe is free. There’s a map on the web­site, and book­ings are rec­om­mended (there’s food, too). If it’s fine, choose the roof lounge. More: vin­tage­cock­tail­club.com.

MAKEM LIKE A VIK­ING: My kids has­sle me into do­ing the land-and-sea Vik­ing Splash tour, which you will see and hear as soon as you hit Dublin. Horn-hel­meted pas­sen­gers roar at passers-by from bright-yel­low re­fur­bished World War II am­phibi­ous ve­hi­cles growl­ing around the streets. It turns out to be fab­u­lously hi­lar­i­ous, with sur­pris­ingly in­for­ma­tive com- men­tary. The wa­ter­borne part of the tour is on Grand Canal, home to some of Dublin’s edgi­est new ar­chi­tec­ture and also known as Sil­i­con Docks, where tech com­pa­nies such as Google and Face­book have set up Euro­pean head­quar­ters to take ad­van­tage of Ire­land’s 12.5 per cent cor­po­rate tax rate. More: vikingsplash.com.

LIV­ING HIS­TORY: Dublin Cas­tle has more than 800 years of his­tory, built as a me­dieval fortress f for King John of Eng­land and sub­se­quently the seat of English, then Bri­tish rule over Ire­land, un­til the fi­nal viceroy turned the cas­tle over to Michael Collins with the cre­ation of the Ir­ish Free State in 1922. To­day, the cas­tle is home to gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and open daily for guided and self-guided tours (down­load the free app), with a per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of art and arte­facts, ro­tat­ing his­toric exhibitions and oc­ca­sional the­atri­cal pro­duc­tions per­formed in the im­pres­sive State Apartments. More: dublin­cas­tle.ie.

HAR­BOUR LIGHTS: Howth rhymes with “both” and it’s a dual de­light — the Ir­ish sea­side town of your imag­i­na­tion and a fishy feast. It’s a thrifty dod­dle to get there on a Dart train from Connolly Sta­tion. In­side 25 min­utes, you’ve been whisked 15km into a pic­ture book, com­plete with beg­ging seals bob­bing in the har­bour, a tiny light­house and scenic trails around the cliffs. To get the most out of your walk, take a guided ram­ble or rock-hop with Shane’s Howth Hikes (of­ten with Shane’s dog). Ap­petite stoked, head back to town and choose from a school of seafood restau­rants ready to serve you the bounty of the fleet. More: vis­it­dublin.com/ hooked-on-howth-dublin; shaneshowth­hikes.com.

GET BOOKED: At Trin­ity Col­lege re­sides one of the world’s old­est tomes, the Book of Kells, a lavi ishly il­lu­mi­nated man­u­script be­lieved to have been cre­ated in the early 9th cen­tury by monks of Iona. The queues to view it can be al­most as long as its his­tory; so buy tick­ets on­line (you’ll need to se­lect a date and a time) for a quicker ex­pe­ri­ence, and save some amaze­ment for the bib­lio­philic grandeur of the Long Room, which is 65m long and houses about 200,000 of the col­lege li­brary’s old­est vol­umes over two storeys un­der a bar­rel-vaulted ceil­ing. It’s ru­moured to have been the in­spi­ra­tion for the Jedi li­brary in Star Wars: Episode II — At­tack of the Clones, which the movie’s maker, Lu­cas­film, de­nies, but com­pare for your­self. More: tcd.ie/visi­tors/book-of-kells.

BUY, BUY: Dublin is jump­ing with fab­u­lous mar­kets, an­tiques shops and stores fea­tur­ing lo­cal de­sign­ers.d Check out the Cow’s Lane De­signer Mart or the Ha’Penny Vin­tage and Craft Mar­kets (near the fa­mous foot­bridge). If your itinerary doesn’t co­in­cide with mar­kets, de­spair not. The Kilkenny Shop on Nas­sau Street is one of a chain of stores ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing Ir­ish de­sign (and this one has a Sun­day jazz brunch). Lo­cal arts, crafts, fash­ion, jew­ellery and home­wares (even a bri­dal bou­tique) are per­ma­nent fix­tures at Pow­er­scourt Cen­tre. Fuel up on creamy scram­bled eggs with per­fectly sea­soned mush­rooms at The Pep­per Pot, served on mis­matched old crock­ery, a nod to the his­toric Ge­or­gian mansion in which the cen­tre is housed. The cafe’s rich hot choco­lates get a sticky thumbs-up from my kids, ex­pe­ri­enced con­nois­seurs of the bev­er­age. More: kilken­nyshop.com; pow­er­scourt­cen­tre.ie.

STAIR­WAY TO HEAVEN: As you’d ex­pect from a UNESCO City of Lit­er­a­ture, book­shops abound and in some there are cafes, but only Dublin’s old­est in­de­pen­dent book­shop, The Wind­ing Stair, boasts a full res­tau­rant above (homage to the lit­eral stair­case and a Yeats poem). The food is de­scribed as Ir­ish home cook­ing, but there’s not a stew in sight. My main course of white sole with a cray­fish mayo rest­ing on a sweet potato wedge and creamed spinach and shell­fish oil doesn’t seem par­tic­u­larly down-home but is de­cid­edly de­li­cious. Food is lo­cally sourced and its prove­nance care­fully de­scribed on the menu, and there’s a long list of lo­cal beers and wines, too. The prix-fixe din­ner menu at €26.95 ($40) for two cour­ses is ex­cel­lent value. Book well ahead. More: wind­ing-stair.com. SMALL PLEA­SURES: The Mor­gan com­bines bou­tique ho­tel com­fort and quirky, modern de­sign in Tem­ple Bar, Dublin’s heart­land. One of three ho­tels owned by the Fitzpatrick Ho­tel Group in Dublin (The Spencer and The Bea­con make up the set), The Mor­gan packs max­i­mum per­son­al­ity into a small pack­age (129 gue­strooms over four floors). Philippe Starck fur­ni­ture, groovy light fix­tures and mir­rors, white floor­ing and Ital­ian-made beds fea­ture, as does owner Paul Fitzpatrick’s love of dogs, which fea­ture in framed por­traits. The hip bar at­tracts lo­cals and tourists alike. There’s a deal of 15 per cent off best avail­able rates for di­rect on­line book­ings to Septem­ber 30 plus food and bev­er­age dis­counts. More: the­mor­gan.com.

Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge, top; Long Room, Trin­ity Col­lege Li­brary, above; Lit­tle Mu­seum, above right; Pep­per Pot Cafe, be­low; Hanover Quay on Grand Canal, bot­tom

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.