Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ireland Day 3: Dublin City Centre

On Saturday morning, the group of us met after breakfast at 10:30 to head to the Dublin City Centre. I'd already trekked around a good portion of Dublin on Thursday, but this time we had the bus driver, who pointed things out to us, and gave us the stories behind them. We passed the Custom House, which has a sculpture incorporating a harp, a lion, a crown, and a unicorn. The unicorn represented Scotland, which was not an association I'd ever heard of before. Our driver (named John, of course) was well versed in Joyce's Ulysses, and had a tremendous knowledge of Irish literature and culture in general, which was astounding.

On the road from the Guinness Brewery area back towards the center of town, we passed the house of the President of Ireland. In a field nearby, there were people playing polo, on segues, with frisbees. No, don't ask me to explain it. But just about everyone on the bus wanted to photograph it. Myself included:

Our first stop after driving around Dublin for 2 hours was the National Museum. I don't think I saw every exhibit in there, but I did see the gold collection, the Medieval Irish collection, as well as two fairly well-preserved bog people (or at least parts of them). There was a long dug-out canoe that had been pulled from a bog as well. In fact, nearly everything in the pre-history section was pulled from a bog. I was amazed at how well preserved everything was, especially the gold jewelry.

I exited the museum and saw my group standing there. There seemed to be a bit of commotion, and as it turned out, Niamh had accidentally reserved matinee tickets for Riverdance instead of evening ones. So, plans had to be changed. We went to see the Book of Kells, and then those going to the show had to get to the theatre. There was a long line for the Book of Kells, and none of us were keen on waiting, but it ended up being no more than a 15-minute wait. The book was open to a passage from Luke 23, and the illuminated page was a vibrant green and blue, darkened slightly by the aging vellum. Upstairs was what was called "The Long Room", a huge library lined with busts of philosophers and poets, and cases of Irish historical artifacts down the middle. There was a discussion of book conservation and preservation, and how to identify conservation needs (rated from 1 to 4, with 1 being in good shape, and 4 needing emergency attention.) At the end, you could put in a donation to the preservation work of Trinity College.

At the end of the exhibits was the oldest existing Irish harp inside a case. A little boy was looking at it with his mother. "Look, Mum, it's the Guinness symbol."

"No it isn't."

"Yes it is."

"No, it just looks like it, but that's not what it is."

They went on disagreeing about it, and I had to stop and ponder about this change in association. The harp has always represented Ireland symbolically, and now it represents Guinness. Corporations really are taking over the collective psyche.

In the end, only two of us were not going to Riverdance. I was looking forward to walking around on my own. I was in the Grafton Street area, which was hugely busy, and largely overpriced. The Dublin gay pride parade was going on, which made for a lot of dancing in the streets, but also made it a lot more crowded. I ended up checking out a few bookstores, and a charity shop after having a couple of pints near Stephen's Green Lower. We all met for dinner, and a large group of us went to Bruxelles, the same pub we had visited on my first night in Dublin. Everyone was really wiped out by the time we got back to the hotel at 11:00. My roommate is a night person, and I'm a morning person, so there's been some level of adjustment to our schedules. I'm sure we'll all be fully adjusted by the time we have to leave.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe that the photo you took of the folks playing polo on Segways is in Phoenix park which is near the President's home and is one of the largest parks in Europe. I spent a brief time walking through the park on my last trip to Dublin. Neal and I got a chuckle out of the people who kept asking us for directions while we were walking through the park. I guess we looked like we knew where we were going. Denise