Tag Archives: James Joyce


James Joyce ponders the international food options in Dublin. ©Marcie Miller

James Joyce ponders the international food options in Dublin. ©Marcie Miller

What? I thought she was in Ireland! I am. “Araby” is the name of a James Joyce short story from “The Dubliners.” It’s about a boy who is in love with an older girl and wants to impress her by buying her something exotic from the “bazaar” being held in his village. He builds up the suspense all day—waiting for his father to get home to give him money, imagining how wonderful the bazaar will be, like going to a foreign country, and finding the perfect gift to make the unsuspecting girl fall in love with him.

Unfortunately his father gets home so late that by the time the boy gets to the bazaar it’s closing up. The lights are turned up and the merchants are packing to go home. He sees it’s not an exotic bazaar at all, but just the plain old community hall. The veil falls from his eyes and he goes home, sadder but wiser.

I’m not planning on going home soon, but I thought of the story this morning as I sat in a cafe, stewing about being overcharged for a skimpy breakfast and looking out at the statue of Jame Joyce, framed by a sign for a Thai noodle restaurant. How many tourists, I wondered, find that Ireland is not Araby either?

It wasn’t a shock to me, having been here before, but Dublin is a big, dirty city, far from the shining image portrayed in glossy tourist brochures. The streets are crowded with more people speaking Polish or Chinese than English, panhandlers are more prevalent than street performers, and litter blows down the sidewalks like snow. Parks are closed “for maintenance” and buildings on the main streets are shuttered and decaying.

Friday I walked for what seemed like miles in the hot sun to reach the James Joyce Museum in the Martello Tower in Sandycove, featured in the opening of Ulysses. The exhibit was tiny and musty, with the ceiling sagging badly from the dampness. The tower was anticlimactic, with views over the tiny beach crowded with sunbathers.

No, it’s not all rainbows and leprechauns on the Emerald Isle.

But it is still a country with an amazing history of producing artists, writers and musicians unrivalled anywhere. Sunday afternoon I attended a free (free!) concert at the nearby Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (a mouthful, I know) with a trio called Triocca, with viola, flute and a beautiful concert harp.

The event was special because they were debuting a composition by a Dublin composer, John Buckley, who was in attendance. His composition was called “To Lands Beyond Time,” and was his musical interpretation of six Japanese haiku. Before each musical haiku a lovely Japanese woman stood up and recited the Japanese version, followed by one of the performers reciting it in English, with of course a soft Irish accent.

The senior gentleman who sat beside me, Charlie, said he was taking a musical appreciation class from Buckley at the local college. He clued me that the composer would be present, and said I would recognize him because he “looked like a composer.” The caterpillar eyebrows and sideburns were the giveaway.

Buckley said he liked to think of haiku as what Joyce called “epiphanies”—little moments in time. I thought that was a graceful way to tie the two cultures together. So, with all due respect to Joyce and Buckley, I composed this haiku to Dublin:

Red brick buildings stand erect

Black-shawled beggar woman

Dances in the sun



It Doesn’t Always Rain in Ireland

Case in point, today, my first day, the temp was topping 17 C, which is, um…62.6 F. OK, that doesn’t  sound hot, but it really is. It was a lovely, sunny day for exploring Dublin on foot.

Flower vendors on Grafton Street enjoyed a sunny June day in Dublin. ©Marcie Miller

Flower vendors on Grafton Street enjoyed a sunny June day in Dublin. ©Marcie Miller

As my funds are extremely, extremely, extremely limited on this trip, I’ve decided to make a game of it called “Ireland on the Cheap” (Look for the book on Amazon soon).  I’m starting with Dublin, which is known for being a pricey city. I’ve been compiling a list of things you can do in the city that are free or low cost. Some of those things today included sitting on a bench in Saint Stephen’s Green, watching the gardeners put in the first flowers of spring and the ducks paddling along on one of the many ponds; strolling through the grounds of Trinity College, trying to find the exit, then ending up down in the docklands at the Famine Ship and Memorial—sobering and beautiful; sitting in Bewley’s Oriental Café on Grafton Street, lingering over a pot of tea and reading the real estate ads (or adverts as they say here) while admiring the stained glass; walking some more, and sitting in the lobby of the fancy Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street. That last one, I figure that as long as I look like a tourist no hotel staff is going to harass me for sitting in their lobby, “waiting for my husband.” Hey I could be…

The Famine Memorial sculptures were presented to the City of Dublin in 1997 by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie. ©Marcie Miller

The Famine Memorial sculptures were presented to the City of Dublin in 1997 by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie. ©Marcie Miller

Tomorrow I think I’ll take the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) for a ride along the coast south of Dublin to see the James Joyce Museum at the Martello tower featured in the opening of Ulysses.  It’s an inexpensive commuter run, and the views over Dublin Bay are stunning. There are also numerous beaches to stroll and hills to walk up with panoramic views over Dublin. Although, I probably won’t feel up to that yet.

Food will be a large part of my budget, as it’s always more expensive to eat out every meal. Today I ate lunch at Subway, and before you say yuck, the tandoori chicken on flatbread with mint raita sauce was pretty darn good. And cheap at €5 including soft drink. Now to find the cheapest Guinness in Dublin…

My Dublin home—Mount Eccles Hostel. It's a big old beast of a building. ©Marcie Miller

My Dublin home—Mount Eccles Hostel. It’s a big old beast of a building. ©Marcie Miller

One reason I chose to stay in Dublin for seven nights is that I found a hostel for €20 a night (about $26),  on a quiet street lined with red-brick Georgian houses. Turns out it’s also one block from the Dublin Writers Museum and the same block as the James Joyce Center. And Bloomsday Week starts on Monday. Bloomsday, June 16, marks the day that Joyce’s classic novel Ulysses takes place, as the protagonist Leopold Bloom wanders Dublin with a non-stop stream-of-consciousness narrative. I’ll miss the actual day though, as I’ll be on the west coast at an Irish folk music festival in Doolin.

The hostel is pretty bare bones, and my six-bed all-girl dorm room is on the second floor (that’s the third floor for Americans), so I’ll be getting some much-needed exercise. I already made four trips just getting my laptop set up in the common room where there’s wifi. I would have posted this sooner but I forgot my camera patch cord and couldn’t face another climb. So far there are only two other bunkmates, both young Asian girls who are staying for a month. As long as a party group doesn’t move in this weekend I’ll be good.

One trick I’ve learned for creating some private space in a hostel situation (haha) is to bring a sarong to hang as a curtain from the top bunk (yes, bunks). It’s lightweight, colorful and clearly marks your territory. I’m actually using a kanga that I got in Tanzania in 1995. See, Mom was right: never throw  anything away.