Saturday, June 20, 2009

Travelogue: Dublin

If Dublin is an accurate reflection of Ireland, then the trinity of religion, Guiness, and Celtic pride still very much defines this lovely place for me. With either a church or a pub on virtually every corner, the middle of the streets are free for the statues of the Irish who rekindled the pride and made independence both politically and culturally possible.

For our first three nights, I chose Camden Court Hotel. While it doesn't have all the charm of a small hotel or B&B, it did give us plenty of space to unpack and adjust to not being in the U.S. Our first room was on the second floor, above a very busy street, and while Sarah, being all of 16, was able to sleep through anything in her jet-lagged state, I woke up regularly that first night...from both the noise and the heat. Yep, the heat. While we were in Dublin, Ireland was experiencing a heat wave. We enjoyed sunny skies for the three days we were in Dublin, and it was still sunny when we returned nine days later for the flight back to the U.S. On the second day, I asked whether the hotel had an open room on a higher floor and in a quieter spot--they did, and the next two days were bliss.

After our spring break trip to NYC, I became a big fan of the Hop On/Hop Off bus with live tour guide. This is a great way to get oriented, see the major sites, hear a local tell his/her stories about the town, and stay vertical while fighting jet lag. The Dublin Hop On/Hop Off bus was great--heard lots of Guinness jokes and lots of North/South of the Liffey jokes and learned a lot about the town itself. Basically all I know about Dublin I learned from reading Edward Rutherford's two-parter The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga and The Rebels of Ireland: The Dublin Saga,so this was helpful for both of us.

Our first day of non-jet-lagged tour began with Trinity College and the Book of Kells. We opted for the guided tour of the college and congratulated ourselves repeatedly on going this route--for just a Euro or two, we were expertly guided by a recent graduate who told lots of stories about his time at Trinity, stories about students from the past, and offered strong opinions on the various architectural styles, from the ridiculous to the sublime. He turned us loose when we reached the Book of Kells exhibit.

This is the statue of George Salmon, Provost of Trinity College from 1888 until his death in 1904. Cutting and pasting from Wikipedia:
His deep conservatism led him to strongly oppose women receiving degrees from the University. He eventually agreed to dropping his veto in 1901 when the Board voted in favour of allowing women to enter the university, it was one of his last acts as Provost. Symbolically in January 1904, just after he died, the first women undergraduates were admitted.

According to our sweetheart of a guide, Salmon prophetically muttered something about women entering Trinity over his dead body...:)

On to the Book of Kells, the exhibit itself was really well done--interesting and well laid out and able to accommodate the hordes of people visiting at the same time we were. Actually, there are several other books on display and included in the exhibit along with the Book of Kells. We also saw and learned about the Book of Armagh and the Book of Durrow. As expected, it was very crowded around the display cases holding the actual books and a bit chaotic as there was no offical queue help (i.e., people just sort of shoved their way in when an opening occurred instead of there being a systematic roped path).

We also really enjoyed walking through the Long Room (i.e., the main chamber of the Old Library). It was definitely sacred ground. Musty, dusty, and I felt quite reverential. According the brochure I picked up, it is 65 metres long and houses around 200,000 of the Library's oldest books. According to the guide we picked up, the books are catalogued according to size, smallest to largest. I think he might have been joshing us as we couldn't see evidence that this was the case. They had a great exhibit of detective fiction down the center of the room--first edition Dickens (Bleak House), Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, etc.

Next posting...on to Christ Church Cathedral, ice cream, and Molly Malone.


  1. Sounds like a great way to start your trip ... I can't wait to hear more! And that detective fiction display would be right up my alley.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Kristen. More to come, and the detective fiction display was really interesting.

  3. Oh lovely, now I know what hotel I am going to stay if I ever go to Dublin!