I couldn't not do this for March 17th! Here are a few of my favourite things from Eire:
Literature: No shock here. If I had to pick the singlemost thing that makes me proud of home, it would be our literary contributions: Beckett, Joyce, Wilde, Shaw, Behan, Swift, Bram Stoker, Iris Murdoch, Colm Toibin, William Trevor, Roddy Doyle, Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright... the list goes on. And to mark the day that's in it, I'm going to see Waiting for Godot tonight! (Image of Beckett by John Minihan)
Landscape: Yes, it's as green as they say, but it's also varied, rugged, wild, barren and lush. I love it all, from the Connemara bogs to the limestone karst of The Burren. Most of all I love the stretch of road that runs around the coast from Ballyvaughan to Doolin.
Banter: Dubliners in particular are ridiculously witty. The old man at the bar might spontaneously quote some random passage from Finnegan's Wake. The barman can pull out a dictionary to argue some point of etymology. And the most ordinary of people can knock your socks off with ingenious phrasing and random wit. Everybody has a favourite pub and I'm loathe to name mine (so far the tourists haven't much happened upon it and we want to keep it that way). But, I will tell you about Stag's Head, which is also a fave. Image via.
Shops: For yonks, we eyed the UK with envy for their stores. Then the Westons revamped Brown Thomas, British highstreet stores invaded Grafton St and Irish stores stepped up their game to hold on to their share of it. The booming economy has had its impact on retail, but Grafton Street and its sidestreets still hold their allure. Favourite shops include Avoca, The Pen Corner (12 College Green) BT's, Rhinestones (18 St. Andrew St.) and Cathach Books.
Georgian Dublin: I absolutely crave a sit in Merrion Square or the Iveagh Gardens some days. These fenced-in parks create little oasis in the midst of some of the best Georgian architecture. Filled with abundant flower beds and precocious robins and ducks, they're a popular destination for lunchtime office-workers and tired shoppers.
Museums & National Gallery: Our prized Caravaggio is like an old friend I like to visit. And, Jack B. Yeats' (W.B.'s brother) intense expression is a treasure to behold. Up the road, our Natural History Museum is an astounding and somewhat surreal example of the Victorian fascination with collecting and classifying natural species. But, above all, I love the small and impeccably curated Chester Beatty library. Who would expect that one of the best collections of Qu'rans, Biblical papyri and illuminated manuscripts (some items dating from 2700BC ) would be housed in a museum on the grounds of Dublin Castle? Shown here, Yeats' "For the Road", via.
Powerscourt: My favourite day-trip from Dublin is to head down to Powerscourt. The gardens are huge and varied, overlooking the Sugarloaf mountain. We lived in Co. Wicklow for a while when I was young so I have a gazillion memories tied up with this place.
Trinners: Right in the heart of Dublin, my alma mater had a huge influence on me. I loved my time there, everyday loved walking through the Front Arch into the cobblestoned Front Square, knowing the likes of Beckett and George Berkeley had worn these same stones. I don't visit the Long Room every time I go there, but it is worth seeing. Image via.