2 May 2012
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Monday 30th April
It is pouring with rain today, and it doesn’t let up. Tony spends time trying to write up notes from the last week, but he has accidentally deleted some of his notes. Anywhere he visits he takes a photo that will identify a place, and if there is an information board on what we are about to see, that is also photographed. It serves as a great reminder of what we have seen and heard, and is a big help in writing up the diary. There are also lots, and lots of photos to go up on Facebook.
The rain stops mid afternoon, so we take the opportunity to head out to shop for tea. We stop to buy a snack at one of the small stores, but the fruit is expensive in these places, and there are no vegetables. After we buy something, Cynthea asks where a large supermarket is as we are wanting veges, apparently there is one “just up the road”. So we head off, we have to go that direction anyway as Tony is going back to Guinness to return the back pack. It just didn’t stand up to hard wearing, the straps were starting to come away from the top of the pack, and he hadn’t even been using it fully packed. He is pleased no one took him up on the offer of a free pack and he still has the old one.
We find the supermarket, it is not that big, and fruit is cheaper, but not by much. We get some meat and veges to last a couple of meals, for around £10. Tony realises that while we have been converting the currency back form Euros for everything else, we haven’t done that at the supermarket. It is still more expensive in Ireland, than back in Britain, but not quite as bad as we first thought. Cynthea heads back to the hostel and Tony carries on to Guinness. At the brewery they just let him in, if he wasn’t so tired he could have done the tour again, but without the free pint this time.
At the shop they apologise that the back pack is not suitable and offer a replacement. But Tony asks for a refund, because if the replacement also fails he has to find something else again, and that, along with trying to get a refund from the UK is in the too hard basket.
Back at the hostel we have a late meal and chat to a few others in the dining room. As far as hostels go, this is quite good. There is a decent kitchen, breakfast is muesli, cornflakes, toast, tea and coffee, buffet, as much as you like. Tony laughs at the coffee machine, there is a choice of hot water, coffee, or STRONG COFFEE! We are near the Temple Bar area (not meaning bar as in pubs, though one could be forgiven for thinking otherwise), and it can get a bit noisy outside at night, but in all it is not too bad. It is a pricey area though, and there is a lack of big supermarkets to be found. We haven’t properly explored here yet, so we will see what we can before we head away.
Tuesday May 1st.
We are in the dining room after breakfast, trying to decide what to do and where to go. We have decided we are not done with Dublin yet, and have booked two more nights here, £43.
It is still persisting down outside, and we really don’t want to be out in that too long. Lauren and Loren, two kiwis we were on the tour with are leaving for the airport shortly, and give us their hop on, hop off bus tickets that they used yesterday. These ones are valid for two days, they cost EUR18 each, so we are thrilled. We have given away unused portions of so many of these ourselves in the past year, it is nice to get one back in return.
We don’t do too much hopping off though, it is raining heavily. We hear later that there has been flooding near here, even made the TV news back home. The bus takes us past the “new” council buildings, another blind architect at work. There was a great controversy over this site as there was found to be a major viking settlement here when the site was excavated. Archaeologists applied to the courts for a stop to proceedings to properly check the site, and were given just one year to carry out their work. Many believe that the council should have found another location given the historical importance of the site, and also that a proper “dig” would have taken 10 years or more.
We get off at Jameson’s distillery, and start to walk to St Michan’s Church (Dave had recommended we do this tour). Tony has stopped to take some photos, and turns the corner to catch up with Cynthea outside the church. She says someone just crossed the road and asked her where the person went that she was just talking with. Cynthea replied that her husband is around the corner, but the guy says not your husband, the person that was talking to you right here, just now. Had there been a ghost? We don’t know if we were being had on or not, but it sent shivers up the spine…
We get to the church, but we miss the tour by about five minutes. We have a few more minutes before the next bus, so we wander slowly back to the stop. We could always go to Jameson’s instead, a tempting idea. We decide against another distillery tour, and don’t even go to the gift shop. We round the corner in time to see the bus pull away, it was early. Bugger. And then the next one is a bit late, we are just pleased it is not raining too hard.
When we get back to the centre city we have to change buses because this is the end/start of the tour. Next stop is Trinity College, or University of Dublin to give its’ proper name. The Book of Kells is here, and we decide to see this today, as we don’t quite know when we are leaving Dublin. The bus tour also offers free walking tour tickets, they were EUR10 each, so we get a couple of tickets for tomorrow, just in case we can use them.
At Trinity College there is a combined tour available, EUR10 each for a short tour of the college and then entry in to see the Book of Kells and the great library, so we book for the next one, and hope the rain stops when it comes time to go.
Trinity College is impressive, with some great architecture in the grounds. It was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth, (the first one), so that Protestants had somewhere to attend that would not inflict the Catholic viewpoint upon her subjects. It was 1793 before Catholics were allowed to attend, and until 1904 it was exclusively male. The provost of the time, Salmond, signed the agreement allowing women to attend with great reluctance. He is said to have stated women would be allowed there “over my dead body”, and within the year he was dead. There is a tale that he was buried at an entrance to the college so the women could do just that, enter over his dead body, but the story is untrue. Today, more than 60% of the attendees are female.
We pass by some particularly horrible buildings, the comment was made that the architects were blind, the buildings do not fit the surroundings at all. One building was supposed to represent the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but the concrete leaches something that prevents plant growth, so that buggers that idea up.
Arnaldo Pomodoro's “Sphere Within Sphere” bronze sculpture stands outside the Berkeley Library, we are told that the main purpose of the sculpture is to divert peoples’ gaze away from the horrible building behind it! The sculpture itself is one of a series worldwide, most famously at the UN in New York, and the Vatican Museum in Rome. It certainly is a stunning piece.
At the old library we see the Book of Kells exhibition, a 9th-century gospel manuscript, apparently famous throughout the world, except that Tony had not heard of it before coming to Dublin. Yes, shameful isn’t it.
It was created by Celtic monks around 800 A.D., taking its name from the Abbey of Kells that was its’ home for centuries. It is a beautiful work of calligraphy and illumination. Everything is so very precise, it must have taken many years of painstaking work to complete, and is widely regarded as Ireland's finest national treasure. It is a miracle that the book has survived, given a turbulent past history. The abbey was plundered by vikings many times, and the book is thought to have been recovered from a field, minus the valued jewel encrusted cover.
The manuscript today comprises 340 folios and, since 1953, has been bound in four volumes, the leaves are on high-quality calf vellum. It is on permanent display here at Trinity College, where they usually display two of the current four volumes at a time, one showing a major illustration and the other showing typical text pages.
We then head upstairs to the 65m Long Room, which holds around 200,000 rare, and in many cases very early, volumes. It is an impressive sight, and Tony tries to get a photo, but security is keeping a watchful eye on such misdemeanours! The only option is to sneak back in later, or take a picture of the postcards that they sell in the gift shop. We opt for photos of the postcards (which we bought), and also get a small cook book of microwave recipes that you can cook in a mug. Mmmmm chocolate cake in a cup, we have seen that recipe before. The cookbook is magnetic and sticks to the fridge, a bit of a novelty that we have not seen before, but will see everywhere now we have one.
It is raining again (still), when we get back outside, but we head over to have a quick look in the tourist information centre in an old church, and buy some souvenirs. Tony gets a stainless steel Celtic ring, and hopes it stands up to the rough wear it is likely to get. The rain is coming down harder, and we head back to the hop on, hop off stop to take the bus back to the hostel – there is a stop across the road. This is not a direct route as we are taken through an area of town we hadn’t explored yet, so make a note to come back here some time.
We look for somewhere else to go, and reply to a Helpx listing wanting hostel workers in Kilkenny. We figure we could stay a couple of weeks down there before heading back to Scotland.
Wednesday 2nd May
After breakfast we take a bus into town, cheap enough at 60c each, though the buggers run the exact fare scheme here as well. The difference here is that if you over pay you are given a ticket that you can cash in at the bus headquarters in O’Connell Street. We wonder how many people would bother, certainly you would think the locals would use the prepaid cards as they give cheaper fares (similar to what Dunedin uses).
The walking tour starts at 11am, but we are not quite sure which bus stops are closest. The bus stops at the GPO, and as Cynthea goes to ask the bus driver where the tour office is from here, a woman collapses on the footpath. She tries to help, but the family and bystanders pretty much ignore her, and try to stand the poor woman up. She falls again, and her leg slips under the bus, so they pull her back on to the footpath. Tony picks up her shoe and hands it to one of the family. The bus driver is calling the ambulance, and people waiting at the stop are trying to get on the bus, it was madness…
Cynthea tries her best, but people are still crowding around. The woman just wants to go home and does want the ambulance. Her family help her back on the bus, and in the end we decide just to leave them to it. She should be checked out, an ambulance is on the way, and we hope the bus driver wont move off before the ambulance arrives. As we leave he is telling her the ambulance will be there soon and she has to see them.
We decide to run along the street, not sure how far along we need to go, but sure we are fairly close. There is no point waiting on the bus now, it could be a while before it moves off again.
As it is we are quite close to the tour office, and only have a few minutes wait to start the tour. There are thirteen of us, and two trainee guides come along to practise their skills.
We are taken to the GPO (where the bus is still there waiting). We are told about the siege in 1916 and events surrounding the uprising. The GPO was headquarters for the leaders of the Easter uprising in 1916, and extensively damaged by British forces in the efforts to remove them. Bullet marks can be seen in some of the original sections and columns.
Then we move off through the arcade and into Henry St, one of many pedestrian streets in the city. We spot fruit and vegetable stalls in Moore St, these are good, cheap markets. Bananas are six for a euro, apples and oranges eight or six for to euro. We are not about to cart a swag of fruit around town for the next few hours and make a note to come back later. As we head down the street Tony looks into a shopping arcade, and spots a large supermarket tucked away at the back. We wish we had known about that one lots earlier.
Our next stop is the site of St Mary’s church, where Arthur Guinness was married in 1761. Having been abandoned as a church it became a wallpaper shop in the 1980’s, before being renovated and turned into a very nice bar. The graveyard was turned into a park after the bodies buried there were relocated to a common grave in a cemetery on the outskirts of the city. The grave stones in the churchyard are still there, they were relocated to the wall at the end of the park when it was redeveloped. It is said that because it was a Protestant church, the new Catholic owner didn’t care too much for the history of the place. The Irish, being the superstitious lot that they are, blame this act for the business failing and the bankruptcy of the developer. The current owner is doing very well though, and the place is busy enough as we get near lunch time.
As we head to the Italian quarter we pass the National Leprechaun Museum, we didn’t go in, or go back to visit, so we don’t know what they had on display in there. One suspects they perpetuated the myths of little fellas dressed in green with pots of gold?
The Italian quarter is very busy, the lunchtime rush has started. Over on this side of the river the meals are much more reasonably priced. There is a lot of north-south rivalry here, usually with the joke being on the northerners. Why would a girl from the south side marry a guy from the north side? To get her handbag back. What do you call a northsider in a suit? The defendant. We are allowed to repeat those jokes, they were told by a northsider…
We cross over the Ha’penny Bridge, so called because there used to be a toll of… ½ d to get across. We notice that there are padlocks on the bridge, attached to small balls on the top rail. The padlocks are in pairs, with initials etched into them, and locked together before being attached to the bridge. We assume it is a tradition of young couples, and that from time to time the council goes along and cuts them off (most of those we saw where dated 2012).
We briefly visit City Hall, and then pass through Dublin Castle. We can come back here later as there are free tours the first Wednesday of the month (that’s today).
We end the tour at Trinity College, and take the opportunity to get some photos, without the rain. We head back to Moore St for cheap fruit, and on the way find a large food hall, so stop for a quick snack. We plan to come back here, they have a buffet meal, all you can eat for EUR10. The only problem will be choosing which nationality dish to choose, we are spoilt for choice here.
In Moore St we tell the woman on the market we don’t want a lot of fruit as we plan to leave tomorrow. She has six oranges for EUR2.00, and eight apples for the same price. So we ask if we can just pay EUR2.00 for three oranges and four apples, we did think that maybe she would baulk at that, but it was fine. We had to laugh as she tells us the bananas are bargain, six for a euro, and shoves them into the bag too, we were going to get some anyway, but she didn’t know that. Sure beats paying 55-60c per piece at the other shops.
We head back to Dublin Castle for the free tour, we only have to wait about half an hour before one is available. We are warned at the beginning of the tour that if we stray from the group we will be picked up on security cameras and “a nasty man in a peaked cap will escort us from the premises immediately”.
Our tour takes us through a number of rooms, all very impressive, especially the ones with Waterford Crystal chandeliers, made just down the road (we are going to try and get a couple of days down there, the day tours are not running yet). We see the drawing room, and learn that the phrase “saving face” comes from using screens in front of a woman’s face if she is sitting by the fire. In those days a very pale look was fashionable, and achieved with the use of wax make up, that would melt if she was too close to the fire. Having wax dribble off your face and into your cleavage was more than a bit embarrassing!
The throne, (in the throne room of course!), is rather large, having been made for a “big, fat, English king”. Yes, that is what the guide said, we get the impression he will use every opportunity to stick it to the English. Although he is careful not to be nasty about it, we get the impression of an underlying resentment, and quite frankly we don’t blame them. When Victoria became Queen they made adjustments to the throne, taking 100mm off the height by cutting the legs down. They also made a foot stool so a tiny Queen’s legs wouldn’t be swinging in mid air when she sat down.
The tour guide is very light hearted and amusing, something we didn’t expect from this tour, but there are lots of sly digs at the English. In the huge ballroom we are talked through the artwork on the ceiling, and how it is politically slanted towards the Protestant English view on historical events that are depicted. That the facts don’t quite match the story on display did not seem to worry the English at the time.
We given a bit of history about the Castle, very little of the original remains standing, just the prison tower in the south west corner. Important prisoners were kept here, at least those important enough to keep alive. To be incarcerated in the dungeons below usually meant certain death with damp and disease rife. In more “recent” times the castle was dismantled and rebuilt as a Palace, and used as Government offices. Bram Stoker worked here as a taxation officer for many years, before moving along the road to Trinity College, where he wrote Dracula. The locals tells us that for seven years he worked as a blood sucker, and that gave him the background to write about blood suckers!
Many years ago during renovations they found original Viking sections, deep in the basement. Of particular interest are stone steps there, they are of uneven height, making it difficult for invaders to gather speed running up them.
By 5.30 we are shattered, we have been on the go since 10.30 with hardly a stop, Tony’s ankle is coping okay, it is better when walking, but steep slopes and stairs are still difficult.
We have had no reply to the request for work at the Kilkenny hostel, we will ring in the morning if nothing more is heard.