June 30, 2007
We spent our second day enjoying Dublin and seeing all the things I most wanted to see. Serona was great about letting me choose what I wanted to see here as he had already been here and he was okay with the fact that for him that meant seeing some things again because I really wanted to see them.
We started out at Trinity College and the Book of Kells. This was one of the things I most wanted to see in Ireland. Having spent this past year learning about the time period and the Book of Kells itself I was very excited for the opportunity to see it. The weight of how old the book was and how long it took to make is apparent when you are there. Rhiannon wished she could see it as we spent so much time learning about it and book making from this time period. Even having a lesson pretending to be a scribe and illustrator from the time.
The exhibit is set up well. With a room full of information and history about the time period and images from the book blown up large for you to examine. We spent about an hour going through this room and learning more about it. Then when we were finished in there we headed into the room with the Book of Kells and the Book of Armagh and Book of Durrow also on display. There was a page of writing and a page of illustrations open so you could see both. The table was crowded with people but you could wait your turn and take as much time as you needed we spent another half hour in here or so.
The books were incredibly impressive and made you feel their age and the tender care with which they were created. The policy was no photography allowed to preserve the books. I was angered when I saw people taking photos just brazenly - fulfilling the image of the "ugly American tourist" and others were saying things like "Four score and seven years ago...I've seen something like this" - of course there is nothing in our country this old or even coming close. (This picture was not taken by us in case you imagine we were the ugly American tourists)
We waited for that group to move on and then took some more quiet time examining the books, thankful for the opportunity to see them. Amazed that they have been preserved for so long and through such dark and violent times - thankful for the monks and scribes who took the massive amounts of time to create and preserve so much for our benefit. I was surprised at how impressed I was at the writing itself which was done painstakingly and so neat - it clearly was an art. Knowing the cost of a mistake makes you really aware of how careful they were. I was also surprised by how small the ornate letters are. So often we see them blown up to see the detail - it was suprising to see they were usually no more than two or sometimes three lines of text when I had the impression they would be much larger. Overall I was in awe and thankful for the opportunity to see them and feel the weight of what they accomplished and preserved for us generations later.
As we headed up to the Long Room, a great library filled with more volumes that you can count and impressive statues of famous heads we were discussing what of our time will be as impressive as that and our human need to express ourselves and communicate our history. We have blog and more books then have ever been written before but will people want to read them the way we want to see the Book of Kells and examine them? The sheer beauty and artistry that went into preserving the history and truth - somehow it feels to me our society is lacking that. What will future generations flock to see and experience from our time?
We headed upstairs and the Long Room is impressive. Unfortunately they had some special exhibit about war going on and it was distracting form the room. Long banners were in the way of seeing the books and big display tables took away from the beauty and quiet of the room. Still it was powerful to experience. As we walked along and looked at Homer, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and on down through history and we saw and smelled old books it once again was hard not to feel the weight of how old and special everything was. The experiences and weight of history comes alive for me in such circumstances. We were disappointed that about half the hallway is roped off because it is high tourist season so we missed out on seeing half of the head statues and the non exhibit half where you can better see the books and get the feel for the room. Still it was incredible to experience and makes us both desire to increase our own home personal library.
As all good tours end ours ended in a gift shop so we could browse the items and spend more Euro. We actually did pick up some gifts here for the kids, some beautiful Connemara marble crosses for them. We browsed through the store and headed off to our next location - Dublin Castle.
We spent time in each of the courtyards and near the church. We decided against the tour inside as we still wanted to get to two other locations and had spent so much time inside Trinity College already. Still it was impressive, not as large as most castles but large enough for a city. The courtyard had an impressive feel and it was beautiful. We took a bunch of pictures here - I am so thankful for digital cameras and no more rolls and rolls of film. We just keep taking pictures and are assured of getting a few good ones. With over 400 pictures a day we should get a few good ones.
We headed over to Christ Church and spent a good amount of time there. It was a self-guided tour that took us through the church and down into the crypt where some of the most interesting artifacts were. There was a good video and many interesting items that have been collected over the years since the 11th century. Again it is hard to see these things and walk through this building and not feel how old it is. to know it is built on Vikings remains and the history behind the church and its significance was interesting. We spent a good part of our afternoon here.
Then we headed over to the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse for something completely different but also quintessential Irish. i can honestly say that I like Guinness before Serona but he converted pretty quickly and for both of us it is a beer of choice - so to be there was fun and yes the Guinness does honestly taste better there. It is a bit smoother, creamier and less bitter, very enjoyable. We asked if it was our imagination or if there is a difference. It is the same beer but about two weeks older in the United States it is also stored and served slightly differently in terms of temperature and the way they pour that does affect taste.
The tour was self-guided but very interesting. This allowed us to take as much or as little time in any given area and to skip areas if we wanted. We learned about the whole process and it was interesting. I think most interesting to me was how important the water source is (for Guinness from the Wicklow Mountains) and that the founder was so confident that he signed a 9,000 year lease for 45 pounds a year! Learning the process of beer making was interesting. We took our time going through the brewery and ended upstairs in the gravity bar to get our "free" Guinness (read most expensive guinness in all of Ireland for 18 Euro apiece - the cost of the tour). The bartender made a shamrock on top of our beers at our request. We enjoyed a lovely view of Dublin and a peak at the Wicklow mountains as we enjoyed our Guinness with many other people in a standing room only bar.
After our tour we were tired and ready to head home and get a bite to eat - having not eaten since breakfast. We got caught in a downpour! The one time we left our hotel without our umbrellas - we did thankfully have our raincoats. Still the walk back was long and I was in a skirt and birks (not the best rain gear to be sure) and we were completely soaked and a bit miserable with each other when we finally arrived back at the hotel. We dried off and headed downstairs for a bite to eat at the hotel pub. Decent food, good Guinness and no rain was involved - a blessing to us all - even if it came at a high premium cost for hotel food.
After dinner we headed back out to the Temple Bar area opting for a taxi this time to stay dry. We ended up back at the Auld Dubliner after trying a few other places and enjoyed some good live music. One of the things we did not expect about Ireland was all the bad American music played - we discovered that sometimes a sign that read "live irish music" actually translated into "live bad american music played live by the irish" - still we had a nice time and a full day experiencing Dublin! From ancient history to the pubs and the brewery that made the beer all in all an excellent day spent in Dublin - despite the rain.