Wherever I go, there is always one area about each place that I love, that makes me happier than any other. The reasons behind each choice aren’t always clear, and it’s not always the best or prettiest area of the city. In Dublin, the grand canal square has taken this special place. What’s interesting is that it seems to be the case for several other people I know. I guess the reason behind this particular choice is that it is in fact a beautiful area.
I tend to express this love by taking a photo (with a crappy resolution due to bad mobile camera) every chance I get. Since I work and live in the area, this seems to happen quite often.
What can I tell you about it?
Apparently, this area was not the best or the safest in Dublin over 10 years ago. A friend’s parent lived in Dublin at the time, and she informed him that whenever she passed by that part at night, she’d have to hurry in fear of being robbed or at the very least confronted.
The red sticks coming out of the ground all face (and lead to) the Grand Canal Theatre. They all light up at night, and there are some green parts around the ground. This was designed by an architecture and urban design firm called Martha Schwartz Partners. A friend told me that these sticks were supposed to represent trees, and the green lights on the ground is supposed to be the grass. This did not really click in my head; why would trees be red? As it turns out, these were just supposed to create an exciting and vibrant atmosphere for when people go into a premiere or an event at the theatre. This makes more sense, especially since the ground is also a shade of red, which creates a red carpet kind of thing.
That area also seems to be paradoxal to me with the rest of Dublin. Dublin’s buildings are small and seem more traditional, while this is the only place I can think of that has a more modern feel. That particular idea reminds me of one of the places in New York that I absolutely loved. It was a a rock in Central Park that I loved as soon as I saw it for a similar reason. It was so rough and high, overlooking the park where you can see all the trees and the nature. Yet if you just look up, you see all the skyscrapers and towers, a “concrete jungle” even. The contrast was so interesting and beautiful.
As you can quite clearly see, a small part of the city is over thought and overanalyzed in my mind. When that happens, a rant needs to take place.
I came here today hoping to write a post about Dublin. This post was supposed to help me readjust to life here, remind me why I am in fact happy in Dublin.
See, a little over a week ago, I went to my dream city New York, and I instantly absolutely fell in love with it. All the thoughts that it might be disappointing because of all the expectations I had built up for it were not true. Then I came back to my dear old Dublin, with one idea in mind: this is not the city I want to live in forever. I do love Dublin, I would be lying if I said I did not, but seeing New York confirmed that it is not the city for me. So I decided to write about New York instead to explain why I loved it so much. It is a cliche to love New York, it is expected to be in awe in front of all what it has to offer, and everything I will say has definitely been said before, but I want to say them again nonetheless.
- City with a soul – One thing that people often criticize about cities in the United States is that since it is relatively a new country, you can’t see ancient history in it, you can’t walk and visit where old civilizations have previously lived. This is also often said about Dubai, since that city is actually very new. When I was in Dubai, I agreed with everyone that said that it was fake, and I didn’t really have a problem with that; I liked the city nonetheless. However, when it comes to New York, I did not think it was fake, and I certainly did not think of it as being empty. You can definitely sense a certain culture in this city, maybe not in the same way you would if you were walking in Rome for instance, but there is something to it. It feels like it’s more than just a city where everything is big and well-lit. It isn’t like Dubai where the common principle is “The bigger the better”, but it feels like New York is what it is. The other cliche about it that “everything is possible” is something I did feel there, hopefully not because that’s what pop culture has been feeding me my whole life. Every building and every person on the street sends a vibe that says “You can do whatever the hell you want.”
- Rough & intimidating – This city is not your typical welcoming city. It is certainly very rough and can be extremely intimidating. It is crystal clear that it is not for everybody and you can see that from your very first steps. Everything moves fast, everyone moves fast, no one stops for you, no one gives you all the time you need. Buildings are big, streets are noisy, advertising, billboards and commercials are literally everywhere. It is definitely a city that moves fast, and you can easily be left behind if you are not moving at the right pace, both physically and mentally. It is overwhelming, and I absolutely loved that. Who needs serenity when you can have exciting?
- Overwhelming feeling of familiarity – I’ve heard this from a couple of people before I went there, I heard it from my friends there and I thought it while I was walking those streets. You really feel like you know this city, like you’ve been here before. It makes it a lot less intimidating. You’ve seen it on TV, you know these landmarks. On my third day there, I was able to locate myself easily, my sense of direction was working perfectly fine in a massive and supposedly unknown city. In addition to that, on my third day, it felt like we had been there for a long time. The week I spent there did not go really fast as is usually the case on vacations, it felt long because I was in a city that I kind of knew, if that makes sense.
- City of opposites & extremes – How many extremes can you fit in one city? It is just amazing how many there are. From the posh areas, to the less fancy areas. You can totally see it clearly on the buildings and how the streets are. From the people walking with the Chanel bags and the Manolo Blahniks, to the homeless literally sleeping on the ground. The fabulous gay men, to the crossdressers. The fancy restaurants, the disgusting fast-food places, to the carts selling Middle Eastern food everywhere. The guys running half naked, to the old lady wearing the craziest thing and walking on the street, not caring if people are looking, especially since most of the time, they’re not looking because they simple don’t care. Not to mention listening to two local New Yorkers discussing one of the many famous hobos, who choose a certain subway station or a park as their preferred location. They are known to push you as soon as they see you, and when I said that this sounds terrifying, the response is “It is the first time.” People know and accept that. They live among these contradictions and find them normal.
- One stereotype corrected – New Yorkers are actually nice. They walk fast, they shove you on the street to get to their destination, but if you need help and you ask for it, they will help you and be nice to you. It isn’t like Beirut where every single person on the street will jump to your rescue without you even asking, but contrary to what stereotypes say about them, they are nice when you ask for help and won’t totally ignore you.