Last Friday morning, I arrived at Belfast Central Station at around 6:30 AM to catch a 6:50 train to Dublin Connolly. After redeeming my web voucher for a proper ticket (remember, only £10 round trip!), I approached the ticket barrier in a slightly sleepy state. Here was my first challenge of the day: I could see Platform 2 beyond the barrier, but couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to get there. Feeling very much like Harry Potter in his awkward early-wizard days, I asked a station staffperson, “Sorry…how do I get to onto the platform?”
The man smiled kindly. “We’ll call you when it’s time to board. It’s still a bit early. We’ll call you and open up the gates.”
The journey to Dublin was about two hours, but I took some time in Dublin Connolly to locate maps and get my bearings. I had a loose itinerary in mind, but my general plan was to wander about the city on foot and see what I could see. This plan was not a complete failure, but I ended up with very sore legs and a determination to plan my next trip, to Dublin or elsewhere, more thoroughly. Even after consulting the maps, I had very little idea where I was, but I eventually found my way to Trinity College and the Book of Kells, which was first on my list.
I couldn’t take pictures in the Book of Kells, but the exhibit was well worth the admission price. The Book of Kells is an elaborately illustrated volume of the four Gospels, handwritten and decorated by monks, probably in the early 800s. The exhibit showed how the monks prepared the vellum, or calfskin, on which the book was written and traced the diverse influences on the Celtic art that embellishes its pages. It also documented the history of the Book of Kells, including the frequent Viking attacks on the monastery at Iona, where it may have been begun. I particularly enjoyed the quotes and poems by various scribe monks, all of whom were simply delighted to be able to write, praised God for the opportunity to write, and discussed being happiest while writing:) I thought this was cute, and I could definitely relate! Finally, we got to see a few pages of the Book of Kells itself, as well as selections from the Book of Durrow, decorated by monks in a same general time period.
While at Trinity, I also peeked inside the Museum Building, which houses the Geology Department and a tiny exhibit about Irish stones and fossils. My favorite part of that exhibit was the Giant Irish Deer skeleton, which was tremendous and scary-looking and reminded me of a dragon.
By the time I was finished at Trinity, I was hungry for lunch. Passing by Molly Malone and a pianist in the streets, I found my way to the Davy Byrnes, a pub made famous in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
I enjoyed a delicious goat’s cheese tart with salad and a pot of tea and listened to the conversations swirling around me. A group of three older Irish men sat at the table next to mine swapping stories. Someone’s mother had died, and one of the men made a phone call to discover the funeral arrangements. They mentioned the pianist I had seen along the way and recalled another pianist who used to play in Grafton Street many years ago.
The most talkative of the men inquired about my food, “If you don’t mind me asking, is it the country pie you’re having?”
“No, actually, it’s the goat’s cheese tart,” I answered politely, and assured him that it was quite good. He ordered the goat’s cheese tart as well, and thanked me for the recommendation! It was a fun lunch.
After lunch, I meandered toward St. Stephen’s Green, where I spent quite a bit of time looking at monuments, admiring the scenery and people-watching. My favorite monument took me a while to find, but I was glad I did. The Fountain of the Three Fates, pictured below, was a gift from Germany to Ireland in thanks for their aid after World War II.