Monthly Archives: May 2015

Dublin Hit or Miss

Although we spent only two and a half days in Dublin, we covered most of the main sights. In earlier posts I told you about the Book of Kells, the Long Room at Trinity College Library, and the National Museum. These were all a hit with us and I recommend taking the time to visit each. There were lots of other hits with us, too. Here is a summary of some of the other sights we visited in no particular order.

The Guiness Storehouse was a hit and frankly, I was surprised. We didn’t tour it last time we were in Dublin but after reading its the number one tourist attraction in all Ireland, I thought we should take a look. I’m glad we did because this was a fascinating museum. In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease to pay 45 pounds a year for St. James Gate Brewery. You can see the lease encased in glass in the floor of the lobby. Plenty of educational materials displayed on seven levels explained the history and the beer-making process. I’m not a beer drinker, in fact I’m normally gluten-free, but I made an exception in this case to taste a pint at the end of the tour. I was impressed.

Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

This says it all.

This says it all.

The Cooperage Exhibit showed Jim's favorite video explaining the barrel making process

The Cooperage Exhibit showed Jim’s favorite video explaining the barrel making process

Brian and Abi tasting a pint in the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse

Brian and Abi tasting a pint in the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse

Tasting our pint in the Gravity Bar at the end of the tour of the Guinness Storehouse

Tasting our pint in the Gravity Bar at the end of the tour of the Guinness Storehouse

The Dublin Castle was definitely a hit. We took the guided tour and found it interesting and helpful even though Rick Steves called it boring.  In fact, it seemed like three separate tours, and visits to two of the areas, the undercroft below the castle and the State Apartments, are allowed only by guided tour. First, we toured the level under the castle (undercroft) where the original Viking fortress was located at the juncture of the Liffey River and its tributary, the Poddle, in a black pool, or dubh linn in Irish (Dublin). This level was excavated in 1986 revealing archeological evidence from around 930 AD Viking Dublin and Norman remains from the 12th century.

Dublin Castle

Archeological dig under Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

The Irish dubh linn (Dublin) which means black pool under Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle was the symbol and center of British colonial rule in Ireland. The Chapel Royal displays the coats of arms of all the  British officials assigned to rule Ireland from 1172 until the last space was filled in 1922, coincidentally, the same year  the Republic of Ireland gained independence from Britain.

The Royal Chapel at Dublin Castle

The Royal Chapel at Dublin Castle

The coats of arms surrounding the perimeter of the Royal Chaple at Dublin Castle

The coats of arms around the perimeter of the Royal Chapel at Dublin Castle

Pipe Organ given to the Royal Chapel by Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Phillip

Pipe Organ given to the Royal Chapel by Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert

The last stop on the tour was at the State Apartments where official state functions are held to this day. During the colonial period, the Viceroy lived there and on occasion the King or Queen would visit. The throne that was built for King George IV’s visit in 1821 was so large, the diminutive Queen Victoria subsequently had a step added.

Throne with Step for Queen Victoria in the Throne Room, Dublin Castle

Throne with Step for Queen Victoria in the Throne Room, Dublin Castle

The Drawing Room was the scene of many glittering extravaganzas during Dublin’s social season which culminated in the Grand Ball on St. Patrick’s Day. Debutantes would line up from the most wealthy to the least with the width of their ball gowns as an indication of wealth and status.

The Drawing Room, Dublin Castle

The Drawing Room, Dublin Castle

The Chester Beatty Library was a delightful hit. Chester Beatty, born in 1875, was an American who moved to England in 1911, then to Ireland in 1950 where he established a library to house his priceless collection of rare books, manuscripts, paintings, and objets d’art from around the world. This museum strikes the right note allowing a leisurely visit that impresses without overwhelming the visitor. While photography is not allowed, the museum is free. Thanks to my friend, Sheryl, for recommending a delight we would have otherwise missed.

Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

A walk through St Stephen’s Green was a welcome hit. The day was warm and sunny, drawing swarms of people to enjoy a perfect day lounging on the green enjoying the colorful flowers and wildlife.

Lounging in St. Stephen's Green

Lounging in St. Stephen’s Green

St Stephen's Green

St Stephen’s Green

Fountain at St Stephen's Green

Fountain at St Stephen’s Green

Swan in St. Stephen's Green

Swan in St. Stephen’s Green

St Patrick’s Cathedral was a sacred hit. Much of what is known of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, consists of legend rather than fact. One of the legends is that he baptized new converts to Christianity at a well in the cathedral environs. In 1901, six gravestones were unearthed and one of them covered what appeared to be a well, more “proof” that St. Patrick had indeed baptized converts there in the fifth century.

Jonathan Swift, the satirist who wrote Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal, was the Dean of the Cathedral from 1713-1745 and is buried here.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Grave slab from St. Patrick's Cathedral

Grave Slab that covered an old well where St. Patrick was reputed to have baptized converts

The Temple Bar area was a hit both day and night. Temple Bar is both a pub and an area of Dublin. Whether you are seeking a pint of Guinness, authentic traditional music, or pub grub, you’ll find it in Temple Bar.

Iconic Temple Bar, Dublin

Iconic Temple Bar, Dublin

 

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

Unfortunately, Dublinia was a miss. This is an experiential museum about Viking and Medieval Ireland and the information was interesting but the museum is a series of re-creations with no authentic artifacts. Photography is not allowed, possibly because no one would visit if they saw what’s there… or not there. Admission is 8.5 Euro which seems expensive compared to the National Museum which was free. To be fair, I read reviews on TripAdvisor and plenty of others (including my husband) think it’s great.

Two more iconic sights in Dublin absolutely have to get a mention here. The statue of Molly Malone was gifted to the city in 1988 and to be sure, it was a challenge to find her this time around. She’d been moved because of a construction project.

Molly Malone

Molly Malone

The Ha’penny Bridge over the Liffey is as Irish as a pint of Guinness. Officially named the Liffey Bridge, it’s always been called the Ha’penny Bridge after the toll of a half penny that was originally charged to cross it.

The Ha'penny Bridge over the River Liffey

The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey

Be sure to stop by again next week when we will finally venture beyond the pale. I’ll also explain what that means for those who don’t know.

Based on events from April, 2015

   

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Synchronicity in Dublin

Have you ever heard of synchronicity? It’s a term coined by Carl Jung which means “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” (Google)  For example, I recently phoned my husband when I was out-of-town watching my niece and nephew and told him we were having brat patties, baked potatoes, and baked beans that evening for dinner. He laughed and told me he, too, was having brats, baked potato, and baked beans for dinner. We eat brats about once a year; not a frequent occurrence, by any means. Honestly, this type of coincidence happens fairly often to me. Another example is when you say you haven’t seen so and so in a long time and they show up right afterward.

That’s the kind of situation that occurred recently while we were in Dublin. My son and daughter-in-law decided to check out a book store of rare and antiquarian books called Ulysses Rare Books and invited my husband and me along. Many years ago we lost an obscure book of writings by an Irish ancestor of my husband’s from the early 1800’s and we thought we’d inquire about it just on the off-chance this shop had the book.

When we walked in, I addressed the woman at the desk and said, “We’re looking for a book entitled James Fintan Lalor. He was an obscure agrarian reformer from the 1800’s.” The look on her face was incredulous. She said, “I can’t believe it, but I’m at this very moment cataloguing a book by that name.” She showed me her computer screen and indeed it had the name James Fintan Lalor on it. What do you think the odds are that a man named James Lalor (my husband) would walk into a book store when his name is on the computer screen in that shop? I can tell you, the shop keeper and we were totally shocked by this synchronicity. Although the book she held was not the particular one we sought, we had quite a discussion about it and we ended up buying a first edition of another book about James Fintan Lalor.

Proprietress at Ulysses Rare Books

Proprietress at Ulysses Rare Books

Ulysses Rare Books

Brian and James at Ulysses Rare Books

If you travel to Dublin and you’re a book lover, stop by this delightful shop at 10 Duke Street. The proprietors are brother and sister and their father had the shop before them. Specializing in 20th century Irish literature, they have many rare editions and although I’m not a book collector, I loved perusing the stacks here.

What kind of synchronistic experiences have you had?

Based on events from April, 2015.

Categories: History, Ireland, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Sláinte

When you raise your pint of Guinness for a toast in Ireland, you say Sláinte, meaning good health. Click below to learn to say it properly.  

I have several pub stories from our trip to Ireland but this one merits singular treatment. Based on outstanding reviews by Anthony Bourdain, we decided to eat at John Kavanagh’s Pub. Kavanagh’s is referred to locally as the Gravedigger’s due to its proximity to the Glasnevin Cemetery, where Irish heroes such as Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, and Michael Collins are buried. As we approached the door, a gentleman outside inquired whether we were there to eat or drink. We said, “Both,” to which he responded, “If you want food, go in that door. If you want history, go in this one.” We opted for the food door but once inside, the waitress told us there was no food on Mondays. So, back outside and in through the history door we went. We love both food and history so if one isn’t available, the other will do.

This pub was first licensed in 1833 and continues to be a local institution to this day. Although not the oldest pub in Ireland, (that distinction belongs to The Brazen Head), John Kavanagh’s has been in the same family for six generations. It didn’t take long for the friendly locals inside to engage us in conversation. These guys are a garrulous group with many tall tales to tell. The most memorable was when they heard we were from Iowa, one of the chaps asked, “Which is closer, Iowa or the moon?” Providing the punchline, he exclaimed, “The moon. You can see the f_ _ _ _ _’ moon! You can’t see Iowa from here.”

These fellows are also very proud to show off a book kept on the premises that contains information about the pub including the many movies in which the pub has appeared such as “The Woman Who Loved Clark Gable,” “No One Would Save Her,” “Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin in the Bronx,” and “Strumpet City.” Honestly, I hadn’t heard of any of these movies, but maybe you have. The pub even has its own friendly ghost, reputed to enjoy a pint of Guinness as much as other loyal customers. I didn’t get the name of the book but if you visit, I’m sure they’d be proud and happy to share it with you.

John Kavanaugh's Pub, Dublin

John Kavanagh’s Pub, Dublin

Kavanaugh's Pub

Kavanagh’s Pub

Kavanaugh's Pub

Kavanagh’s Pub

Friendly customers at Kavanaugh's

Friendly locals at Kavanagh’s

Friendly customers at Kavanaugh's

Friendly locals at Kavanagh’s regaling Jim with stories

Friendly customers at Kavanaugh's

Friendly local at Kavanagh’s with Abi and Brian

Swinging Doors that locals told us are famous from movie appearnaces (Photo provided by Abi)

Swinging Doors that locals told us are famous from movie appearances (Photo provided by Abi)

We went to other pubs in Dublin and throughout Ireland but this pub was the only place where we didn’t rub shoulders with other tourists seeking an authentic Irish pub experience. This was the real thing.

I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t go back to tell you about the food that originally brought us there. Click on this youtube video to see what they’re doing with tapas at Kavanagh’s. We’ll be back to check it out—but not on a Monday.

Categories: History, Ireland, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bog Bodies and More at the National Museum of Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland – Archeology has an amazing collection of over 2 million artifacts, they allow photography, and it’s free. What more could a history nerd ask for? This is an outstanding museum, in a beautiful facility with good explanations and well presented displays. The museum is closed on Mondays but fortunately for us, we were there on Sunday when they are open from 2-5.

National Museum of Ireland - Archeology

National Museum of Ireland – Archeology

I was especially interested in the Clontarf 1014 exhibit about Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin because our son, Brian, is named for the high king and we were staying at the Clontarf Castle. For more on that, read my earlier post here. The exhibit debunked the legendary version of the Battle at Clontarf with well-researched and compelling information. While no archeological evidence from the battle has yet been found and there are no first hand accounts, a number of secondary sources prove the battle was for economic domination of Dublin and not to expel the Vikings from Ireland. Nevertheless, Brian Boru is still regarded as the high king who united Ireland and remains a hero today.

Clontarf 1014 Exhibit, National Museum of Ireland

Clontarf 1014 Exhibit, National Museum of Ireland

After exploring the Clontarf exhibit, I moved on to see what else this museum had to offer. First of all, as I said before, it’s a beautiful facility. Built in the Victorian Palladian style with neo-classical influences, the museum opened its doors in 1890. Note on the photo below the intricately decorated cast iron columns supporting the balcony above.

IMG_0535Then on the next photo, notice the beautiful mosaic tile floor. To me, the facility is a noteworthy exhibit, in and of itself.IMG_0516

Even the ceiling is impressive.

Rotunda Ceiling in the National Museum--Archeology, Ireland

Rotunda Ceiling in the National Museum of Ireland–Archeology

The exhibits are far more ancient, however, than the building. In fact, the Archeology Museum is the repository for all archeological objects found in Ireland dating from prehistoric times through the end of the medieval period. Following are a few of my favorites just to whet your appetite.

The goldwork exhibit spanning 2200 BC to 500 BC is one of the most extensive and impressive in Europe. These gold collars from the Bronze Age are called lunulae.   IMG_0538

The 4500 year old Lurgan Logboat was discovered in 1901 in County Galway. Over 45 feet long, it is the largest artifact on display in the museum. For more information on the fascinating discovery and its transport to the museum check out this article.

Lurgan Logboat in National Museum of Ireland

Lurgan Logboat in National Museum of Ireland

The bog bodies were fascinating to me. Found in peat bogs, they have been remarkably well-preserved because of the unique conditions that existed within the bog. As I understand it, acidic conditions and a lack of oxygen within the cold watery environment prevented the microorganisms that cause decay from growing and thus, the bodies were preserved and very dark in color.  (My simple version of complex science.) In Ireland, around one hundred bog bodies have been discovered with the earliest discovery in 1780. Today, because peat cutting is mechanized, discoveries are rare but in 2011, Cashel Man was discovered in County Laois, Ireland. (My husband’s people are from County Laois so I like to think he might be a relative.) Cashel Man is the oldest bog body found in Ireland and was radiocarbon dated to around 2000 BC. He is not on display at the museum but you can view several Iron Age bog bodies dating from as old as 400 BC. Current theory holds that the Iron Age bog bodies were ritually sacrificed and placed in the bogs along tribal boundaries.

Gallagh Man, 400-200 BC, National Museum of Ireland

Gallagh Man, 400-200 BC, National Museum of Ireland

Clonycavan Man

Clonycavan Man, 392-201 BC, National Museum of Ireland

Oldcroghan Man

Oldcroghan Man, 362-175 BC, National Museum of Ireland

Oldcroghan Man

Closeup of the Hand of Oldcroghan Man, 362-175 BC, National Museum of Ireland

Early Christian artifacts include reliquaries which are containers that hold relics, believed to bring good fortune to the owner, and crucifixes and crosses.  IMG_0545IMG_0546

This is just a fraction of the exhibits you’ll find at the National Museum of Ireland. If you visit Dublin, stop into my number 1 pick for some Irish history. I think you’ll be glad you did.

References:

National Museum of Ireland

Based on events from Aril, 2015

Categories: History, Ireland, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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