Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Rob and I had our first "holiday" last weekend and did we need it! We've both been so busy with school and work that we were feeling a bit tired and worn out. So, we decided to spend a long weekend in Dublin, Ireland during my spring break. We arrived on Thursday by air, which took less than an hour. An old family friend, Todd James, and his family have been living in Dublin for the past twenty plus years; Todd offered to pick us up from the airport and show us around the city center. Our hotel was right in the city center and was a perfect location for seeing all the sights. That night Rob and I walked through the Temple Bar area, then on to a restaurant and listened to a traditional Irish music band.
The next day we met up with Olivia, Todd's daughter, at Trinity College (founded in 1592 and a site in it's own right) where she is a student. She was able to get us into the museum that houses the "Book of Kells", which is a lavishly decorated copy of the four gospels in Latin written in the 9th century. We were both amazed at the detail and beauty of the book. Connected to this exhibit is Trinity's Long Room, which is the main chamber of the old library and houses 200,000 of the library's oldest books. It is rumored that the library was used in one of the Harry Potter movies, as well. I must say, when I imagine a beautiful old library in which to work in this would be it. It is unfortunate that we were not allowed to take any pictures of it. Afterwards, Todd walked us around some more and showed us part of the remains of Dublin castle and then on to the Chester Beatty Museum, which houses a former private collection of ancient Judaic, Christian, and Islamic manuscripts and art. The museum is free and worth seeing if you are ever in Dublin. From there, Rob and I walked our way over the the Guinness Beer Storehouse where we had tickets to tour. If you are unfamiliar with Guinness, you would probably recognize its distinctive color of a dark brown beer with a white head. At the end of the tour you get a free pint of Guinness (or soda if you don't like Guinness) at the top of the building (7 floors) where there is an amazing view of Dublin. On our way back to the hotel we walked through the northern part of the city where Temple Bar and the more "posh" side of Dublin is. For dinner that night our concierge recommended a traditional Irish restaurant in Temple Bar - Gallagher's (I believe). The atmosphere was perfect - wood floor, stone fireplaces, and long, wooden tables that you shared with other guests. This place was well-known for serving a particular Irish dish - the boxy, which is like a savory crepe. We were both going to order the boxy, but then our waiter recommended to Rob, since he is a big lad, the ham hock dish. Basically, a ham hock (the part of the leg between the hoof and the knee of the pig) on a bed of mashed potatoes. So, Rob took his recommendation and ordered it - it was huge! Rob said it was great and was glad he ordered it, but he couldn't finish it all - that's how big it was.
On our last full day we took a shuttle out of Dublin to Newgrange, which is about a hour outside of Dublin and is a historic Stone Age site (ca. 3200 BCE). It is thought that it served two purposes: a burial chamber and a seasonal calendar. The calendar aspect was amazing! The opening was facing directly east and during the five days around the winter solstice (around Dec. 21) the sun would be directly across from the opening above the door and would create a path of light inside the tomb. Archaeologists think that it was used to help the ancients figure out the change of seasons, which doesn't seem too difficult for us but when you live in a place like Ireland where the weather in winter, spring, summer, and fall is exactly the same you need to come up with some way to figure out when the ground has soften enough to plant, or you would starve the following winter. This was a most of the day event, but when we returned to Dublin we went and found the Peterson Pipe store in the city center. Peterson Pipes make some of the best tobacco pipes and is an Irish company. We had intended to go to the factory, but it was by appointment only and my inquiries were left unanswered until, of course, our return home. That night we had dinner and then met Todd and his wife, Celeste, at a nice hotel lounge for drinks and to catch up.
Sunday morning we took the shuttle to the airport and then the train from the airport to home. All in all a two hour journey from Dublin to Chapeltown - not bad, huh? I've attached pictures for your enjoyment. Rob leaves to camp in Scotland soon and am sure we will post those pictures, too. I will also post a school update blog sometime after mid-May, when all my work for this year is due!