When the plan for Liz to fly over came together, one date stood out: June 16. That’s Liz’s birthday, and the date of the events described in James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” It’s hard to ignore when the Universe shouts out you, so we added 2 days in Dublin to the itinerary.
Miguel and Joyce
The James Joyce Centre in Dublin hosts a variety of Bloomsday events, the highlight of which are a series of walking tours to trace the routes Leopold Bloom took in the book. This was absolutely fascinating, as the city hasn’t changed much in the 100+ years that have passed since the book was written. And odd thing that didn’t emerge until the completion of the tour at the Joyce statue (seen at left) is that Dubliners don’t really care for him. He didn’t live in Dublin for most of his life, and the bulk of his literature is his ode to his homeland. In “Ulysses” in particular, he paints Dubliners is a less-then-flattering light. And while locals are aware of the book (even if they haven’t read it), their relationship with him is complicated. As a result, the colloquial name for the statue is “The Prick with the Stick.”
Reflection of Liz y Mig at the Jameson Distillery
Aside from this highlight, there was plenty of drink. I know it comes as no surprise to anyone reading this, but the Irish LOVE to drink. We hit the Jameson distillery, the Guinness brewery and all manner of pubs. Of course we hit Trinity College and the Book of Kells, and a few U2 locales, but in all honesty we saw everything we wanted to in a few hours. When asking locals what else we should see and do, the universal response was, “There’s a pub…” Followed by some mix of the following: around the corner, down the road, you have to see, that’s really cool, etc. The message was received: Welcome to Dublin, let’s get drunk! So while looking for the (non-existent) typical meal of Dublin coddle or traditional music, we proceeded to drink. And drink. And drink.
With the work portion of my trip almost wrapped up, we had a rare opportunity of one of us being abroad already and the other having the time to join them. Since I’d already been in London for 2 weeks, and Liz had been here a few years ago, we didn’t have to rush through the normal speed-touring agenda that one typically endures during a short visit to a place you’ve never been.
I’d done all of the civic and religious buildings, perused the museums I wanted to see and even insinuated myself into the London arts community by securing invitations to a few gallery openings. Liz on the other hand just wanted to eat and drink like a Briton. So that’s basically what we did once she arrived.
My hosts at the BBC provided a thorough list of places that would serve in this capacity. All of these places were in Central London, near our flat in Notting Hill or close to the office in White City. However, the best experiences we had came on our second day together. We hit Borough Market for some food and drink (see picture below), and then walked along the Thames towards Covent Garden for more drink at the Punch & Judy.
Mig showing his colors in London and sparking conversation.
The point of hitting the Punch & Judy was to see the street performers in the square below, and, in British tradition, mocking them from the safety of the balcony. There was plenty of that, but the highlight of this spot for us was the random bloke we spoke with about his love of Bon Jovi. He had to be 25, but had seen them play 12 times. And he was jealous that I’d seen them open for Ratt in 1985. It was one of those great moments you only experience when traveling – when you let your guard down and just embrace the moment because you know you’ll likely never be in that place or see that person again.
An’ after all this, won’t you give me a smile?