We have been in Dublin for about two weeks, so I thought I’d record my initial impressions.

Cityscape. The city is a mix of old and new, with Dublin Castle (built in the 1200s), Trinity College (founded in 1592) and Georgian buildings (dating from the 1700s), right next to glass towers that house many of the major names in the tech world. Crossing the River Liffey, there is the fancy Ha’Penny Bridge, built in 1816, and the harp-shaped Calatrava-designed Samuel Beckett Bridge, opened in 2009. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but the juxtaposition just works here. I’m getting a huge kick out of seeing all the different styles of buildings here.

Getting Around. Dublin is not too big, so we can walk just about everywhere we want to go. We have also taken buses and light rail. The only challenge is remembering to look right when crossing the street.

Food. No one will be surprised to hear that traditional Irish food is pretty heavy, with lots of stews full of potatoes, meat, gravy and root vegetables. Beef stew with Guinness gravy and carrots over mashed potatoes is quite tasty. The fish and chips are usually very good, though many places serve them with a pea mash, which is just wrong. While most places do not offer iced tea, I have found a surprising number of restaurants that will bring me a cup of tea and plenty of ice to make my own. There are lots of cafes and pubs, duh. We have also found some authentic places for Mexican, Italian and pizza. The grocery stores are more similar to those in the U.S. than what we found in Italy and Croatia. It’s sort of comforting. Also, we saw our first Starbucks in four months when we got to Dublin.

Dairy. The dairy here is heaven-sent, and deserves its own category. The Irish must have the happiest cows on earth. I will buy Irish butter for the rest of my life, and accept no substitutes.

Beer. Not my department. Maybe try Steve’s Facebook page?

Gaelic. I like to think of myself as an amateur linguist, at least with respect to the major Western languages, but Gaelic is beyond me. While written Gaelic uses a recognizable alphabet, the words might as well be written in Sanskrit. I cannot make head or tail of it, and forget about pronouncing anything correctly. For example, the Irish prime minister is called the Taoiseach. It’s pronounced “tee-shock.” Who knew? The Irish name for Dublin is Baile Ãtha Cliath. Say what? Apparently, the city was called Dubh Linn, meaning “dark pool,” starting about 2,000 years ago. Evidently, several centuries later, some genius thought it was a good idea to go with Baile Ãtha Cliath, meaning “town of the ford of the hurdle,” instead. Good move, doofus. Once in a while, I can spot what looks like a common root in the way a word is spelled, and see how it may be distantly related to the same word in English. For example, I can see how oifig an phoist means “post office,” and maybe if I concentrate really hard I can see that gloine fíona means “glass of wine,” but under no circumstances does seeing fear céile grámhar make me think “loving husband.”  It makes you think “fear of graham crackers on the ceiling,” amirite? In any event, pronouncing even those words that ring a faint linguistic bell is out of the question. It’s just too hard.

Shopping. Grafton Street is the main shopping street in Dublin. It’s fully pedestrianized and a fun place to stroll. I had an odd experience there yesterday, though. I headed into Marks & Spencer, and loaded up a big bundle of pants and sweaters to try on. The closest fitting room area was closed, so I walked over to the lingerie section to use one of their unoccupied fitting rooms. There I encountered Ms. Guardian of the Bra & Panty Galaxy, who, despite having the job of (checks notes…) selling merchandise at this store, would not let me try on regular clothes in the lingerie section. Seriously, she made me walk downstairs with my bundle to find another fitting room. I recognize that M&S is a British store, but still. Does M&S now stand for Moody & Stuck-up? Mean & Surly? Maladjusted & Snappish? What was up with that? Literally every other person we have met in Dublin has been friendly, helpful and cheerful.

Weather. To say the weather here is changeable is a gross oversimplification. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I have lived in Oklahoma and Texas. Last week, Steve and I walked into a cafe’ while it was bright and sunny, watched it pour down rain blown sideways by the wind while we ate, then walked out to find it partly cloudy, calm and inexplicably dry. Some days it just alternates, seemingly randomly, between sunshine and rain, in an endless loop. There are a lot of sun showers, too. The temperatures are generally in the 60s, which we really enjoy.

Crowds. It’s bustling here. There are tons of folks out on the streets and it’s hard to get a restaurant booking. It’s jarring after two and a half years of the pandemic, but in a very good and welcome way. It’s wonderful to see this beautiful city come to life.