Saturday, September 5, 1998
Ahhh, our first morning in Ireland. While it had rained continually the day before Saturday turned out to be beautiful. This was extremely fortunate for us as we had chosen this day to go into Dublin.
The day began by taking a shower. Yes, those lovely showers with the electronic gadget right in there with you to heat the water...that makes me feel perfectly safe. What I have yet to understand is why the showers have the electric water heater (which gets the water to a nice tepid temperature) in the shower with you and the sink has steaming hot water coming out of the faucet. I also do not understand why the water pressure in the shower results in a fine mist where it takes minutes to get completely wet (and even longer to rinse) and the commodes must flush 5-gallons through in a high-pressure gush.
Around 8 a.m. we went down for our first full Irish breakfast. This consisted of fried eggs, toast, brown bread, cereal, bacon (what we would call a ham steak), sausage, tea, orange juice, and milk. It was very good and very filling.
After breakfast we left the house to walk to the DART station a block away. It cost £1.25 ($2 USD) to ride the tram into Dublin and took about twenty minutes. This is definitely the way to get into and out of the city. After looking at my Dublin map in my travel guide (Eyewitness Travel Guide to Ireland) I decided we should get off at the Tara St. Station. Existing the station we found ourselves on the banks of the River Liffey across from the Customs House.
After taking a few pictures we headed for Trinity College. Arriving at Trinity College we found that we had missed the 10 a.m. tour by five minutes. We decided not to wait on the next tour and went to watch "The Dublin Experience." This was a waste of time and money. The movie was too long (45 minutes) and boring. While it did contain a complete history of the City of Dublin the pictures were all crayon drawings and the whole thing resembled a class project. On top of this, it also cost £3 ($4.50 USD) each. And silly me forgot that I had a buy one, get one free coupon.
After the movie we headed for the "Book of Kells" exhibit. This is a MUST! This exhibit also cost £3 each but was well worth the money. The exhibit had three sections. The first section was a room that contained about thirty old manuscripts exhibited and many artifacts in glass cases. The second room contained the "Book of Kells", the "Book of Durrow" and one other ancient manuscript. The exquisitely detailed drawings in the "Book of Kells" are amazing. The final section of the exhibition was the "Long Room." The Long Room is a collection of 250,000 ancient manuscripts in a beautiful building. Absolutely stunning. This was one of my favorite places in all of Ireland.
After the tour we stopped (too long) in the gift shop to buy a few mementoes. We then went to view an interesting piece of modern art (Sphere within Sphere) and to take a few pictures. Finally, we headed for the National Museum. One hint, you cannot exit Trinity College by the Football (Soccer) fields. To leave Trinity College to the South head back toward the new library. Around to the right is a street exit.
The National Museum is four or five blocks from Trinity College. In front of the museum is the Parliament Building. The museum contains several interesting displays including gold artifacts, Viking artifacts, and several "bog men." Bog men are mummies that have been found preserved in the peat bogs around Ireland. Some of these were accidental deaths, others were found to be murdered, and some are simply people who were buried in the bogs when they died.
From the National Museum we walked down and through St. Stephen's Green. This large city park was beautiful (get use to that word I am going to use it often). Filled with ponds, ducks, flowers, and fountains there was a peacefulness to the park. We found a water fountain and refilled the water bottles that we were carrying.
I also found Dublin and most of Ireland to be much cleaner than I had expected. I had been reading Irish editorials on the internet and a common theme was the litter. On the whole I found the country to be very clean. There were very few places that I saw that were trashy. Of course, I had a very myopic view of the country and perhaps there are places that are as filthy as the inner cities of the USA.
We entered St. Stephen's Green through the North side and exited out the West. After five or six blocks we came to St. Patrick's Cathedral. It is here that Jonathan Swift, author of "Gulliver's Travels" is buried. This is an amazing awe-inspiring building. What I found to be humorous was that in many of the gift shops in the Cathedrals we visited you could find Guinness souvenirs. You would not find alcohol paraphernalia for sale in churches in the USA.
From St. Patrick's we walked uphill three blocks to the Christ Church Cathedral. Once again we were awestruck by the immensity and ornateness of the building. Christ Church includes a crypt (basically a basement) where many dignitaries are buried. They also have on display a mummified cat and mouse found in one of the pipes of the church organ. As we were leaving Christ Church the attendants begin escorting everyone out as a wedding was about to begin. This was one case where our timing worked to our advantage.
It was nearly 3 p.m. by now and we were all tired, hungry, and ready to burst our bladders. As we headed down Lord Edward Street we passed the Forum Bar and Lounge. The prices were REASONABLE so we decided to stop for lunch. This was a nice pub and we got a seat by the window. Sallie ordered a roast beef sandwich, Mom ordered a club sandwich, and Jody and I ordered High Tea. High Tea consisted of a sandwich, slaw, fries, Tea, Scone (a biscuit with raisins - very good), and a piece of apple pie with cream (ice cream in this case). The food was very good. We sat there for nearly an hour relaxing our weary feet and watching the people going by. We were right across from city hall.
Before we left I decided to use the restroom. This was the cleanest restroom I have ever seen in my life. A general word on Irish restrooms is in order. Most restrooms were extremely clean (of course there were exceptions). One thing that I truly liked was the doors to the stalls. Most of the commode stalls were basically a small room with a full-size door and a huge dead-bolt lock. I wish this would become standard in the USA where most stall doors only come to about a foot above the floor and the locks are so flimsy that you are afraid someone will open the door while you are in a...er...umm...vulnerable position. (How detailed should a journal be?)
Now back to less exciting stuff than bathrooms doors. The restaurant we were sitting in was directly opposite of the Dublin City Hall. The guidebook showed that Dublin Castle was located directly behind the City Hall. It was nearly 4 p.m. but we decided to walk over to see if anything was still open. I am glad we did.
The last tour available started at 4:15 p.m.. It cost about £3 ($4.50 USD) each but we had a buy one ticket/get one free coupon. The tour takes you through six or seven of the exquisitely decorated staterooms of the castle. These are the rooms that are used for State functions. After the tour of the castle we were taken outside, down to the lower courtyard, and into an underground room where excavations of the original city walls are taking place. The tour lasted nearly an hour and was one of the most enjoyable parts of our Dublin visit.
By this time we were all getting foot weary and had yet to make it north of the River Liffey. So we headed down Parliament Street and came out on the river three blocks west of the Ha'Penny Bridge and a few blocks east of the Four Courts Building. Where the Ha'Penny Bridge crosses the River Liffey it funnels pedestrians into two shopping areas. On the north side of the bridge is a street that runs north to south filled with shops (Lower Liffey Street). On the south side of the bridge their is a pedestrian "tunnel" through the row of buildings that exits you into the Temple Bar section of Dublin.
We started across the bridge but decided to stop halfway to take a few photos. This was one of the few places where the crowd was an interference. But we managed to pop a few (pictures not people) and then headed on across and east to O'Connell Street.
Of all the areas in Dublin that we had visited, O'Connell Street was the most crowded. The sidewalks were filled with people. We walked down to the GPO (General Post Office), the site of the 1916 uprising. It is still possible to see the chips in the granite from the bullets fired at the building. While we were there Mom and Sallie both mailed several post-cards back to the states. While they were doing this I walked back down to Supermacs (an Irish fast-food joint) and bought a couple of drinks. When the rest of the gang joined me we walked back down to the Daniel O'Connell Statue and sat on its base to rest and people-watch for awhile.
We then crossed back over the Liffey and went to the Temple Bar area. We were trying to find some shops but there are primarily restaurants in this area of town. So we headed back to Grafton street. Grafton street is closed to automobile traffic and is filled with small (and not so small) shops. It was Saturday night and I was surprised to see that many of the shops were already closed. We did see the Molly Malone statue and a street band. The band was O.K. but what was more interesting was a very drunk fellow who was trying to dance to the music. After swaying around for awhile he collapsed onto the street. Instead of politely passing-out, he begin rolling back and forth across the brick-paved street. What truly made him interesting was the fact that he was dressed in a rather nice business suit.
After we enjoyed all that we could endure we limped our way back to the DART station. On the way we passed the massive Bank of Ireland building. I say we limped because by this time we had walked nearly seven miles around Dublin. I don't know if this was the best way to see the city or not, but I sure enjoyed myself.
Almost everywhere we went we saw the Double-Decker Tour Buses that operate a hop-on/hop-off tour. You pay about £8 ($12 USD) per person and as you go around the city there is a running commentary. You can get on and off the bus as many times as you want during the day. It is possible to join these tours at any of the stops the bus makes. This would allow you to get around the city faster, save some wear on your feet, and allow you more time at each location. However, walking has the advantage of letting you really get the feel of the city and go anywhere your fancy takes you. I wouldn't recommend one above the other.
As we boarded the tram back to Dun Laoghaire I felt very satisfied with all that we accomplished our first full day in Ireland. The only major site that we didn't visit that I wanted to see was the Guinness Hop Store. We decided we would try to go there at the end of our trip when we would be back in Dublin. Unfortunately, we never made it back into Dublin. I didn't feel too disappointed as we did tour Old Bushmill's. This just gives me something to do next time!
Arriving back at the B&B we spent sometime relaxing before passing out in bed.