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Back: The BCBusiness Guide to World Travel

 

Bleary-eyed and grumpy after a sleepless night in my city-centre hotel – a month on the road researching a guidebook has left me missing my Vancouver bed the way an amputee misses a limb – I’m wandering Dublin’s historic, near-deserted streets on a chilly, fog-shrouded Saturday morning.

A handful of dishevelled all-night partygoers, their arms wrapped firmly around each other, are weaving homeward past the Georgian storefronts, serenading themselves with tired, scratchy voices. I move aside, zip up my jacket and stomp past, feeling as though I’m looking for something but not knowing what.

Rounding a corner, I stop dead in my tracks and realize exactly what I’ve been missing. Jutting above the entrance to a generic convenience store, like a diamond in a bag of buttons, a tiny Tim Hortons sign flickers in the mist. I pinch myself to ensure that I’m not dreaming, then step quickly inside in case the mirage disappears.

I find the familiar doughnut racks and brown paper cups crowding a self-service counter at the back. The only customers are a wide-eyed, middle-aged couple giddily making their own double-doubles and squeezing apple fritters into paper bags. Vacationing from Halifax, they talk as though they’ve discovered a secret portal to the land of maple creams.

Sipping my extra-large as a warm sense of calm drip-filters through my body, I spend the rest of the morning watching the storied city come to life. Like Edinburgh, Dublin is one of Europe’s most attractive historic metropolises, its skyline crenulated by slender 18th-century townhouses, handsome stone churches and the dreamy turrets of Trinity College, an idyllic university campus whose alumni include Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.

I browse though the works of these illustrious literati at the surfeit of bookshops lining Dublin’s labyrinthine Temple Bar area, a cobbled enclave that’s like stepping back into the 18th century. Tempted by the idea of donning a monocle and sporting a cane for the day, I spend an hour here ducking between the artsy boutiques and green-hued souvenir stores, all on permanent St. Patrick’s Day alert.

With a backpack full of lacquered shillelaghs and shamrock fridge magnets, I stray toward St. James’s Gate Brewery, lured by a malty aroma permeating the air like that of freshly baked bread. One of Europe’s largest breweries, Guinness has been a fixture here since 1759, when a canny stout- maker struck a 9,000-year lease on a patch of damp land. With the brewery already 248 years into the deal, some red-nosed locals may be worried the lease is too short.