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Temple Bar - Dublin’s tourist trap not a ‘cultural mecca’

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Temple Bar Square
Waking up last Saturday morning to a small bit of rare sunshine in Dublin and a desire to seek some more cultural inspiration in the city, I was trying to decide between Temple Bar (‘Dublin’s cultural quarter’) or a trip to Dublin Castle. Catelyn and Maggie, my other two roomies, were still recovering from their night out before, and in need of clearing their heads with some fresh air and hangover food, so we all agreed on heading down to Temple Bar for a stroll and a bite to eat.

It was mid-afternoon by the time the girls actually get themselves showered and made-up and the clouds were forming over quickly, so I was not a happy camper to start with! I had read that there was a food market, a National Photographic Archive with an exhibition area, a National Irish Film Institute and a Project Arts Center and I was dying to hit the cobble stone streets of Temple Bar to see them all.

We started on Fleet Street, right off Westmoreland Street, so we wouldn’t miss a thing. Now, from what I had read about all of the events and activities in Temple Bar, I imagined an area of Dublin teeming with the best cultural and artistic talents this city has to offer - a place where I could envisage the next Samuel Beckett or Patrick Kavanagh noting the goings-on of real Dubliners, their sayings and daily lives. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that this "cultural mecca" is now home to drunken bachelor and bachelorette parties from all over Europe, and all involved seem intent on leaving their mark here – the smell of urine and vomit on the streets is enough to make you puke!

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Okay, it’s mildly comical to see grown men dress up in nuns’ outfits and Borat costumes, but again, this was 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and they were only getting started on their good time! Maggie stopped nearly every one of them to get her picture taken with them, which after the fourth one got a little tiresome, but because she was laughing hysterically with all of those foreigners, it would have been like tearing a kid away from a candy store.

Finally we found the book market on Temple Bar Square and the divine aroma of freshly cooked food from the market around the corner was hitting me (it’s only a small food market these days as they are renovating Meeting House Square where it normally takes place). I was really getting into this! The only thing that ruined it for me was the sound of Garth Brooks infamous song ‘Friends in low places’ streaming out from the guy singing in The Quays Bar – I don’t really hate Garth Brooks, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to hear while I was leafing through some second-hand books of old Irish writers.

Standing on the street trying to figure out where we were going to grab a late lunch, the rain started to pour down, heavily! Practically on the door of the Temple Bar Pub itself, we headed in to a sea of tourists who were clinking their glasses with one another and singing along (without really knowing any of the words) to the ‘live traditional’ music. I think I might be starting to get used to you Dubliners and your unannounced comments to random strangers, because I didn’t even bat an eyelid when one Irish guy holding four pints in his hand while squeezing his way through the crowds, randomly exclaimed ‘Ah Ireland, it’d be a great country if they could only put a roof over it!’. Then he just laughed to himself and walked off.

When the sun made its first appearance after the shower, I knew I wanted to head back out to the streets and keep walking around. Leaving the two girls flirting with three Danish guys they had just met (and a little annoyed at a comment Catelyn made about my sweater), I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Walking straight past the man dressed in the leprechaun suit with eight girls dressed as Playboy bunnies hanging off him, I found a few little treasures that made my trip worthwhile. Finally I had stumbled on to the National Photographic Archive and let me tell you what a gem this was to come across. Making my way through all of the wonderful historic photos and images of family life from generations ago around Ireland, I was transported to a time and place so different than what I had been in only twenty minutes previously.

All was forgiven with my dear old Dublin, as I left and headed straight to the Irish Film Institute and treated myself to a coffee in their small café with a book of upcoming Irish cinema events.
Okay, so maybe you have to search for the culture and art that’s here in Temple Bar, but when you find it, it is golden and worth every drunken, belligerent tourist you have to maneuver your way around to get to.

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