It’s still too early to find ourselves a house in Dublin for our move later this summer, but one of the things we wanted to accomplish with this trip was to tour various neighborhoods that on paper sounded promising. Yesterday we spent several hours in pursuit of this endeavor.
We started by taking the DART down the coast to Dalkey, a small affluent community located on the southern coast of the county. It began as a Viking settlement and then during the Middle Ages became an important port when the Liffey was too silty for ships to come in to port. Incidentally, it was one of the places in which the plague entered Ireland in the 14th century. Noted residents include Maeve Binchy (sadly deceased in 2012), Bono, Enya, and Van Morrison. According to Wikipedia, George Bernard Shaw lived in Torca Cottage on Dalkey Hill from 1866 to 1874 and James Joyce lived in The Joyce Tower in Sandycove where he set the first chapter of his masterpiece, Ulysses. (The tower, converted to a one bedroom dwelling, is for sale for €2 million.) Another thing that had intrigued me about Dalkey was its history – the town’s main street, Castle Street, has a 10th Century church and two 14th Century Norman castles, one of which houses The Heritage Centre.
Telling people that Dalkey is one of the neighborhoods that we were interested in exploring has resulted in knowing glances and a bit of a silent assessment from the people we were talking with. On paper I knew that it is a wealthy community geared toward a very certain type of person but having lived in the thick of the urban landscape – and having dealt with the resultant crime, grunge, and drama that is associated with that – I’m not opposed to moving to a place where the biggest concern is which flowers to plant on the town green, or who should chair the upcoming literary or jazz festival. In fact, I think I’m ready to live in a town that is calm and lovely and where the only form of protest is when dear old Mrs. McCarthy tells the grocer that he needs to restock her favorite butter or else she’s going to have to shop somewhere else.
We left Pearse Station near Trinity College on a DART train and were in Dalkey about 25 minutes later after a relatively uneventful and somewhat scenic train ride down the coast, another stark difference between Ireland’s rail system and the Bay Area’s BART program. We started down a few different roads and stumbled upon an open house for a cottage priced at €695,000 that I had bookmarked on daft.ie. The pictures showed a sweet little space that was light and bright and looked like a pleasant place to call home. The reality was a bit different. Rooms were tiny and drab, awkwardly laid out, and the house could use a severe cleaning. I kept getting a whiff of something that I couldn’t quite place and when we walked into the master bathroom I found out what is was – the majority of the ceiling was taken up by a skylight that had been so poorly installed (maintained?) that it was covered in black mold. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Someone, I’m sure, is going to buy that place – the location is rather excellent – and then is going to need to dump another €150,000 to €250,000 into it to make it worth living in.
Afterwards we continued walking around and explored the main street before stopping into a place called The Magpie Inn for what was a really excellent lunch of mussels, chowder, and a hangar steak and fried duck egg sandwich. We each got a half pint and all in all it was one of the more enjoyable meals we’ve had this week. In fact, it was so good and so filling that we didn’t eat again until nearly midnight.
Leaving the main thoroughfare we walked along one of the coast roads and out to the water where we then climbed a hill and made our way back to the DART station.
Next we explored a town called Blackrock and decided that it wasn’t for us. We made our way back toward the city center and got off at the Aviva Stadium stop since we’d seen a number of houses for rent in the area before, but my terrible sense of map reading had us going down the wrong road so instead we wandered pretty aimlessly instead of getting an idea for the Ballsbridge streets and micro-neighborhoods that had previously interested us. By the time we crossed back through St. Stephen’s Green park to get to our hotel I was well over 15,000 steps for the day.
Later that night we walked over to the Christchurch area of town – passed Temple Bar – to go to The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub. Unfortunately we arrived after they had stopped serving food so after two drinks each we braved the rain to go back to Temple Bar where we sought out what is supposedly the best fish & chips in the world only to be severely disappointed. Not only were they not the world’s best, having eaten across the street a couple of days prior, I’m not even sure it is safe for that establishment to call them the best fish & chips ON THE BLOCK. We tried to go to a couple of different pubs to hear some trad music, but given that it was already after midnight most were playing rock and other styles. We finally found a bar area that was connected to the one we loved so much the other night where two younger musicians were playing to a near-empty room. We ordered our beers and sat down for an hour or so to hear an excellent fiddler and guitarist.
Arriving home around 1:45 a.m. with two swollen, blistered feet, I was astonished to see that I had walked over 24,000 steps that day, which according to my iPhone’s health app was somewhere in the twelve mile range. Let me tell you, my feet are feeling it!