Dona and Joe's European Vacation: 2020 Version – Day 15

One of the things we like most about Ireland is what its people cherish. In the great nations and empires throughout history, it’s been primarily the military heroes and statesmen who are best remembered. Occasionally a spiritual leader sneaks into the pantheon. But here, it’s the writers who share as prominent a place in public memory as anyone. There are a few patriots in the mix, of course, but as Ireland has never had what you could call a strong military presence in the world, the people have turned to those who did have an impact internationally. James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Brendan Behan, and so many others are still revered. What is perhaps more interesting, as we learned on the Dublin Rogues Tour in Merrion Square Park today, is that many of Ireland’s statesmen, patriots, and reformers were also excellent writers, who produced poetry, fiction, and philosophy.

Our Rogues Tour guide, Dave, in front of the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square.

Not that it got them anywhere, though. Many of Ireland’s greatest writers left the isle, some never to return, because the market here was too small and they simply couldn’t make a living at their craft. Add to that the Catholic Church’s influence, which caused many of their books to be banned for profanity or blasphemy.

There’s a lot more to the individual stories, so if you’re in the neighborhood, look up the tour. It’s a quick hour of history and humor, with a few surprises thrown in.

So Day 15 of our trip, and I believe I’ve finally found Dona’s limit. Until today she’s been pushing to spend every hour of every day exploring our host cities, to the tune of 15,000 to 20,000-plus steps a day (her phone has a step counter app). Today, though, she ran out of gas in the afternoon, after the tour (which was outside in a hard and cold wind), and the National Gallery of Ireland. She tried to add a shopping excursion to Grafton Street, but we got caught in an unpredicted downpour, and that was that. We are currently resting up before dinner.

Tomorrow is Galway. We’re looking forward to seeing the Irish countryside on the way, and then experiencing this little city on the west coast. That you can take a train from coast to coast in two hours is, to us, remarkable. Head out for two hours from our home in the states and you can make it to Seattle.

– Dona and Joe

2 Replies to “Dona and Joe's European Vacation: 2020 Version – Day 15”

  1. About the writers: it used to be rumored, at least, that poets and writers pay no income tax in Ireland. I don’t know if that’s still true or not. And about the train ride, it’s fantastic on the way out to Galway. You pass some really pretty scenery (at least during the summer) near Athenry (Atha na Ri), and the people all want to sit and share stories. I don’t know if I’ve told you this one before, but we passed a really beautiful field of yellow flowers on the ride I took across the island. I commented on their beauty to the man I was talking to, and he became all sombre and sad, and told me that he had reason to feel rotten when he saw them, because once he had accidentally left his father’s field gate open between them and their cows. The cows got into the field and ate them, and it sickened all of them, sort of something like the way jimson weed did in the American West. People just seem to share whatever they have to share in Ireland, good or bad, and it’s all part of the story of life. I was over there for six weeks when I was in my early twenties, and I went to school for a few weeks and spent the rest of the time travelling around. It was great! I really envy you, and wonder how it’s changed. The change you mentioned in your other post, about the decrease in churchgoers, is one of the main ones I would probably notice.

    1. Funny you should mention conversations on the train. That’s exactly what happened to us. I was reading the Irish Times, and as I folded it up I mentioned to the woman across from us that I enjoyed getting the perspective of other people/countries on the goings-on in the U.S. Well, that started us on an hour-long conversation about everything Irish. I have to wonder if she deliberately chose to sit with us, hoping to talk—the train seats now display your name if you have pre-booked, as we did, and I’m sure she could tell we weren’t locals from the surname.

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