October 5, 2018
“In Dublin, fair city”
As we rode the Hop On, Hop Off (HoHo) bus around Dublin yesterday afternoon, that refrain from the Molly Malone song was repeated, oh, I don’t know, maybe 100 times. But more about the bus later.
Our travel from Santa Fe to Ireland went very smoothly. We had to get up well before the sun was even thinking about rising in order to make our 6:15 flight from Albuquerque to Atlanta. Both that flight and the one from Atlanta to Boston were on time and uneventful.
We had a very long layover in Boston, but that gave us a chance to try a new (to us) restaurant in the International terminal. My experience has been that food in airports is often over-priced and not that interesting. But we settled on a place called “Wahlburgers” that served pretty good food. It is run by the Wahlberg family (get it?) and we presume it is associated with the actors since there were picture of Donnie (or Mark—I can’t tell the difference) all over the walls. The food was really quite good and quite reasonably priced—for an airport restaurant.
Our overnight flight to Dublin was also smooth. I had pre-arranged to have a car pick us up and we were quickly on our way to the Intercontinental hotel. You have heard that the Irish have the “gift of gab” and our diver had a double dose. Instead of driving us directly to the hotel, we got a little tour. We took side streets to avoid traffic, we heard about careless bicycle riders, where his kids went to school, how well his wife could pack for a trip, and so on. We also got an introduction to the center of Dublin, with lots of points of interest shown to us and, more importantly, a good dose of local conditions and 400 years of history all compressed into a 45-minute drive. A double dose of “gift of gab” apparently includes double-quick speaking. We learned a lot and enjoyed every minute of the drive in.
It was interesting to read the papers this morning [Friday] and see articles about many of the things our drivers talked about yesterday.
We arrived far too early for check-in at the hotel, but they put us at the top of the list for when a room became available. We had coffee and a little something in the lounge while we waited. The weather was a bit “soft” as they say here, which means that it rained—lightly—on and off while we watched the magpies in the well manicured garden. We soon got our room and, after one of us took a short rest, we were ready to go.
As we often do when we get to a new city, we took a hop-on, hop-off tour of the city on the “green” bus. [The concierge told us he recommended the green bus, that the red bus was OK, but to stay away from the yellow bus, accompanied by a sad shake of his head.] The hotel is about 15 minutes from downtown. It’s not far in distance but the traffic and streets are “interesting.” We rode with another talkative driver who gave us even more information about people and politics.
Even though it was cool (about 55F) and windy, we rode on top of the bus for most of the 1.5 hour tour. The driver had to keep adjusting the route because of construction and traffic. We went past nearly every location in Dublin that we had read about. The tour was in English, but it was Irish-accented English and our ears are still adjusting. I took a bunch of pictures, but they will probably show odd angles since I was twisting and turning to see as we rode. The music sound track on the bus was short, and Molly Malone came around frequently. By the last repetition, I was ready to never hear it again.
We went back to the hotel for a while before going out on a tour called “A Traditional Irish Pub Crawl” which sounds like it might be raucous. It was, but not because of the pub connotation; this pub crawl was all about traditional Irish music. “Traditional Irish music” is a) not folk music and b) is not Danny Boy or Molly Malone, as we were reminded several times. We visited three pubs and heard music in all three. Our “host” Brian and his companion, Owen, were true professionals with a deep understanding of the history of Ireland’s music and we learned a lot. They also thought they were funny and told a lot of bad jokes like “what do you call a guitarist with no girlfriend? Homeless.” The tour started in Temple Bar (hot tourist spot with some similarities to Bourbon Street in New Orleans) and finished off of O’Connell St across the River Liffey. We were greatly entertained and had a great time.
Then, back to the hotel, where we had a late-night snack before turning in. If you have been keeping track, you will have picked up on the fact that neither of us had slept for about 36 hours. We were a little punchy.
It was no surprise, then, that we slept late today. We didn’t get up until mid-morning today and had a nice breakfast at the hotel before heading out. There is a lot to see and do in Dublin and we won’t get to all of the places we wanted to see on this visit.
We are really a little too far from most of the places on our list to walk from the hotel. We have been pretty fortunate with our taxi drivers, though, so we have learned a lot and been given lots of pointers.
It was cooler today; about 50F. Windy, but no rain. Walking was cold.
Our first stop this afternoon was at Trinity College. We have long wanted to see the Book of Kells, which dates back to around the 800s.
What is the Book of Kells? Here is a write-up from the brochure: “The Book of Kells, one of the great treasures of medieval Europe, is an illuminated manuscript written in Latin, and containing the four gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) together with various introductory texts and tables. It was created by Early Christian monks around 800AD. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy, employing decoration that is not only extraordinarily rich and colourful, but also, in places, deeply enigmatic. It is widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure.”
The exhibit is well done with lots of background and history. The Book of Kells itself was not an everyday book and has stood the tests of time surprisingly well. It is hard to comprehend how the monks (there were 4 who transcribed it and 3 or 4 who illustrated it) could have created such a thing of beauty with the tools at hand. One wonders how many times each page had to be redone to achieve such near-perfection. I wish I could have taken pictures of the book’s pages.
Above the Book of Kells exhibit is Trinity College’s famous “Long Room” which is part of the library. It is an architectural wonder, but I “wonder” if any of the books are read today. The more than 200,000 books are shelved in tall bays that look like they don’t get visited often. The room is more than 200 feet long.
We walked from Trinity to the Archaeology museum, which is only a few minutes away. This is another place we will need to visit again. We barely started on the first floor, which has pieces dating back to more than 300, 000 years. Once again, the items were well-described and displayed. [At the museum, the captions are in both English and Irish.] there is a special exhibit on the first floor that showcases some of the gold and bronze treasure that has been recovered in the past 150 years or so. I did not even know that there were gold mines in Ireland until I just now checked.
Most of what was on exhibit came from burials and discovered hoards. Some of the bronze and lithic pieces came from as far away as the Alps and the Baltic sea. There was too much to take in and we didn’t even get to all the rooms on the ground floor. One of the reasons we were interested in the Paleo items was that we just finished an archaeology class about the Southwest so we were prepared to compare the spear- and arrow-points and pottery (and other things) that were developed in Ireland with those developed in the Southwest. Those comparisons don’t work, of course, once metal-working gets beyond the copper age in Ireland.
More waking. We went from the museum by a more-or-less straightforward route to O’Connell street. The bus tour and the pub crawl have given me some sense of where things are. But here is some advice: don’t ask Patricia for directions because she is still a little turned around.
Yesterday, one of our taxi drivers mentioned Fitzgerald’s as a pub where lots of locals eat. We spotted it last night, and ate there this afternoon. Patricia had the fish and chips and I had a beef and Guinness pie served in a bread bowl. Both were quite good. A small glass of Guinness is served with the pie and the idea is that you pour it on like a sauce. Sounds odd, but I liked it. The prices were good too.
This evening will be spent on this post and getting some pictures ready and catching up on sleep.
First Pictures in the Pictures album. Captions to follow.
Bus Tour and Pub Crawl
Trinity College and Archaeology Museum