Published: July 2nd 2012July 1st 2012
Day 11 - Robin W-O & Kathy K.
Drive from Belfast to Dublin and city tour with a local guide.
Our Blog began on Friday, March 23rd at 12:01 AM in our room at the Stormont! Robin is icing her back from the long bus rides and the ice pack is leaking into the mattress! Samuel, from the hotel, quite amused, came to the rescue - he changed the bed mattress pad and sheet! What a guy! (See the pictures)
Best thing about breakfast at the Stormont is the porridge with honey, cream and Bushmills whiskey! Now, that will be missed! So, after our group picture on the steps of the hotel, we took off on our long trip from Belfast to Dublin at 9:45 AM. And it was a rainy morning, but the trees and the daffodils were pretty! And sitting in the front seat was great for the back and seeing everything! Fern and I enjoyed it!
The scenery was pretty - mainly rolling farmland, and was particularly pretty going into a town called Newry. We saw beautiful houses,
a little river and tennis courts right next to a huge cemetery! Now that got a reaction from the group! Especially us tennis players! We were still in Northern Ireland and saw several castles along the way, apparently to protect the town from invaders. After a little detour to see the scenery, we crossed the border to Southern Ireland around 11:20 AM. It wasn't much, we stopped to go through customs and pay some excise taxes. There were no signs or police or towers to show the border crossing.
Then we crossed an interesting bridge over a river on our way to Dublin! But first we tried to find the Battle of the Boyne in Newyrange. After a few misses and close passage with a truck and car on a little road, we made it! We saw the exhibit, museum, film and cannon that were widely used at the Battle. Briefly, it was a famous Battle where the Protestants won over the Catholics in the South and established the Protestant rule over Ireland. (For more details, look it up in your history books!) But what I liked the best are the sayings that came out of the
Battle, which was in 1690. This is what I remember and are used today: 'Square Meal', 'Go Off Half Cocked', 'Hold Your Horses!’ and 'Bite the Bullet'.
Then after we left the Battle of the Boyne, we entered a long, dark tunnel, about 2 miles before we finally got to Dublin at 2:10 PM and saw the River Liffy. Then, on our way to our hotel, we stopped and picked up Dorothy, our tour guide in Dublin. Here are some highlights: facts about Dublin - 1 million population - 1/2 are under 28 years old and that is the average age! 14.9% are unemployed, minimum wage is E 8.60; E 32,000 is starting salary; E 65,000 average yearly salary (I know, check your notes!) Cloud Computing is employing. I asked Heather what this meant - she knew! Street signs change every corner and they are up on the building. License plates on cars - year is first, then manufacturer, and city. Seniors at 66 years of age are entitled to free travel all over, free rent, TV license (cable?), electricity. Dublin is 1/2 hour to the sea, and to the mountains.
We passed all
these buildings, streets and museums. We started out seeing the National Museum on Kildare Street; then the Georgian area - 18th Century homes with Georgian doors where you can't change the outside, but you can inside. They are not family homes - mainly doctors, lawyers etc. Houses used to be 9 million (Euros or dollars?) in 2009. Anyhow, very expensive! Dorothy compared it to the TV program 'Upstairs, Downstairs' in the 18th Century. She pointed out the black and white doors with the light poles and steps where the coal was delivered.
I have voluminous notes - but hopefully to not bore you I have categorized the locations and made a few comments. The colleges - the American College of Dublin where Oscar Wilde lived and there is a statute of him lying on his back - 'Nothing Except My Genius'. Trinity College established in 1591 was only for Protestants. Since 1963, Catholics are admitted and now everyone is admitted. 9,000 students now and it is free. Also, the Book of Kells is there, an 8th Century manuscript of the four gospels produced either in the scriptorium of the monastery at Kells or off the coast of
Scotland. A must see, especially the Trinity Library, which contains the Long Library.
The Parliament House, Lord Mayor House and the City Hall, which has records of the city, and bikes for rent. The churches include: St. Stephens Church with National Art Gallery on the corner. The Gallery is free, and George Bernard Shaw left money for 'My Fair Lady', etc. Not sure why, but it is on Clare Street. Also, the St. Stephens Park is in the middle of town - 22 acres, which is safe and has a pond in the center. It is across from my favorite place - The Shelbourne Hotel, where Kathy and I had tea, cookies and a sandwich. It has been refurnished for 90 million Euros! It is right in the middle of the Stephens Green shopping area, where I would like to stay the next time!
Other churches, no Catholic in Dublin, include Christ Church Cathedral, which was my favorite because it is Dublin's oldest cathedral and the medieval crypt in the basement. St. Patrick's Cathedral is Anglican Protestant and the gardens outside the Cathedral are beautiful. The author, Jonathan Swift, who wrote Gulliver's Travels, is
buried there. There is government/social housing near the Cathedral, as well as the Ivy apartments, built by Mr. Guinness, for the poor. The Guinness family has been very good to Dublin according to our tour guide. There is a statue of Mr. Guinness just outside the entrance to the Cathedral. In fact, the Guinness Brewery, built in 1759 is the largest industry in Dublin. The beer is exported to 70 different countries and tastes different because it has black current juice in it! I think it is better in Dublin than in the United States, where it has a bitter after taste. (My opinion, of course!)
We passed by the Dublin Castle, which is open to the public. It has a beautiful garden and coffee shop in Marsh's public library, where Nga and I had coffee the next day. The Castle was handed over to the Irish State in 1922 after the Rising in 1916 and is used primarily for government offices and entertaining dignitaries.
The Phoenix Park is the largest park in Dublin - 1,078 acres and 7 miles long. It is a public park with 1,000 deer 'always on the left', playing
fields, and streets lined with chestnut, lime and linden trees and gas lamps! Also, there are monuments, the obelisk, as well as the Dublin Zoo, famous for its success in breeding lions! Its best-known offspring is the roaring lion on the MGM film logo. (I bet you are happy I took such good notes!)
Also, the American Ambassador, Dan Rooney, who owns the Pittsburgh Steelers, lives there and flies the American flag permanently. It is because America was the first country to recognize Ireland. Ireland's new President, Mr. Higgins, lives in the park, too. However, his title is only a formality, as the Prime Minister is the 'real power'.
There is a modern cross in the park where Pope Paul stopped and greeted the crowds in 1979. It was at this point, on a sunny, but cold day, where we stopped for ice-cream cones. That is, everyone but me, and I had an apple!
Dorothy said there are 10,000 trees to be planted in the park to replace those that had Dutch Elm. The People's Gardens are a favorite place for seniors, 65 years old, to spend time.
Maeve Binchy is an authoress who is very popular. She writes in the Irish Times newspaper. Members of our group have read some of her books. They are 'The Lilac Bus', 'Evening Class', 'The Quinton's', 'Scarlett Feather', and several others. You can look her up on the Internet!
The most popular streets were pointed out to us from the bus. Grafton Street - pedestrians only street for smart shoppers; Dame Street leads from College Green just outside the front gates of Trinity College to City Hall and beyond; Temple Bar area, where many bars, restaurants and musicians 'hang out'. And then there is O'Connell Street, the principal street where the Millennium Spire is, and where the St. Patrick's Day parade is viewed. There is no longer any animosity between the Catholics and Protestants, as now there is a mixture of Celts, Vikings and Normans.
The General Post Office was pointed out because there are still bullet holes in the poles from the Irish Republicans in the 1916 Rising. Ireland got its independence in 1922.
Of importance, of course, is Bono's hotel - The Claremont where Y2 plays in The Kitchen!
The Liffey River divides Dublin neatly into two - the South side with its chic shopping streets, expensive restaurants and pubs, and the North side where splendid public buildings are surrounded by dilapidated Georgian squares. The city's English name for the Liffey is 'Black Pool' because of its turbulent history.
In conclusion, there were many other places our guide pointed out, but after all this, I want to say it was a good tour. I do remember our guide saying 'taxes are a nightmare!' and Dublin is a very literary city with many authors. I hope my notes didn't bore you!
Robin W O
The Irish flag is green for Catholic, orange for Protestant, and white for peace. Useful information!
There are more photos below