(some background for those who haven’t heard the story yet…)
So here I find myself in a hotel room in Dublin, and visiting Ireland for the first time.
Quite a number of people have asked me to share the experience. So, I’ve decided to do so here where it’s easy for people to access…
I flew Aer Lingus from Boston direct to Dublin (not much of anyplace to stop in the middle of the ocean 😉 ). It’s an overnight flight, leaving Boston at 6:15 pm and arriving in Dublin about 6 hours later at 5:10 am. By the time I got to the hotel I was exhausted, so I napped for a few hours and then went out to explore.
My first mission was to get a local SIM card for my phone so I could use data for Google Maps and such, as well as keep in touch. It didn’t occur to me that the stores wouldn’t be open till noon on Sunday, so I got there a bit early – only an hour ;). Fortunately there were some other shops open which I wandered through, and I walked around St. Stephen’s Green. I learned later that citizens of Dublin have the right to graze their sheep there, somehow I doubt many do.
The Book of Kells
Once the phone was taken care off, I was a short distance from Trinity College and the Old Library where the Book of Kells is exhibited. It’s an 800 year old volume of the 4 Christian gospels, copied by hand, and spectacularly illuminated. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
I had my timing right and arrived at Trinity just as a tour, given by a student who had just graduated 2 weeks ago, was about to leave. He was delightful, and it was quite something to learn about the college and some of it’s quirkier aspects. There are roughly 15,000 students enrolled there, but they only have on campus housing for 600something of them. Quite a difference from UNH. One of the dorms goes back to the 17th century and apparently has no central heat and the showers are on the ground floor and accessed from OUTSIDE. You get up in the morning, come down the stairs, outside and line up in your bathrobe, outside, to wait for a chance to take a shower as you try to ignore the tourists staring at you.
It’s the red brick building in the back of this photo: (the one you can see through the archway of the bell tower in the center).
The Book of Kells exhibit itself is housed in the Old Library which is the building at the back right of the photo. No pictures were allowed in the exhibit or the treasury where the actual book is shown. It’s worth saying though, that the exhibit does a great job of introducing the book and putting it in context, and it was wonderful to see the real thing. I also found the audio tour well worth the money.
From the treasury you go upstairs to
The Long Room
Which is the longest single room library in the world, containing over 800,000 volumes. However, doing research there is not an easy thing, though students, faculty and alumni do have access. Firstly, about 60% of the books are in greek or latin, and secondly they are organized (if you can call it that) not alphabetically, or by subject, but rather by SIZE. Apparently this was rather common until less then 200 years ago.
It certainly does make for beautiful looking, even shelves, with the largest books on the bottom and the smallest on the top.
From Trinity, I took a bus tour – it’s one of the “hop on, hop off” tours like those in many cities, but it was late enough in the day that things were starting to close, and so I stayed on and just rode the whole loop. The tour guide was wonderful with a dry sense of humor I really enjoyed. I also thought it was unusual for a tour like that for the guide to sound like he was speaking extemporaneously, and not reciting a memorized speech.
After the tour, I got dinner at a bar (which is what it was called, not a pub, though there are many pubs here and I’m not sure what the distinction is). The food was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though it was served in an unusual way. They serve their stakes on a large slab of stone, about 2 inches thick. The stone is heated, so the steak is still cooking. They bring it out rare, and tell you to let it cook to your preferred degree of doneness. Very odd, but surprisingly worked well.
One of the highlights of the day was on the walk home where I came on a group of young street performers. I took some video of them, which I will post if it ever finishes uploading to youtube ;).
By the time I walked back to the hotel, I was ready to tip over in bed even though it was only shortly after 6 pm – but of course I hadn’t really slept either.
So that’s the first day….