A week ago needing to switch off, packed my bag and got on a plane to Dublin. Like many of us the tendency is to go further afield and forget wonderful places just on our door step but I was curious to see a bit of Ireland. Having a few friends there it was a great opportunity. Unfortunately an old Irish friend from my days in Cascais that I haven’t seen for ages was at that same time on holiday in Portugal (talk about strange coincidences or maybe she just knew I was coming over, only joking).
I was taken with Dublin instantly, loved the architecture but most of all I really fell in love with the doors of Dublin. I was totally unaware of their fame and seeing them I realised how stunning they are. Most of us know first impressions count. In Dublin they really got it just right; bright colours and imposing solid doors that appear wider than in the rest of Europe.
I was intrigued. During the early 18th century, Dubliners began to build elegant new homes beyond the walls of the original medieval town. These Georgian style townhouses had extremely strict rules prescribed to which they had to adhere; they were all, to the smallest detail, uniformly built so in order to set themselves apart, the residents of Georgian Dublin started painting their front doors whatever colour they fancied. For individuality they added ornate door-knockers, intricate designs, and elegant fanlights above the door plus wrought iron boot scrapers near the entrance.
Our very cheerful guide told us the story of Dublin women being tired of their husbands going in the wrong doors when they were drunk, and ending up, sleeping with the wrong woman so they painted the doors different colours to help them distinguish between them (could it be they just fancied a bit of variety and used that as an excuse?). I do prefer the part where he said some of the women had a great sense of humour and would change the colour while the husband was out to confuse him.
It seems I wasn’t the only one falling for these doors and around St. Patrick’s Day in 1970 a poster appeared in the window of the Irish Tourism offices in New York City which was to become one of Ireland’s most iconic modern images. “The Doors of Dublin” was the brainchild of Bob Fearon, who was struck by the beauty and symmetry of the Georgian doorways.
I Istayed in Dún Laoghaire, 10 minutes from Dublin on the DART, which is a lovely relaxing place so we had the best of both worlds and managed to find great restaurants and boutiques (a bit of retail therapy never hurts). There are so many places to go that it becomes difficult to say which is the best although we did enjoy the Irish Film Institute and managed to see In Your Hands from Lola Doillon. This place is cinema and great pub/food in a lovely old restored warehouse.
If you have time, do take the short drive (on empty motorways) to New Ross, in the county of Wexford and visit the Dunbrody - Ireland's Historic Emigrant Ship; it is by far the best ship guided tour. I found it innovative, informative and fun due to the way important historic facts together with the stories of the people that had to endure those difficult times were shared with us.
And lest you are wondering ‘hubby’ (whose birthday it was) was equally effusive about Ireland especially about Cavistans in Dun Laoghaire the best provisions store we have seen since Berlin.