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The Marker Hotel, Dublin

The spectacular geometric design at the new Marker Hotel in Dublin. Photo by David Lansing.

The circle is complete. We’re back in Dublin where we began. Only now the sun is out. Thank god. Has there ever been a wetter, colder summer in Ireland? All the papers talk about how far behind the farmers are. “The strawberry crop is at least three weeks behind.” I shouldn’t think there will be any Irish tomatoes this year. Not unless you grow them in a hot house. Just not enough season left.

And after all the ancient castles and country homes we’ve stayed in on this trip, we end up in Dublin in one of the newest, sleekest, chic hotels I’ve ever stayed in: The Dublin Marker in Grand Canal Square which just opened a few months ago. Bonus feature: Our bedroom window looks across the street at the penthouse of U2s The Edge. Someone’s staying there at the moment, but it definitely doesn’t look like The Edge. Not unless The Edge has gained a hundred pounds, died his hair blonde, and is now a woman.

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The concierge at The Fitzwilliam

Tony, the concierge at The Fitzwilliam in Dublin. Photo by David Lansing.


When we arrived in Dublin arrangements had been made for a driver to pick us up at the airport. My instructions said we were to “Meet driver at Yellow Structure outside baggage claim.” The Yellow Structure being a very tall and obvious piece of abstract art. So we collected our bags, found the Yellow Structure, and waited. But our driver never showed.


This has been bothering me ever since so this morning when I came down to breakfast and saw Tony, the concierge at The Fitzwilliam, I asked him if he’d ring up the company that was supposed to collect us and find out what happened. Tony was happy to oblige.


I stood on the opposite side of Tony’s desk in the lobby as he made the phone call. This is how it went:


Tony: “This is Tony at The Fitzwilliam and we have a guest staying here, a Mr. Lansing, who was supposed to get picked up by someone from your service at the airport. He says the fella never showed.”


Long pause. Tony rolls his eyes a bit and then covers the phone with his hand.


Tony says to me, “They say the driver was there and waited for 45 minutes.”


Me: “That’s impossible. Our flight was right on time and we got our bags and stood at the Yellow Structure for 20 minutes.”


Tony relays this information to the person on the line. He listens for a few minutes and then covers the phone with his hand again. “The idgit says you never showed up. Should I tell ‘im whatfor?”


Before I can say anything, Tony is back on the phone with the idgit explaining that Mr. Lansing was most assuredly at the Yellow Structure as instructed waiting for almost an hour for a driver who, no doubt, lost track of time while enjoying a second or third Guinness at the pub and it’s a shame, really a shame, that they even license businesses such as theirs because don’t they know it gives a black eye to all of Dublin and surely he, Tony, will never recommend them to any guest staying at The Fitzwilliam. And then he hangs up.


His face red, his brow sweating, Tony smiles at me and says, “Is there anythin’ else I can do for you, Mr. Lansing?”

I think Tony and I are going to be great friends during our stay here.

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A visit with James Joyce

James Joyce in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin

Hanging out with James Joyce in Dublin.


What I’d like to do, if you want to know the truth, is sleep away the afternoon on my purple bed in The Fitzwilliam Hotel but I know that would only make my jet-lag worse. Better to go for a walk, get a little fresh Dublin air. And I know just where to go. First to visit James Joyce in St. Stephen’s Green and then on to Davy Byrne’s pub for a beer.


Tony, the concierge at the Fitzwilliam, intercepts me before I can make it out the door. “You’d best be takin’ this wid ya,” he says, handing me an umbrella. I protest that the sky is blue.


“Sure it is,” he says. “But this is Dublin. The weather will change in an hour.” So I take the umbrella, though I’m sure I won’t need it.


The bronze bust of Joyce is no more than a block away. I approach the old man with a smile, happy to see him again. “How are you then?” I ask.


It seems to me that Dublin could do better by Joyce than the modest little bust that goes mostly unnoticed by strollers in Stephen’s Green. You can’t help but feel Joyce is getting a little shortchanged here, particularly when you admire the brilliant slumping figure of Oscar Wilde not far away. But maybe Joyce would prefer it this way. At least they don’t call him the Fag on the Crag.

From here it’s just a few block up Grafton Street to Davy Byrne’s where Leopold Bloom dropped in for a gorgonzola and mustard sandwich in Ulysses. The place has changed, obviously. They’re no longer serving the gorgonzola sandwich and the long wooden bar is long gone. I order a smoked salmon sandwich and a Smithwick’s. The beer is thick and creamy and goes well with the smoked salmon and dark crusty bread. The perfect start to a stay in Dublin.

Davy Byrne's, Dublin

The bar at Davy Byrne’s in Dublin.

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View of St. Stephen's from The Fitzwilliam Hotel, Dublin

The view from my room at The Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin. Photo by David Lansing.


A full day of travel yesterday and then I’m in Dublin, a chatty taxi driver explaining to me why he has to take the long way around St. Stephen’s Green to get me to my hotel, The Fitzwilliam.

“They make us go this way,” he says as we pass Trinity College and then the bronze replica of Molly Malone—the tart with the cart, as Dubliners call her.

I hum the song to myself: In Dublin’s Fair City/Where the girls are so pretty/I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone/As she wheel’d her wheel barrow/Through streets broad and narrow/Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!

 And then we are here, at the Fitzwilliam, a doorman in gray top coat and hat rushing out to open the taxi door. And it hits me with sadness and remembrance, this Dublin smell: wet, dusty, green, with a tinge of smoke painted over everything.

Minutes later I’m in my room, which is too hot and closed up. I push open the window, stick a hand out just as it starts raining, look out over the fullness of Stephen’s Green, the boiling black clouds, Dubliners in the street hustling about, dashing to get out of the late May downpour.

I’m home again in Ireland.

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A last supper in Dublin

Last evening in Dublin. Mr. Lynch and I have a drink at the hotel and then walk down to a restaurant I’d noticed last night along St. Andrew’s Street called Salamanca. A tapas joint. You’d think for my last evening in Ireland I’d want lamb’s liver with bacon or a nice lamb stew but already I’m thinking of moving on and so it’s time for something different. Something spicy and exotic.

I joke around with our waitress as we order a jug of their house sangria but she’s either in a crabby mood this evening or just way too busy with other tables to be enjoying my humor. Maybe both. Don’t really blame her although it is a bit more fun when you can joke around with the wait staff. Oh well.

Mr. Lynch must be feeling famished. He orders a bowl of olives, calamari fried in chili batter, chorizo sautéed in red wine with peppers, and a chicken dish. Rather than a bunch of small plates, I’m thinking something a little heartier like paella. So I order the gambas al pil. But when it comes, it’s not paella at all. Just prawns sautéed in olive oil with garlic and chili. Not at all what I ordered. Our waitress comes over and I tell her she’s brought me the wrong dish. I ordered the shrimp paella, I tell her. Her face gets red. She puts one hand on her hip and with the other points at the menu she’s holding. You said you were thinking of the paella but then you ordered the gambas al pil, she says, a bit of anger in her voice. I asked you twice if that’s what you wanted and you said you did. It’s not a shrimp paella. We don’t do a shrimp paella. The gambas al pil is just listed below the paellas because those are the house specialties.

What can I say? She’s right, I’m sure. And not the sort of waitress who feels obligated to give the customer what he wants. Even if he inadvertently ordered incorrectly. Well, never mind. Mr. Lynch has enough food for the two of us.

Afterwards, not wanting to go back to the hotel, we wander around the neighborhood looking for a good bar. Every place seems too crowded or too seedy or just not what we’re looking for. Let’s go back to that bar we were at when we first came to Dublin, says Mr. Lynch. Do you even know where it is? I say. He doesn’t even answer. Just starts marching up the street. Gawd it’s lovely out. Still a hint of light in the sky. A bit of a chill. Up Grafton which is just chock-a-block with strollers. Down a little side street and there it is. Some anonymous little pub. A clean, well-lighted place. We order a couple of Power’s, neat, and stand outside the bar watching the people laughing and telling stories and just generally having a good time. Something the Irish know how to do well. One more round of whiskey; the sky darkens, the night gets a little colder, and, since neither of us bothered with a jacket, we agree it’s time to head back. The evening is over. As is our stay in Ireland.

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