Journals from Across the Pond: 2 Days in Dublin, Ireland (Day 2)
In the morning we met our Dublin guide, a nice, tall Irishman who dressed in slacks and a collared shirt despite the heat. He explained some interesting tidbits about the city and its history as our bus drove through it; he also delved into some facts about “Saint” Patrick on the way to our first stop, St. Patrick’s cathedral.
St. Patrick’s is in the middle of the city, and certainly exemplifies a classic medieval church (with the exception of the gift shop.) We first sat down in some of the pews while our guide talked about this history of the church. He then took us over to a side of the cathedral where there’s a little exhibit on the Door of Reconciliation; he told us this story, explaining this is where the phrase “to chance your arm” comes from.
He then showed us a wall commemorating Ireland’s military history, speaking of some of the violence that Ireland’s has known, and also pointed out the Tree of Remembrance sculpture, which was commissioned in remembrance of Word War One. (Each leaf of remembrance has a message on it.)
On the other side he showed us the tomb of Irish author Jonathan Swift (most known for Gulliver’s Travels), telling us fun stories about him and his life, and explaining he’s buried there because he was the dean of St. Patrick’s from 1713 until he died 32 years later. We were then given a little time to explore the church before heading to our next Dublin hotspot, Phoenix Park.
The park is huge, spreading far and wide; from our view at the enormous cross monument (the Papal Cross), we could see the distant trees, and a large herd of deer grazing nonchalantly on the grassy acres. I’d never seen so many deer at once!
Those were the only major sites our Dublin guide took us to, though he walked us around some other historic streets, pointing out particular buildings. After parting with him we then had free time to wander the city until a scheduled tour later in the day.
There was only one thing I really wanted to do, and thankfully I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see it—that’s right, I went to one of the most famous libraries in the world, the Trinity College Library!
It’s actually like its own little museum; it starts out with a wide room called the Turning Dark Into Light exhibition, as part of the Book of Kells exhibition. (The Book of Kells is described on the Trinity College Library website as “Ireland's greatest cultural treasure and the world's most famous medieval manuscript. The 9th century book is a richly decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ.”) It’s full of tall curved walls of information about the Book of Kells and its history, as well as several other historic books and manuscripts, like the Book of Armagh. As someone interested in books and history, I found it fascinating to see blown up photos of images and Irish words from these books, and read explanations of their meaning.
In the next room is the actual Book of Kells, encased in glass, along with the other historic books and manuscripts described in the previous room. It’s a dimly lit room, I assume to help preserve the books, and pictures aren’t allowed in this room, but I think the intimacy of that helps you soak up all the history.
From there you go up some stairs, and finally there’s the famous Long Room (or Old Library). This room to me was more majestic and magical than anything else in the city; I couldn’t get enough of it—the endless walls of old books, the atmosphere, the history (and thankfully, pictures are allowed in this room.) If you’re ever in Dublin, don’t miss out on this.
It was about dinnertime then, so we went back to the Temple Bar area, and ended up going to The Old Mill, which is actually right next to Quays. Old Mill has a very similar menu of traditional Irish dishes, so this time I got one of my favorites, Shepherd’s Pie (which was actually called Cottage Pie.) Like my stew the day before, it was thick, hearty, and tasty; I couldn’t help but think I’d miss the food in Ireland.
By the time we were done there, it was time to head over to another awesome event on our schedule, the Guinness Storehouse. We had a pleasant walk over there, and met our EF guide at the entrance.
The Guinness Storehouse is enormous, with multiple levels; the tour starts in the middle of an open space next to the open gift shop, and a Guinness guide explains how the tour works. It’s self-guided, and you get one token for a complimentary glass of Guinness, which you can use a few different ways. Then you’re sent through a pair of double doors to begin.
Eventually you get to the next level, which has some more exhibits, but is also where you can choose what to do with your token. You can learn how to drink Guinness properly, you can learn how to pour a proper pint, or you can use it at the Gravity Bar. Most of us chose to learn how to pour a proper pint of Guinness, and boy was that a lot of fun! It may be corny, but you even get a certificate with your name on it.
We then took our pints up to the circle-shaped Gravity Bar, which is on the topmost level; we rode up to it on a Willy-Wonka-style transparent glass elevator, and crowded around one of the standing tables where we eventually met up with others from our group. We enjoyed our pints and conversation while looking out over the city through the floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the bar, allowing for 360-degree views.
After that most of us decided to go to The Brazen Head, a well-known restaurant and pub, which wasn’t too far a walk from the Storehouse. Since I’d already had dinner and wasn’t that hungry, I ordered a starter of scampi and chips; the shrimp was really good—it was crispy and came with a really good tartar sauce that tasted a little like garlic butter to me.
With the day at an end, some of us continued our tradition of hanging out in the hotel, but this time in one of our rooms instead of the lobby or bar; we knew our time together was drawing to a close.
I later summed up in my travel journal not just how I felt about this trip, but I think also one of the reasons I love travel:
“It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, this land of green. It’s not so different from home, but at the same time it is; I’m afraid it will just feel like a dream when I get home. But it’s real. It’s the realest thing I’ve seen in a while.”