All Around Dublin Town, Part 2
Pictorially, for me, Dublin is just not that interesting. Perhaps it’s because I have spent the last two weeks in colorful Italy, but at least today – an overcast day with gray buildings with green parks and some red doors sprinkled in, it’s not the most gorgeous city I’ve ever been in.
However, it is a place rich with stories. The city has an amazing history told in it’s museums, parks, and most of all, it’s music. And that’s the Dublin that I’m falling in love with.
Today we start at Trinity College. After a good night’s sleep and a continental breakfast at the hostel, we are ready for the 10am student-led tour of Trinity College, chartered in 1592 with a Protestant mandate. In 1793 they allowed Catholics and dissenters to enter (all professors and faculty had to be Protestant until 1893) but they did not have many, because the Catholic Church in Ireland forbade it’s members to attend – and this was only relatively recently reversed in 1970. Heck, women were allowed in 1901. The campus is not ancient, but stately, and most of the 16,000 registered students live off campus.
But the highlight of the College is the library. The largest library in Ireland, it’s a copyright library, which means that there is a copy of every book published in the country here. That’s saying something, considering the plethora of Irish writers: Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, Wilde, Swift, Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, all Irish. They’re all here, along with the Book of Kells, one of the oldest and certainly the most beautifully extravagantly illustrated Gospels. Hand drawn circa 800AD on calf vellum, it’s named for the Abbey of Kells, where it had been carefully kept before it came to Trinity Library. Today you can only see two of the four volumes, each open to only one page (every day they turn the page, so if you came every day for months at 10euros per visit you can read the entire thing) and it is gorgeous. There’s a nice museum with descriptions of how they made the vellum, how they bound the books, how they did the illustrations (no wite-out back then) and it’s fascinating. After viewing the Book, we ascend the stairs to the Long Hall, which supposedly inspired George Lucas to create the Jedi Library in Star Wars Episode II. A lawsuit was filed, then dropped. You decide. I’m fascinated by the study of dust outlined in one of the displays.
Morgan’s taking it all in, Anna’s found a nice ring, and Jon is filming. He will be making a documentary of the trip and has a fantastic new camera which makes his subjects look almost better than real life (at least I hope that’s how it works with me!) After the tour and while waiting for the restaurant to open, we stop at a local art gallery. I fall in love with Jimmy Lawlor from Wexford and want to buy Sea Horse, but alas, I do not have the 3300 euros in my wallet today. Guess I’ll just have to enjoy the photo.
A few doors down from the gallery is The Farm, which understands gluten-free, a requirement for Anna’s diet. Jon can’t stay because he’s going to catch the free walking tour again and do some more filming, so Morgan, Anna, and I enjoy a nice lunch. Afterwards, Morgan wants to go on his own and Anna joins me to check out some museums and parks in the city. We meet Morgan again by Oscar Wilde in the park and continue to the history museum, where we see Viking gold and hairy mummies preserved in the peat. More parks, more museums, and we meet Jon and wind our way to Temple Bar and the Porterhouse Pub.
The Porterhouse is a place recommended to me by Dara, and it does not disappoint. We finally find a seat on the third floor and have some dinner (beer tasting for Morgan and I) and enjoy the Irish rock band playing under the balcony one floor below. Earlier today I made reservations for a Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl for the group, but Jon is wiped, so we send him on back to the hostel and Morgan, Anna, and I proceed to Gogarty’s Pub.
OK, this is one of the best tours I have ever taken. Two musicians, one playing the fiddle and the other a drum, then a guitar, proceed to teach us about traditional Irish music through stories, songs, and audience participation. They take us to two different pubs (our group of about 50 get an upper room all to ourselves) and we
learn when to clap (only at the end, never with the song – how will you hold your beer then?), to stomp (always), and to whoop (whenever the spirit moves you). We listen, sing along, and toward the end (after much Guinness), individual audience members are invited to sing (loved the version of the son “Cups” from the movie Pitch Perfect by one girl!). It was fabulously fun and was a great introduction to the music we were going to hear for the next few days.
Can’t stay up too late, though. Tomorrow is Driving Day and Skydiving Day. (Yikes!)