October 27th, 2014


Dublin, first impressions

[ I wrote this post in my head weeks ago, but never actually wrote it while traveling, so now I'm reconstructing it from memory, probably altered. Consider this a hybrid of a post written at the end of my second day in Dublin, and one written a month later after having spent four days there. ]

Riding the bus from the airport into Dublin, the city's appearance reminded me of Boston. Coincidentally just as I said to undulations that the area we were passing through looked like South Boston, the driver announced the stop: Convention Centre. To top it off, a few blocks after passing the Convention Centre we passed a large wooden sailing ship anchored in the river in the middle of the city, as a museum. [Non-Bostonians: This parallels the Boston Tea Party Ship, which is a museum in a canal next to South Boston, not far from our Convention Center.]

Dublin reminded me of Boston in the look of the streets and buildings in the area we stayed, too. Specifically Boston, much more than Cambridge or Somerville or Brookline, there. And in the way people drove, and the habits of local pedestrians, including when and when not to jaywalk and how cars reacted to pedestrians. Walking around felt like at home, just an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Dublin also omits street signs at many intersections. I guess a lot of European cities do that, though.

Later in the city center, I saw an old university, with stone walls and stone buildings and a large central yard open to the public and full of people. Near a very busy intersection full of shops and bus stops. In another part of downtown, a few blocks of cobblestone streets reserved for pedestrians, but not designed and laid out as a deliberately-constructed pedestrian mall. More elements falling into place.

And, of course, all the Irish pubs :)

My coworker George Keith, who plays fiddle in pub sessions in Somerville, lived in Dublin for 8 months, so I asked him to recommend some good pub sessions. One night, we went to Cobblestones Pub, one of the places he suggested, and the music was indeed wonderful. Early during the evening session, a visiting musician walked in and asked to join in. I heard him say he was from Boston, to which one of the other musicians responded that he hadn't been to Boston recently. He said this in a tone that implied that of course one goes to Boston from time to time, that doesn't even need to be said; he was just saying he hadn't gone recently.

During a break between tunes, I introduced myself to the Bostonian. Turns out he knows George Keith, and plays sessions with him in Somerville sometimes, and I've probably seen him play. Later, a woman entered with a flute and asked to sit in with them. Introductions all around, and when she heard that guy say he was from Boston, she said she'd just been there this summer. During another break, I introduced myself to her. Turns out she'd met Laura Cortese when she visited. She hadn't really met my housemate Valerie, who's in Laura's band, but she did see Valerie play.

Here's a video of a tune from that group. James from Boston is playing a flute sitting on the back bench on the left. The woman who visited Boston this summer is the one with curly hair who starts playing about 50 seconds in.

Some more clips from that session:

Also a video from the afternoon session at Cobblestone the same day,
and a session at Hughes Bar, another place George suggested.