Every year on March 17th, Dublin's inner city experiences a period of unusual calm (when the gardai have closed all streets for traffic) before the storm. The storm being the annual celebrations for Saint Patrick's Day. With the parade through the city being the unmissable highlight, even though you might have to use your elbows to get a good viewing place (if you are late and unscrupulous). Here are some helpful hints for visitors to make the most of this parade:
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Do Come Early
Normally the Irish are late risers on days off - not so on St. Patrick's Day. Dublin's streets start to fill up around 9 am in anticipation of the parade. Around 11 am all the best places are taken, an hour before the parade starts. So rise and shine. And secure yourself a moderately good place by being in situ no later than 11:30!
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Don't Ever Bring the Car
Unless you really know what you are doing, where you are going to park and which roads the gardai are (not) closing down ... just don't drive. Take public transport (which will run to a Sunday timetable, just to add some more spice) or walk. To be honest, driving in Dublin is madness on any day, on Saint Patrick's Day it is sheer lunacy.
03 of 10
Don’t Bring Valuables
There is a certain correlation between large crowds and petty crime - like pick-pocketing and purse-snatching. Dublin is no exception to this rule. So think about safety before you head into Dublin. Just take what you need, leave those diamond necklaces at home and wear your purse close to your body.
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Do Agree on a Rendezvous Point
Around 750,000 people throng the Dublin streets on Paddy's Day, all of them trying to get somewhere fast once the parade has passed. You'll be body-surfing a sea of humanity and running the risk of losing contact with the rest of your party. So just make sure everybody knows to regroup "at the Parnell monument at 3 pm" or similar.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Never, Ever Let Children Roam
While you are watching the parade, who is watching your little ones? Er ... nobody. So make sure they can’t go astray. In a crowd, even a few minutes of separation can become traumatic for both child and (often more so) parent. Avoid the stress, keep an eye on them. Have them sitting on your shoulders if you feel up to it.
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Do Familiarize Yourself with the Route
You need to head southwards after the parade? Watch it on a Southside street, from the southern side of the street. You want to see the celebrities arrive and the freshest performers? Head for the first half mile of the route. A bit of planning will pay off - the route is well publicized weeks before March 17th. If you plan to be near the VIP areas, try to be on the same side of the road ... or you risk seeing only the backs of performers.
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Don’t be Left in the Dark
Remember that the most colorful costumes are actually only full of color in sunshine (which is rare enough). And when the sun comes out you do not really want to watch the parade in a shadowy gloom ... as can happen in some areas of Dublin. Again: look at the route and predict the likely "darkness" along it. Especially if you want to take photos.
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Do Bring Your Camera
You’ll want to share your experience, trust me - the cheapest of all disposable cameras can take a few usable snaps in an emergency. Even if most show you in a silly hat asking "Who's Your Paddy?" On second thoughts better concentrate on the parade when taking pictures.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Don't Run Out of Film or Storage (or Power)
Even with some modesty employed you'll manage to take about 200 pictures of the Dublin parades in no time. Think (roughly) two to three pictures every minute. You'll start filling up memory cards fast. Expect to shoot more frames than you think. And yes, you'll also go through camera batteries like a hot knife through butter bring spares!
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Do Join in the Fun - But Don’t Risk Too Much
A Paddy's Day parade is not about constructive criticism, it is about having fun. Yes, the whole thing is silly and about as "genuinely Irish" as Johnny Cash's "Forty Shades of Green". But join in or opt out - there is no compromise.
On the other hand don’t become careless: Paddy's Day is also about massive alcohol consumption and you’d be wise to keep your wits. And to walk away from potential dangers.