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the poet, the pub & the pint

You can never separate this trio in Dublin. But you'll find there's more to the city than its literary charms, from the way it shuffles your ideas about the world, says Sonia Nazareth

travel Updated: Dec 07, 2009 16:31 IST

Throw a stone in Dublin and you'll hit either a scholar or a saint, they tell me as I stroll along the cobbled alleys of a city whose native sons include George Bernard Shaw, WB Yeats, James Joyce and St. Patrick. Turns out they are right. At every corner between castle and art gallery, museum and pub, there are reminders of personalities intrinsic to the character of the place. Oscar Wilde strikes a pose on Merrion Square. Patrick Kavanagh is seated on the banks of the Grand Canal. Little wonder that the critic Kenneth Tynan once famously said, "English Drama is a procession of glittering Irishmen."
But whoever suggested that only middle-aged folk would enjoy the charms of literary Dublin, must not have visited in recent years. In front of the W.B Yeats house, a gaggle of excited girls preen for a photograph. Naomi Campbell strikes a pose not too far from the Writers' Museum. Pretty young things are getting ready to head for the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl -- a guide to the pubs of Dublin and the writers they served.

The old library
In a city where the pub, the poet and the pint seem to be inseparably intertwined, and the public house was the place where many budding writers sharpened their wit, Trinity College -- the oldest university in Ireland that houses the 1,200-year old Book of Kells -- stands in sharp contrast. Especially since I've grown up in an era where writing largely means the muffled percussion of keys on my Mac, the lavishly decorated copy of medieval gospel manuscripts handwritten on vellum takes the wind out of my sails. Just as a traipse through the Long Room in the Trinity College Library, which houses over 2,00,000 of the college's oldest books lovingly gazed upon by marble busts and a 15th Century harp, leaves me breathless.
"Dubliners are so friendly, once they start talking, it is hard to get them to stop," one Dubliner informs me with a wink. He goes on to tell me that Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker -- creator of the famous Dracula -- all studied right here in Trinity College. As we walk out of the college towards the National Library of Ireland, he mutters proudly that Dublin is arguably where most of the greatest works of James Joyce was set.

Saintly city
Scholars are not the only abundant entity in Dublin. Saints too do the rounds. John Byrne -- friend, guide and walking encyclopaedia on the subject of Ireland -- provides ample evidence of this fact. Between the Guinness Storehouse and The Casino, we find here a church, there a church, everywhere a church, church. Christ Church Cathedral is one of Dublin's oldest and most recognisable landmarks. Little wonder then that in the Viking exhibition held in a neo-Gothic building adjoining the church, a man dressed in a monk's robe welcomes us in. The icing on this sacred cake however is a visit to the nearby Glendalough, renowned for its medieval monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th Century. If you are visiting with the curiosity and pounding heart of a peeping Tom, this can be a most rewarding trip. The monasteries now house an information centre that is run by contemporary saints, who mix commerce and spirituality exceedingly well.

Words of wisdom
As you listen to the guide talk you through the monastic remains, which include areas for manuscript writing et al, save the urge to fire off too much camera film for later, and listen to her speak instead. In her words is insight into the cogs and wheels that make the monastery work. For instance, she tells us, the round tower built 30 metres high served as a bell tower, a landmark for approaching visitors, and also as a place of refuge in times of attack.
However what I enjoy most about Dublin is the way it shuffles my deck of ideas about the world and rearranges my cerebral furniture. A man sits in a pub in the Temple Bar area reading plays by Samuel Beckett and George Bernard Shaw all day. A taxi driver tells me he spends most of the money he makes watching plays, sometimes Oscar Wilde at the Gate Theatre, at other times A. J. M Synge at the Abbey.
One Dubliner plans his honeymoon in a monastery, as living in monasteries that preserve an age-old ambience, appears quite popular. Another goes on a pilgrimage to the grave of W.B. Yeats. So when I enter a souvenir stall and see Irish seagull poo made of chocolate on sale, I take it in my stride. I guess James Joyce's creative spirit will always hover over Dublin.

When she isn't lecturing at St Xavier's, Sonia can be found brandishing pen and camera on her travels around the world

Getting there
Hop on to a British Airways flight to London. From here, take the connecting Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.

Staying there
If you want to be living just a short stroll away from Dublin's city centre, opt to stay at: The Burlington, Upper Leeson Street, Dublin. Telephone: +353 (1) 6185600.
But when it comes to finding accommodation that's right for you, the best thing to do would be to log on to and you'll find options that suit both your taste and pocket.