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Going to town 'in Dublin's fair city' - Curt Yeomans

Dublin, Ireland, is a curious town. It's a European city, and if you read travel books, or talk to people there, you will hear it is living up to the title, just as you would expect from a London, Paris, or Amsterdam.

Yet, if you go there, it is not really like those other cities. Transportation is largely based on buses, with only two rail lines that are above ground -- and they don't go very far. There is no subway system in the city.

Add in the general culture of the city, and it feels more American than European. Yet, by geography, it is tied to Europe. All in all, it is a mix between both cultural hemispheres.

There are those little reminders, however, that you are not in America. While even France and the United Kingdom put the word "POLICE" on their cop cars and uniforms, it is not so in Ireland. The state police agency is the Garda Siochana, which on the cars, and uniforms, is shortened to "Garda."

Another reminder that you're not in Kansas is all of the genealogy shops that are seemingly on every street corner. Now, genealogy is a big deal in Ireland. It's an actual industry, but in Dublin, you have these little corner shops where you can purchase parchment that displays the family crest for your last name, complete with a history of the name.

But, a discussion on Dublin really starts and ends with some of its more famous sites, ranging from Dublin Castle, to the Guinness Storehouse/St. James Gate Brewery, to Trinity College, to St. Patrick's Cathedral, to the massive Christ Church Cathedral.

Dublin Castle is the most fascinating of the sites (aside from the Guinness Storehouse, of course). It is a giant, square-shaped building with a courtyard in the center. In a sense, this building, which was once home to the British viceroy for Ireland, is still a political center for Ireland. The Garda's headquarters is located there, and the castle's main ballroom is used for state dinners.

Underneath the castle, are the ruins of the old Viking castle that was originally on the site. Now, the wing housing Ireland's Treasury Department is there.

Also, a scene from the movie, "Michael Collins," about an early 20th Century revolutionary, was filmed in the courtyard of Dublin Castle. Also, a chapel next to the castle is used for some wedding scenes in Showtime's "The Tudors" television series.

Another area of interest is Grafton Street, which is a pedestrian area lined with a variety of shops, ranging from shoe stores, to quaint, little, book shops, to pharmacies. On Grafton Street, you also find the busty statue of fictional Dubliner and fishmonger, "Molly Malone" ("As she wheel'd her wheel barrow, through streets broad and narrow, crying cockles and mussels alive, alive O!" according to the song named for her).

Along Grafton Street, during the day, you'll find all sorts of street performers, including musicians playing for money, and a friendly woman, in head-to-toe, shimmering, gold clothing and face paint, who stands on a bucket and hands out flowers for change.

Yet another area is Temple Bar, which is just what the name suggests it is -- the local bar district. One bar after another, with some souvenir shops sprinkled in, here and there. People with questionable sobriety levels stand in the street, and sing "Molly Malone" at the tops of their voices, while dancing with one another.

It is sort of like New Orleans' Bourbon Street.

Also, the streets in Temple Bar are not that wide, which gives it a more intimate atmosphere. That goes to the European feel, though, because streets in European cities are generally narrow.

Even so, you really can't find too many places that top an atmosphere like that, even in America.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.