Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Back on the Occidental Coast. Of America.

It's good to be back home. We all loved Ireland and had a wonderful experience, but there's something about going away that makes being home again such a relief.

My daughter is a capable, adaptable traveler already, at the tender age of five. She hauled her self and her stuff from Portland to Dallas to Chicago, and then Dublin with nary a complaint:

While waiting to board our Aer Lingus flight in Chicago, an artist made a picture of OC, for a small fee (caption says "Kenny, Chicago, April 25, 2006"):

Our first two nights were spent in Dublin. We got lost on our way back to our hotel after a brief walk a few blocks away near St. Stephen's Green. This was not entirely our fault. The street changed names three times in the space of 200 yards! We were jet lagged, but hadn't lost our sense of direction. We circled around and around where we thought the hotel was (and by circling I mean walking all the while with a five-year old in tow, a very patient but kind of worried-that-her-parents-were-lost-on-the-first-day-in-a-strange-place five-year old...) but kept coming across other streetnames.

Aside number one: I'd like for Ireland to seriously consider updating their street signage. I'm down with how you like to place street signs on buildings even though I am not used to looking for them there, I can adjust. But please, just put them up everywhere and for the love of all that is holy, let a continuous street be named one thing! That would help a lot. Thank you. I know you'll do it for me, for I am your greatest fan. (End of aside.)

Dublin is a cool city: hectic, grimy, old, full of life and people with Irish accents. I loved it. We walked all over the place and had pub food, toured the Guinness Brewery and had our free pint on the top of the building with a view of the city. The city does not contain tall buildings. The tallest buildings were probably 12 stories or so and there aren't many of them, so our view from the top of the seven-story Guinness Brewery was awesome. But who cares about a view, when you've got a cold pint of Guinness in front of you?

View from the (only the seventh floor!) Guinness Brewery:

My favorite thing in Dublin was when we went to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells. That, and when I bought jewelry from a street vendor. It was nice jewelry, nothing particularly special about it, but it was a great price and come on, it's jewelry!

The Book of Kells was written in 800 A.D. by four monks, and it is the four gospels of the New Testament. Not only that, but every page is highly decorated with images and colors, amazing considering they made their own dye from things like minerals. The paper, which is actually vellum, was made from calfskin. Not an easy task, to say the least. The book is preserved in the library at Trinity College, under a glass case with temperature and humidity controls. They turn the pages every few days or so. The display includes information on how the book was made, and about other writing going on in Ireland at the time. OH didn't think it would be very interesting, but he found himself intrigued with it once he got there. I couldn't get over how amazing it was, and I saw it in person! Wow. It's called an illuminated manuscript, because the illustrations and decorations were so beautiful that they lit up the page; illuminated it. That was cool enough, but it also happened to be the Samuel Beckett centenary, a notable Irish writer and playwright, so there was a display in the library of his writing, letters, and manuscripts which was very interesting. That was a great day.

The Book of Kells is here!

Both OH and I love history, so it was cool being in a place where everything is so old. This is the Christ Church Cathedral, originally founded by Vikings in 1038 A.D. and rebuilt by invaders from Norman in 1240 in a Romanesque style. What you may find interesting is that Ireland was never invaded by the Romans, which was only one of a few places that weren't. (Vikings, Normans, and English, yes; but not the Romans.) Dublin is from Irish Dubh Linn, meaning "dark pool", which was a reference to a dark pool of water created by the River Liffey, on whose banks Dublin was founded. The modern Irish name Baile Atha Cliath means "City of the Ford of the Reed Hurdles".

Christ Church Cathedral:

We also went to Dublin Castle, walked over the Ha'Penny Bridge, window-shopped on the pedestrian Grafton Street, and walked through the trendy Temple Bar area which is the oldest part of Dublin. Oh, and we had beer every day. I found that in addition to Guinness, I like Smithwick's and the Scottish beer Tenent's.

Dublin Castle:

A street in the Temple Bar district:

Aside number two: I know that you Irish are speaking English, but I can't always understand you and I'm sorry for all those dumb looks you received from two stupid American tourists. It's a lovely accent, we just couldn't always catch what you were saying, especially if it contained any slang. What in the world is a 'gammon'? Sorry. And thanks. (End of aside.)

More details of the trip to come!


april said...

it's like a virtual tour - thanks!

snowballinhell said...

When my daughter was last there, she brought me back an official Trinity sweatshirt, and I wear it all the time. Looks like you had a wonderful trip.