Before my Grandma and cousins arrive in Exeter, I better catch you up on my latest adventure. Kenny had planned to visit again in May since it had been four months since we last saw each other, but we wanted to change it up and see new sights. This time we headed to Ireland for a week from May 3rd-10th!
We made these plans only 2 weeks ahead of time, so it was a struggle to find flights to get us there around the same time. Kenny ended up arriving in the morning while I had to take a train to Bristol and then fly from there, landing in Dublin almost 8 hours later. He picked me up at the airport, we checked into the hotel, and then we roamed around the city scoping out the places we might go in the next week. It was a Saturday night and the restaurants all looked really packed, so when we saw a TGI Friday’s with no wait for a table, we of course went there. I didn’t know they had them in other countries…and I also didn’t know how much it would cost! (Hint: way more than it costs in America.)
DAY 1: The first full day in Dublin we went to Mass at St. Francis Xavier, aka Gardiner Street Church, which is where James Joyce attended Mass. Next we walked over to the James Joyce Centre to round out our Joyce knowledge, and then onward to Trinity College! A friend had posted a picture of the Long Room from their Old Library on my Facebook wall right before I left, and I just had to see it. I found out that not only is it an incredibly beautiful library, but it also houses the Book of Kells, a 9th century illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels in Latin. I was absolutely fascinated to learn about how the book was made (150 cow hides! Paints from around the world! Symbolism in illumination!), and then, at the end of the exhibit, actually view it in a glass case in a dim room. Reading about the significance of the book and the hard work put into it just added such gravity to the moment of viewing, and I was suddenly completely engrossed by an artifact I had never even heard of before. Artifacts have such wonderful stories to tell, if you only listen.
Now before I get carried away, I should continue on so this post does not drag on unbearably, as tends to happen when I get excited. We had lunch at Lincoln’s Inn, where James Joyce met Nora Barnacle. Then to the Archaeology building of the National Museum of Ireland, where we had about an hour before it closed. We zoomed through the first floor exhibits, knowing we would come back later in the week to see the rest. My favorite exhibit was “Kingship and Sacrifice,” which featured–you guessed it–bog bodies! There were four round rooms in the exhibit where you could read an informational plaque about the context of the body and what archaeologists had deduced from it, then walk down a spiral slope into the little round room and see the body in a glass case. What I found interesting here was the other visitors’ attitude toward the bog bodies. It was almost like an open-casket effect, with everyone talking in hushed voices, looking uncomfortable, and spending only 30 seconds or so in the room before leaving. I, on the other hand, was taking multiple pictures and staring intently through the glass in an attempt to see the wounds and other things described on the information boards. I wanted so badly to take them out of the cases and examine them myself. I think there’s a difference between respecting the dead and being afraid of them, and in my years of study, I have found that the best way for me to respect them is to learn as much from them as I can. I would want future archaeologists to do the same if they found me in a bog!
DAY 2: We started our day at the zoo. I love zoos! It was threatening rain so we brought ponchos and hoped that everyone else would stay home. (It did not end up raining.) My favorite animals were these little monkeys called Sulawesi crested macaques who were so funny to watch. They were very playful and kept jumping out of bushes to surprise each other and then chase each other through the trees! There was even a tiny little baby :) After the zoo we headed to the Old Jameson Distillery where we learned about the history of Jameson, how it is made, and then got to try it at the end. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the taste, but I’m always up for learning! Our last stop of the day was the Gravedigger Ghost Tour, which was such a good choice. We were afraid it would be quite scary, but our tour guide was hilarious. We went to St. Audoen’s Church, Bully’s Acre, Kilmainham Jail, and Glasnevin Cemetery. At the cemetery, our tour guide poured us all neon green shots! Then we went into the Gravedigger’s Pub and had a pint–you know you’re in Ireland when a tour stops for drinks ;)
DAY 3: Guinness Storehouse Tour. We learned about the history of Guinness, how it’s made, how to properly taste it, how to properly pour it, and then enjoyed the pint we poured in the Gravity Bar, the top floor of the building that is glass all around so you can see a panorama of Dublin. Much to my surprise, I found a beer that I actually like! After that we went back to the archaeology museum to see the second floor (and spend some more time with the bog bodies). We then spent the rest of the day exploring Dublin, spending much of our time in St. Stephen’s Green, which is a beautiful park. Dublin is full of beautiful parks.
DAY 4: We walked out to Phoenix Park, but were quickly ambushed by a torrential downpour. There was no time to get out our ponchos before we were soaked, so we ducked into the nearest tea shop to wait out the storm. After sipping on hot chocolate and drying off, the rain had cleared and we continued on to see the president’s house. Next we went to Kilmainham Jail for the full tour (we had only seen the outside on the ghost tour), and it turns out that we went on their monthly free admission day! What luck. This was a very somber tour, but also very interesting. I learned a ton about the Irish Revolution, which I knew nothing about before. I learned that this jail was state-of-the-art at the time, but failed in what it tried to achieve. I heard the stories of the prisoners held within its walls, and read the letters to their loved ones at home. They were so brave, and my heart ached for their loss. I read “No Surrender” on the doorpost of a female prisoner and felt my feminist heart soar.
DAY 5: Trip to the west coast! The ghost tour guide urged us to see more of Ireland than just Dublin, so we booked a trip to see more of this great country. First stop: Limerick! (I learned that Richard Harris was born here, aka the first Dumbledore.) We saw the Treaty Stone, then walked across the bridge to see King John’s castle and protest his unfair taxation!
After that quick stop, we got back in the bus to head to the main destination of the day–the Cliffs of Moher! At first I was disappointed because they were shrouded in thick fog, but as we walked along, it cleared and the view took my breath away. No pictures could do it justice. I just kept snapping away trying in vain to capture their beauty, but to no avail. I love Dublin and exploring the city, but nothing compares to nature. The air was so fresh, the grass was so green, the mist/rain soaked me to the bone and the wind whipped my hair into an impossible knot, but I could not stop smiling! I am scared to death of heights, but it didn’t bother me here. I stood about a foot from the edge without fear of falling (though I don’t think I could ever be one of those people who hang their legs or arms off the edge! That freaks me out just thinking about it), and our 90 minutes of allotted time here went by much too quickly. Someday I would like to return and walk the entire cliff path from one town to another!
The other stops were at the Burren, (a rocky cliff area which was scarier than the grassy cliffs), Corcomroe Abbey, (a 12th century church and graveyard where people are still buried to this day), and a town called Kinvara (to see Dunguaire Castle). Such a good day!
DAY 6: We went to check out the Decorative Arts and History museum but got bored almost as soon as we walked in, so we left and had lunch at Davy Byrne’s, a pub featured in Joyce’s Ulysses. Kenny finally had the Irish coffee he had been wanting. We saw Oscar Wilde’s childhood home, then walked around Merrion Square. Next was the Natural History building of the National Museum of Ireland, which had some funny-looking taxidermied animals from the 1800’s. We looked for a hardware store to buy a lock, then wrote our initials and the date on it in sharpie. We stopped for a pint of Guinness in Temple Bar and listened to the live music there for a while, then left to put our lock on Halfpenny Bridge. I had some more Irish cream tea (which I had become addicted to!), and we stayed up all night until we had to leave for our flights in the morning, because we didn’t want to waste any time together.
It’s been almost two weeks since that trip, and I can’t believe it went by so fast. I didn’t get to kiss the Blarney Stone, which means I WILL go back! Beautiful country, kind people, good beer. And for the record, my favorite accent of the British Isles.
Now to prepare for the arrival of my Grandma and cousins!