Chris' Previous Journal
August 17, 2010, Dublin, Ireland
We have visited Dublin on previous occasions, so we opted to not take any of the ship's tours, and instead, made our own excursion.
There were plenty of taxis available on the pier, and within 15 minutes we were in the city centre on Grafton Street near the famed Trinity College. A couple things we noted immediately on our drive into the city centre, were the Harp Bridge (actually, it's the Samuel Beckett Bridge, but its shaped like a harp lying on its side) and the sparkling convention center - both new since our last visit.
It was a cool (for us) day with the high temperature reaching 59°, but the sun was shining, so a light jacket was adequate.
Dublin is Ireland's largest city and serves as its capital. It's a very old city - established in 841 by Norse settlers. Much of its architecture dates from the 1600's. The Guinness brewery, which was founded in 1759, was, and still is today, a major contributor to the economic situation and employment.
Dublin has so many unique and interesting places to visit, that's it's virtually impossible to see all in only one day. The must-see sites include the Book of Kells at Trinity College, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Temple Bar area, Kilmainham Gaol, Guinness Brewery and the most visible and ultra-contemporary monument in the city -- the Spire, located on the major thoroughfare of O'Connell Street.
The Book of Kells, a priceless manuscript of the four gospels, was reportedly written early in the 9th century by monks of Iona and was sent to Dublin around 1653 for security reasons. Trinity College took possession of the Book in 1661. The Book of Kells is written in four colors of ink: black, red, purple and yellow giving it a luminous appearance. The lines at the entrance to the museum where it's housed can be long, but the wait is worth the experience.
Trinity College was established in 1592 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Today, there are about 15,000 students in attendance. The grounds are beautiful, with grand buildings and lots of green space. I told John visiting here almost makes me want to go back to college.
St Patrick's Cathedral was built in honor of Ireland's patron saint, and according to local tradition, is located on the spot were St. Patrick baptized converts. The original structure was built in 1191, and the present building in 1220.
Kilmainham Gaol (jail) is a former prison that played a very important role in Irish history. Many of the leaders of the Irish rebellions were imprisoned and some executed here.
The jail was not a pleasant environment - there was no segregation of prisoners -- men, women and children were all together - up to five people per cell. There was one candle used for light and for heat and had to last for two weeks, so the prisoners spent most of their time in the cold and dark. It's a very haunting experience walking through the jail and seeing the cells and the interior courtyard where many executions occurred.
The Temple Bar area is on the south bank of the Liffey River in central Dublin. Its claim to fame includes the nightlife, restaurants and narrow cobbled streets. There is an actual Temple Bar in the district which was first noted on a map in 1673. I was lucky and found a leprechaun standing on one of the streets in the district, so perhaps the "luck of the Irish" will be with us during the balance of our trip.
Dublin Castle, once the seat of British rule in Ireland is now a major government complex. It was originally built as a defensive fortification, then became a royal residence for a while. Today, it is used for presidential inaugurations, official state visits and foreign affairs engagements.
The castle was nearly completed by 1230, built with strong walls and good ditches in order to defend the city and protect the King's treasures. The Spire of Dublin, officially titled the "Monument of Light" replaced the former Nelson's Pillar and is intended to mark Dublin's place in the 21st century. It represents the bridging of art and technology. At night, the base is lit and the top is illuminated providing a beacon in the night sky.
(Check out the Dublin photos page.)
Not far from the Spire, we came across a most interesting appearing restaurant and decided it was time to get a bite, so we'd give it a try. The Church Cafe bills itself as one of Dublin's most unique establishments and we would agree.
It was built at the beginning of the 18th century, as St. Mary's Church of ireland, but closed in 1964. Following extensive renovation it opened its doors in 2005 as a cafe.
A couple historical events (of the many) taking place at St. Mary's included the 1761 marriage of Arthur Guinness, founder of Guinness brewery and the delivery of his first Irish sermon by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, in 1747.
Lunch was excellent - John ordered fish and chips and declared them to be delicious. One of the things for me that makes dining out in Dublin so great is that nearly all the menus offer gluten-free servings. One doesn't even have to ask if it's available. I just specify "gluten-free, please".
According to our taxi driver, Dublin's unemployment level is very high and that has attributed to an increase in beggars on the streets. He warned us to keep a close watch on our possessions - especially our cameras. The housing market has cratered (similar to many areas in the US) with some of the homes having lost 50% of their values.
Dublin uses the Euro. Today, a US dollar's value was .778 cents to the Euro.
The population of Dublin is much younger than many European cities - nearly 50% is aged 25 or younger. It's also been voted the friendliest city in Europe and we would agree with that vote - warm greetings at stores, by taxi drivers, and in restaurants and pubs was the norm.
Tomorrow, we'll spend the day in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
More info about Northern Ireland
Northern Europe Trip Page... (including photos)
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