2014 – Day Thirty Eight

Dublin! Ireland’s capital city is our destination today.

Without meaning to, we have landed on one of the few public holidays, so it could mean that it’s either very busy, or very dead with everything closed. Time will tell.

We bus it into town and it’s a mix of both busy, but with a lot of smaller shops closed. Never mind – we’re not here to shop. That’s what New York is for!

Dublin is full of tourists looking lost, clutching maps and dragging bags behind them. We join them being lost, but are soon oriented and set off on a few recommend walks. We tour the main shopping strip O’Connell Street, then the parkland where we see 6 downy white swan chicks, their parents keeping careful watch as little kids have their picture taken with the male who’s preening himself.

The walks take us through the changing aspects of the city’s architecture – there’s a mix of styles from a foundation stone from the 5th century to today. Most of the formal buildings are in a light grey stone which seems quite quartz rich so it’s overall a very
elegant effect. In the entertainment areas, colourful pubs abound with flowers bursting from their windows and live Irish music streaming. Lots of live bands today it seems.

Apart from having a look around, our main reason for visiting Dublin is to see the Book of Kells in Trinity College. It’s one of the earliest books recording the gospel in the Middle Ages.

The college was established in 1592 by Elizabeth I and today has 12,500 students. It only admitted women in 1903 and up until relatively recently, was effectively an international school vs a school for local scholars. The Catholics had it the toughest – they weren’t let in until 1970. Its architecture is mostly Georgian and seems to be a very elegant place to study. Cheeky students and graduates offer tours, but we have a lot to cover two and go straight to the Book Of Kells in the Trinity Old Library.

The Book was written in vellum in the 8th century by Irish monks on the Scottish island of Iona. It’s highly ornate with its colours still vibrant 1,200 years later. The College has a detailed display on the Book, its pages and creation – we only get to see the Book at the end of the tour. It is highly ornate – so much so that it’s quite difficult to read. It’s very beautiful though and rather amazing that it’s survived through the years not to mention the Viking raids. There are 4 volumes that are rotated for display. Interestingly, there’s no
mention as to how the College manages to have it in their possession. I wonder!

Our next stop is the Old Library (built in 1792), and for me, this is the highlight of the visit. It’s a long two level room, wood panelled and filled with 200,000 of the College’s most ancient books. It’s divided into mini open alcoves each with its own ladder to access the higher shelves. Booked are shelved floor to ceiling. It’s stunning. I’d love to be allowed to touch and explore, but settle for a good look instead. The entrance of each alcove is marked with a white marble bust of notable scholars, philosophers and scientists. The Library also showcased Ireland’s oldest surviving harp – a 15th century icon which is now the country’s national symbol.

A short stop for refreshments later, we head off to see the Dublin castle, the nearby memorial garden for police who lost their lives in “the troubles” and then St Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but we are only here for a day. Many stops and photos later, we are done and make our way back to the bus stop…only to miss the bus by movements. The bus driver has left the stop and won’t open the doors. Grrrrr.

Ah well, back to the local pub for a drink. It’s an hour before the next one.

Tanks-a-lot Dublin. You’ve been lovely. Not sure about that bus driver though….

A late arrival home, we head out for an absolutely authentic Indian meal. Who would have thought we’d taste one of the nicest prawn Mumbai curries and coriander naan we’ve had…in a tiny Irish seaside village.