Friday, June 6, 2008

And this...

It's taken me an entire week, but I have finally, on my last full day here, figured out how to do in Dublin what I have been doing in Venice for years - walk from A to B without the crowds!

Of course, the answer is to take all the small and charming and interesting little byways and side streets, this avoiding the throng (which on other days in other moods can be perfect fun) and discovering local treasures.

I think for many Dubliners, Life must not be easy. This is an expensive city. The streets clogged with some of the worst traffic I've ever seen were not meant for these cars. Fortunately, few are SUVs; most are tiny and relatively efficient. But the price of gasoline is even higher than in Canada.

On the other hand, if one can afford it - and you have to wonder how anybody outside of the illegal drug trade does - there are sections of the city that are so beautiful and livable. On the southeast side, the Grand Canal is tiny and willow-lined and there are rows of Georgian and Victorian houses and flats facing or running off the water. A lady sitting on a bench tells me that a million Euros might get you something here.

An elderly man explains the National Health Plan to me. It is a combination of the Canadian and British, I suppose. You can be automatically part of the government system, but, if you have the money, you can top that up by buying further coverage that will get you into a specialist without a very long wait. Either way, he assures me, the service once accessed is first-rate and everybody has a family doctor. Nevertheless, the hospitals can be overcrowded, the local authorities are sharply criticized for spending national money unwisely (sound familiar) and the topic of health care is a fixture of public debate - which, in itself, is healthy.

I stopped in my travels this afternoon at the famous and revered Shelbourne Hotel, thinking I might rest with the afternoon tea and finish a book I've been enjoying. Afternoon tea, much like the kind of thing we'd find at the Empress, is a flat 29 Euros. I like my tea steeped, but not that much. Soon, I was basking in the lovely garden cafe of Dublin castle.
The photo is of The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. It occupies one whole city block and is to me one of the most beautiful buildings Ive ever seen.

Buon viaggio a tutti!

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