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Published: October 8th 2011
Off to Dublin we go!
The lady golfer couple has kindly given us their ticket for a second day on the HOHO (Hop On Hop Off) bus, and we are ready to be out of Cranmoor House! Especially with the new very, very serious lady golfers, eyeing our limited table space with every bite we eat of our breakfast….
We are now prepared to flummox Jane, our SAT NAV, and no longer will we be sent down bramble paths that she considers “roads.” No, we have an Atlas and we are fully prepared to use it: Motorways for us! We have outsmarted technology. Well, that is until we reach Dublin Airport to turn in our beloved Opal. It takes only 6 times, could have been seven but who is counting, because we have having so much frustrating fun, driving around and around the airport complex to outsmart Jane, until we finally arrive at our destination: Avis Rental Returns. The wind is howling, we are trying to unpack luggage while scarves and bits of ephemera go sailing, and finally we are in the building waiting for a cab to take us to The Albany House, rather cheap for
Dublin, Hotel near Stephen’s Green.
The room is large and very, very mustard colored with a charming view of the trash bin, but we don’t care, it is at the back of the building and away from street noise. And we have WiFi!...Okay, we have WiFi if we go to the hotel lobby…..We settle in and leave to take a week’s worth of laundry to the recommended laundry service. Then on to a Subway type sandwich chain for lunch: I have been eating chicken for two days now in a valiant attempt at averting a massive heart attack from the fried pork, whole milk, eggs, cheese, mayonnaise, and butter that has constituted the majority of our diet for the past two weeks. Oh, and Guinness, but one drinks that for strength and health, correct?
The weather is quite fine (remember in Irish that means not raining), and then just like that it starts to pour. We head for the nearest HOHO transport spot and climb onto the bus to dry out and get oriented in the city. Unfortunately we have boarded a bus with a wanna-be comedian, not a wanna-be tour guide. By the time we are up
to our gills in wife jokes, we are at Trinity College and the Book of Kells Exhibit. We wander in through the main arch and are immediately spotted as lost tourists by a fast talking undergrad. Okay, we‘ll take your tour, even though you are wearing a Harry Potter outfit. We learn more about Trinity College than we ever thought we wanted to know, including that it houses over 4.5 million books which boggles the mind- and then we are ushered into the Book of Kells Exhibit.
Now., to tell you the truth, I have never been so excited about the Book of Kells—yeah, yeah, illuminated manuscript, parchment, ground up and homemade inks, monks spending their entire lives writing a page or two—got it…..OH MY GOD! This is a life changing event. It is truly a splendid exhibition with large well done photo detail posters of the pages and wonderful explanations of the history of Illuminated Manuscripts. There are some original leather carrying cases that other such Illuminated Manuscripts would be carried in, and there is a note on how to make ink from oak galls: highly pertinent to us who live surrounded by oak trees.
George Salmon Provost
It took him a while, but he finally voted to let women earn degrees at Trinity College...in 1901..
will notice that there are no photos of the Book of Kells in this post, because we are not allowed to take any: in fact, the books- the four Gospels of the New Testament displayed in the glass topped table- are open only to one double page per day to keep at bay the damage done by light. We hit the jackpot and are able to view one of the most well-known of all the pages- a full page image of Christ. The other pages are of calligraphy, small illustrations, and large illuminated initials. The Irish tradition of manuscript illumination had existed since the 500's. By the 800’s when The Book of Kells was produced (but never finished) it was a work not only by the traditional La Tene art of Ireland, but also incorporated Roman, Romano-British, Viking, Coptic, and Anglo-Saxon metal work designs in a rich interplay with Early Christian symbolism. The work is so simple and flat with only hints of dimension and perspective, but so clean yet complex in design and then aflame with color. By the time we have absorbed as much of the mystical beauty of the books, I am ready to throw on a
hooded robe and spend my life decorating pages of parchment by candlelight. This is one of the moments of our trip where I wish I could go home, take a nap, and then come back again: there is too much to take in.
Then, as if we poor tourists aren't already on visual overload, we leave the Book of Kells Exhibit and proceed into the main chamber of Trinity College’s Long Room. It is enough to make you take two steps backward or sit down and cry. In a barrel vaulted, two story hall, 215 feet in length, and surrounded with galleries, in which are housed 200,000 of The Libraries’ oldest books. And, according to our under grad guide, they are displayed by size—it makes it aesthetically pleasing, but necessitates carrying a measuring stick when trying to find a book. Down the middle aisles runs an exhibition of Medical History: old anatomical drawings, charts, and open medical books in a long expanse of cases. Also displayed is the 7 foot 7 inch skeleton of Charles Byrne, The Irish Giant.
We absolutely cannot absorb one more thing, and we take our leave through the Gift Shop, and out into
the courtyard of Trinity College. We pick up the HOHO bus again, this time with a good tour guide, and go back to the hotel to re-group our senses.
It is now fine again and we make our way along Stephen's Green and down through the pedestrian mall of Grafton Street-Dublin’s main shopping district- which is like trying to swim through ping pong balls. We spy O’Donnoghue’s Pub, which was recommended to us, and decide to light there for a bit. We find a table on the third floor and with a curious blend of Irish, punk, and American music blasting over a much better sound system than we have previously heard, we are served up a surprisingly decent and affordable dinner. A walk back down Grafton Street where the street musicians have come out in full force and then a quieter stroll along Stephen’s Green takes us back to our decent and surprisingly affordable hotel room in Dublin and some time in the hotel lobby using the WiFi.
Another day in Dublin tomorrow and we can pick up our fresh laundry! Cities are good for somethings, but we already miss the Irish countryside.
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