Burnt Toast & Jam: First Impressions of Dublin

It is a fact that every single piece of toast I was served on my first visit to Dublin had been lightly scorched.  That said, they were all served with a tiny plastic trough of jam.  I was given something sweet to cover something that was coarse and unrefined in places.  That, in a nutshell, seems to be the measure of Dublin.

Wiser folk than I have said that the weather can be awful, the economy bad, and the food worse, but there’s still something about Dublin the draws you in.  This too is a fair composite of the Irish capital during my first visit.

Between bouts of rain in the midst of full sunshine, I found myself gloriously, blissfully energized by the lack of humidity, and temperatures in the mid-50s (Fahrenheit of course – I’ve not made THAT conversion yet).  Growing up in the American South and having gone to graduate school in Tallahassee, in my later years I find that given a choice between living with humidity and removing my own appendix with a rusty razor blade and a shot, I’d ask for whisky.  To say that Dublin’s late spring weather suits me is a gross understatement.

The city itself is a curious blend of old and new.  Glass and chrome office buildings often shadow historic structures with crumbling stone facades.  Failing stone roadways are routinely lined with the latest models from Range Rover, Peugeot, Ford, and Toyota.

A church’s stone bell tower fills the sky beyond the garden wall of our rented townhouse.  “How quaint” thought I, until, at the top of the hour, a tinny speaker spat out an electronic croak (imitating a bell) and bludgeoned the mood. The Irish are nothing if not practical.

The people of Dublin are, on the surface at least, almost too friendly and deferential.  Witness the woman whose car I hit on my first day.  Though it was clearly my fault, she apologized profusely, at one point saying, “ I hope this won’t change your mind about moving here.”  While that’s nice and all, if the Irish really are that polite and apologetic, I can see it leading to their getting kicked around in the wider world.

I’d heard too many good things about Dublin.  Being a “the glass is half poisoned” kind of guy, I fully expected Dublin to underwhelm me.  And, while I did like it very much almost from that first breath of dry 50-degree air, I was not blown away.  It had its way with me slowly.  Over a period of about four days I found myself thinking that for a big city, brisk as it is, it seems to retain a sense of civility often lost in big cities.  It blends old and new, and off gases a rough-hewn, yet cultured vibe.  This keeps things just a bit off balance, which, of course, adds to the energy of the place.

The people are, for the most part, kind to one another.  Much of driving in Dublin involves waiting pleasantly for others to squeeze past you on crowded streets, and then gingerly edging past the next driver as they wait for you.  There seems to be a healthy sense of give and take, and far less of the zero-sum attitude that is all too common in urban environments.

Dublin is expensive.  But it’s no more expensive than I expect of big European city when the American dollar is in the toilet.  It’s also on an island where everything is more expensive because most of what you buy must be flown in or brought by sea.

On the whole, Dublin’s weather, though a bit damp, seems as if it will suit me fine. The city has a lot to offer, and a lot of history to learn from.  The people have been very pleasant so far.  And, while things are expensive, having found a small friendly neighborhood to live in, I’m looking forward to enjoying life in an urban village.

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

  • Apartment hunting and tales of Irish landlords
  • Banks & Utilities: The same everywhere

Emigration Day: July 12, 2011 (39 Days)

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
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2 Responses to Burnt Toast & Jam: First Impressions of Dublin

  1. Loving your posts!

  2. joe corrigan says:

    Glenn,
    Terrific stuff, your insight into Dublin and its people is right on the money, spot on, it’s uncanny, and your writing is very entertaining.

    You seem to be pretty good at picking out decent places to live. The place you’re in now, Churchtown, is a friendly, trouble-free neighbourhood. You will like it there. I think the pub you mention may have shut down, however.

    You mentioned in a previous post that Dublin people recognised your “ethnicity”, your “otherness”, even that you were American, and you wondered how they did it. Well, it’s simpler than you think and it is physical: it’s your clothes, your grooming, your shoes, your accessories, even things like the way you walk. Sorry, you mentioned some disability but you didn’t say what it was. If you are in a wheelchair, don’t take the above the wrong way.

    Keep on with your impressions. It is really fascinating to learn so much about ourselves and how others see us.

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