Updated: Aug 15
In 2019 I took a trip to Cambridge to visit my sister. I was eager to get thinking and writing done that just wasn't happening within my normal routine, and I knew that in all likelihood a trip to England in Autumn could help reorient me. I decided to tack on a solo trip to Dublin on the front end to ensure I wouldn't be able to avoid meditative thought, and off I went.
I find being somewhere where no one knows you enjoyable, but what I particularly enjoy is the feeling of not being accountable to anything or anyone. I've done very little solo traveling and it's a completely different experience. My away-ness was in part a coming home to my brain.
When alone in a new place, you're able to explore according only to your own inclinations, and in being alone you may also be realizing or interrogating those very inclinations.
I like to walk everywhere, even when it's raining. If I do one at all, I like museum visits to be focused and efficient because I find throngs of tourists and exhibit layouts to be possibly the most enervating things of all time. I like to spend most of my time in cafés, bookstores, and bars. I like to take photo walks.
Being alone is enjoyable for me to begin with, so it's no surprise really that traveling alone was a fascinating new layer to add to my life's catalog of aloneness entries. But there was a biotic and abiotic newness to my aloneness, and it was wild to consider how infrequent my ventures into broader kinds of aloneness were. Not only was I unknown in the city, but I was unknown by the city.
My trip consisted of visits to the kind of places that I know help remove loneliness form my aloneness and help me feel calm and creative.
I ended up going to some cool places, so in addition to being a loose narrative of my trip, I guess this is kind of my Dublin recommendations based on my few days there and without the pretense of having any real clue about the city.
Network at 39 Aungier St.
Network was my first stop after emerging from the cloud of a first sleep after arriving to another continent. It was pouring outside and I wrote and drew in my journal and read the essay "What’s Queer about Remy, Ratatouille, and French Cuisine?" by Laure Murat.
What I remember of Network is that the staff were kind and that observing the cycle in and out of drenched people was a good start to the day.
Books Upstairs at 17 D'Olier Street
I went to Books Upstairs because I needed to find a bathroom and I would always rather accomplish that in the setting of a bookstore café if given the choice. I bought a coffee and saw the sitting area and it became obvious that sitting there for a while was what was going to happen.
On a rainy day it was truly a most pleasant perch. My brain's preferred weather is by far 40-50 degrees and rainy. When I wasn't soaked or trapped in a humid corridor between outdoors and indoors, I was grateful for the persistent downpour in Dublin because it quelled any pressure for action and made me feel all the more happy in what I was doing.
P.Mac's at 30 Stephen Street Lowers
At a certain point in the day I hit a crossroads where deciding between a nap and a drink is pretty much requisite. I'm not sure how I ended up outside a bar called The Hairy Lemon, but I did, and I had just decided against going in. I thought I'd probably just go to the hotel for a nap but when I turned around I saw P.Mac's across the way. Tall red candles glowed on every table and it looked like the most comfortable place in the world.
I still feel like P.Mac's, from a layout and aesthetic perspective, is a perfect bar -- specifically the warm, boardgames/books/beer kind of bar I'd want to be in during a snowstorm.
I've followed a gluten free diet for 11 years, and I'm keenly appreciative of any place, anywhere, having anything more than a few salads and mains I can eat. Baseline offerings have vastly improved over the last decade, but certain things remain elusive and thrilling when available. Gluten free beer is one of these things.
When I enter a bar I'm usually resigned to the idea of a cider or glass of red, despite infrequently wanting either. So that was the case with P.Mac's. There were no aesthetic indicators that this was the kind of place that might be friendly to the gluten free drinker. And yet when I went to the bar I was able to choose from multiple gluten free beers.
If I go back to Dublin this bar is my only certain destination.
The Port House at 64 William St S
I went to this tapas restaurant for dinner and I had a few plates, including gluten free fried cauliflower, and read Confessions of a Bookseller.
I don't remember too much about this meal except that I at kind of early because I didn't make a reservation, and the dining room was like a cave. As I ate it filled up. Everyone was nice to me and I enjoyed the meal and the fact that I was reading a book was fine.
Reference Coffee at 49 Pleasants St
I walked here for coffee on my last morning and was able to sit with it outside. I liked the coffee shop, which was in a more residential area, but it was the walk there that I really loved.
It was on that walk that I saw the best streets and houses of the trip.
My overall impression of Dublin was that it was smaller and less distinct than I expected. Some likely contributing factors to that feeling were that I was not connected with any locals, that I was there for so short a time, and that I was no doubt arriving with preconceptions about the city.