Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day 4: Twentieth Century

Monday we went first to the Little Museum of Dublin, which gave us a very nice feel for the social history of the city.   It occupies a handsome house and is concerned mainly with the cultural and social history of the last century of the city. The interpreter who gave the tour there was lively and charming, and rather than trying to explain everything, pointed out her favorite items in the museum.
These ranged from a first edition of James Joyce's novel The Dubliners (along with the guide's advice on what quote to memorize if you want to pretend you've read it), letters written to Alfie Byrne, the most popular Lord Mayor of Dublin, and memorabilia from the Irish rock band U2. We thoroughly enjoyed the museum and the tour both.

From there, we dodged a few sprinkles and stopped in to the General Post Office (GPO) and saw their exhibition on the 1916 rising.  It too has a lovely building.

The location is of course apropos for the exhibition, because this is the very building that the Irish republicans occupied in their doomed attempt to rebel against British rule while the British were occupied fighting WWI. You can still see the marks of the bullets left on the facade of the building. The quality of the historical commentary was impressive and evenhanded.  

From there a tram bore us up to Kilmainham Gaol, which was thematically appropriate since that was where the leaders of the 1916 rising were executed.    Particularly impressive were a series of contemporary portraits, done on scratchboard, of many of the people involved.  
Our guide there was himself from Kilmainham, and the tour was excellent, ranging from the conditions suffered by the prisoners (appalling), the design of the jail (considered progressive at the time, due to the light, and the open design that let the guards monitor the cells) and the prisoners held there. Drawings done by prisoners remain on some of the cell walls:

A cross marks the spot where James Connelly was executed:

The tour finishes at the main door to the jail, surmounted by five serpents in chains.

After the jail tour we hefted our backpacks and trekked back down to the train station. We cut through the park adjacent to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The park featured infographic plaques. We were advised of sheep:

That seemed reasonable enough. Then hedgehogs...which struck us as a bit odd.

At this point we began to suspect that we might be in the presence of Art. Then we got squirrels:

And last but far from least, housecats, which we found highly appropriate for us.

At this point we encountered some exceedingly odd sculpture and hastily made our escape before we saw anything else that we couldn't unsee. (I've spared you a photograph. Be happy.)

We finally reached the train station where we achieve cold drinks, a snack and train tickets to Cork. A pleasant journey by train later, we reached our destination, on the banks of the river Lee.

We only had time to take a quick walk through the central part of the city and then we finished out the day with an excellent dinner, and plans to hit the ground running...or at least walking the morning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day 3: The Banks of the Boyne

Sunday, June 5

Sunday we were up early and on a bus to Newgrange and Tara.   We took at tour run by an archeologist, which was quite good. I hadn't registered before the tour that both sites are on the banks of the Boyne River, site of the fateful battle when William defeated James II in 1690. It's considered the turning point that led to Protestant rule of Catholic Ireland- I've heard the Boyne referenced in songs.

Seen in person, it was amazingly peaceful and bucolic, in vivid contrast to its long history.

We crossed the Boyne on a pedestrian bridge and then were taken in small shuttle buses up to Newgrange.

Newgrange was impressively large and older than Stonehenge, though our guide told us that it was rather unlikely that the original frontage had this appearance, as it had been heavily 'reconstructed' without much basis.  What was most noticeable was just how speculative most of the information was.   We really know very little about the way that Neolothic monuments were used in daily life.  Still it was an impressive piece of civil engineering.  And to look at the carvings and realize that these were carved 4500 to 5000 years ago- just amazing.

From there we went to Tara.  Our tour guide took us to see a local bookshop owner who showed us aerial slides of the site and told us some of its history.  The emphasis there was less on the neolitic and more on its relationship to the kings of Ireland and more recent history- for values of more recent that were mainly in the 1st millenium AD! The morning mist had lifted by then, and we climbed Tara in glorious sunshine.  

The various ridges and ditches of the hill were fascinating if enigmatic.

Everywhere we went, there were wildflowers in profusion. Even the trees that bordered the fields were covered in blossoms. Entirely lovely.

On our return, we went up to Kilmainham Gaol but found that the tours were booked for the day so we booked tickets for the next day and strolled - out to Phoenix park-

-and back to the downtown.  

We found a pub we’d walked by the day before which advertised traditional music and stopped in for dinner and to listen.  They served some really excellent fish and chips, and the musicians were good.  We eventually returned to our hotel stuffed and happy, with our minds and ears full of lively tunes.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Day 2: College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin

Saturday June 4

We set out a little later than planned on account of jetlag, after I had enjoyed a continental breakfast at the hotel, and a close examination by the hostess on what I thought of Mr. Trump’s prospects in the American election.  (My return inquiry on her feelings on Brexit did not elict a firm opinion.)

Our first stop was at Trinity College, where we were given a tour by a young student who had just finished a music and maths degree, and hoped to fund a masters in music.  One of the first things he explained to us was Trinity's full (and lengthy) official name.

The college is very handsome - though none of the original 1500s architecture, nor any of the monastery that preceded it survived- and they were considerate enough to tuck their few unfortunate modern buildings where they wouldn’t spoil the look of the main courtyards.  (The guide advised us that one such building had won an award...sponsored by a concrete company.)

The tour ended with the library, which was spectacular, and the Book of Kells which was even more so.

The thing that surprised me the most about the Book of Kells, was the size. It's quite small. And many of the gorgeous intricate works of art on its pages are so tiny, I can't imagine how it was done without magnifying glasses.

After the tour we found some lunch and then walked, in between seeing the National Archaeology Museum which has a beautiful building and a really amazing collection of prehistoric artifacts-

-and the National Library, which featured exhibitions on the 1916 uprising (along with everyone else, this being the centenary year) and an exhibition on Yeats. Also in a gorgeous building:

After dinner we wandered over to the north side, stopping to admire the Beckett bridge, which is designed to look like a harp lying on its side-

-and after walking around had a rather upscale but delicious dinner in a converted church, and then stopped at a pub to hear some music and watch Irish dancers.

The slideshow:

Day 1: Dublin

Yes, it's that time again, when I blather on about my vacation.  I promise there will be at least some token fiber content.  And lots of sheep.  

Friday June 3
We arrived in Dublin early on a beautiful sunny day and took the reasonably priced and convenient bus from the airport.  Our introduction to the city was to walk along the river Liffey which has pleasant promenades on both banks.  As you can see, it was gorgeous!

From there we quickly found our way to the Roxford Lodge Hotel, near enough to the city center, but far enough from the busy areas to be blissfully quiet at night.  We crossed the Grand Canal, for what was to be the first of many walks.

The streets were  lined with handsome and dignified Georgian brick buildings, with tasteful trim and decorative fanlights above the doors.  

We took the rest of the day to wander around and get oriented. We located various landmarks, like Christ Church Cathedral:

and Trinity College, planning our schedule for the next day and turning in early (feeling the time change). Here's our day as a slideshow:

Thursday, June 2, 2016

It's All About the Flowers.

Why is it all about the flowers?  Well, I've been insanely busy and have only succeeded in knitting another couple of inches on the blue stripy socks.    For example, this weekend for my husband's Memorial Day Weekend and Birthday Bash, we had a zillion people over to play board games, eat grilled food, and ameliorate the crazy hot weather (96 F!  In May!) by taking a dip in the pool (in May! And it was warm enough!).  And my knitting friend Kali launched the theme of the week by bringing me flowers.

The yellow irises went from only one bloom to an explosion of petals up and down the side of the yard.

The blue flags took up the challenge with fewer numbers but even more vivid colors.

The Siberian irises on the other side have only been there a few years, but already putting on a nice show.

The lupine couldn't bear to be left out, and launched an early bloom.  The lupines have been coming along slowly but persistently.

And despite the severe pruning it underwent last summer, even the rhododendron managed a cheery contribution.

I'm not much of a gardener, but I do love to see the flowers every day.   It's the best part of summer.   Now a deep breath and I'm off and running again.   See you on the flip side.