Catch-up posts from our trip to Ireland. Most of these posts are quite lengthy, with a lot of detail that is important only to us, or close friends and family. Feel free to cruise through at whatever speed suits your fancy. All the additional photos of the trip will be located on my SmugMug site eventually, but not just yet.
Ireland Day 4 Dublin
I finally finished writing at 5:30 or so this morning, and was especially happy that I didn’t wake up again until almost 7:30. Felt a bit groggy and was really looking forward to breakfast, Irish or not. By the time we got downstairs, the restaurant wasn’t too full. I tried the crepes this time, flavorless flat things heated up in the microwave with some kind of raspberry sauce that was inconsequential. I managed two bites. I hate to waste calories on bad food. Settled once again on a yogurt and some grapefruit to start the day, but the coffee was actually really good.
I had planned this day for weeks, reading Lonely Planet, walking the streets via Google, measuring distance and routes and trying to decide what we could fit into one short day of sight seeing in this amazing city on our free day in Dublin. Much of what we wanted to see had been covered yesterday by the Go Ahead tour guide, and the only thing we really missed out on were the tour prepaid tickets to get into Christ Church, The Trinity Library and the Book of Kells, and Dublin Castle. As the day grew to a close, I was so happy that we were on our own time, our own schedule, and not tagging along with a group, but instead seeing what we wanted to see at our own pace. Entry fees were a small price to pay for that privilege.
I would imagine that this was the longest day of walking that we will manage on this trip, with the rest of the time fairly well scheduled as we continue west and north circling the country along the coastal cities and towns and into Northern Ireland before we return to Dublin. On this day, the trusty Fit Bit logged 8.22 miles and over 17,000 steps. Kind of nice to have a little pink device thingy to back up a good reason to be tired this evening. Mo is at the moment napping, and we are both glad that we decided on a late lunch rather than evening dinner. I supplemented my writing time here with chocolates from an excellent chocolate store we passed on the way home. Not Belgian chocolate, but good enough to satisfy the craving.
Before we started our wanderings today I had to look up the chronological history of Ireland, specifically the Republic of Ireland, the major part of the island in the south and west which is no longer under the banner of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is not part of The Republic of Ireland, Protestant rather than Catholic, and still considers itself to be British. I had memories of the IRA and the conflict in Ireland, referred to here as “The Troubles”. It was all reasonably settled not too long ago, but reading over the centuries of Irish history was a bit sobering. Not only was there the famous potato famine during the 1840’s, but there have been repeated famines quite often every few hundred years that have decimated the population and contributed to great emigrations from Ireland. I am a result of those emigrations, with one of my ancestors coming from Ireland to Virginia in the early 1800’s.
I also learned of the Viking invasions of Ireland in 800 or so, and the establishment of the city of Dublin by the Vikings because they wanted to develop shipping routes. Eventually they were vanquished, and although I read all this just this morning, I have given up on remembering the dates and sequences except for the general knowledge that Ireland has struggled mightily to be an independent proud Irish country. I guess I still don’t really understand the northern Irish part. It will be interesting to go to Derry and Belfast and see how much different it feels than Dublin and the rest of the Republic of Ireland.
You cannot spend even one day in Dublin without having some sense of this long history. There are monuments everywhere, statues and sculptures, and yes, the famous or infamous “Spire”. It replaced a statue that was blown up by the Republican movement during “The Troubles”, and many folks seem to think it is a bit strange and ridiculously expensive. Mary said yesterday that the street people can’t even get any graffiti to stick to its slick metal surface.
Highest on my list to see was Trinity College and the Old Library. I wasn’t even that attached to actually seeing the Book of Kells, realizing that it was only visible under dim light, and only open to two pages of the famous manuscript.
As our morning began, we wandered toward the River Liffey via a few side roads from our hotel, finding a Dominican church every bit as ornate and beautiful as many cathedrals. There are more than 2,000 Catholic Churches in Dublin, so it is fairly easy to get sidetracked by their gorgeous facades and beckoning interiors. I knew we had St Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church on our list so we managed to ignore the other lovely churches along the way.
Crossing the river via a footbridge into the Temple Bar area, we turned down a side street and there right before me was the red facade of Temple Bar pub. Before we left home, I found the Earth Cam for Dublin which is trained on this view for live video and was tickled to find it so easily. At only a little after ten in the morning, the district was fairly quiet, and it was also the middle of the night back home, so not a good time to text Melody and tell her to look for me on the webcam. We will save that one for later.
Like many great cities, Dublin appears really huge on a map until you actually start walking the streets. Also, like many European cities there are small side streets that almost look like alleys and large boulevards that have been converted to pedestrian only malls. It is a great city for walking. It is a great city for people as well, and in spite of English being the common language, I heard a plethora of languages being spoken from all over the world.
Within minutes from Temple Bar we were on Fleet Street leading directly to the famous Trinity College Campus. I imagined a quiet courtyard, but as we entered the gates, we were surprised to find it filled with canopies, students, noise and signs everywhere. Seems it was Fresher week, when the nearly 200 extra curricular societies on the campus vie for the students. A very gracious young man explained all this to us when I finally asked what in the world was going on and was the college courtyard like this every day. He said being part of the various societies is a huge part of attending Trinity college and sometimes students do forget that they are here to actually get a degree. The oldest society was the Philosophers Society, established in 1683.
We found out where the Old Library was located and discovered that instead of waiting for a tour, we could simply pay the entry fee to the library and go in without a guide. I had heard that if you paid this lesser fee of ten Euros, you would see the library but not the Book of Kells. Not true. The beautiful, informative, and very crowded display called, “Turning Darkness into Light” is situated at the entrance to the Treasury where the Book of Kells is housed, and once through the Treasury, stairs lead to the main floor of the Old Library.
I wanted to see the library, but was quite happy that our tour also included walking through the Treasury, viewing the two open pages of the “book”. The Book of Kells is an illustrated manuscript of the Four Gospels, created by Irish monks on the island of Iona around AD 800 before being brought to Kells. It is one of the oldest books in the world and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Around 850 years after its creation, and protection from the Viking looters, it was finally brought to the Trinity College library. It was once a single book, but has been divided into the four gospels, two of which are on display at any one time, with the other two in safe keeping.
What made the display more haunting were the large illuminated reproductions of the pages on the walls, big enough to see clearly and appreciate the incredible artistic detail painstakingly rendered by lamplight and swan or goose quills of calfskin vellum pages. Rather incredible. I am so glad we didn’t miss it.
If you have a desire to see the Book of Kells without going to Ireland, Trinity College has made it available for viewing online at the library’s digital collections website. Still, it wasn’t even close to the breathtaking moment when we stood at the entrance of the great hall of the Old Library. Here there are more than 200,000 of the oldest of the more than 3 million books housed by the Trinity College Library. I was a bit overwhelmed, and overjoyed when I saw that photographs were allowed without flash. A reminder that culture exists in the world beyond the internet, computers, and instant gratification. We lingered a long time, just absorbing the history and feeling of the place, remarking over and over to each other how incredible it was to be able to experience it.
Out into the sunlight, through the square, and south toward St Stevens Square was next on our list. Just a few more blocks, but between Trinity College and the square is Grafton Street.
Melody, you would have loved it. Much like the Ringstrauss in Vienna, with all the high end stores and fabulous looking people looking at fabulous stuff. We ambled along, noticing the few people walking slowly were obviously the tourists, like us, trying to keep from getting overrun by all the locals walking with purpose.
The beautiful St Stevens Square opened up beyond the impressive entry gate to a lovely respite of gardens, shaded pathways, gentle silky pools of water on the pond, and almost quiet. There were many people lounging on the park benches at the center of the square, enjoying the gorgeous sunshine, and we found a nice little cement bench to sit and rest our bones, which by this time were getting a bit weary. What a people watching place! As we left the square, we discovered that the bench where we were sitting was dedicated to a Quaker couple who were pioneers of Irish feminism. Perfect.
Leaving the park, we once again entered the busy sidewalks, taking an alternate route from Grafton Street west toward the Cathedral district. Our goal was to see both St Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church, the official Cathedral of the Anglican Church of Ireland established in 1050 under British rule.
Ever hear that thing, “Oh, one more cathedral..sigh..” ? I know we won’t get back to Dublin, but the the day was extending, we were tired and hungry and a pub sounded much better than paying more than 10 Euros to enter each church and possibly not be allowed to take photographs anyway. I peered into the doors, noting that the interiors were not as ornate or fabulous as the ones we saw in Malta and decided that exterior views would suffice.
Hungry and tired as we were, we didn’t want to miss Dublin Castle, another magnificent structure with amazing history and a hefty entrance fee for the required tours. I know visiting the interiors of any of these historic places would be wonderful, especially so if a visit were longer than a single day. It would be great to see one or two a day, and spend a couple of weeks just hanging out enjoying the history of this amazing place. Much like landing in a port for a single day on a cruise, we couldn’t begin to touch the wonders of Dublin in a single day. Dublin is home to world class incredible museums, including the National Museum, the Archaeology and Ethnography Museum, and the National Museum of Ireland Decorative Arts and History. Dublinair, near Christ Church is an experiential museum in the Medieval part of the city that celebrates the Viking heritage of Dublin. Much like visiting the Smithsonian, you need many more days that the one we had to absorb all this art and culture.
This day made me especially appreciate how Mui and Erin are seeing Italy, with two full weeks in Rome to actually see all the sights, and even so they are feeling as though they are missing so much. A great city deserves great time. Who knows if I will ever have the chance to see Dublin again with my years getting shorter and so many places yet to see. Still, if any of you kids get a chance to go to Ireland, maybe you can do it in a way that allows more time. And Melody, when you talk of Paris, make it at least two weeks, staying in some little apartment, with lots of time on your own to really experience the city.
I had hoped to see Mulligan’s Bar, which turned out to be all the way back west of the Trinity College campus, or at least return to the Temple Bar area for a pint and some pub food. Instead, with a bright idea, I approached one of the policemen in Dublin Castle and asked for his recommendation. With is kind eyes and sweet voice he suggested the “Marechents” down by the river.
With a bit of wandering, we did finally find O’Sheas Merchant Pub and settled into a cozy table for my first pint of Guinness and Mo had a Smithfield IPA from County Cork that was incredibly tasty. Our beer accompanied Irish pub food, comfort food for me of roast beef and mashed potatoes over some more amazing squash veggies that were crisp and soft at the same time and truly delicious. Mo’s sandwich was really good, and the big fat fries, … chips…were to die for, thank you Mo for sharing!
With free wiFi in the pub, I texted Melody telling her that we would be showing up within view of the Dublin Temple Bar WebCam by 3:30 our time, 7:30 AM pacific time. She texted back that she had the app already downloaded, installed and ready, and she said, Mom, I can hear people so be sure to call me the way you did when I was a kid. I could holler “Melll-iiiiii-deeeeee” and could reach her anywhere.
Sure enough, at 3:30 we were once again in view of the Temple Bar pub, walking around the corner, waving at the webcam, and laughing with the ladies waiting on the bench for the same thing. Everyone seems to get a kick out of this. Melody said later that she heard me call her name and she even took a video and screen shots of us waving at her. It was silly fun.
Melody saved the video of us waving but it is a bit grainy, so I didn’t attempt to upload it, but if you want to check out the webcam for fun, the link is here.
IT was all just enough fun to propel me the rest of the miles back to the hotel, although even my tired body couldn’t stop me from stepping into the Butler’s chocolate shop for some treats. I suppose that little bit of chocolate is why I am able to sit here and write rather than being all conked out and sleeping as Mo is doing at the moment.
Some time tonight we will pack up our suitcases again, set them outside the door by 7:30 AM, have a bit of Irish breakfast…ick….and then the tour bus will leave Dublin precisely at 8:15 heading west toward the Royal Stud, Killarney Castle, and our evening destination will be the coastal town of Waterford.
It feels as though we have been here forever, but we have barely begun.
Here is a link to my SmugMug gallery photos of our day in Dublin
Coming Next: County Killarney, Killarney Castle, the National Irish Stud and on to Waterford.