BloomsDay in Dublin, 2019
On June 16, 2019 and with the generous support of Gilman School, I had the pleasure of celebrating Bloomsday in Dublin. A bucket-list item for me, I will remember this experience with nerdy joy and gratitude for the rest of my life. Our day featured a sampling of the literary programs offered across the city, balance with reveling in the day’s pervasive festive mood. My wife, who has listened to me blather on about Ulysses for the past 15 years but has not read the novel herself, joined me for this adventure. We enjoyed a perfect day together.
We arrived bright and early at the Martello Tower in Sandycove where we joined about 55 other true believers in hearing the “Telemachus” episode read in its entirety on the rooftop at 8:00. Once the reading concluded, we walked from the Tower to the site of Mr. Deasy’s School in Dalkey. The school no longer exists, but I was curious about how long it would take for Stephen to get there. It took us 21 minutes. Assuming Stephen sets out right at the end of “Telemachus” (8:45), and assuming he is supposed to be at the school at 9:00, he’d be a few minutes late to work. I suspected this and was glad to confirm it. Strava summaries of this walk and a few others from the day are included at the bottom of this page.
We then took the DART train from Dalkey to Pearse Station (formerly Westland Row Station) to trace Bloom’s path in the “Lotus-Eaters” episode. Beginning at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay on the south bank of the Liffey, we followed Bloom’s surreptitious, question-mark-shaped walk and visited the good people at Sweny’s for a bar of lemon soap. Across the street, Kennedy’s pub was hosting a festive Bloomsday breakfast.
At noon, we made our way north to the James Joyce Centre on North Saint George’s Street to take a walking tour, ably led by a young man named Collin who works at the Centre and teaches at Trinity. He took us to the steps of Belvedere College (where Joyce/Stephen attended school after his father could no longer afford the tuition at Clongowes Wood College), then to St. George’s Church (in Bloom’s neighborhood), followed by Bloom’s home in Eccles Street, then around the corner to where Dluglacz’s butcher shop would have been. The tour then led back south, stopping at a later home of Oliver St. John Gogarty (Buck Mulligan) and at the statue of Joyce on N. Earl Street. At each of these stops, Collin gave a brief reading and offered insightful commentary.
Right on time at 1:00, we followed Bloom’s “Lestrygonians” path down O’Connell Street, across O’Connell Bridge, through the heart of the city into Grafton Street, and left onto Duke Street where we entered Davy Byrne’s Pub for a light lunch of a gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of burgundy (the “Bloomsday Special”). Here we saw more folks dressed up in period attire and generally enjoying the day.
After lunch, we followed Bloom to the National Museum to look for the goddess statue (not on display), then popped over to the Library to think about Hamlet and Stephen for a minute while taking a peak at the Yeats exhibit currently on show. Having successfully navigated “Scylla and Charybdis,” we made like “Wandering Rocks” drifting through the city, eventually reaching Ormond Quay. The hotel bar featured in “Sirens” is currently closed for renovation, but we stopped at the nearby Winding Stair Restaurant and Bookshop overlooking the river and enjoyed a delicious early dinner. Afterwards, we walked to Wolftone Square, where the James Joyce Centre was hosting an afternoon event of readings and musical performances. We caught the last hour of these readings, hearing selections from “Nausicaa,” “Eumeaus,” “Ithaca,” and, of course, the final flourish of “Penelope,” which I’ll admit brought a tear to my eye.
On that emotional high, and feeling that we had experienced the full arc of the novel from its bright morning beginning to its busy city middle and through to Molly’s affirmative final word, we opted to close our Bloomsday with a few hours of Stephensnight, pub hopping through Dublin (though no maternity hospitals or brothels were involved).
All told, we walked 13.67 miles and had an experience that will forever enrich my relationship with this amazing novel that has already given so much to my life.