Sunday March 19th 6:00AM
With sleepy eyes my “first year” college student and I were on our way to explore the emerald isle.
Side note – Did you know Freshmen is no longer politically correct, and we now must call the men and women attending college in their first year something gender neutral? Say what you like about Trump but maybe political correctness has gone a little too far.
Without incidence, we landed in Dublin around 10:30 local time (only 4 hours difference this time of year versus Boston) after a quick stop in London for dinner. Well maybe I should clarify when I say “without incidence.” When making our connection, I was told we needed to check our carry-on suitcases to make room in the overheads for everyone else’s stuff. Now note, I DO NOT check a bag, ever; and, we both packed for 7 day excursion in a small TSA approved bag, so we did not have to deal with checking. When Miss “don’t make waves Maggie” has to step in and restrain me, you can use your imagination as to the situation! PS: Our bags arrived without too much delay.
By midnight we were both in a drug induced sleep for a forced eight hours of rest in order to be fully energized for day one.
Day 1: Dublin
8:00 AM our alarms went off and after a great breakfast at the hotel we were off to explore whatever Dublin had to offer with an umbrella and rain jackets at the ready.
Instead of jumping on the cliché sightseeing bus, we, being the contrarians we are, set off on foot around the city.
Just around the corner from our strategically located hotel is Trinity College – the kicking off point of our one day in Dublin tour. It’s at the heart of the capital, packed full of incredible history, and it’s the oldest university in Ireland. The main attraction for us was the old library (referred to as the Long Room) more than the big attraction of the Book of Kells. The Library was simply incredible, packed with old books in a truly grand long room library and the blueprint for the someday “Maggie’s home library room” or so I was informed.
Skipping the National Gallery, we entered Merrion Square and gardens. Arguably Dublin’s grandest Georgian square. You had to admire all the painted old doors a
Dublin trade mark.
From the tranquility of the green parks with trees just starting to bud and the dahlia’s in full bloom, we made a stark transition on to Dublin’s premier shopping street, Grafton Street. As both of us had little to no interest in this Mecca for tourist, we completely missed the unmissable statue of Molly Malone that supposedly sits at the bottom of the street.
Working our way through the streets of Dublin over the Ha’Penny Bridge and then back over the river again, we found ourselves in a great Café named Dwarf Jar and not a Starbucks that has encroached every city’s essence including Dublin. Ordering a coffee and hot chocolate before entering Dublin Castle, we then entered our second library of the day, Chester Beatty Library.
As we enter this descript building, founded by an American living in Dublin, Chester Beatty, we were met by an over-energetic guide who went on and on about the libary and finally expanded that this place would “melt our faces off.” Confused and a little dizzy from his enthusiasm, we entered the 4 floors of manuscripts, books, and ancient texts and eventually the roof for the best view of Dublin Castle.
Next up on our walking tour was St Patrick’s Cathedral, truly a worthwhile excursion. The bright fresh new green grass of the park to our left as we approached the medieval Cathedral contrasted beautifully with the aged stone magnifying the Cathedral’s grandeur. We checked out all the nucks and crannies of the resting place of Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift; but, the real highlight was my Latin lessons, as my tutor Maggie proceeded to translate and explain all the Latin engraved on each tombs along the way. To add to my confusion and boredom, she threw in a Latin grammar lesson just to make sure I was totally bewildered and in actual pain. Thank god we were in a church, and I could pray to make the torture end.
The real gem of the day was stumbling onto our third library, the Marsh’s Library. It was just around the corner in the shadows of the Cathedral tucked up a few steps. The beautiful bookshelves with their wooden ladders reaching to the ceiling were stuffed with old books. The tables were full of examples of doodles found in the margins from long forgotten students. I thought this was the best part and most interesting. Maggie was horrified that someone would defile a library book like that, but we did some doodling of our own with ink and quills. One of us had more ink on our hands than the book marks we were making, guess who?
At this point it was way past lunch so off to one of Dublin’s top tourist attraction, the Guinness Storehouse. It is located in the heart of the St James’s Gate Brewery (a nice walk from Dublin) and home of the world-famous beer, Guinness. With 360-degree views across Dublin City (top floor) we had a pint, lunch, and watched it rain for the first time all day. This was another chance for Maggie to mesmerize me with what she called her “fun facts.” She had a list of “fun facts” for each of our stop over the coming days. Almost made me miss someone’s index cards!!!
With a full stomach and a clear sky, we made the trek to Kilmainham Gaol, a notorious old jail with what the tour books said was an excellent guided tour throughout the jail and exhibition. That is if you reserve your tickets days in advance, which we didn’t. We settled for a self-guided jog through the museum.
Checking our pedometer and realizing we had walked almost 24,000 steps or about 12 miles in our determination to see as much of Dublin in a day by foot as possible, we decided to grab a local bus that we hoped would bring us back to the city center. We lucked out and the bus dropped us at our next stop O’Connell Street GPO (General Post Office) at 5:15 – just fifteen minutes before closing in time for Maggie to send a post card to her first grader she mentors at a local elementary school near Colby. Our hotel was just a short walk over the river and down Dublin’s main thoroughfare.
After a break and changing out of our hiking and LL Bean boots (side note on Bean boots, Maggie was the only one in all of Ireland with a pair, much different than the Colby campus). With that we were off to dinner in the Temple Bar area. The restaurant/bar was called Gallagher’s Boxty famed for its Irish potato pancake called a boxty. Maggie had the boxty with chicken and I had the Irish salmon washed down with a pint as would be expected.