We woke Tuesday in Dublin, opened the curtains, and were greeted with brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine…where have you heard that before?☀️ We were already docked, and not in a big hurry because we weren’t meeting our guide until 11:00. We had a leisurely breakfast on the balcony (great weather but an industrial port view), and I spent some time organizing things since we had four very full days before our first break in the action. We were ready to go with no rushing around, and we went down to Vines at 9:30 to meet our fellow Dublin sightseers.
We finally met the “Name Tag Sisters” and their husbands, since they had signed up to spend the day, the evening, and Dublin Day 2 with us. They presented us with our name tags, and I remember thinking they were pretty over the top considering they had to make (and pay for) more than 80 of them. I know if I had spent that kind of time and money I would have certainly moved Heaven and Earth to make sure I was at the Meet & Greet to distribute them. Something just didn’t seem quite right, but it was just a fleeting thought that would unfortunately make a lot more sense over the next few days of the trip.
I was excited about Dublin because of the tours I had booked, but more importantly I was excited because it was Dublin. What I discovered was that while there is still a rich history and pockets of the city ooze charm, many of Dublin’s old, historic structures have been replaced by modern buildings that make Dublin look a lot like many other cities. Our tours both days, however, were fantastic and more than made up for the experience in Cobh.
We piled into 2 taxis for the quick trip downtown, and had time to explore the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology while we waited for our 11:00 meeting time to start our tour.
I had booked a 5 hour “Almost All of Dublin” walking tour through Dublin Tour Guide (found on Trip Advisor). Our guide, Calbac MacSiacais, was prompt, and after introductions we explored the museum for a few more minutes while he made our reservation for the Book of Kells. Thankfully, Calbac goes by the English name of Carl Jackson, because I never did get the correct pronunciation of his Gaelic name! Carl explained the Irish alphabet only has 19 letters, so some letters combine to do double duty and make sounds of letters that don’t exist in then Gaelic alphabet! One common combination is “bh” which makes the “v” sound. Hence, Cobh is pronounced Cove and Siobhan is pronounced Shivon.
We started our tour with a walk to St. Stephen’s Green, where Carl gave us an overview of Ireland’s/Dublin’s history and briefly explained the things we were going to see.
It was there that I started to understand the strained relationship between England, Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Suffice it to say, some of my assumptions about the current relationships between the countries and Brexit were way off the mark. If I was going to describe the current atmosphere as a relationship status on Facebook I would choose “it’s complicated.” Actually, it’s beyond complicated, it’s emotional and gut-wrenching and as steeped in history and inexplicable events as race relations in the U.S.
Our first stop was at Trinity College and the Book of Kells. On the way we walked down Grafton Street past all the expensive designer stores and cart vendors, winding our way through the throngs of people and street performers. A quick stop for the story of Molly Malone, and we were on the grounds of Trinity College. We went directly to see the book of Kells, followed by the jewel in my day, the Trinity College Library.
The Book of Kells is a set of beautifully illustrated Latin books of the four gospels, meticulously hand written in inks of the times. Believed to date back to 800 A.D., the heavily ornamented pages are unlike most other scripts of the time. For centuries, the work was housed at the Abbey of Kells, but has been in the possession of Trinity College since at least 1661.
Today the manuscripts reside in a climate controlled case in the Trinity College Library. The manuscripts are fascinating, but the process for viewing them leaves something to be desired as it involves lots of pushing and shoving in tight quarters. Obviously, photography is forbidden, but pictures are easy to find on the internet. These came from Wikipedia. I did have an interesting conversation with one of the employees about the care of the book. The pages are turned every few months, and it is a lengthy, painstaking process. The display is closed to the public during the times the pages on display are changed.
Exiting the Book of Kells display, a marble staircase took us to heaven — I mean the Long Room of the Trinity College Library. Oh, how I would have loved to be there and wander through the stacks without all the tourists! As improbable as it seems given the age of the books, the lack of technology, and the number of tourists, this is a working library for the students at the college. Books cannot leave the premises, but they can be requested to be used in the reading areas of the library. I could have lost myself there for many hours!
Isn’t it spectacular? Here’s a picture from Wikipedia without all the people:
After we left the library, we walked around campus a little before we headed to lunch.
We ate in the most unlikely place — Kilkenny Department Store! I was skeptical, but upstairs there is a great café serving a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, quiches, soups, sausage rolls, and sweets. The servings were plentiful, it was fast, and there was something for everybody. In hindsight, it was a good choice because we needed to eat without spending too much time. These pictures are from the website:
After lunch we walked down to the Liffey River.
Along a stretch of the river known as the Dublin City Docklands is where you can find the Famine Memorial. The haunting figures represent the victims of a dark time in Irish history, the great potato famine when around 1 million people died of starvation and another million emigrated from Ireland in search of food.
I’m not going to go into detail here, but this was the first of several times we heard the term “genocide” used in relation to the famine and the massive loss of (mostly Catholic) lives. Suffice it to say there were a number of political, social, religious, and economic factors that contributed to the huge loss of life and helped shape Ireland as an independent country with only historical ties to England.
Docked in the river close to the memorial is the Jeanie Johnston, a tall ship that carried over 2,500 starving immigrants to North America during the famine. The statues at the memorial are placed so as to be making their way to the Jeanie Johnston. She is typical of the ships referred to as coffin ships due to the massive loss of life on board the immigrant transports, however no passengers ever died on a Jeanie Johnston crossing. That was a great feat attributable to the captain and ship’s doctor.
Our next stop was at a place not usually on tourists’ must-see lists…we visited St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral. Why St. Mary’s? Deedee’s Great-Great Grandmother was christened there, so we included it on our list of stops! I don’t think they get a lot of sight-seers, because the caretaker was very excited to have visitors, especially when he learned the reason! The first two church pictures are from Wikipedia:
From St. Mary’s we walked down O’Connell Street on our way towards the river and the Temple Bar area. There we saw the Spire of Dublin, a gigantic steel sculpture that doesn’t appear to depict anything. It’s in a kind of questionable neighborhood, and the locals have given it some questionable nicknames. The most common one is “The Stiffy by the Liffey,” but there are others…all referring to the shape of the sculpture! The picture of the “stiffy” is also from Wikipedia.
We crossed the river and walked slowly through the bustling, colorful Temple Bar area. I thought Temple Bar and the surrounding streets looked the most like the picture of Dublin I had in my head before the trip. The buildings were old, quirky, well-kept, and surrounded by beautiful flowers. It was an area I would have liked to spend more time exploring.
From Temple Bar we walked to Dublin Castle, and found a shaded spot in in the Dubh Linn Gardens where we chatted with Carl for a while about all things Ireland — education, sports, religion, history — you name it. Sadly, it was time for us to part company, and Carl rushed off to play in a soccer match while we squeezed in a few minutes at the Chester Beatty Library.
The Chester Beatty Library houses ancient manuscripts, biblical papyri, and very early copies of the New Testament as well as other important religious documents. It was another one of those places where I could have spent a lot of time, but unfortunately by the time we got in there they were preparing to close. It would definitely be on my list for a return visit.
We had a little time to kill before our dinner/show at the Brazen Head Pub, so we walked in that general direction and settled on Ned O’Shea’s Pub across from our dinner destination for a late aftenoon cocktail. It was while we were in Ned O’Shea’s that things started to get a little strange. I mentioned to the “Name Tag Sisters” what a shame it was they had spent so much time and money on name tags only to have them go to waste. They didn’t seem too bothered by the waste, but I suggested we set up a get together later in the cruise and they somewhat reluctantly agreed. I should also add that the “Name Tag Spouses” were even less enthusiastic about the idea than the sisters. In fact, neither of the husbands really had much to say the entire day. One of the husband’s parents immigrated from Cobh, and when I asked him about it he said he had never visited before and really never had any interest in doing so. I thought it was strange, but each to his own!
Before dinner Jim and I went on a walking tour of the neighborhood desperately in search of a drug store. My allergies had hit with a vengeance that morning and were getting worse by the hour. I felt fine, but I could barely talk and was starting to cough a lot. We finally found what we were looking for and met the rest of the group upstairs at the Brazen Head.
What a fun evening! We attended an event called an Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies. We were served traditional Irish food while Phillip shared stories and songs that have been passed down through the generations. The only thing I would have liked was a bit better air conditioning. It was hot for Dublin (upper 70s), and quite stuffy on the third floor of the old pub, especially while eating giant bowls of Guinness Stew!
While we were at the Brazen Head I got an urgent e-mail from Derek of Beautiful Meath Tours letting me know there was a problem with the air conditioning in our van for the next day. Apparently it was working in the front but not the back. Derek said they would load plenty of cold water on the van for us. We all talked about it (me, Jim, Cathy, Bob, and the Name Tag Sisters and their side-kicks) and decided we would be fine, and we could switch seats throughout the day to make sure everyone was comfortable. Keep in mind the forecast was for the high 70s. It might have been sweltering to the Irish, but to the Houstonians it felt great!
Little did I know that when we parted ways at the Brazen Head into taxis back to the ship that was the last time I would see the Name Tag Entourage (henceforth to be know as the Fab Four) except from a distance.😢😡😳
It didn’t take me long to fall asleep when we got back to the ship. It had been a wonderful but long day, and since we were meeting at 7:45 the next day I knew I needed my beauty sleep!
Up next — Happy Independence Day from the spectacular Irish countryside, a wonderful guide and day with Beautiful Meath Tours, and what NOT to do when you commit to a tour!