The most entertaining anniversary in Dublin falls every June 16th—the date in 1904
when the fictional action takes place in Ulysses, the greatest novel by Ireland's
greatest writer, James Joyce. Every year, thousands of literature fans descend on
the city and follow the exact route taken by Leopold Bloom, a Jewish advertising
salesman, and Stephen Dedalus, an aspiring writer, as they meander across the city.
True devotees like to wear Edwardian period dress—the men in straw boaters, tinted
spectacles, and striped blazers; the women in bloomers and corsets in homage to
the hero's lascivious wife, Molly Bloom.
But even if you are not in Dublin for the June extravaganza, you can follow the
key points of the Ulysses walking tour. Start at the James Joyce Center (35 North
Great George's Street), a Georgian townhouse where the door to Leopold Bloom's fictional
home, which once stood on Eccles Street in Dublin, is kept on display. Proceed to
Davy Byrne's pub (21 Duke Street), one of Joyce's favorite drinking spots, where
Bloom lunched on a gorgonzola cheese sandwich and glass of burgundy. ("Nice quiet
bar," Bloom notes approvingly in Ulysses. "Nice piece of wood in that counter…Like
the way it curves.") Finally, take the short train ride to Sandycove, where the
imposing Martello Tower was the setting for the novel's first chapter. One of 15
defense posts set along the coast to protect against an invasion by Napoleon, it
has today been named James Joyce Tower with a museum that displays, among other
gems, a rare edition of Ulysses illustrated by French Impressionist painter Matisse.
True Joyceans should then take a dip in the Forty Foot swimming hole beside the
Tower, named after the 40th Regiment of Foot once stationed here. In Joyce's day
it was a male-only venue, and swimming was only in the nude. Today, the hole is
co-ed, and swimsuits are "required by order," although literature fans will be delighted
to know there is still a nude section.