On October 5th I made my zillionth trip to Dublin, that city of vast literary and cultural genius that always has me holding my breath and wondering just what will happen this time. Magic always happens there – sometimes in obvious ways but mostly in quiet ways. Ways that are mostly inside me.
Something about Dublin makes me want to be a better writer. Maybe it is walking the streets where once many literary giants walked; Beckett, Behan, Joyce, Kavanagh, Wilde (I’m just plucking a mere few feathers from a magnificent plume). I’m always struck by the knowledge that they were once just regular people, like me – and much more. Fantastic, romantic or realist visionaries who dared to hope that what stirred them would one day stir the world. Ordinary dreamers who became extraordinary guides to the internal worlds and ideas that previously only they knew.
I could go on and on about them, but that is for another time and I will write more soon about the literary side of my trip.
This post is about the reason I went to Dublin this time. It was to celebrate the 60th birthday of my good friend, Sue Fell, along with our friends Dianne and Dan from Arizona, who joined us for the week.
Sue and I have known each other for over twenty years now and have spent many fun and adventurous times in each other’s company. We met through our mutual love of U2, and that shared passion has seen us experience some wonderful times at concerts in several countries over the years.
As a treat for Sue’s special night (her birthday was in September but we designated October 9th as the big day in Dublin), we booked the penthouse suite at The Clarence Hotel, which is famously co-owned by Bono and The Edge of U2. Now, we are not millionaires by any means, and not even close to it, but this suite is a very special place, and this was the third time we had stayed there. We save very carefully for it, and between four people it is not so bad!
For the rest of the week (seven nights in the penthouse would make our wallets explode!) we booked a really lovely duplex apartment in Smithfield, on the north side of the city. From our 6th floor living room window we could look out to the Jameson Distillery opposite (no longer operating) and the new Generator Hostel, which makes staying in the city cheap and comfortable for youngsters looking for a good time! The Luas (Dublin Tram) runs from just across the street so the location could not be more convenient.
Our week was our usual holiday mixture of culture, laziness (lots of that) and good food and wine (lots more of that!). We saw a play at Bewleys Lunchtime Theatre on Grafton Street and one at The Peacock on Abbey Street (more about both of them in another post). We ate at fantastic restaurants (Dada on William Street South, The Green Hen on Exchequer Street, Town on Kildare Street and of course Cleaver East, which used to be The Tea Room, in The Clarence Hotel).
On the Sunday we ventured on the DART to Killiney to blow away the cobwebs. In the wide arms of the bay we walked, the pebbles and shells crunching beneath our feet, and watched the pale, cloud-filtered light from the sun dance on the surface of the water.
With an appetite built, we took the DART one station back to Dalkey and had lunch at Finnegans, where the ghost of writer Maeve Binchy (Dalkey’s famous daughter) can still be felt – if you really want to feel it. This was her regular drinking place – she even used to bring her own chair!
On one of our days there, Sue and I had what we call our “lazy day” – which is code for slow and meandering boozy day. This tradition was started in Nice exactly one year previously, when we spent the day in glorious sunshine, sampling a jug or three of local wine. In the much cooler Dublin climate we kept out seating arrangements indoors for the most part, but did venture outside at one of the venues in our 4-pub crawl.
As our first weekend moved towards mid-week, our thoughts drifted to the penthouse. This was something we had arranged a long time ago. With the memory of our previous two stays there still in our minds, it had a lot to live up to. Thanks to Mario, the Revenue Manager at the hotel, it certainly did! He always looks after us so well whenever we stay at The Clarence, and this time was no exception. From the arrangements for afternoon tea on the day we arrived (there was a long table set out in The Study to accommodate us four and three of our friends who had come to help celebrate Sue’s birthday) to a couple of bottles of bubbly and a plate of chocolates for Sue in the suite, everything was perfect.
Staying somewhere as special as the penthouse suite at The Clarence means you have to make the most of every moment. Who wants to sleep when you are in such a beautiful place? The décor is subtle and tasteful, with beautiful accent colours like reds and teals to compliment the pale walls and oceans of oak. Sue and I stayed up the latest, going outside at intervals to catch the changing light of a Dublin day. When Sue went to bed, I spent a scant few hours on the couch in the Gallery upstairs, with the light from the dozens of tealights we had placed around the room flickering on the walls and casting gentle shadows upon me that stroked me to sleep.
I awoke briefly to catch the fire of the sunrise as it set Dublin ablaze. I went out onto the balcony feeling as sleepy as the city looked, marvelling again at the river and its bridges, the buildings old and new stretching into the distance and – for the moment at least – the tranquil beauty of city waking up.
We had done what we came here to do. We had marked another decade in Sue’s life. She’s been coming to Dublin for almost three of them and I am sure she will continue to do so.
It is always my pleasure to share it with her.