The Luck of the Irish: 2 Days in Dublin
After having mostly beautiful weather in Germany (aside from some rain on Sunday) in the 80s (20s in celsius), Ireland was a bit of a surprise. As I wrote previously, when I arrived in Ireland the night of June 26, it was cold, rainy, and I thought I hadn't packed properly. I made sure to bring a jacket but did not bring a hat, gloves, or scarf.
Due to logistics with flights back home, I was only allotted two full days to check out Dublin and all it had to offer since the other two days would be day-long excursions to other parts of Ireland, and by the time I would return back all of the attractions would be closed. Of course, it was not enough time, but I was determined to make my best effort to see everything I could as long my energy and legs could keep up.
Upon arrival to Dublin, since I was not familiar with the layout of the city, I decided to take a taxi (the more expensive option) to the hotel instead of the airport bus (took on the departure date). Before I arrived to the city, I made sure to check how much a taxi fare from the airport to the hotel would be. I was told by the hotel to expect between 10-25 euros depending on traffic. Amazingly, we arrived at the hotel when the taxi fare was literally at 24.90 euro. The second the taxi stopped, I immediately handed the driver money since it would not be long before the meter switched over again.
The hotel itself was located slightly out of the city center, but it was still within a very easy walk to all of the main attractions. It also seemed to be located in a quiet area. After two nearly sleepless nights due to noise and terrible heat in Germany, I was looking forward to getting some sleep without being drenched in sweat or being kept awake by people in bars until the early morning hours. The hotel was a very quaint family-run hotel with friendly staff, but since the building was older, it did not have a lift, and my room was on the top floor (6th floor). That meant carrying my bag up six flights of stairs. It wasn't too bad since it was a nice form of exercise for the legs and arms. Much to my surprise, the room was larger than what I was expecting but after the prison cell-sized room in Germany, it couldn't be any smaller. Like the hotel room in Germany, this room did not have air conditioning either, but the weather was not particularly warm, so it did not matter. After unpacking a little bit, I immediately went to bed since I had been up since 4am.
The next morning, I ate a breakfast of fried eggs (I normally don't like eggs but will eat them if necessary), sausage, and bacon at the hotel and started my sightseeing. Since Dublin is home to the Book of Kells, that was the first stop. From what I had heard and read about, the line to see the historic artifact would be long, but when I got there, there was indeed a line, but it went very quickly.
Admittedly, I was somewhat underwhelmed by what I saw. Only two pages of the Book of Kells were opened, and many of the explanations were quite technical and went into detail into how colors were produced. Yet, it was still a fascinating experience since I had lectured on this work and it's importance when I used to teach history. Even though I was a little disappointed with the Book of Kells, the Long Room on the floor above was much more impressive. The Long Room is a classical library and holds Trinity College's oldest books. It was not difficult to imagine students at Trinity College in the 19th and early 20th century using this library under the watchful eye of the many busts of famous philosophers and thinkers, such as John Locke, Edmund Burke, and Jonathan Swift, whose works make up the Western Canon. This is truly the main attraction of Trinity College, and as expected, there were many tourists, so in the future, it might be good to try to be the very first person in line and head straight to the Library in order to get some good photos.
After I finished checking out Trinity College, I soon came to the realization that my original plan of checking out as much of Dublin as I could in two days was not going to happen. There were way too many sites to see, and there was no way I was going to get to all of them during that time. Realizing that, I looked on the tourist map I was given at the hotel and made the decision to try and hit the absolute must-see sites and leave the others for a future visit. Since I was in the general area, I hit up Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral which was slightly down the way.
Christ Church Cathedral was quite an interesting cathedral, especially since the priests in charge of the church let people essentially go anywhere they wanted with no problems. This is quite unlike other churches I have been in where the priests can be quite finicky and in some cases, downright mean, about where people can and cannot go. However, the most interesting aspect of Christ Church Cathedral is the crypt which not only holds the treasury of the cathedral but also the mummified remains of a cat and mouse. According to the story, during the 1860s, a cat was chasing a mouse in the church. The mouse apparently ran into an organ pipe and the cat followed, but they both got stuck and died in the pipe. When their remains were found years later, they both had become dried out and mummified. As a result, they are now on permanent display in the crypt. It is definitely one of these stranger aspects of the Cathedral that a publication such as Atlas Obscura would probably write about.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was particularly fascinating place to visit since according to the legend of the Christianization of Ireland, St. Patrick baptized the first Irish converts to Christianity right outside the site of the current cathedral at a well. When I went in (admission was 6.50 euro - same as Christ Church Cathedral), I was quite surprised at how well-organized everything was for visitors. There was even an interactive section in one part of the Cathedral that allowed people to learn more about the history of the place.
The cathedral also had all kinds of flags from former military regiments that are allowed to completely disintegrate. When I saw that, it reminded me of the traditional galeros (wide-brimmed hats) that Roman Catholic cardinals used to wear. When a Catholic cardinal dies, their hat (galero) is hung up from the rafters of the cathedral where it stays until it disintegrates or falls from the rafters. Of course, the main attraction of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is its connection to Jonathan Swift, who was the Dean of the Cathedral in the 18th century and author of the famed book Gulliver’s Travels. It is possible to see his simple floor grave, death mask, and the pulpit where he gave his sermons. I had never read Gulliver's Travels When I was younger, I had read Swift’s A Modest Proposal, which is a satirical work advocating that poor people eat their children to alleviate hunger in Ireland at the time. After having visited and learned about his life, I am now interested in reading Gulliver’s Travels.
I visited a few other sites, but during this time, I also experienced Ireland’s famed unpredictable weather. The day started out with rain and a bit of a chill, but as the day progressed, it continually switched between spots of rain followed by sunshine and followed by rain again. It was also during that period that there would be periods of really warm weather followed by a period of coolness. To sum up, the day started out pouring rain then it progressed to be sunny and humid, and then it progressed to being cloudy and cool with periods of rain throughout. People had told me that the weather in Ireland could be unpredictable, and they were certainly correct. I brought my black jacket, but there were definitely times I wished I had brought a scarf, glove, and hat, but then there were other times when it would have been way too hot, and shorts and a t-shirt would have sufficed.
On my second day and final chance to explore the city, I had two main goals in mind. I absolutely wanted to visited the Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Storehouse. However, there was one church I wanted to visit, and it was St. Michan’s. This church is famous for its crypt and for being the burial place of two criminals who were hanged, drawn, and quartered. The crypt is also interesting since a lot of the caskets are piled on top of each other. This reminded of what I saw in Argentina in La Recoleta Cemetery with many family tombs filled with caskets and urns on top of each other. There were even a couple caskets that had collapsed on top of older ones.
Even though the church was not particularly far from my hotel, it took me awhile to get there since it was raining quite heavily, and I was without an umbrella. Therefore, there were periods when I had to duck under an awning and wait to dry off for a little bit. When I got there, I purchased a ticket for a tour of the crypt. Since it had already started, I was told to go around the church and join the group. I was expecting a large crowd but no. There was only one elderly couple from Sweden, myself, and a rather entertaining guide. The tour was short but informative, and it was definitely interesting to see how the bodies were preserved in the dry environment which was surprising due to all the rain Ireland typically gets. After my tour of St. Michan's Church was complete, I headed over to the first main goal of the day...the Jameson Distillery.
Because the Jameson Distillery is really close St. Michan’s Church, it was a quick walk which was good since it was still raining quite heavily, and I still had no umbrella but only a North Face jacket with a hood that was rapidly becoming waterlogged. I’m not a particular fan of whiskey, nor am I a particularly big drinker, but I always enjoy taking tours of distilleries and breweries, especially if they have a long history, such as Jameson (it was founded in the 18th century and continues operations today).
The tour of the Jameson Distillery was a lot better than I expected. The guide was interesting, lively, and humorous. In addition, the tour was quite interactive. In one section, everyone got to to see and smell whiskey at different stages of the distillation process and smell how whiskey is different based on the barrels it is stored in and for how long. The interactive nature of the tour was especially true with the taste test. The group was led into a circular room, and everyone got to taste the differences between Johnnie Walker (Scottish), Jack Daniels (American), and Jameson's. Since I'm not a big whiskey drinker, I personally did not pick out a huge difference unlike some of the other people on the tour, but if I really paid attention, it was clear there was a difference between the three of them in terms of the aftertaste and how it easy it was to take them down without burning the throat. Of the three of them, I thought Jameson's was the easiest to take down since it was the smoothest in my opinion. Of course, after the tour, we were all given the choice of a shot of straight whiskey or a mixed drink. Since it was only 11:30am, I decided to take it easy and avoided the straight drink and went for a mixed drink with Jameson.
After I finished with the Jameson Distillery, I made my way to the Guinness Storehouse which was a little further away and across the river. Even though it was cold and still raining, the whiskey did a good job of keeping me relatively warm on the walk to the Storehouse, but it did not keep me dry. As I was walking to the Storehouse, my big concern was that my face would go red, and people would see that I had been drinking so early in the morning. Luckily it didn’t since I made sure to not drink a lot, but I definitely felt a little bit tired during my walk and found myself yawning a few times.
The Guinness Storehouse was a fascinating place that gave a history of the drink and how it is made. In addition, the Storehouse has a wonderfully interesting history of how the drink has been advertised throughout the years with a variety of posters, such as the one seen on the right. I found that part to be the most interesting part of the museum. I've always been amazed at the creativity of many of these alcohol advertistements, and this place had many different examples. Of course, at the end of the tour everyone was entitled to a pint of Guinness at a bar in the Storehouse which had a panoramic view of Dublin.
On a nice day, it would have presented excellent views, but since it was a rainy day, the views were not as good. Although the bar was crowded, there were many bartenders, and I got my drink very quickly. I tend to like beer a lot more than whiskey, and I really enjoyed the Guinness. While I could have easily had another, by the end of the first one, I was admittedly feeling a little bit tired and warm since I had had several small shots of whiskey not that long ago within a relatively short time. Thankfully, I didn't have another. Later, my head began to pound, so I was thankful I decided to limit the alcohol intake.
Overall, my second day in Dublin was quite productive since I not only made it a day of learning about whiskey and stout, but I also visited the Leprechaun Museum which didn’t deal so much with the history of leprechauns but was more of a very lively storytelling session with a talented guide. Even though I didn’t see a quarter of the things there are to see in Dublin, I think it was a good start, and I definitely hope to return in the not-so-distant future.