the weekend in dublin

Eat, drink and be merry is our motto for Dublin. Oh, and lots of walking and trying to get on the Internet, which is very spotty at the best of times. We’ve been exploring Dublin by foot and among our finds: the bars and pubs in Temple Bar are packed on a Friday night; Trinity College is like a fortress when school is out for the holidays; the fellow behind the bar at Kennedys likes Van; O’Connell Street, north of the Liffey, is the place to shop for bargains; Grafton Street is an expensive tourist trap and ripe for busking. And always, always, always, remember to look left!

Details: I headed into a couple of bookstores to see about placing “Astral Weeks Live: A Fan’s Notes,” but as one might expect, there is a rigamarole involved, and I was advised that my best bet was to head out to Grafton Street – the major tourist $$ shopping street in Dublin. I set up a makeshift stand and a sign sure to catch the eye of every Van fan who passed by. I love it when they stop by to have a chat – it confirms for me that Van fans the world over love to talk about their favorite singer – and the Dublinites have funny ones to tell. Not for publication.

And by my side is Bridget, playing her Irish music on her violin, attracting passersby with her tunes, while I tap my toes. She’s making good money with it, and I am having some success selling my books, so we are heading back to Grafton Street tomorrow for one more go-round. Then Tuesday we’re off to Belfast, with a drive through County Down. Will I find some barmbrack?

It’s not all about busking during the day – we’ve been exploring Dublin, I’ve been spending time in bookstores doing some research for my upcoming book, and Bridget has been shopping for clothes and other goodies with her busking money. Dublin is divided into pockets, north and south of the River Liffey. Our hostel is north of the river and we’ve been exploring the neighborhoods up here, but we’re equal opportunity – stopping in pubs both north and south of the river each night. I was beside myself on Friday night at Kennedys when the barman put on a three-song set of Van’s that ended with “Rave On, John Donne.” I don’t hear that very often when I’m out and about. Only in Dublin, you say? It gave me those shivers that come in anticipation of an upcoming Van show – or in this case, two.

Our stroll on the way to Kennedys took us through Temple Bar – narrow, cobblestone streets, almost like alleys – lots of shops and pubs, filled to the brim at night. Also home to, I think, two of Ireland’s largest banks, and you guessed it, Occupy Dublin across the street.

Last night our pub of choice was the Batchelors Inn. We passed by it the other night on our way to Temple Bar, and I was caught by the snippets of poetry painted on its outside walls – especially a verse of Patrick Kavanagh’s Raglan Road. Last night it was Richie Costello providing the live entertainment, taking requests from Americans and otherwise. Of course, the best was the Irish bar songs, which had the patrons singing and riverdancing and generally doing what the locals do when they’re out having fun on a Saturday night. The finale, again of course, was a rousing version of Christy Moore’s “Delirium Tremons.” We plan to head back for a repeat tonight, and this time, Bridget is going to take her violin – and she might just get her first opportunity to play in an Irish pub. If so, we’ll try to get video.

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