Fancy a cheap day out to put the spark back in your relationship? Barbara Scully and her hubby skipped the piña coladas... but still got caught in the rain
IT was a long summer. Long as in interminable; full of rain, grey skies, a waterlogged garden and ever-present children. Our children at 11 and 13 are still too young to be independent of us and not yet embarrassed by being seen out with their parents.
They consider themselves too old for babysitters and would prefer to accompany us if we mention in passing the possibility of going out for dinner. And without the discipline of school routine, they never went to bed at night. I am not complaining... really... well maybe I am a bit.
By the time we got to the end of summer I was exhausted in a ‘head melted’ kind of way. I longed for a break — just me and him. In the good old days we had the odd wonderful weekend away; weekends when, once I had stopped fretting about whatever domestic arrangements I had put in place, we reconnected and remembered why we had decided to get married in the first place. Weekends when we had conversations which consisted of more than “did you put the bin out?” or “the light bulb in the bathroom has blown”.
Getting away for an overnight was not possible so I decided we should take a day off and head into town. Yep — instead of ‘down time’ I was happy to settle for some ‘down town’. We could wander about our own city as adults and pretend we were tourists ... albeit on a budget. We would come back refreshed and ready to face into winter.
He took a bit of convincing. “What — just wander around in town?” he asked. “Yep,” says I. “It will be like being on a city break but without the overnight and hassle of travelling. I will put together an itinerary, it’ll be fun.”
It took several weeks to win him over but finally, in the midst of a wet autumn, he agreed. To add to the romance we decided to meet in town in my favourite coffee stop — Carluccios on the corner of Dawson Street and Duke Street. Well that’s a lie. He had a quick job to do in the city early and as I had the little darlings to drop to school first we had to meet in town. But it was romantic — kind of.
Mother Nature decided to add an extra dimension to our day by chucking down bucket loads of rain from early morning. But we had a big brolly. Is it all men or only my one that cannot manage to steer a big umbrella through a crowded urban area?
First stop was St Stephen’s Green to view the Phil Lynott Exhibition. I am a huge Thin Lizzy fan and think our Philo was probably the sexiest man I ever laid eyes on, that coupled with the fact that he had the heart of a poet, an intoxicating mix. I am not sure that himself totally got the appeal this exhibition had for me, but as they say ‘you’d have to have been there.’ Being a Brit he wasn’t in Dublin in the late 70s when change was in the air and music was at the vanguard of that change.
With the soundtrack of my youth still ringing in my ears and visions of those sexy long leather clad legs to the forefront of my mind, we crossed the road to the Little Museum of Dublin.
This was more his cup of tea. A small very quirky museum stuffed with an eclectic collection of day-to-day domestic items, along with press cuttings and photos, all charting the humdrum history of Dublin over the last 100 years. It’s the type of place to lose yourself in an “oh my God do you remember those?” kind of way. Or in our case “did ye have these in England?” He was very bemused by Dublin Millennium and Italia ’90 milk bottles. Explaining Wanderly Wagon was also quite a challenge. He kept asking if I was sure this was a children’s show.!
Back out in the rain we decided to blow the budget and take a taxi to Dublin Castle. There is only so much rain a girl can take and remain cheerful. The umbrella situation was not improving either. We arrived at the back entrance of the Castle with the intention of visiting the Garda Museum. I am not sure what my thinking was on this. Perhaps I felt that it was more a boy kind of exhibition and was attempting to balance my swooning around the Phil Lynott Experience. In the end it didn’t matter as it was closed.
Part of my original plan had been to have a picnic in the little-known Dubh Linn garden next door. It’s a funny garden — doubling apparently as a helicopter landing pad at times, so it’s really a lawn with a nice circular motif laid within, obviously designed with ’copter pilots and their passengers in mind.
There is also a memorial garden to gardaí who lost their lives in the course of duty to the state and a monument commemorating the Special Olympics. It is a lovely oasis of peace in the city but in the lashing rain had limited appeal, so we retreated into the lovely Silk Road Cafe for lunch.
Our next stop was really by way of homage to the old days when we had some very nice city breaks abroad. A feature of these weekends was always a visit to a church. City churches and cathedrals provide an island of tranquillity; a quiet pause from the hustle and bustle of the city; a spot of shade from hot sunshine or on a September day in Dublin, shelter from the pouring rain.
St Patrick’s Cathedral is just a few minutes’ walk from Dublin Castle and we managed to get there without decapitating any fellow pedestrians.
Enclosed within the ancient stone walls I was mesmerised by the multicoloured shafts of light falling from the stunning stained glass windows, piercing the dark interior and illuminating ancient faded military banners and tombs of the long dead. Himself soaked up the rather British and familiar atmosphere of a Protestant cathedral. We lit candles and renewed hopes for the future.
Right beside St Patrick’s Cathedral is Marsh’s Library. This was not on our agenda.
But by now we were both very damp and energy levels were flagging.
On the spur of the moment we stepped into the beautiful Queen Anne-style building and into two long rooms of magnificent old Irish dark oak bookcases housing ancient books, some handwritten and some among the very first ever printed.
The rarefied atmosphere of this place of learning and exploration is remarkably relaxed and informal and the staff we met were delighted to answer our questions and explain about the rare and priceless books in the collection. We were both charmed.
But back in the suburbs, school was out and our time was almost up. A final pit stop was needed to fortify us for the journey home. We headed across the river Liffey to the Italian quarter and the Foam Cafe where we feasted on creamy cakes and a pot tea while soaking up the colourful, exuberant over-the-top decor.
As we discussed our day we vowed that although not in the same league as a night away — either home or abroad — a day out of life can only be a good thing. A rebalancing, a chance to chat and most of all to laugh. As we headed through the puddles to the bus stop I wondered if he would ever get the hang of an umbrella. But I wasn’t irritated, not after our lovely day out ... well maybe just a little bit!
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