The story of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses is set on the 16th June 1904. This day has become known as Bloomsday, after the book’s anti-hero Leopold Bloom. In the book Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus journey across Dublin, experiencing all of life in one day. Meanwhile, Bloom’s wife Molly is in bed entertaining man about town Blazes Boylan.
Trying to do everything that happens in Ulysses would be a massive task, so here’s what we would love to do in Dublin this Bloomsday.
We simply must dress the character
Dressing up is fun and makes you part of the Bloomsday carnival. Put on your Edwardian glad rags and head into town. Striped jackets or black three piece suits for the men. Accessorise with spectacles, a walking stick and a yellow flower in your lapel. A hat will finish off the outfit – make it a bowler or boater. For the ladies, wear a long skirt with blouse and jacket. Decorate a hat with ribbons or flowers and remember your parasol. Don’t be surprised if people ask you to pose for photos.
Take the Ulysses Express
At 10:45am register and pick up your goodie bag (complete with a Bloomsday boater!) before setting off on a private Joycean walking tour in the city centre. Then at 12pm, hop aboard the specially commissioned Ulysses Express. You will be welcomed with Burgundy wine and Gorgonzola cheese. On board enjoy Bloomsday songs and antics galore. On arrival in Sandycove, explore the James Joyce Tower, join the famous street party in Glasthule or soak up the live music and readings in Dun Laoghaire. Tickets must be booked in advance at http://bloomsdayfestival.ie/events/the-ulysses-express/
The James Joyce Tower at Sandycove
A visit to the Martello Tower in Sandycove is a must. For the full on experience get there for 8am, the time the book opens. But there is nothing to stop you doing your own impromptu reading on top of the tower later in the day. If you are brave enough jump into the scrotum tightening sea like stately plump Buck Mulligan. The Forty Foot bathing place is just a few footsteps from the Joyce Tower.
Sweny’s on Lincoln Place. Chemists rarely move
This charming 169 year old chemist features in Ulysses. Pick up a bar of lemon soap that you can carry with you all day as a lucky charm. Get involved in a reading from Ulysses, enjoy a cup of tea and share epic tales about your own life. You might even get the chance to join in an Edwardian sing song!
It’s time for Paddy Dignam’s funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery. Explore the museum and take a Joyce themed tour. While you are there you can slip across to the Botanic Gardens through a gate in the cemetery wall. Or hunt out the nearby Gravediggers Pub for a sneaky pint.
The annual Bloomsday Interview with novelists Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman
Go to the annual Bloomsday Interview featuring Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon and New York Times best-seller Ayelet Waldman in Joyce’s alma mater, Belvedere College, which features in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. They will be discussing all things Ulysses with RTE’s Rick O’Shea. Get your tickets at http://bloomsdayfestival.ie/events/the-bloomsday-interview-michael-chabon-ayelet-waldman/
In the Heart of the Hibernian Metropolis
A good chunk of the action in Ulysses takes place around the city centre. After your pint in the Oval Bar, a classic Joyce pub, pose with the Joyce statue beside the Spire on O’Connell Street. Then follow the street plaques marking Blooms lunchtime route from Middle Abbey Street to Davy Byrnes pub. Feed the seagulls on Bachelor’s Walk along the way.
Pay a visit to Davy Byrnes for gorgonzola cheese washed down with burgundy wine. You’ll meet plenty of lively Joyce heads there. Alternatively have your own picnic in nearby Stephen’s Green. Keep an eye out for the statue of Joyce near the bandstand. Pop into the National Museum like Bloom does and then visit the national Library in it’s twin building opposite.
Nighttown adventures at the Poetry Brothel
Make sure you get a ticket to the Poetry Brothel in the Liquor Rooms on Wellington Quay. Themed on Bloom and Stephen’s journey into Dublin’s notorious red light district, the Nighttown Brothel will feature some of the city’s most celebrated poets. There will be burlesque entertainment, a jazz-band, tarot card readings and much more. You never know what you might catch there, a song, a poem, or something else entirely. Get your tickets here http://bloomsdayfestival.ie/events/the-poetry-brothel-nighttown-bloomsday-after-party/
As you wander home gaze at the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit and contemplate life on this spinning ball. Then sip some hot cocoa before hopping into bed with Molly.
Romping through Ulysses
To plan your Bloomsday, you might fancy a copy of our illustrated Ulysses guide. Romping through Ulysses breaks down the novel by James Joyce into bite sized chunks, and gives you ideas on things to do, what to wear and is packed with insider titbits and Ulysses quotes.
This blog post was written by James, a nervous wire of kinetic and creative energy. Prone to caffeine and sugar highs, this book-loving ideas man should not be fed after 7pm.