Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Doing Dublin

Dublin on the River Liffey

Kevin and I arrived in Dublin a bit bleary-eyed after our long flight, which took us through Toronto with a nearly three-hour layover. We arrived at about 6 a.m. But our hotel kindly let us leave our bags in their storage closet, while we went out for the treat we had been dreaming about—a cappuccino followed by a full Irish breakfast.

For those of you who have never had a full Irish breakfast, like its counterpart a full English breakfast, is a heart attack on a plate: Irish bacon, sausages, black pudding and white pudding (also types of sausages, the former made with blood), eggs, hash browns, beans, grilled tomato, and cold toast with jam (cold because the toast is put in a rack that quickly cools it—a practice I've never understood in all my years of eating English breakfasts, but then American toast often comes warm but soggy with butter.) However cholesterol and carbs be damned! What a wonderful welcome to Dublin!

Carbs were all but forgotten later in the day too!

Dublin moves fast, once the morning gets going.  People walk fast and talk fast, and to us it seems very much a young person’s city. Of course, we visited Trinity College and viewed the must-see Book of Kells, the lavishly illustrated book of the four gospels, produced by monks around 800 A.D.  (Some cynics call it “the page of Kells,” since only one illustrated page and one page of script is exhibited each day.) We were duly impressed with the still-vibrant colors and the beautiful calligraphy, and we were surprised to learn that four different scribes, each with his own distinctive style, produced the manuscript, which is written on vellum.

Among other sights, we visited the superb National Museum of Ireland (Archeology) with its marvelous historical treasures and even fairly well-preserved bog people. Those ancient corpses are a bit disconcerting, so I will do everyone a favor and not include Kevin’s photos of their rather gruesome forms. (Ask him if you want to see them!)

Kevin enjoyed our visit to the National Gallery, which contains many fine paintings, but he was thrilled with our visit to the Hugh Lane Gallery, which, in addition to a trove of contemporary art, features the reconstructed studio of artist Francis Bacon, brought lock, stock, and barrel (or paint, trash, and canvas) from London, where he last lived. The Irish-born Francis Bacon may not be my cup of tea, but Kevin admires his work.

Francis Bacon's studio, reconstructed down to the paint daubs on the walls

Dublin’s position on the River Liffey and its emerald heart, St. Stephens Green, make it a pretty place to stroll. You can also follow a trail of plaques around the city that retrace the route of James Joyce’s character, Leopold Bloom, in Ulysses, but we were more interested in simply savoring the flavor of the city. (Sadly, I lost many of my photos of the city, or I would have included a few shots of the green.)
If Dublin is a young person’s town in the daytime, it is more so in the evening on the streets of Temple Bar, Dublin’s cultural quarter with its lively nightlife. Our first night there, a Friday, the crowds were already gathering at 7 p.m., and the strains of Irish folk songs fill the air. We stood in the street listening to the fiddles and melodious voices raised in song, the bars already packed with people drinking Guinness and ales, and we couldn’t resist tapping our toes. No doubt the revelry intensified as the night wore on, but still feeling the effects of jet lag, we retreated early to our hotel.

Crowds start gathering early

Ready for a night of fun
Coming next: Newgrange and Drogheda

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