Dublin: au­thor Mon­ica McIn­er­ney’s guide to her city

Best-sell­ing Australian au­thor Mon­ica McIn­er­ney of­fers a per­sonal guide to the place she cur­rently calls home – the sur­pris­ing and beau­ti­ful city of Dublin.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

One of my favourite things to do in Dublin is help lost tourists. Liv­ing close to the city cen­tre, I of­ten spot baf­fled-look­ing peo­ple with maps. I’ve di­rected Ital­ians to the Book of Kells, Amer­i­cans to the Guin­ness brew­ery, Chi­nese vis­i­tors to the Na­tional Leprechaun Mu­seum. Not that my help is al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated. One day last sum­mer, I spied a well-dressed, so­phis­ti­cated-look­ing cou­ple on O’Con­nell Street, map out, brows fur­rowed. “Can I help?” I asked ea­gerly. “No, we will find it our­selves!” they snapped in strong French ac­cents, clearly af­fronted.

They prac­ti­cally shooed me away!

Dublin has been my adopted home city for nearly 25 years, cour­tesy of my Ir­ish hus­band. I love shar­ing it with vis­it­ing fam­ily and friends. I usu­ally start my tour-guid­ing with a hop on/ hop off bus ride. Ir­ish tour-bus driv­ers don’t just in­tone dull facts. They’re li­able to burst into song or po­etry.

An even live­lier tour ex­pe­ri­ence is the Vik­ing Splash, aboard an am­phibi­ous vehicle. You dress in Vik­ing hel­mets and roar at passersby, be­fore splash­ing into one of Dublin’s wa­ter­ways.

Dublin is not a city of spec­tac­u­lar sights. It doesn’t have an Ir­ish ver­sion of the Eif­fel Tower or Em­pire State Build­ing. For me, that’s its charm.

It’s a city of small, spe­cial de­tails.

You have to pay at­ten­tion here.

Look around. Lis­ten. Ap­pre­ci­ate.

I love the cob­ble­stones, how they glis­ten in the rain, how they feel un­der­foot. The bridges over the Lif­fey, each one unique. (My favourite is the Sa­muel Beck­ett Bridge, soar­ing sky­ward in a harp shape, de­signed by renowned Span­ish ar­chi­tect San­ti­ago Cala­trava.) The wrought-iron sham­rocks on the lamp posts. The bilin­gual street signs, Ir­ish first, then English.

And I love the sound of Dublin – not its traffic, or its end­less tram works. Its con­ver­sa­tion. Dublin­ers love to talk. I of­ten walk through the city col­lect­ing scraps of con­ver­sa­tions. I par­tic­u­larly en­joy the way el­derly Ir­ish­women talk. “This isn’t our usual bad weather,” I once over­heard. “Our usual bad weather is nicer than this.”

Many of my favourite places have

“I al­ways say a quiet hello to my ‘Dad’ as I walk past.”

fil­tered into my nov­els. Phoenix Park fea­tures in sev­eral. It’s the largest en­closed park in Europe, home to the Ir­ish Pres­i­dent’s of­fi­cial res­i­dence, as well as Dublin Zoo, sports­grounds, herds of deer and many squir­rels. In my lat­est novel, The Trip of a Life­time, the main char­ac­ter, Lola Quin­lan, no­tices a statue of the writer Bren­dan Be­han be­side the Royal Canal, which is close to my house. My late fa­ther, Steve, was the spit­ting im­age of Bren­dan, and I al­ways say a quiet hello to my “Dad” as I walk past.

I also love Dublin’s gra­cious Ge­or­gian squares, the tall ter­raced build­ings with their colour­ful doors and in­tri­cate fan­lights. Of the city’s many pub­lic gar­dens, St Stephen’s Green (do­nated by the Guin­ness fam­ily in the 1880s) is a favourite, a tree-lined haven in the city cen­tre. It also fea­tured as a bat­tle lo­ca­tion dur­ing the 1916 Easter Ris­ing, the be­gin­ning of Ire­land’s in­de­pen­dence.

Dublin’s a city for cul­ture lovers. You’ll find many artis­tic trea­sures in the Na­tional Gallery of Ire­land, the Ir­ish Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art and the Hugh Lane Gallery. I of­ten take vis­i­tors to plays at the fa­mous Abbey Theatre, but also to smaller venues like the Project Arts Cen­tre in Tem­ple Bar.

Dublin’s a lit­er­ary city too, of course, with writ­ers’ fes­ti­vals, launches and po­etry read­ings year round. Dot­ted around the streets are lit­er­ary stat­ues, in­clud­ing James Joyce, Os­car Wilde and Ge­orge Bernard Shaw. There’s even a buxom Molly Malone.

Dublin’s alive-alive-o with great mu­sic and pubs. The Cob­ble­stone and the Brazen Head host pop­u­lar tra­di­tional mu­sic ses­sions. The Sugar Club is a unique venue for live mu­sic and other quirkier events. Two novel ways of ex­plor­ing Dublin’s pubs – both highly rec­om­mended – are the guided Dublin Lit­er­ary Pub Crawl or the Ir­ish Mu­sic Pub Crawl.

For na­ture lovers, the Botanic Gar­dens is a true Dublin gem, along­side the his­toric Glas­nevin Ceme­tery. The old-fash­ioned John Ka­vanagh pub, known as “The Gravedig­gers”, nearby is the per­fect spot for a pint, too. Out­side the city cen­tre, I’d rec­om­mend the sea­side sub­urb of Howth for a brac­ing pier walk fol­lowed by a bowl of seafood chow­der, or the Dublin Moun­tains for for­est walks and stun­ning views over Dublin Bay.

For a fine Dublin din­ner, I of­ten take vis­i­tors to The Wind­ing Stair, over­look­ing the Ha’penny Bridge and spe­cial­is­ing in in­no­va­tive Ir­ish food. I also rec­om­mend the lively Bar Italia on Or­mond Quay, and a sim­ple, al­ways de­li­cious Viet­namese restau­rant, Pho Viet, on Par­nell Street in the city’s grow­ing Asian quar­ter.

Last year was a bumper one for Dublin tourism, and vis­i­tor num­bers are ex­pected to be even higher this year. That’s mu­sic to my ears. Ir­ish mu­sic, even. I’m off in search of a lost tourist right now…

OP­PO­SITE: Mon­ica with the statue of writer Bren­dan Be­han, who re­minds her of her dad, Steve. RIGHT: Tem­ple Bar’s great pubs in­clude The Oliver St. John Gog­a­rty and the Brazen Head (op­po­site be­low).

The sea­side sub­urb of Howth fea­tures Baily Light­house and Howth Cas­tle (right).

In The Trip of a Life­time by Mon­ica McIn­er­ney, Pen­guin/Ran­dom House, 85-year-old Lola Quin­lan re­turns for the first time to the Ir­ish home­land she left 60 years pre­vi­ously.

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