Saturday, June 20, 2015

St. Stephen's Green, Dublin, Ireland

Laura and I were walking through funky Temple Bar, vaguely heading towards St. Stephen’s Green.  I had a map. No compass, mind you.  We weren’t lost.  Never lost.
Laura just wondered, in a non accusatory way, if we were going in the right direction.  I have explained that my walking tours of cities involve a lot of just seeing what’s around the corner and going in the general direction of wherever it is I’m heading. I only am concerned when not uncommonly I find myself heading in the opposite direction of my intended path.  We actually came across the immense Four Courts functioning judiciary complex this way. We only learned what it was by seeing it's grandeur and also a sign on a fence 'no photography'.  I asked a young woman dressed immaculately in a business suit what this place was.  She replied, with just a slight raising of her eyebrows, "Four Courts".  It's a massive complex.  So asking what it was, was a bit like asking what is 'Buckingham Palace" was in  London.  The joy of being a 'foreigner' is that you're allowed to be daft.
We'd crossed over River Liffey from North Dublin to south Dublin at the Ha penny Bridge.
In response to Laura's 'slight concern' as to our position, I answered really rather gleefully,  having travelled so often in countries where I don't know the language and locals are so happy to appear helpful not knowing at all where they are or what you're asking:
“It’s so easy here. We know the language. We’ll just ask someone where St. Stephen’s Green is?"
At that exact moment, a well dressed attractive woman in her thirties, passing us, turned her head in our direction and without interrupting her own progress,  said with a smile and that fabulous Joyce Goodwin lilting Irish accent, “St. Stephen’s Green is down that road till it forks then turn left and you’ll be right there.”
"Thank you", we said simultaneously to her receding back.  I’m not even wearing a St. Christopher’s Medal yet we’re having repeated God's in charge experiences like this in Dublin. Everyone is so friendly.  I've been called 'darling' and Laura is forever getting, "God bless you, dear!"  The Irish are just so helpful everywhere we go. Tourist information services are everywhere too. I’ve never been in a country where people are so friendly and helpful to tourists.
St. Stephen’s Green is a mini Stanley Park in the heart of Dublin. A little Hyde Park or a little Central Park, whatever your reference greenspace is.   The trees and grass and lagoon are all so quiet, peaceful and welcoming after the loudness of streets,  cars and buildings.  It’s just a wonderful refreshing church of nature.
Walking through this lovely park I so appreciated seeing the Taksim Square Istanbul bit of green where neighbours and students and leaders of community battled the corrupt Istanbul government their rapacious condo development cronies. Those ignorant materialists  had wanted to take that rather tiny bit of green space, the last in the area of Taksim from the people who lived their and knew it's intangible value.   The people en mass rebelled.  This wasn’t a sports riot. This was urban dwellers wanting to be able to access a bit of God’s nature without having to travel miles to the outside of the city.  They will always be heroes in my mind.
The lush loveliness of St. Stephen’s Green is testimony to the glory of green spaces in a city.  Hundreds of people were out and about, sitting on benches, sitting on the lawns, reading, chatting, communicating as if they were at a beach or in a living room. It was marvellous to see. The flowers were lovely too.  Then the lagoon was favourited by seagulls but there were a few mallards. The piece de resistance though were the swans and their babies.
All this  was in the centre of Dublin.  Just lovely.  I hope everywhere city dwellers stand with the heroes of Taksim Square and city planners realize the value of nature. I would see all the new parking lots and high rises built under ground.  But then I have always loved Canada’s Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi.  Her immortal lines are   “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot!”
In St. Stephen's Green, I especially loved the little girl awed by the baby swans.  Naturally young couples came there for their wedding pictures too. St. Stephens Green used to be a place for hangings.  I much prefer it’s use today.  Some city spaces definitely need to be re purposed.

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