These are some observations that stick in my mind about Dublin. They don’t make a whole.
Driving standards here can be very poor. Every week, newspapers report more slaughter of the innocents. The Irish government is now doing something about this, requiring drivers to pass something called a driving test.
The average Dublin driver is very polite to the average pedestrian, stopping gallantly when someone walks out into a road, whether they’re entitled to or not. The trouble is more than a few Dublin drivers are oblivious.
It does not help that traffic lights are advisory, judging by the driving standards. Cyclists seem to see a red light as an opportunity to get across the junction before the cars, never mind people on foot. I’ve been about to cross a green pedestrian light only to have a bus shoot through.
Part of the reason for all of this is that the people who put up the lights do a bad job. That bus zooming through the cross-now pedestrian lights would have gone through a green light itself (such as at the lights by St. Patrick’s cathedral). It’s common to see road traffic lights hidden behind direction signs, or trees (such as the lights by Christchurch Cathedral).
So, if you’re walking around the city, do not take green lights as an instruction, see them as a suggestion. Keep your eyes open, especially for aggressive cyclists.
The pubs; well, this is a first order generalisation, and there are numerous exceptions, but basically Belgian bars are conversations, English pubs are homes, and Irish pubs are parties. Unlike the UK, and especially unlike Belgium, it is very difficult to find a pub here that serves good beer. Almost all Irish pubs restrict themselves to chemical concoctions that leave dreadful hangovers, partially because the locals seem quite proud to get them. If you like good beer, and you’re in Dublin, I suggest you find a Porterhouse. There’s one in Temple Bar, one on Nassau St. by Trinity College, and others. They stock a decent range of international beers, including a good hand pump bitter.
Talking about the pubs, the Irish seem rather fond of their drunks, regarding them affectionately as ‘characters’. As a Brit, I’ve been bought up to see them as idiots who can’t control themselves, who damage the community. Here, they add colour to it.
The Irish are slowly upgrading their railway system to bring it up to the very latest 1970s standards. A train might soon get to its destination before the equivalent bus (e.g. Dublin to Cork). Oh, how I miss the TGV! In fact, the lack of decent long distance transport is one reason why I want to move on. Sitting in an aircraft feels like unjust punishment compared to sitting in a TGV. Still, perhaps the talk of a new network of high speed railways in the UK, and the estimated cost of a bridge from Galloway to Belfast at £3.5bn, might just mean the TGV comes here before the next century.