[This dates back to a time, in the late 1990s, when I wrote a monthly column for theNewfoundland Telegram about connections between Ireland and Newfoundland, where I had been brought up for a while and visited a number of times since.]
Why Dublin is such a popular tourist destination baffles me sometimes. Other times it's just downright astonishing.
For starters, it's surely one of the only 'touristy' cities in Europe where you have to get a bus from the airport into the centre, rather than a train of some sort. This might not be so bad, were it not for the filthy state of Dublin buses, and the appalling traffic en route. Be warned: do not, I repeat, do not time your flight to coincide with rush hour. By the time you reach the city centre you'll be worrying about check-in times for your flight home!
The bus drivers of Dublin have a worldwide reputation for rudeness second only to the taxi drivers of Dublin. What kind of introduction to a country is it when you ask the first public servant you meet about the correct line up for the city centre, only to hear some ill-groomed lout mutter a lot of inaudible, patronising gibberish at no one in particular, without even looking your direction, never mind smiling.
Dublin taxi drivers are a law unto themselves. You'll occasionally find a polite one, who might even tell you a tall tale about James Joyce ("He sat in that very seat ..."). But all too many of them - it seems to me - are rude, aggressive money-grabbers, fond of breaking traffic laws.
Then when you reach the city centre you are unceremoniously dumped outside some dirty, grey building, where hordes of unsavoury-looking characters loiter about with intent. You'll find pay phones not working, information desks closed, people smoking in smoke-free zones, more rude public servants. You won't see sign of a taxi, nor even a taxi rank.
It will be raining, of course, unless there's a blue moon out, in which case it won't be sunny, anyway. It will be cold, unless you happen to have timed your visit to coincide with the elusive five-minute period sometime between May and September which locals call summer. By the time you've taken your Gortex off it will be freezing again.
The pavements are black from layer-upon-layer of pollution deposits being left uncleaned. They are also spotted with that menace of all surfaces: chewing gum. And finally they are littered with debris, not just from the drunken debauchery of the night before, but from the day-to-day rubbish that many Dubliners casually toss under the ineffective brushes of Dublin's road-sweeping machines.
The Dublin Tourist Board, in my experience, recruits mostly dimwits who could care less about easing the holiday struggles of our friends from abroad, and whose personal experience of tourism amounts to an open-top bus tour of Liverpool. They are the kind of people who will tell you with absolute confidence that you just can't get from Ballyhere to Ballythere, and then turn to the next customer to spin further webs of geographical fantasy.
The service industry in Dublin has to be experienced to be believed, especially for North Americans who, I think, by-and-large go by the logical principle that if you are paying someone for something, they 'owe' it to you to be polite. In Dublin it's the opposite: if you want to spend money in a certain establishment you have to 'earn' that right by waiting absurd lengths of time to receive short shrift from petty-minded shopkeepers.
And then there's the question of what to do if you manage to put up with local peculiarities. Excuse me for being cynical, but from what I can see, there's as much to see and do in an empty shoebox as there is in the whole of the greater Dublin metropolis. Once you've had your pint of Guinness (which you can have in an Irish bar practically anywhere in the world these days) and been mugged by some street kid half your size, you've just about exhausted the city's potential for new experiences.
My advice? Head straight from the airport to the countryside.
Then again, maybe you'll love it.