In 2011, me, Eric and our friends Allison and Ariel read James Joyce’s Ulysses together. I fell in love with its carefully crafted schema and felt immersed in Dublin. I had a copy of Ulysses on my iPhone and flipped through it on long train rides.
So when our round-the-world tickets from AirTreks.com got us as far as Italy in May and we were looking for the next stop, we both thought of Dublin. I found a cheap flight from Milan to Dublin on June 9 — in time for Bloomsday — and we were all set.
Bloomsday, for those not in-the-know, refers to June 16: the day the book takes place beginning in the morning and ending late in the night.
We quickly realized when deplaning in Dublin that we were not in Italy anymore. A gale-force wind and freezing rain greeted us. I quickly donned my torrential raingear and did not take it off until we left for Scotland a week later.
We headed directly for the James Joyce center to sign up for activities. The next day we braved the cold and wind on a “Footsteps of Leopold Bloom” walking tour that included Davy Byrne’s pub and Sweney’s chemist — both featured in the novel. Our guide was a Joyce scholar and motorcycle enthusiast who treated us to dramatic readings along the way.
After the tour, we discovered my favorite place in Dublin: St. John Gogarty’s pub in Temple Bar. Sure, I’d heard about Temple Bar and all the drunken silliness that goes on there. But Gogarty’s with its rousing band, delicious pints and scrumptious seafood chowder (with brown bread) is, I think, the best place on Earth. Between readings at St. Stephen’s Green and other Bloomsday-week activities we returned twice more. Take my advice and buy a CD from the band even if you think it’s silly. One of the bandmates said after a long chorus of Molly Malone, “You’ll be at home saying to your spouse, ‘Remember when we were sitting at Gogarty’s’ and you’ll put on the CD …”. He was right.
By the end of Bloomsday we had walked miles but still didn’t want it to end. Maybe just one more pint. We headed across the street from our hotel to a shady looking pub, which turned out to be a not-shady-at-all Japanese restaurant. Inside we found our tour guide and the staff of the James Joyce Center, along with Senator David Norris (who we saw reading at St. Stephen’s Green earlier), conversing with Joyce himself!
Though it turned out not to be Joyce — no matter how convincing — but a hat seller who lived across the street from the Joyce Center. The employees had seen him many times and wanted desperately to dress him at Joyce. They finally asked and he was more than willing. Now he plays Joyce every year.