In Dublin’s Fair City

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.”

Right.

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.

The Giant Irish Deer, from the floor.

The Museum Building and Geology Department. What a beautiful place to have class!

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.

Molly Malone!

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 pianist in Grafton Street. He was quite talented and had drawn a large crowd!

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.

The pub has a 1930s art deco sort of ambience.

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.

The pond and stone bridge at St. Stephen's Green.The Fountain of the Three Fates

My next stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but I took an unexpected detour when I spotted this lovely gate, tucked demurely into the brick wall alongside St. Patrick’s Close.  I moved closer to take a picture of the gate and discovered that it led to Marsh’s Library, the first public library in Ireland!  A sign on the door said “Welcome to Marsh’s Library.  Please ring bell for assistance.”  When I did, I was greeted by John, one of the library’s cheerful curators.  He gave me some background of the library, which was built in 1701 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh.  The library has been used by the likes of Jonathan Swift and James Joyce, who may have been locked in cages while they studied, which was commonly done to prevent readers from stealing books.  There was a special exhibit of the library’s early medical texts on display.  Among many fascinating tidbits, I learned that a good way to cure and prevent the Black Plague is to drink ale mixed with saffron and egg.  No wonder so many people died! (Totally kidding).

The mysterious library gate, beckoning to me....

I finally made it to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and had a good look around before it closed.

St Patrick's Cathedral, from across the street.

By that time, it was about half five, so most places were closing.  I started to look for a nice place to eat dinner.  I ran across an Indonesian restaurant called The Chameleon in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.  It was quite pricey, but there was an early bird special, and the foodie in me couldn’t resist trying a new cuisine.  When the hostess informed me that I would be sitting on cushions at a low table, I couldn’t say no.  Sitting on cushions was exactly what I needed after a ten hour day walking around Dublin by myself.

My meal consisted of a sweet potato spring roll with spicy mango dip, red curry with squash, courgette, bamboo shoots and Thai basil, wok fried rice with sweet soy, garlic and ginger, and a salad with cucumbers, mango and black sesame dressing.  Yum!

All in all, it was a satisfying, exhausting day of sightseeing in Dublin’s fair city.

 

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