Ireland: The Day that comes after Four
It was time to head for the east and Dublin, where lived the majority of the libraries we had planned to visit, and all the wonders of a capital city. Taking Michael’s advice, we took the express bus, which took us straight to the city center. As we got closer to the center, little tidbits from the months of studying city maps were brought vividly to mind. There was the Guinness, and City Hall, and that Restaurant Thomas had told me I ought to try, and then the Bank of Ireland, and on my right, Trinity College. We just passed it, and the bus ended its route on Westmoreland Street.
This was the heart of the city, and it made Limerick look like La Junta in a coma. Though it has fewer residents than Denver, they’re packed into a much smaller space, and it streets are far more bustling with foot traffic than Denver’s ever are.
I wanted to get to the hotel as quickly as possible, to get rid of the luggage, and start exploring. I had noted that there were a number of cabs just around the corner on the other side of the main Bank of Ireland building. It’s an impressive structure (which used to be the Parliament building) with a large colonnade lining the outer walls. No, it’s not something that was easy to photograph, and that was not the first thing on my mind.
Dad wanted to go into the bank and do some money changing of some sort, which was not high on my list of priorities, with all of us standing there like refugees with all our worldly possessions gathered ’round us in a great heap. He did poke his head into the place, and shortly came out, noting the line was really long.
Since I wasn’t entirely sure where our hotel was, we got a cab, loaded up our worldly goods, and headed to our hotel, which was in the docks area. The cabby pointed out a few landmarks, noting that we were crossing the river on O’Connell Street, the main street connecting the north and south parts of the city. He point to that the ship right there, telling us it was one of the famine ships that carried people across the Atlantic, the Jeanie Johnson. It’s now a museum. Which we didn’t quite get to tour.
Our hotel was in an area which clearly was brand new. And by brand new, I don’t mean merely 200 years old. I mean, the buildings in this area were built within the last five years, and I’d say our hotel and the cinema next to it had probably opened only within the last year. It was also, conveniently, right on the last stop on Dublin’s light rail system, which went straight to the city center.
We got checked in, and unloaded our luggage. While the hotel in Limerick was probably far too hip for us, this hotel was undoubtedly far more hip than we were. We hoped to escape the notice of the standards enforcement agency, which would surely be descending upon us soon.
Now unburdened of luggage, we asked at the front desk about how to get tickets for the light rail, and asked if she had maps, she did, and she gave us the general 411 on where to get off the train to get to the part of the city center we wanted.
The first ticket kiosk we tried to get tickets at was not working, which was not a result of our incompetence, a group of French tourists also failed to make it produce tickets, and while we’re not saying they broke it, they sure were trying to make it work for a long time. Eventually, all of us managed to procure tickets, and we boarded the train, and got back to O’Connell street, by stopping at the Abbey street station. We spotted a bank on O’Connell street, and pointed it out to Dad, who found another line. We waited outside for maybe 30 minutes. To take the edge of waiting, and to stop looking quite so suspicious to the security guy, I used the ATM to get a bit more currency. So, now, on my bank statement, it shows O’Connell Street, Dublin.
Finally, dad emerged from the bank feeling better about his money, I think, until he again noticed the crowds of people everywhere. We headed across the river, back to the south side, with no real plan. My sister mentioned going to Trinity, and I started heading right there. She had missed it on the way in, and when I pointed out the bus stop we’d been dropped off at, from across the street, she went “Huh. Yup. You’re Right. It is.” We saw there was one last tour of the day at Trinity, and figured it was perfect timing. We bought our tickets, and had about 30 min to kill. We found a spot to sit, just around from the construction stuff which was going on all around.
Classes, and, we would learn shortly, exams were going on as we sat and leisurely took in the grounds. It was one of the nicest days, weather-wise we had, and I think it actually got to the mid-upper 6os that day. It was lovely, as the picture suggests.
We returned to the tour sign, and met the student who was to be our guide. She was not named Frank. She’s a Ph.D student, studying history. The tour was lovely, and our guide left us at the old library, where we’d go to see the Book of Kells, and the library itself.
The best part of the tour was talking with her a bit about the higher education system in Europe, and learning that she’d studied in Switzerland, and was actually planning to go back to the continent to teach. We actually talked about German dialects, and exchanged a few phrases in the dialects of Southern Germany/Switzerland. While she is Irish, her German accent was pretty dead on Swiss, which was very charming to me, and we bonded over that a bit. My sister and she bonded over shared degrees in history.
We parted company, and did the tour. It’s a remarkable exhibit, leading to the Book of Kells, but, I got the feeling dad wasn’t really interested in an old book, even if it was the Gospel. I also think he wasn’t thrilled by the library. I hope I am wrong.
Of course, I really liked the library, and admit that I never thought I’d get to see it. But, there I am. in the library. The banners hanging over my right shoulder are an exhibit in honor of the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf, and the victory of Brian Boru over the Vikings, even though he died, and so did most of his army. I didn’t get any pictures of them because I had already had some failures in the “flash-free” photography department, and was not going to risk it. Plus, these pictures are better than anything I could’ve done, and there’s really good information there, too. It’s kinda a big deal, and more than one of the museums we visited had a commemorative exhibit of some kind. And we were there within days of the actual anniversary, which felt like it ought to feel more momentous, or there ought to be some earth shaking alignment of historical destinies, where we’d be wandering into some sacred forest, and there would be a lake, and some watery female offering us a sword. Or maybe some tiny, green fellow with pointy ears tells us that the Force is strong with us, and we’re supposed to take up the hero’s journey and face dangers untold and hardships unnumbered.
Nope. That didn’t happen, and that’s probably for the best.
Sadly, soon the closing bell rang, and it was time to leave. And time to find some dinner. We went to that place that Thomas told me to try. While waiting for the food, I went to the tourist office and booked the bus travel for the following day’s expedition, which is a surprise that I’m saving for tomorrow.
After dinner, which was yummy, with tasty, roasted meats and delicious sauces, we decided to wander a bit, take in the sites. We located William Street, which is possibly the street where our Dublin ancestor lived in the early 18th century. At about the same time that they were building what is now the oldest building on the Trinity campus.
We followed it for its entire length, and then, catching sight of a steeple, we set out to locate what we figured was St. Patrick’s. We wandered around the streets, trying to figure out how to get to that tantalizing tower, when we took a turn under an intriguing archway, and found ourselves staring at Dublin Castle.
With the weather perfectly glorious, and the gardens in their spring glory, it did have a touch of magic. The castle was closed already, and the only people around were a handful of locals out for an evening stroll.
As we left the garden, and rounded the end of the castle, I saw a peculiar glinting on the ground. I picked up the trinket, barely glanced at it, and handed it to my dad with a small shrug. Dad took it with a questioning look on his face, and then pocketed it.
We noticed that there were people trying to close the gates for the evening, so we left the grounds, and headed back toward the river to catch the train back to the hotel.
As we got clear of the Castle, we saw the City Hall, and crossed the river on Parliament street. We made a stop at a grocers to get a few things, and then back to the docks and our hipster hotel.