By Janet Steinberg
“In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone…..”  Just as the tragic ballad laments, there she stood greeting me at the top of Grafton Street.  
In all her buxom bronze splendor, the 18th-century fish-monger is still drawing a crowd to her wheel-barrow laden with cockles and mussels.  Immortalized in 1988 by sculptor Jean Rynhart, Molly Malone has been affectionately, yet irreverently, dubbed by irrepressible Dubliners as “The Tart with the Cart”.


In contrast, across the road from this provocative pushcart peddler, is the staid campus of Trinity College.  One of the main cultural, geographical, and
social hubs of the city, Trinity College was founded in 1592.  You may have to wait in line to view the illuminated Middle Ages manuscript known as “The Book of Kells”, but there is no wait to enjoy the splendor of the Henry Moore and Calder sculptures on the campus lawns.
“Publand”, as Dublin is called, is home to 1000+ pubs and any true Dublinder can usually name hundreds of them.  Dublin pubs exude history and culture.  They
are the places to celebrate or mourn…to relax or let off steam…or to just to hangout and socialize. The Brazen Head Pub is said to be Ireland’s oldest pub.  Originally a coach house built in 1754, this historic pub was established in 1198. If the time-worn walls could speak, they would have quite a tale to tell.  The younger Stag’s Head Pub (Est. 1780) with its old wooden floor, marble columns, stained glass and stag’s head behind the bar, is allegedly one of the most beautiful pubs in Dublin.  John Kavanagh’s Pub (Est.1833), known as The Gravediggers, got its nickname because it is located right next to the historic Glasnevin Cemeterty. The gravediggers frequented the bar where they were given free pints as a thank you for the job they were doing.
One might say that Dublin begins at the O’Connell Bridge that spans the Liffey River.  The Liffey flows through the center of town, separating the northern part of the city from the southern side.  Standing on the O’Connell Bridge, in the shadow of Daniel O’Connell’s statue, one can gaze down the river at the rainbow-arched Ha’penny Bridge.  This cast-iron pedestrian bridge, dating back to 1816, was officially named the Wellington Bridge.  Its nickname was derived from the half-penny toll that was once charged to cross it.
In the 18th and 19th century, elegant Georgian mansions were built along the banks of the river.  They soon stretched outward from the banks of the river.  Today, a favorite tourist pastime is photographing the renowned “Doors Of Dublin”, beautiful fan-arched mansion doors that preen like peacocks for the clicking shutterbugs.  The door at 46 Fitzwillilam Square claims to be the most photographed door in Dublin. 
The 18th century mansion at #1 Merrion Square was the childhood home of Oscar Wilde from 1855-1878.  This magnificent Georgian home has been restored to its former glory and now part of the American College of Dublin.  Across the street, in Merrion Park, a lifelike granite sculpture of Oscar Wilde reclines on a huge granite boulder.  Pipe in hand, this devilish Dubliner is clad in a pink and green smoking jacket, blue slacks, black shoes, and silk socks so real looking that I had to touch them to believe they were made of granite.  And that’s no blarney!
For what might well be Dublin’s best Fish and Chips (with minted mushy peas and  chunky tartare sauce), head for The Cellar Bar, a gastro-pub in the 5-star Merrion Hotel.  The Cellar Bar’s warm welcome is the perfect complement to a menu that celebrates the best of Irish cuisine.  After hundreds of years of darkness and silence, the rough stone walls of Lord Mornington’s wine vault have come to life in the hotel’s Cellar Bar.  The bar’s arches echo with ripples of warm laughter, and the amiable staff will “pull a proper pint” and teach you the difference between Guinness Stout and Smithwick’s Ale (an Irish Red Ale style beer also brewed by Guinness). 
Opened in October, 1997, the magnificent Merrion Hotel was created within fourlovingly restored 18th Century terrace houses opposite the seat of
the Irish Government on Upper Merrion Street.  In fall and winter, the air in the gracious Drawing Room is filled with the scent of woodsmoke and flowers.  Log fires crackle and sunbeams shine upon Belgian tapestries, French chandeliers, and priceless Irish paintings.  In spring and summer the terrace is alive with ducks swimming to the music of water splashing on the pebbles in the garden pools.  The scent of lilac and jasmine in the air drifts through the open windows of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Ireland’s only Two Star Michelin restaurant, and the most renowned kitchen in Ireland.
With the luck of the Irish, you will be able to leave lots of green when shopping on the Emerald Isle.  Brown Thomas, Ireland’s most beautiful lifestyle store on Grafton Street…Royal Hibernian Way, on the former site of the 2-centuries-old Royal Hibernian Hotel…and Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, named after the nearby St. Stephen’s Green park are good spots for shoppers.  Look for Belleek Porcelains, Royal Tara China, Waterford Crystal, hand-woven tweeds and Irish linens.  And don’t forget a leprechaun or two.
Janet Steinberg, winner of 47-travel writing awards, resides in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.