“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.” Oscar Wilde
Yesterday I went to Howth again. Americans want to say “Howth” just as it seems, but it is pronounced “Hothe”, an Old Norse word that means “head” in English. Howth is a magical coastal village on the northern boundary of Dublin Bay. It’s just a thirty-minute train ride from Dublin’s Tara Street station. I have been meaning to go back to it for almost two years now, but for reasons that I can’t quite remember, I waited until yesterday afternoon, when it was cold, cloudy, and windy, to return. Somehow the Irish weather just makes it that much sweeter to come inside for warmth and shelter. Howth has stunning cliff paths, fish, and razorbills, fulmars, and skylarks. And after the walking and the bird watching, there is delicious seafood and then more wandering. And that’s all there is to Howth. It should be labeled “the village of simple pleasures.” And just like so many other places that I have loved in Ireland, I discover that I am not the first person to recognize just how special and beautiful Howth is. The Vikings knew it as far back as 819 AD and Larry Mullen Jr. and his family live there now. I’ll say it again, Vikings AND Larry Mullen Jr. – you can’t make this stuff up.
My guide to simple pleasures in Howth –
Pick a time to visit Howth. You don’t need a whole day – an afternoon will do. Enjoy the idea of getting away from the city even if only for a few hours. Take in the Irish sea outside the window on the train ride. Linger for a moment to take in the feeling of Howth when you arrive. This is one place that does not require a map! Walk up and down the sea walk to check out the most amazing fresh fish markets I have ever seen. Watch fathers and sons repairing their boats together. Go to Octopussy for lunch. Try the hot prawn salad with mango, pineapple, and avocado. Add on an order of chips. Buy souvenirs – jams made with Irish stout, pottery, art. Go for tea and a pastry at The Dog House Blue’s Tea Room. Talk to strangers – (after all, strangers are friends that haven’t met yet.) Sit outside under a tent on red velvet couches or go inside where there are many little rooms and corners. Find one that suits you. Try a pot of pina colada tea, a cupcake, and a good book from the library nook. I found a good one on Michael Collins. (It seems to be that when Collins was just six years old, his father died after a heart attack. On his deathbed, he pointed to Michael junior and said to the assembled family: “Mind that child. He’ll be a great man yet and will do things for Ireland.” And of course he did.) Pick a time for the return train. Change the time to an hour later. Let the village remind you that the perfect combination of pleasure, beauty, and history is the essence of Ireland.