Dublin dusts off its parasols and boaters for annual 'Bloomsday' festivities

TRAVEL Q&A

April 25, 1993|By New York Times News Service

Q. Are there tours in Dublin on June 16, Bloomsday, tracing the steps of the hero of James Joyce's "Ulysses"?

A. Plans for Bloomsday 1993 won't be completed until mid-May, according to the Irish Tourist Board, (212) 418-0800, but be prepared to pack your parasols and straw boaters. Edwardian gear is encouraged for the annual celebration of Leopold Bloom's peregrinations in "dear, dirty old Dublin." It's traditional to begin the tour early in the morning at a 19th-century tower in the seaside suburb of Sandycove.

The tower, now the Joyce Museum, was occupied briefly by the author in 1904, and is the site of "stately, plump" Buck Mulligan's oblations in the opening scene of the novel. The museum contains manuscripts, letters and other memorabilia, and is open every day during the summer, but by appointment only in the winter. In Dublin, call 280-9265 for a Bloomsday tour or appointment information. (The area code for Ireland is 353, the city code for Dublin is 1.) Museum admission is 40 cents.

June 16 was chosen by Joyce to commemorate his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, in 1904. Celebrations of Joyceiana abound on Bloomsday -- readings, performances, costume contests, a traditional lunch stop at Davy Byrne's in Duke Street, where you can sample Bloom's choice of a glass of Burgundy and a cheese sandwich, and the requisite afternoon pint at the homey Ormond Hotel, on the banks of the Liffey.

For more information, in Dublin call the Dublin Writers Museum, 722-0777; the James Joyce Symposium, 269-6033; and the James Joyce Cultural Center, 731-984.

Q. What has happened to the huge oil spill in the waters around the Shetland Islands? Is making excursions there, particularly by water, advisable?

A. The Shetland Tourist Organization reports that "everything in Shetland for the summer visitor season is now back to normal," after the oil tanker Braer, carrying 26 million gallons of oil, ran aground on the rocky southern shoreline on Jan. 5.

The long-term consequences of the spill for marine and wildlife are not yet known, but the spill is not much in evidence anymore, according to health and environmental experts. In fact, the very conditions that caused the wreck -- hurricane-force gales and churning seas -- also helped disperse the viscous, coffee-colored oil slick. "Mountainous seas and high tides scoured clean the beaches of Quendale, Spigie, Scousbough and St. Ninian's," says a spokesman for the tourist office. Of Shetland's 950-mile coastline, only 20 miles were hurt by the spill.

Derek Cox, public health director for the Shetlands, reports there are no health risks that should concern visitors to Shetland. As for sea travel to the archipelago, 100 miles off the northeastern tip of Scotland, Scott Colegate, of P&O Scottish Ferries, says travelers "are not likely to notice the difference." P&O, which runs ferries and package tours to the Shetlands, says the spill has had little effect on its bookings.

Environmentalists, fishermen and farmers were united in their concern about the spill, but there has been little adverse effect on local agriculture. The lucrative North Sea salmon breeding grounds apparently escaped harm, as did the soft-fleeced sheep on which the islands' famous wool and sweater industries rely.

Hundreds of dead birds washed ashore in the days after the wreck, but Mike Everett of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds concurs that "tourists are not likely to notice the difference." As for the long term, he is concerned that the oil "must have gone somewhere into the ecosystem."

Q. Where in New York City can one buy Italian currency and traveler's checks in lire? How does the rate of exchange compare with that quoted daily in foreign currency charts?

A. Dozens of foreign currency exchanges and commercial banks sell lire in New York, and most of them are in midtown. A number of large banks like Chemical and Citibank have branches throughout the city that deal in foreign currency. Rates do vary slightly from place to place, so it is worth doing some comparison shopping if you plan to make a large transaction. A listing can be found under the heading of "Foreign Money Brokers and Dealers" in the Yellow Pages.

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