Monday, June 8, 2015

Slàinte Dublin

I'm still catching up on stories and am now only three months behind!

Anyway, I made a lot of trips to Dublin over the last year-plus. This story's about my last weekend there when Diana came with me to play tourist.

Our first stop was at the Kilmainham Gaol, which is infamous for holding all sorts of political prisoners over the years.

The old prison is located a handful of tram stops away from central Dublin. It's made up of stone buildings that are startlingly cold and damp. I can imagine it wasn't pleasant (for a variety of reasons) as we had trouble staying warm during our brief visit even on a rare spring-like day.

Having spent a bunch of time in Dublin, I became familiar with many of the street and place names although it wasn't until going to Kilmainham that I was able to attach a story to those names. Like Independence Hall and areas around Philadelphia with the American revolution, the stories provide a who's who of the (modern) Irish independence movement.

The guided tour lasts about 45 minutes and takes you through various buildings although the highlight of the tour (I'm told), the Victorian-styled wing, was closed for renovations.

The view through a guard's peep hole into a cell, which the guide say could hold (at least?) four prisoners.

It was an effective tour. I learned a lot of Irish history AND was reminded to stay out of prison!

Diana and I in the front courtyard of Kilmainham. (By the way, our smiles are not meant to be disrespectful and I recognize that it isn't a very happy place for many.)

Our next stop was Trinity College, which I had been past probably 100 times but never went in. We took a guided tour that was led by a former student who did an awesome job telling us about the history of the school, showing us around, and sharing what life's like living in the middle of a tourist attraction (like we don't already know!).

The highlight of the tour is a visit to Trinity College's library to see the book of Kells and walk around the "Long Room", which looks a lot like something you'd see in a Harry Potter movie. It helped that our guide wore some kind of strange jacket that made him look right out of the movie.

There were two different things at the library that caught my attention. The first was in a display that held like three or four open books. One was a book of Hawaiian myths and legends intended for kids. It was written by an Irishman at the request of the Hawaiian legislature. How random to find a book about Hawaii at Dublin's Trinity College library?

The other thing that surprised me was coming across the Brian Boru harp. The harp dates from the 15th century and is the inspiration for the symbol widely used today to represent Ireland. Familiar with the Guinness logo? Yep. How about Ryanair? That one too. Or perhaps a one-euro coin from Ireland? Ahh, yep, that too and more. By the way, like 95% of the folks I saw didn't even notice it!

Our last day playing tourist took us to nearby Malahide, which is a village located along the coast about 30 minutes via metro north of the city center. Other than being kinda' artsy, it's probably best known for the Malahide Castle.

Random thought, if you're going to build a custom home, you really should consider putting turrets at the corners. You never know who might attack.

Again, we opted for the guided tour of the ~900 year-old estate and ~800 year-old castle. Like the Kilmainham Gaol, there's a ton of history and the guide mentioned a whole bunch of other folks whose names you can find on street signs and squares throughout the area.

The tour was very good but probably the thing I'll most remember is how our guide systematically touched pretty much every single item on display!

So ended my extended time in Dublin. I met and got to know a bunch of great folks and had fun being a part-time resident. Thanks Ireland for the adventure and all those yummy meals! See you soon and a big ole' slàinte to everyone!

Diana and I in front of the Liffy not too far from the convention center and Samuel Beckett bridge (hey, there's that harp shape again!).

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