Monday, June 7, 2010

Dublin: Past and Present

From left to right:



Barbara Scully:


“The family you have come from isn’t as important as the family you’re going to have.”

- Ring Lardner

Eleven years ago, I looked forward to visiting Ireland not only because it was my first trip to Europe, but also because I’m half-Irish. I’ve never been quite sure which side to identify with. When it comes to food and hand gestures, I’d say I’m more Italian. But when it comes to being reserved, obsessing about weather and the mail, and fretting about being on time, I’m more Irish (or at least my family’s version of it).

(This is where I should mention that one of my relatives from the 1800s was German so I don’t know how that influenced my family. I’m sure that’s where the on-time fastidiousness came in.)

My husband and I brought our nearly one-year-old boy, and were shocked that no restaurants had highchairs. It didn’t matter because we always seemed to sit near a couple whose children were in high school or college, and they missed having babies around, and really, it was no trouble to bounce our baby on their knees while they awkwardly managed for their food to find its way into their mouths. This happened three times: twice in Dublin and once in Cork.

(By the way, when we visited London and Cambridge, England there was also a deficit of highchairs but no offers of child bouncing. I’m not judging since I’d never offer to care for a stranger’s child in a restaurant.)

When we’d visited Ireland last time, they seemed to be on the brink of change. The people were gearing for the year 2000 and the economy seemed to be turning around.

Until the recent recession, it did. Instead of Irish people coming to America, people from other countries began coming to Ireland. As a result, visiting Dublin was quite different than our last visit. Before it was only Irish faces and accents. This time Ireland resembled an American city with it’s diversity of skin hues and accents. Before it was all Irish cuisine except for the occasional restaurant (I’m partial to Mao’s). (Warning: Don’t eat at any place that promises an “American breakfast”.) This time, there were actually clusters of ethnic restaurants. And the country finally has highchairs and GOOD COFFEE!

I don’t remember gypsies last time either.

Going to all of the wedding events was the highlight and purpose of this trip. It started thirty minutes after we’d arrived at our hotel when the first breakfast began at Bewley’s Cafe. That night, the rehearsal dinner took place in at the Cellar Bar at The Merrion. The day after was the actual wedding ceremony at University Church across from St. Stephen’s Green and reception was located at the posh Powerscourt Estate House from 4:30 pm to 1:30 am. The final day of festivities was a brunch, hosted by the aunt of the bride at her home in Dundrum. Can you believe there was also a pub-crawl and golf outing that we skipped?

I’d attended only one other wedding which rivaled this one in length and joviality, and that was in Serbia nearly three years ago. The Irish certainly know how to party.

(I’ll give details as to all the fantastic food in another post.)

The following (and last) day in Dublin I met three of my lovely blogger friends. I contacted Brigid and Ann via e-mail. We’d already gone from followers of one another’s blogs to e-mail friends before the trip was planned. Brigid invited Barbara and Niamh as well, but Niamh couldn’t make it.

Brigid suggested we meet at Avoca Café:

I got there several minutes late, but didn’t recognize anyone in the café. All I had were pictures from their blogs to go by, so I wasn’t sure if their images would look the same live. My husband encouraged me to ask random sitting women. For each table he’d point to, I’d squint (not wearing my glasses) and say, “I don’t think it’s any of them.”

It turned out I was the first one there. The others arrived soon after. I had the tiniest worry that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. But, of course, we did. We discussed writing, blogging, and family. They mentioned a few recent posts of fellow bloggers, which caught me up because I didn’t have time to read many blogs during the trip. It is rare to spend a couple of hours with people who do what you do and are trying to succeed where you want to succeed and feel the frustrations you feel.

The subject of Americans’ view of Irish people came up. These women didn’t understand where the notion that Irish people are warm and fuzzy came from. (Maybe the accents?) Brigid even cited a couple of examples to prove how American people are nicer than the Irish.

I don’t know. Sitting in that café, eating scones and drinking coffee with “literary friends” as someone’s sister put it, I found these women to be warm and fun. It was no different than when I get together with my good writer friend in Cambridge.

Which parts of me are Irish? Which are Italian? Which are American? Which are from my Region? Town? Family? Which parts of me are just me?

I’ll have to travel more to find out.


  1. I love this post! That's great that you got to meet up with your friends. I'm so curious to go back to Ireland for a visit now! It's been 10 years and it's hard to imagine the changes that you described - especially the coffee! I look forward to more trip posts :)

  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful time meeting up with some blogging friends. I have never been to Ireland, but that is on my list someday. My husband has been there and says it is quite beautiful!

  3. SOunds like a great trip. How fun to meet some blogging/writing friends.
    I would love to visit Ireland--one day.

  4. wow sounds like you had an incredible time!! and how cool that you got to meet up with fellow writers!!

    i've never been to Ireland, but now i'm itching to travel!


    so good to have you back :D

  5. What a wonderful trip! Love that picture!

  6. Great post, great pic! Both my grandfathers were second generation irish immigrants and my grandmothers were french canadian. I've definitely gotten in touch with my french roots, and visiting Ireland is number one on my to-travel-to list! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow, neat! Meeting net friends!

    I've tried that twice before, once in Connecticut, once in Montreal.
    Both times went great! Went bowling and restauranting in one case and hiking up a mountain with sandwiches the other. Both were great fun.

    I've never tried meeting more than one! I wouldn't have been sure of the dynamic, but then with blog friends these are people you're already used to interacting with as a group.

    Sounds like it went well. : j
    Hope you have even more fun exploring other parts of the world.

  8. Loved the post, wish I'd been able to make it!
    My only experience of America was a visit to New York and I have to say I was shocked at how lovely and polite everyone was. I had a baby with me and even when he cried in resturants alll I got were smiles! I was constantly helped with my buggy and given the thumbs up for breast feeding. (completely opposite to my experience with my fellow irish)
    It made me wonder where us Irish got our "friendly" tag from because the visit left me feeling we need to work on our manners. (Though of course we are all lovely really...) Its interesting to hear of the changes you list, they are true of the rest of the country to varying extents, I think its a good thing there are different cultures mixing with our own - its a bad thing to be so insular. Enjoyed this post hope you had a great trip, thanks for posting the photo!

  9. Sounds like a wonderful trip. I hope I can visit Dublin someday.

  10. Love the photo Theresa. Must get a copy of it. I so enjoyed the meeting. The chat, the laugh, the tea and scones. Hope your time in Paris was fab!!!

  11. @Mary, what bad timing for you. I missed a wedding in Colombia when I was pregnant. I hope you get to go to Ireland soon!

    @Kathleen, it will be interesting if you went and noticed the same changes.

    I plan to write a post about food and mishaps. And I'm two posts behind on substitute teaching gigs.

    @Choices, Ireland is beautiful. I'm a little sad I didn't visit the countryside this time (except for the view of Sugar Loaf mountain at the wedding).

  12. @Christine, it was great meeting the women. I hope you get to visit Ireland too.

    @Tahereh, I'm going to try to meet more writer bloggers wherever I go. I almost met a writer in Paris too, but it didn't work out.

    @KarenG, I love the picture too. I hope Ann, Barbara, and Brigid like it.

  13. @Creepy Query Girl, you've gotten in touch with half of you, just like me. Now I need a trip to Italy.

    Sorry we couldn't meet up. Maybe next time!

    @Alesa, first it was just going to be Ann and Brigid, but then the other two bloggers were suggested. I didn't know them as well, but figured how many times will I get an opportunity to meet writers in Dublin.

    @Words A Day, I wish I could've met you too.

    I've always thought New York had an undeserved reputation. Except when it does.

  14. @Angie, I hope you get to visit Dublin someday too.

    @Ann, I'm glad you like the picture. I'll e-mail it to you and Brigid (and Barbara if I have her e-mail.)

    It was great meeting you too. Yes, Paris was fab!

  15. Wow what an amazing journey you took us on! I've never really had the desire to visit different places, well correction, I do but they are not along the lines of hertiage. I'm irish and I am very much what you described (or what your family described, plus more of course!) though I've never thought to visit such an area! My sister would love to so maybe I'll go on the journey with her. Grab my other sister and make it just us three on a journey to discovery...

    Hmm what a thought!

    BTW - regarding your comment over at my blog!! Yes he's very creepy to write, he will take a lot of effort, I can only write him up to an hour and then I have to stop for a break, he scares me a lot. He is talking to me all the time... very creepy!

  16. Hi Theresa, thanks for such a lovely picture, so glad you enjoyed Dublin and I am very pleased you got good coffee this time,
    I now have proof for my daughter that I am not inventing 'writer friends'. Thanks for the nice comments about us.

  17. Looks like it was an incredible experience! Poor you, you'll just have to tour Italy and have a ton of good food to see what's lurking inside your Italian half!

  18. Wow, Serbia and Ireland could both make a case to top the league of raucous weddings. Lucky you having the chance to compare them! :)

  19. @Jen, I'm glad you confirm some of my family's quirks are Irish. They also have a "don't be too big for your britches" kind of attitude.

    You and your sister should go to Dublin if you can swing it!

    I wouldn't want a character like yours to talk to me.

    @Brigid, I'm glad you have photographic evidence you have writerly friends.

    I'd only have nice comments to write!

    @Lydia, I agree. I need to go to Italy!

    @Hampshireflyer, I am lucky to be able to compare them. Most people can't believe I went to Serbia.

  20. Thank you for this post! It's so perfectly wonderful to read about your experience in Dublin -- the changes between then and now remind me of my own experience visiting Vietnam as well. :)

  21. Oh wow! Oh wow!! Look at the four of you!!! I'm not familiar with Barbara Scully but you four look utterly wonderful!!!!!

    Glad you all met and had a great time! Brilliant!!

    I love that memory of when your son was a year old and there were no high chairs in restaurants in england or ireland but the difference in demeanour between the irish and english reactions are so so so so so so funny!!

    I look forward to reading more of your trip and of Dublin!! I really like the pic of you four!

    Take care

  22. @Sandy Shin, I'd love to visit Vietnam and other places on the other side of the world. But those flights are so long!

    @Old Kitty, thanks for the compliment.

    The difference between the two countries is funny. In fact, the couple we were staying with didn't even offer to hold our son in restaurants. We were back on our own!

  23. I'm glad you had such a great trip and got to meet up with your literary friends. :) It sounds like such a grand time.

  24. I love the way you described your trip to Ireland, and I'm totally jealous that you got to go there. That's also wonderful that you got to meet some blogger friends. It's a little surreal how we all write to each other through the blogosphere but rarely get the opportunity to meet in person. I like how you describe them as "literary friends".

  25. I haven't been to Ireland in like 20 years, but I felt the people I met there deserved the "warm and fuzzy" reputation--especially compared to east coast American brusqueness. Shopkeepers were chatty. I got offers of rides to town from the youth hostel from random old ladies. In the grocery stores, folks were eager to help. Granted I was in smaller towns mostly--Cahir, Cashel, Galway etc.

    I also spent time there in the mid-80s and it felt like a third world country then. I get the sense it is far more prosperous now. Marching the the St. Patrick's day parade in Dublin was pretty cool though. The crowd was so thick we had to march single file in places!

  26. @Sarahjayne, it was a grand time. Now I want to meet all of my blogging friends.

    @Neurotic Workaholic, I think some people are too far to meet. Others are worried it will ruin the mystic. But if we have a chance, I recommend it.

    @Laurel, you should write a post about your adventures. I'd love to hear more about your trip!

  27. How neat meeting blogging buddies. Looking forward to reading more about your trip, especially the food :o) What a great post and thanks for your similes!! hehe loved Tyra Banks.

    Yuck, it has started snowing here! :o(

  28. How COOL that you met up with bloggers over there! I hope you had a wonderful trip. We're getting our bags packed for three weeks in France, leaving on the 18th. I can't wait!

  29. I love the answer to your question. Definitely travel more. I think traveling could solve the world's problems.

    Straight From Hel

  30. @Niki, I'm glad you liked the Tyra Banks comment. I was hoping you knew enough about her to appreciate it.

    Ugh, snow! And summer is just about here.

    @Nicole, three whole weeks - wow! I can't wait to hear about your trip. Mine was great, but not long enough!

    @Helen, good point. The more we know about one another, the more we can treat people like The Other.

  31. I've never been to a wedding, but hopefully I'll be going to my mother's in another year or so. ; ]

    I'm glad you had such a fab time over in Ireland!

  32. I'm so glad you had a great trip! I'm working on Aura and will have it back to you soon. I love it so much I have to go back to do the edits after I read through each chapter just for fun!

  33. I'm trying so, so, SO hard not to be jealous, but you got to meet really, realy live blogging friends! And in IRELAND! And, you got to see ANN!

    Sorry, I'm done whining now. I'm glad you had a great trip and that the wedding was wonderful. Someday, Theresa, someday...

    I'll make it there. :o)

    Happy Monday!

  34. Wow, your blog is sure a happening place.

    I don't know if Irish people are nicer than Americans. All I know is that I love Irish folk music, and their accent is cooler than anything that we have going on over here.

    Sounds like a great trip. (I'm jealous.)

  35. Great to hear that you met up Brigid & Co in Dublin. Hope you enjoyed your trip too? It must have been a shock for you, considering that you visited here last over 10 years ago. The country is unrecognisable, in a good way. And I agree, us Irish are unfortunately not as friendly as the rest of the world would make us out to be, charming yes in spades, warm & friendly, I'm not so sure!

  36. Amanda, I hope you have fun at the wedding. You'll have to post about it.

    Aubrie, it's good to hear you're enjoying it. If you want me to look at your manuscript after the changes are made, let me know.

    Jackee, I hope you make it to Ireland too! I know people who travel all the time and I try not to be jealous. This was a big deal for us to go.

  37. Paul, I'm glad you think my blog it's happening. I prefer hanging out here rather than the Spanish class I'll be in today.

    I love the accent and music too. You should've seen my daughter step dance. I don't even know where it came from. Must be in the genes.

    Olive, I still say warm and friendly. It can't be just charming! I went to Cork for the last trip, but didn't get to visit again this time.

  38. Hi Theresa... first off can I announce to the world that although I look it, I WAS NOT DRUNK ON A TUESDAY MORNING IN AVOCA CAFE. But that said it was great to meet up!

    You should send a link of this post to the Irish Tourist Board - you are doing a great job!

    Although as a Dubliner, I will admit that I love my city and it has improved beyond all recognition in the last ten years or so. And you are right about great restaurants and coffee.

    For the last two years we were lucky enough to travel to your country (Boston/Cape Cod and LA) and loved it. We found Americans to be beyond helpful! We also found that you love the craic! Which I know we do well.

    So thanks for the write up.. and I am sure that I speak for Brigid too (as Ann will be back on your side of the pond in a few months) that we are available for coffee and scones for any American bloggers/writerw with a small bit of notice!!!!

    (sorry this is turning into a post and not a comment)

  39. @Barbara, you do not look drunk! And I'll attest to the fact you did not act drunk. All of us can criticize our appearances. Why is my head always so big?

    I had to look up craic:

    I'd have coffee and scones with you guys anytime!

  40. ha ha Theresa... sorry... the craic is what we had while having coffee!!!!

  41. @Barbara, until I looked it up I thought I ate craic!

    I'm used to my non-American commenters using words I don't know from time to time.

  42. Ah, but that's if she ever gets proposed to. Her boyfriend of four years is such a committment-phobe.

  43. @Amanda, four years is a long time. I'd want to be engaged by then. I hope it works out!