Despite the fact that I left my Ugandan maternity dresses out of my luggage, it was still overweight…..by a whopping 2.1 lbs. And had I not been required to pack a full change of clothes in my carry-on in the not-so-unlikey event that Air Canada forgot to put my bag on the plane (as they did on my flight to Uganda) I would have been able to re-arrange those 2.1 lbs. So in true AC fashion, they charged me $100. Lunacy. But after that the travel gods smiled on me, and left an open seat next to me. So I am choosing to think about that $100 paying for some leg room rather than 2.1 lbs of baggage!
I arrived in Dublin to an unseasonably warm and sunny day. How completely delightful, particularly as we have been having a rather Irish spring. Cold and rainy.
I hopped in a cab to my hotel and was greeted by a lovely taxi driver who was quite thrilled when he found out I live in Toronto. Murdoch Mysteries and Mayor Ford have put us on the map! For those who don’t know, Murdoch Mysteries it’s a Canadian tv production about turn of the century Toronto police sleuthing a never-ending crime spree. That actually made me smile. Rob Ford, on the other hand, well…..
I took at disco nap mid-afternoon and set out. My hotel is across from St. Stephen’s Green, which used to be a private garden for the houses on the permeter. It was donated to the city by the Guinness family and is now a lovely oasis in the heart of Dublin. It was a warm sunny afternoon and Dubliners were taking full advantage. Loads of picnics, ice cream cones and gourmet donuts. I found the source of the donuts and had the best Canadian maple bacon donut. I mean it was life-changing. Today, I went back for a chocolate Baileys donut and maybe a Coco-Loco, too.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a landmark. Reportedly built next to the well where St. Patrick baptized the first converts in Ireland 1,200 years ago, it stands as a tall and proud reminder of how much history there is on this little island. I splurged for the audio guide and headed inside. It is an imposing building, as are most cathedrals, but there are so many lovely intimate corners. I stayed for the Evensong service and, even if you aren’t religious, hearing the St. Patrick’s choir sing in an 800 year old building is breathtaking. I had chills. It turns out that Jonathan Swift, of Gulliver’s Travels fame, was the deacon of St. Patrick’s and reportedly once preached for 3 hours on the evils of sleeping in church…..hmmm, clearly he was totally swift, after all.
Today I headed to Kilmainham gaol, which opened in 1796 as the new county gaol for Dublin. It was used as a gaol, holding cells and army barracks until 1924. It was a fascinating and sad tour through an 18th century jail heralded as a ground breaking model for prison reform. The cells are cold, damp and small and, at one point during the potato famine of the 1850, held up to 7 or 8 people per cell. It also housed a number leaders of various rebellions for Irish independence.
I sauntered past Dublin Castle on the way to Trinity College and the Book of Kells. Dublin Castle was first founded as a defensive castle in 1204! It was the administrative seat of the United Kingdom government in Ireland until 1922. Now it houses some Irish government office and lots of tourists. Trinity College was founded in 1592 and was set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland. Catholics were not permitted entry into the College until 1793 and prohibited from holding certain offices (such as professors or fellows) until 1873. And for a period ending in 1970, the Catholic Church forbade its adherents from attending Trinity without express permission. Trinity College is home of the Book of Kells, an ancient illustrated manuscript containing the four gospels in Latin. It is believed to be created in 800 – that makes it 1,200 years old!! It’s covered in a glass case in a dark room, but I was still scared to breathe around it!
And then I came home. That is, my home away from home, the Guinness Storehouse. Aka: Heaven on Earth. The very spot Guinness has been brewed since 1759. It smelled hoppy and delicious and I was delirious. There is a tasting bar, the Guinness academy where you learn to “craft” the perfect pint, then you get to enjoy the perfect pint, and of course, a pub to enjoy more perfect pints. Great way to cap off my time in Dublin.
Tomorrow I head north to Belfast – in Northern Ireland, or the North of Ireland – depending on your perspective.