Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Exploring Dublin


Slept great last night. This place is remarkably quiet for such a busy street. Geoff found out we were the lucky ones who got one of the two rooms in the back. It was cloudy and cool when we went around the corner to the french restaurant for breakfast.

Fully sated we headed out on our exploration of Dublin. First stop the Book of Kells. The skies were getting brighter and brighter and pretty soon we had bright sunshine. Walking past the Molly Malone statue to the grounds of Trinity College we found our way to the Old Library. Got there early so there was not much of a line. No photos please.
Written around the year 800 AD, the Book of Kells contains a richly decorated copy of the four gospels in a latin text, based on the Vulgate edition (completed by St. Jerome in 384 AD). 
The gospels are preceded by prefaces, summaries of the gospel narratives and concordances of gospel passages compiled in the fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea. In all, there are 340 folios (680 pages).
The script is embellished by the elaboration of key words and phrases and by an endlessly inventive range of decorated initials and interlinear drawings. 
The book contains complex scenes normally interpreted as the Arrest of Christ, His Temptation, and images of Christ, the Virgin and Child, St Matthew and St John. Originally a single volume, it was rebound in four volumes in 1953 for conservation reasons. Two volumes are normally on display, one opened at a major decorated page, the other at a text opening.
The Long Room was also a wonderful world of old books and masterpieces.
The distinctive and beautiful barrel ceiling was added in 1860 to allow space for more works when the existing shelves became full. Marble busts of famous philosophers and writers line the central walkway of the nearly 200-foot-long room, created by sculptor Peter Schemakers beginning in 1743. The enormous collection housed in the long room includes a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the 15th-century wooden harp in the library which is the model for the emblem of Ireland.
From there we moved on to explore the famous Temple Bar area with a short excursion through the Temple Bar Pub. The streets are lined with boutiques, cafes, galleries and pubs. It's the city's playground.
Temple Bar has always been a popular spot  - the Vikings set up camp here as far back as 795 A.D.  Their settlement remains can be seen in Dublin Castle today. Fast forward a few centuries to a time when British diplomat Sir William Temple built his grand residence and gardens on the site, the name stuck and Temple Bar was born.
Since I waded through the Book of Kells,  I felt it only fair we should seek out the Irish Jewish Museum - it boggles the mind to think there even is such a thing. So off we went, with GPS in hand walking through the back streets of Dublin to get to the other side of town. Stopped into a local fishing tackle store. Geoff admired the flies. We meandered through George's Street Arcade - a small outdoor mall. Moving on we passed what appeared to be a very popular graffiti street.

I have to add a comment here about cycling. Although Dublin may not be Amsterdam, there are a lot of cyclists. Probably due to the student population. But there are also several bike stations and bike lanes everywhere. Drivers are courteous and we never heard a horn all day. They do have one problem though, and that is bike theft. We over heard someone saying that if own want a bike in Dublin make sure you have two locks at least!

Having finally arrived at a modest building with the sign Irish Jewish Museum, we were totally disappointed when we found it closed. The hours were posted and it should have been open. Apparently, we gathered from reading the signs in many windows, that there is a neighborhood feud regarding this museum. The museum would like to expand and the neighborhood is not happy about that. It is very residential neighborhood. Not sure how it will get resolved.
The Irish Jewish Museum stands on the site of Dublin’s Walworth Road Synagogue, which was once in the heartland of “Little Jerusalem,” the densely populated Jewish enclave off the South Circular Road. The area was filled with Jewish kosher butcher stores, Jewish bakeries, Jewish grocery stores, Jewish tailors, Jewish bookstores and many other stores and businesses owned by Jews. 
The former Synagogue, which could accommodate approximately 150 men and women, consisted of two adjoining terraced houses built in the 1870’s. Due to the movement  of the Jewish people from the area to the suburbs of Dublin and with the overall decline in their numbers, the Synagogue fell into disuse and ceased to function in the early 70’s. The premises remained locked for almost fifteen years, and were brought back to life again with the establishment of the Irish Jewish Museum Committee in late 1984.
Earlier we had sited, what looked like an interesting exhibit at the Science Gallery, back at Trinity College. It didn't open until noon, however.  It was well past noon, and we decided to see if we could make the exhibit. Walked back a different route. It started getting hungry, so we popped into George Bernard Shaw's Coffeehouse and were greeted with "Bonjourno!"  Are you kidding me??? You have no idea how many Italian restaurants there are in Dublin. We talked with the nice lady for a while but we passed on the pasta.

We walked through St. Stephen's Green Park. Lots of people out on this glorious day. Not at all what we expected. We were still looking for a place to eat when we stumbled on a rather modest looking building that said Buswells Hotel and Bar. We walked in and said perfect! Great big comfortable chairs and lots of rich wood and texture with very cultured looking clientele. Smoked salmon and Guiness - I was in heaven. Enjoyed a very relaxing lunch.

Still making our way to the science exhibit. we stopped off at the National Library of Ireland. Also quite something to see. Finally got to the science gallery and went through exhibit. It is all about optics. How eyes, brains, robots see. We had our retinas scanned and our vision tested. The whole exhibit is pretty interactive. There were a lot of school groups going through.

Time for cappuccino and a look at the map.  Decided to take a gander at the Dublin Castle and then walk over to St. Patrick's Cathedral before going back to the room,  Walked around the outside of the castle and into the courtyard.
Dublin Castle has served many functions since it was built by King John of England in 1230. At that time, the castle was meant to act as a defense center against the current invaders, the Normans, and serve as the seat of the English government. Since then, Dublin Castle has also been the site of the royal mint, the police headquarters and the residence of various British leaders. Today, the castle grounds are used for some governmental purposes but are mostly only used for ceremonial purposes, such as the Irish President's inauguration, and to host conferences, like those of the European Council.
When no such event is occurring, Dublin Castle is open to the public. Guided tours take visitors through the grounds, sharing the history and ever-changing purpose of each building. Most notable is the story behind the Record Tower, the only remaining building from the original medieval structure that has miraculously survived centuries' worth of fires and warfare that ravaged the other buildings. Other noteworthy parts of Dublin Castle’s grounds include the State Apartments, Chester Beatty Library, and the Dubhlinn Gardens, which now grow over the spot where there was once a black pool, or "dubh linn", from which the city of Dublin gets its name.
It wasn't too long of walk down to St. Patrick's garden and cathedral. Of course, they wanted money to enter so we just peeked in and left.

Ireland's largest church is St Patrick's Cathedral, built between 1191 and 1270 on the site of an earlier church that had stood here since the 5th century. It was here that St Patrick himself reputedly baptised the local Celtic chieftains, making this bit of ground some fairly sacred turf: the well in question is in the adjacent St Patrick's Park , which was once a slum but is now a lovely spot to sit and take a load off.
Like Christ Church Cathedral, the building has suffered a rather dramatic history of storm and fire damage and has been altered several times (most questionably in 1864 when the flying buttresses were added, thanks to the neo-Gothic craze that swept the nation). Oliver Cromwell, during his 1649 visit to Ireland, converted St Patrick's to a stable for his army's horses, an indignity to which he also subjected numerous other Irish churches. Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels, was the dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745, but after his tenure the cathedral was very neglected until its restoration in the 1860s. Also like Christ Church, St Patrick's is a Church of Ireland cathedral – which means that overwhelmingly Catholic Dublin has two Anglican cathedrals!
Made it back to the room at around 5pm. It has been a very long day. Resting up before going out for dinner. Had dinner at the Market Bar. Great place, reasonable prices, vegetarian options, and terrific mussels. Tomorrow we pick up a car and hit the road. Wish us luck!

Next time...On the road in Ireland


  1. Guiness looks good and the chairs even better. Very interesting city and has the history for it. To bad about the Irish Jewish Museum, though Dublin had a Jewish mayor for awhile.

  2. Welcome to the Emerald Isle (I know, you've been thwre for days, but I fell behind a bit with family visiting) The book of Kells amazed me but I had not idea there was an Irish Jewish Museum! Sorry it was closed I would have loved to hear more. Enjoy the hospitality & beauty of Ireland!