Thursday, October 20, 2011

The First 48 Hours: Dublin Edition

The crappy great part of living on Vancouver Island is that adding a flight from Vancouver to Vancouver is ridiculously expensive so my day of travel started with a ferry ride. As much as I complain about this fact of life, it does mean that my final views of my home always look something like this.

Not too shabby, if you ask me.
Roughly 20 hours worth of travel on various modes of transport later and I arrived at my uncle's... where I promptly fell asleep for 16 hours. I'm not kidding. I went for a nap at about 5:00, forgot to set my alarm, woke up at midnight, took a sleeping pill, and woke up again at 8:00am. You know when you sleep too much? Tuesday was a tad more rough than I was expecting! I still managed to drag myself into town and woke myself up with a stroll around St. Stephen's Green.

What you don't see in this picture is the incredibly large coffee I had in my other hand.
There's more than one way to wake up!

I had roughly a week in Dublin on my own before Al joined me for traipsing around the countryside and the weather during that first week was amazing. After a lackluster summer, Dublin was experiencing an Indian Summer. I actually got to wear the shorts I threw in at the last moment. I even put in my contacts just so I could wear my non-prescription sunglasses! It was amazing... and it promptly disappeared the Friday before Al arrived. If I didn't have these pictures, I probably wouldn't have believed it either.

Returning to Dublin is always an odd experience. While I've never officially lived in Dublin, I grew up knowing Dublin better than Victoria. Summers spent walking around its narrow streets while one cousin taught me how to say all the counties in Irish or repeatedly crossing the Liffey while another cousin and I discussed the cute neighbourhood boys left me with a knowledge of the city that you don't get in just a few days. While I waited for Al to arrive, one of my favourite past times was just wandering the streets and rehashing old memories.

And I also saw a bunch of stuff. (I know that's the only reason you're reading this!) I made a point on this trip to be a tourist. For the first time in my life, I actually read a tourist guide and made a list of places I wanted to see. It was surreal to be a tourist in a town I knew so well. Don't worry, I was able to resist the urge to wear a bum bag. Without further ado...

I started the first day with a visit to the GPO An Post Museum and and a wander around O'Connell St. As I didn't take any photos knowing that I'd be back with Al, you'll see those later.

After a stop for lunch, I made my way to St. Audoen's Church. There are actually two St. Audoen's, one Anglican (Church of Ireland) and the other Roman Catholic. They sit side-by-side just down the block from Christchurch Cathedral. I was interested in the Anglican one. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I love ruined religious buildings and cemeteries. Oldest parish church still in use in Dublin? Whatevs. Three-quarters left to ruin? Interesting. One half is still in ruin? Sign me up! And it's totally free? Um, you can stop selling it, I'm already there.

It boggles my mind when I stop and think about how many years people have been standing on this floor.
How many people with Sunday morning hangovers have said "never again" in this church?

The inside of the church was very lovely and peaceful... until a tour group from a nearby school showed up and I beat a hasty retreat to the ruined part out the back. It was sunny, quiet and beautiful so I took a seat on a bench and just enjoyed a few moments to myself... before I ran around snapping pictures. Although I wouldn't call St. Audoen a 'must see', if you're in the area it's worth popping in for a few minutes.

One street that every visitor to Dublin wanders is Grafton St. It's not just for the over-priced shopping or the fact that it's the quickest thoroughfare between Trinity and St. Stephen's Green, but because there's almost always something happening along its pedestrian-only brickwork. On one of my many strolls, I discovered a group called Mutefish.

The music is catchy and they are excellent musicians. As my bus stop was very close to Grafton St. I made sure to catch them as often as possible. Of course, I bought their CD so part of my repeated viewings may have had something to do with a small crush I developed on one of them. I'll leave you to figure out which one. (HINT: It's not the one with the dreaded dread mullet. That's the second one I've seen in a month; is this a new trend? If it is, then I'm going to bed and someone can wake me up when it's over.)

I started day two with a visit to Marsh's Library. I wish I could have taken pictures inside but that's not allowed so instead... follow this link. The library (you can still read the books if you are a grad student or researcher who has received permission) is hidden in a nondescript brick building behind St. Patrick's Cathedral and I almost walked past it.

The library feels very much like you're stepping back in time. I shared the place with only two other tourists, a couple of readers, and a steady clock beat. The first display was Bibles and the second was Medical Journals. While neither of them were topics I would have chosen (the previous displays of musical manuscripts or maps would have been more up my alley) but were still quite interesting. I especially enjoyed the Bibles in Irish, Malay and Ojibiway.

I headed to the Liffey to wander along its banks. I said hello to the Four Courts. The only time I went inside the Four Courts was to meet a cousin for lunch; I got in trouble for walking into a closed area. I stayed on the other side of the river this time. I learned my lesson!

A little further along, I decided a coffee break was in order. I payed $3.60 for a crap drip coffee. Even good drip coffee isn't worth that much, but I was really paying for the view:

The Ha'penny Bridge. It was the first bridge across the Liffey and was built to replace an old ferry system.
There's claims that it's the most photographed icon in Dublin. Obviously that means I need to take a picture!

After my coffee break, which included writing in my journal and eavesdropping on a group of tourists, I took off for Dublin Castle and the Garda Museum. I am nothing if not a giant nerd. Seriously people, I went to a police museum for fun. I should have known how odd that sounds when I buzzed the locked door to confirm I was in the right place. The voice at the other end said that if I was interested in the history of Ireland's police force I could come in. When I said I was, the voice on the other end of the intercom said "really?" ::pushes up nerd glasses:: Yes, I really am.

On my way to the museum, I got a little lost thanks to the somewhat vague directions at the gate to Dublin Castle ('in the roundtower' doesn't mean much when it doesn't give you what side of the tower) and ended up wandering into the chapel. I don't know if you knew this, but Ireland has a lot of churches.

The thing that always amazes me about European churches (chapels, minsters, cathedrals, etc are included in the use of the word church) is that even the smallest places are often incredibly ornate. Granted, it's Dublin Castle so they wouldn't be going for the plain and simple look but it's still incredible when you think that below is the ceiling of the lower seating area.

I finally found the museum, wandered through, and got an answer to a question I honestly didn't think was going to be answered. I knew I'd be back at the Castle with Al to check out the Chester Beatty Library (more on that later) but I didn't know what the weather would be like so I took a quick turn around the main courtyard.

The castle was originally build in 1204 but it's been added to over the years.
It creates a bit of a patchwork look to the buildings.

I had never actually been to the Castle before. As the castle still serves as a functioning building for the government, it was closed to visitors on the day I was there but I was only really looking to wander around the courtyard anyway. The 26 counties of the Republic have flags flying in the courtyard. I found the only flag that matters and sat about for 15 minutes waiting for the wind to last long enough to get a semi-decent picture.

Monaghan! Best damn county there is (as long as you're not talking GAA).
Feel free to disagree in the comments, I'll probably just delete them ;)

If nothing else, the Garda on duty near the doors to the castle were having a good laugh at my attempts to get this picture, which had me giggling as I headed for the bus back out to Blackrock.

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