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stevenpiziks ([personal profile] stevenpiziks) wrote2008-07-13 04:37 pm
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Temple Bar: An Observation

Temple Bar is a district in Dublin ("bar" as in "sand bar," not "pub").  It's near the spot where the Vikings first landed in Dublin around 800 CE, and it's one of the oldest sections of Dublin.  As a city, Dublin dates back to the Bronze Age, possibly to the Stone Age, so that's saying a lot.  In recent history, Temple Bar fell into disrepute.  It turned poor, then it turned crappy, then it turned dangerous.  Then artists and craftspeople started moving in because the rent was cheap.  A bit of gentrification started up.  Craft shops and art galleries opened like shy flowers.  Tourists started to wander in.  In the 70s, the government, in the wisdom of governments everywhere, decided to demolish the recovering Temple Bar district and replace it with a central bus station and other government buildings.

A hue and cry went up.  People protested mightily, the government looked a little closer, and saw that actual big money was to be had. 
For once, saner heads prevailed.  The government handed out some grants and encouraged Temple Bar to continue the gentrification.  More tourists showed, waving money, which encouraged more pubs and shops to open.  Now, Temple Bar is the main party place to go in Dublin.  If you're a tourist, it's pretty much all there is to do after six o'clock, when the interesting sights close.  Many, many pubs have live music.  Lots of shops stay open late.  There are open-air markets that sell everything from used books to sheep's milk cheese.

On weekends, Temple Bar becomes a sort of mass street party.  Loads of people throng the cobblestoned streets, and an awful lot of truly stupid women wear high heels on them.  They wander from pub to pub.  Street musicians play as well, and not to toot my own horn, but only one of them was better than I am.  All of them played the guitar, incidentally.  I didn't see a single harper in the entire time I was Dublin, even though the Irish harp is on all the money.

You also get herds of women who put on similar outfits.  They're all wearing the same neon green t-shirt or the same orange blouse.  One group was wearing tacky pink cowgirl hats made of fake fur.  I eventually worked out that these were roving parties who wanted to make it easier to stay together.

All this is more description than observation, so here's the observation part:

It's all fake.

Every been to Mackinaw Island?  It's in the lake just above the mitten part of Michigan.  It's a large island, about five miles by two.  No cars are allowed on it.  It's been a resort and tourist desination for a couple hundred years.  And the main street is lined with hundreds of shops and restaurants.  During the summer tourist seasons, it's busy, busy, busy.  You can buy Authentic Michigan Souvenirs, eat Authentic Michigan Food, and visit Authentic Michigan Forts filled with Authentic Michigan History.

Temple Bar has the same feeling that Mackinaw Island does.  Everything there is half again as expensive as elsewhere, and for no other reason than it's . . . Temple Bar!  Everyone in Temple Bar is putting on a show for the tourists.  You can eat Authentic Irish Food, listen to Authentic Irish Music, and buy Authentic Irish Souvenirs.

This point struck me when I wandered around looking for a jam session.  There weren't any.  All the pubs had live bands until 9:00 or so, and then they switched to DJs who played rock music.  Why no jam sessions?  Tourists don't want them.  Tourists want to listen, not take part.  And then I remembered Mackinaw Island.  The atmosphere in Temple Bar was exactly the same.

It was kind of a letdown.

However, the native Dubliners don't avoid Temple Bar.  In America, they would say, "That's for tourists," and they wouldn't go near the place.  But Temple Bar is really popular with the city natives as a place to party.