Travel plans with friends did not fall in line, and I was getting itchy. This year I have also been getting two to three mailings a week from CUNARD. I tried to book a crossing on the QM2 in early August when friends were on board. “Sorry, Mr. Boas, no single supplement, you have to pay for two.” Not what I wanted to do, even at $900 per person. Getting more restless. I called on 26 July on an $800 fare for 27 August. “What can you do for me?” I asked. “How about $1162, which includes all port fees, and I can hold that for 24 hours?” I was tempted, and in about 23 hours convinced. I booked on 27 July for an 8 day passage from Southampton to NYC. Now what do I do about getting there. Well, I still have not been to the city of Dublin itself, so now was the time. A timetable was falling into place. But somehow, exact planning did not take place, but not always my style.
I positioned myself at David’s on the 21st to be close to the airport for Saturday’s departure. The cheapest fare I got (still not the ideal time to fly to Europe price wise) was via Philadelphia, which ended up not being bad because I arrived in Dublin at 8:45 AM instead of my usual 6AM from Boston. More civilized.
I decided to stay at a hotel at the airport since I had an early morning flight out to Southampton, thus I was in my room and settled by 9:30, cleaned up and out by 10:30 and waited only about 2 minutes for the airport express bus to the city – a half hour ride. But it was a very rainy day. I did not want to start the clock on my two-day hop-on/hop-off bus ticket, so I began walking in town first stopping to see Trinity College. It was packed – Sunday – still school holidays – no wonder I “do not do cities.”
Figured I should see the Book of Kells – queue was around the block – I also “do not do lines.”
I decided to walk to the Guinness-Storehouse, exploring along the way. Temple Bar is a lively shopping and eating area.
Remember my Montreal images? I had to do a double look up close to make sure this was not a real person I should give some money to.
I passed the Dublin Castle, peaked inside, and noted a “must do”
But around back is the Chester Beatty Library which I had read about. Born in New York, Beatty was a fascinating, successful man. He built his fortune in mining and became a sophisticated collector. Moving to England, he was knighted for his contribution to supplies of raw materials for WWII. In 1950 he moved to Ireland and built a library for his art and book collection. He was made Ireland’s first honorary citizen in 1954. When he died he left his collections to the people of Ireland. The exhibit, Arts of the Book, has the most interesting and well preserved materials dating from c1160 BC (yes over 3,000 years old). This one exhibit is worth traveling to Dublin to see, it is that well done (and is better than Trinity’s exhibit on the Book of Kells – more on that later). Since there was no photography allowed, please visit their website – RAY RECOMMENDS.
In spite of heavier rain, and a badly bruised toe from falling and stubbing it at Trinity College, I finally completed over 3 kilometers to the Guinness Museum which is the most attended attraction in Ireland – and yes, everyone was there with an enormous queue (but I noticed machines for printing out your on-line purchases – note to self, buy ahead tonight). So, I walked to the train station to catch the bus back to my hotel. I was really questioning my decision of touring Dublin – probably due to the lacking of planning, lack of sleep, and lack of sunshine.
I had renewed vigor on Monday morning, and a plan: 1) tour on the hop-on buses routes to get the layout and overview of this Viking town, 2) tour the Dublin Castle, and 3) experience the Guinness-Storehouse museum. My timing again was perfect – out of my room at 9:15, bus pulled up as I reached the stop, exchanged my on-line voucher for the bus ticket, and got onto a bus with the bus guide and I had the best seat up top. I covered both routes in over two hours, and got off as we again approached the Dublin Castle.
I got my ticket for the 1:40 tour, and had lunch in the tea room at the back of the castle with this view.
The castle goes back to Viking times when their fortifications were built on this hill south of the River Liffey and a stream that was to the east of this spot. The open area you see above was at that juncture, and it was a black pool. The Gaelic for black pool is dubh linn – thus the name Dublin (fast fact for you). Part of the original Viking castle was discovered in the 1980s during repair work, and is the first stop on the tour.
Only one tower is left of the original castle works which burned, and the buildings are now stately Georgian affairs (I also learned that the Georgian Period was when there were four kings named George in succession – think I have that right). The seat of British government was here in the “State Apartments” until the end of the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) when the castle was turned over to Michael Collins. Here is our wonderful tour guide in the reception hall.
And a view out of a window here.
It was then off to the seven level Guinness-Storehouse museum. I printed out my ticket and walked right in, and was overwhelmed. Arthur Guinness obtained in 1759 a 9,000 year lease on the property, and the holdings on the site are impressive.
But also impressive is that vellum lease in the floor.
I could do a whole story just on the making of Guinness Stout, but I have already written too many words (and have deleted many images from the original plan – I want you to get through).
Your ticket entitles you to a pint, and you can get it at one of the restaurants, at the 360 degree Gravity Bar at the top of the building, or at the Guinness Academy where you learn to properly pull a pint. Below is the instructor giving one of my group a lesson.
And, here I am graduating:
I recommend that you take the course and pull your pint here rather than getting it in the packed Gravity Bar. But still go up to the highest point in Dublin for the 360 degree view. Here is looking back towards Trinity College.
When I went to bed Monday night I was totally unsure of my schedule, but before I left the city I had bought a ticket for the Malahide Castle and Coastal Tour, planning to take the 2PM tour, and then fill in the rest of the day. Rick Steves recommends going to one of the fishing villages either north or south of Dublin when visiting. Not being a city person, when I saw a flyer for this tour (22 Euros – which included the 10 Euro castle admission) I thought it would be a good to experience the east coast.
When I checked the weather prediction at 7:30 AM, rain was due in the early afternoon, so change of plans, and run to catch the 9:30 tour instead. Timing was perfect and I arrived in the city by 8:45, time to get a bite to eat and be the first on the bus for the front window on the upper deck.
Malahide Castle has been owned by the same family for 8 centuries – 800 years. Not a castle as you would expect one to be, but if you update your home in 8 years, just imagine what could happen over 8 centuries.
Outer walls and moats gone, windows put in (well couple hundred years ago), and 17th and 18th century additions with appropriate interior decoration.
On 260 acres, the last heir could not afford the inheritance taxes, and sold the property to the government in 1975. The gardens and impressive, and the grounds manicured for enjoyment by all. The only fees are for the house and gardens.
Some of the furnishings are original, and below is the drawing room from the 18th century. I wish I could remember everything I am told. Of note is that rich colors on walls were hard to achieve. Due to the difficult and expensive processes, rich wall colors are a symbol of wealth. Note the needlepoint screen to the left of the fireplace.
Fast facts — Ladies make-up was complicated, particularly to cover up small pox marks. Lots of compounds held into place by wax – wax which when on a hot night could melt. A lady would take a screen with her to “mind the bee’s wax” to “safe face” rather than “loose face.”
As we left the car park, the steady drizzle began. The bus drove through the village of Malahide, which began to develop as a seaside resort with the coming of the railroad in the 1840s. The area is now home to wealthier Dubliners, including two members of the U2 (Gary, I also passed the school where the group formed). We drove along the coast to the fishing village of Howth, but now the haze blocked the views back to Dublin and the mountains – too bad.
We stopped in the busy fishing village of Howth – worth another visit on a nice day. Many fish shops, of course.
I did a double take when I saw this window. It took me a moment to “get-it.” This image is purposely at a slight angle to see if you “get-it.”
You know I like train stations, and then I stopped at a seafood shop that is over a 100 years old. I got more COD than I thought I was getting, thus left most of the chips. Remember you can click on any of my images to open a slide show of larger images.
It was a half hour drive back to town, this time along the bay inlet.
Back in town I hopped back onto a hop-on/hop-off bus to see what the queue would be to see the Book of Kells. I knew it would be sacrilegious not to see what is considered the greatest treasure of Ireland. No queue today, got right in, toured through the exhibit area ending up at the “treasury” to view two of the volumes (the original was rebound into four gospels in 1953). I asked, and the pages are changed every 3-4 months even though in special lighting conditions. Guess it would be blasphemy to say I WAS DISAPPOINTED. What they showed were discolored vellum pages, full page illustrations were not bright colors, and text pages shown also were lacking. I own a Manuscript Leaf from a 1453 Book of Hours which is as bright as the day a monk worked on it. But, I can say I saw it — and will say that The Art of the Book as displayed in the Chester Beatty Library far surpasses anything else I have seen in the world as far as book examples dating back to papyrus.
But upstairs was The Long Room of the library, and that was worth seeing.
I then thought I would finish the afternoon with a 4PM Pub Tour, but the rain was not much fun, and I thought it best to hop-on again and go to the Heuston Station (did I mention I like trains and train stations?) to catch the Airlink bus back to my hotel.
I am writing about Tuesday with a Guinness in the lounge at my hotel. Tomorrow is a repositioning day, and I leave Ireland. But it will also be a short exploring day as I prepare for the return stage of my journey.
I have purposely stayed away from giving you all the history I have learned, and not added lots of images of history plaques which I take for my own education, and then hope to share. I will say that I now have a better understanding of Ireland’s fight for independence starting with the Easter Rising in 1916 which accelerated things ending in the gaining of independence from England in 1922. And, I am sure that I have forgotten a great deal that I wanted to share, but if you got this far — THANK YOU for reading.