I R E L A N D + U R B A N / by Shawna Miller

IRELAND + URBAN: What does that mean? Well it means you are about to read about my experience exploring the incredible capital of Ireland. While on our trip to Ireland, our visit was mostly located in one area of the island - Dublin. I must admit that although beyond thrilled to be visiting such a place, it bothered me that the majority of our stay would be filled with the urban side of Ireland. Sure Ireland has been on my bucket list since I first found out about the mystical land, but the city experience has never been for me. I hardly drink, I have some major anxiety when it comes to crowds, and I prefer not to be stabby-stabbed while just trying to make it a restaurant. Not only was I grossly misinformed and under-educated about Dublin - but I allowed my prejudices of city life almost mar this incredible experience. That all changed the moment we flew into Dublin. 

We arrived shortly before 530AM - jet lagged, stinky, and tired we made our way to a cab outside the airport. Pro-tip: ask the cabbies BEFORE getting into the cab if they process credit cards. While in the cab I saw the city for the first time and was hitting myself for having such negative feelings about it prior. There was no one out. I mean not a single soul was roaming the streets. Our cabby took us around Dublin and then to our ultimate destination being our hotel. I could not have asked for a better first-time look at the city. From that cab I felt as if I owned my surrounding. It was mine to undress slowly and methodically. 

When we arrived at our hotel we were greeted by a most jolly front man by the name of Stephen. My partner had the forethought to book the room for the evening prior to when we arrived, which meant that we did not have to wait around until 3PM, yes 3PM was the check in time,  to make it to our room. Still reeling from the incredible empty drive through the capital we made our way to our room. As soon as we entered we opened the curtain - and - I shit you not, there was a rainbow coming out the top of a castle (image is located in the album below). We laughed with gusto at such a stereotypical Irish moment that was occurring before us. We were so filled with glee that on our first day we could check two major things off of our list.

After the intense rainbow experience, we put on our fancied walking shoes, and began to make our way through the city to my partners' office. The air was beyond incredible. Sure it smelled like a city should, but there was something else - oh yeah, the fragrance of Ireland. It was chilly outside, the sun was exploding beyond the buildings, and we walked. We walked towards the office while a few locals began to awake and begin their morning routines. The streets were slowly filling with commuters, school children, and those dedicated to the art of body discipline via exercise. We made it to the office, had an incredible breakfast of porridge, and then explored the city.

I could literally sit here and write an entire booklet on the experience. However, I realize that sometimes keeping moments to yourself can be the most impactful for a human experience. So I will just narrow down my thoughts to a few important notes about the urban Ireland observation. 

Noteworthy thoughts/experiences

I was able to walk the city while my partner worked. Every day I made my way outside to venture into the city without abandon. Some days I took my camera, and a couple days I left the glass at the hotel in order to have those experiences for myself. What were my days filled with? I am so glad you asked:

  • Embroidered a green and gold uterus next to a juggler in the park who had the most lovely of movements:

  • Walked around in the rain exploring the city:

  • Had glorious conversations with locals and tried not to horribly imitate their accents while conversing with them:

  • Frighteningly dove into a most interesting ghost tour of Dublin that was filled with incredibly dark history:

  • Sailed the high seas of the local rivers (that is supposed to be cheeky, Ben) via a viking history tour of the capital that was mostly filled with mocking Bono and his recording studio:

  • Did I say walking yet?:

I walked, and I walked. I walked while taking in the experience as best I could. I wanted to remember these moments as I had no idea how impactful the urban experience of Dublin would be.

As I walked I got lost. As I got lost I found a city surrounded by slate, wood, metal, and stone. Those areas filled with moss, phlox, and bits that revealed how old the capital was and how much the locals really loved their city. Experiences that allowed me to dive into and take advantage of my favorite things in life - hidden wonders. The only problem is that the entire capital was filled with those hidden wonders.  

  • Experienced many of the museums/libraries that were open to the public - and were free.

My number one tip for exploring any urban city is to visit the local museums. They are often free, if not donation suggested only. They will allow you to mix in with the locals, and tourists alike. Visiting these places during regular lunch hours really allows for ease of exploring exhibits crowd-free, which can be pretty fantastic when there are hundreds of people all with rucksacks on. The three that I am showing below were by far the best examples we were able to see in the short time we were available to. We were able to find this set of three all within a courtyard of eachother, which made it incredibly easy to see almost everything we wanted to see. 


The National Gallery of Ireland was an incredible stop. We walked into art being created - what a fantastic welcome! They were doing some renovations in the museum itself so that meant that many of the areas were closed for the day we visited them. However, I jumped for joy when I saw that they had their Masterpieces from the Collection, and From the Archives exhibits available for public viewing. I literally jumped. I was so excited to be able to see a few of the pieces I had only read about. They were incredible. I was not able to photograph many of the pieces I went there to see due to them being on loan, therefor photographing them would have been a violation of copyright. Well, actually posting them for the public to see would be in violation, so let's just not post those. A few of the pieces that had the most impact on me were:

Jusepe Ribera - St. Onuphrius : This baby was saturated with boldness. I was taken back by it.
Kees van Dongen - Stella in a Flowered Hat : This one is not listed below due to it being on loan. I fell in love with this piece. Viewing it in person really allows one to see some of his artistic process through the layered impasto paint application - you could really dive into the layering and see the purposeful placement of the paint.
Joshua Reynolds - Parody of Raphael's 'School of Athens' : Okay, this piece is fantastic. It is like an I Spy for political parody. We stood there for a good 10 minutes looking at each individual figure in the piece. 
Sean Scully - Entire Body : This entire exhibit was incredible - and not AT ALL available for photographing, even at a distance. These pieces were huge, they were fill with artistic exploration and experimentation. I was really inspired by his entire body of work. If you ever get the change to check out his work in person, please take the time to do so. Like Rothko, Scully's work, I feel, needs to be seen in person to appreciate fully.

National Museum of Ireland : Archaeology 

I will fully admit, without much shame, that I had no clue of the rich Viking history in Ireland. This museum in its entirety was full of old bones, metal, wood, and other bits that have miraculously survived over the centuries. As our visit to Ireland went on we were glad that we were able to stop by this museum in particular as the entire country is filled with rich, deep Viking history. You cannot get away from see the major influences from the Viking Age in Ireland. By visiting this museum we were able to have some major Irish/Viking history in our back pocket. 

One thing I really enjoyed about this museum was that it was filled with people doing studies of the various items. There would be a group of artists surrounding some old bones in one room, then in another room you would find another small group of artists having lively discussions about the ornamental jewelry they were looking at. All locals. It made the entire experience immersive. 

National Library of Ireland:
Yeats : The Life and Works of William Butler YEATS

Sadly, we arrived too late to see the entire National Library of Ireland, but the Yeats exhibit was still open so we found our way into it. This exhibit was insane. The curators had put so much thought into the layout and really found a way to involve their visitors with the exhibit. They set up little side rooms in dedication to different members of the Yeats family - each one totally different than the previous. It truly was an incredible exhibit. 


Doors of Dublin

  • One of my major photography goals while traversing Dublin was to capture the doors of Dublin. The majority of the residents and businesses that are south of the Liffey have brightly painted doors. As I walked I took photographs of the doors that I most loved. I could have filled all of my memory cards with just these doors. They are so incredible to see in person. Every corner I turned, there were more and more doors. Each one more ornate than the last. It was impossible to capture them all through my lens so I settled on photographing the ones I fell in love with. I really enjoyed seeing how the door colors seem to match perfectly the mood of the architecture surrounding it. The glazes over the doors vary from the very matte to the most shiny of gloss - some were almost blinding when the sun reflected upon them. Not only that, but the landscaping was also used as part of the design. Dublin seemed to have the most fantastic blend of conscious design and haphazard beauty. Some of the front stoops looking as if they were well versed living in the city, and others looking as if they were simply plucked out of the woods and placed into the city. It was truly a pleasure to see and I am ever grateful for the experience. At first I felt odd taking snappies of residences and their doors, but that feeling quickly vanished my first 30 seconds in the city. Here are a few that I took - they were even more gorgeous in person. I really loved seeing how they interacted with other parts of the buildings and landscape from which they are attached:  

Exploring together + OTHER IMAGES

On the days where my partner was available to join me we chose to have our days in the parks that were within the city. Here are some of the images from our explorations together and a few that are just random: