You will never be as intimate with a city as with one that you spend time walking in. As I’ve strolled through the streets of Dublin over the past three months, I’ve been astonished by how much I’ve learned just by spending some foot time in the open. Now, as I’m spending my last few days walking the streets, I realize that I have become just as familiar with Dublin as my own hometown, if not more.
While there are certain things I’m looking forward to about being back an America (the use of a dryer, not dealing with the Dublin buses), I know I will miss being able to wander the streets. One of my favorite pastimes is walking up and down Grafton Street, the main shopping area in Dublin, listening to the buskers. This entire street is pedestrianized so that shoppers can easily walk without fear of being run over, and it’s a lovely place to listen to music and watch street performers. The acts include everything from guys with guitars and traditional Irish harp players to a man clicking beats with soup spoons and an artist sculpting a dog out of sand.
Dublin also has some of the best public parks in the world. Saint Stephen’s Green is probably the most famous with its beautiful pond and statues of famous Irish people. However, Phoenix Park is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. It’s big enough to hold the Dublin Zoo, the Irish president’s home, and the house of the American ambassador to Ireland in addition to huge expanses of park space. If I run through the park around dusk, I can usually catch a glimpse of the park’s population of deer.
What I love most about walking the streets is interacting with the people. More than once, I’ve had long talks with the person waiting at the bus stop with me. People I’m waiting in line with will comment on the weather. Even just walking down the street, I’ve met people who have no problem striking up a conversation. The first week I was here, one of my professors told me that if an Irish person starts talking about the weather, it means they want to have a chat and couldn’t think of anything better to say.
As I spend my last few days in Ireland walking Dublin’s streets, I continue to be surprised by how familiar I’ve become with the city. Now, the strutting magpies, street vendors selling flowers, and signs of bridges warning of “troll below” have become a normal part of my daily walk. When I come back to America, I’ll miss the traveling and the fun, but most of all, I’ll miss having a new place that I can call home.