I can trace my growing familiarity with Dublin as a function of how confident I feel as a tour guide. Over the past seven months, my routine for showing people around has transformed from a Google Maps-dependent free-for-all to a finely tuned program comprising all aspects of sightseeing from food to Fun Facts. If I were a touring company, the standard package for a weekend visitor would include the Little Museum of Dublin (to be ticked off ASAP, for historical context’s sake), scones at Keogh’s (brown scones, if they’re amenable), an unofficial walking tour spanning the Grand Canal Quays to the Guinness Storehouse (Northern and Southern boundaries to be determined by my guest’s taste in brunch), a photo-op on Ha’penny Bridge, one night at the theater (The Abbey for big names, The Gate for aesthetics, Project Arts Center for low-budget/high-concept) and another on the town (The Stag’s Head to feel like you’re really in Dublin, Vintage Cocktail Club to feel like you’ve somehow ended up in New York), either Dublin Castle or the National Gallery (for the medievalists and modernists respectively), and of course, the Book of Kells and the Trinity Longroom (no parenthetical needed). For the expanded package, throw in Kilmainham Gaol, The Winding Stair, and a more patient stroll down Grafton Street.
As someone who lived next to Boston for four years and couldn’t tell you what exactly Faneuil Hall is, I am enormously proud of my relative expertise re: what to do in Dublin. And as an erstwhile Boston-area-ite who still struggles with the Inbound/Outbound distinction (I know it switches at Downtown Crossing, but where else??), I am even more inordinately proud of my relative mastery re: Dublin geography. Yes, Google Maps is still one of the most used apps on my cell phone, but usually I am able to make it from one corner of the city to another without having to check my blue dot more than once. (When I’m making the rounds of the standard package, I can close out the app entirely.)
But as happy as being a competent tour guide makes me, what I love most about having visitors is how it causes me to uncover what I don’t know: things I still have yet to learn about Dublin, as well as opinions about the city I didn’t know I had. Just as questions about America from my Irish peers force me to articulate idea about my homeland I have never before had to explicitly articulate (recently: why were the Federalist Papers important?), questions from visiting friends and family force me to verbalize the often unconscious impressions I have formed about Dublin – and to reckon with my remaining areas of ignorance.
My most recent visitor was my friend Hailey, whom I’ve known since preschool. As we made our way from checkpoint to checkpoint, my own image of Dublin underwent gentle transformations through the influence of her questions. In telling her my thoughts on how Dublin’s literary scene has responded to the encroachment of the tech industry, I discover my view in the process of giving it. In struggling to answer her query as to what exactly distinguishes Fine Gael from Fianna Fáil, I am confronted with my embarrassing ignorance on this subject (though, thanks to Azza, I do know how each of the TDs feels about Beyoncé).
So, by the end of her visit, I have learned as much about myself as she has about Dublin. Yet another perk of the standard package!