It was a long first day here in Ireland. The three of us (CK, FE and me) had a pretty uneventful flight over, but I was the only one who got any real sleep, and four hours isn’t enough to really brag about. But still, we had energy because here we were in IRELAND!!! We landed about 7:30 AM local time, and went through the airport without any fuss. Our bags all came through just fine; passport control was cheerful and competent. I had preordered Dublin Pass tourist passes for us, which we picked up at the Dublin Tourism office right at the end of the airport. The Dublin Passes came with free AirCoach bus tickets that got us and our luggage to the city center – the bus stop at Trinity College was about three blocks from our hotel. We got a little turned around getting to the hotel, but nothing like a crisis. As I commented numerous times today: “Hey, it’s not raining!” The hotel (Central Hotel) did not have a room ready for us at 8:30 in the morning (duh) but the ladies behind the desk were happy to tag and store our bags for us for the day.
We grabbed our passes, changed shoes, and headed out into the day. Our first stop was the Dublin Castle. We went in the side pedestrian gate, which dropped us off in front of the gift store first. By not recognizing that we should go through the parking lot up to our right, we managed to completely circle the castle and ended up on the far side by the Chester Beatty Library. We poked our heads into the garden and looked around before asking a friendly (and conveniently trapped in a booth) parking attendant how to get into Dublin Castle. We got into the Castle in time to sign up for the 10:45 AM tour.
The tour of Dublin Castle was quite good, and not horrifically long. Our tour guide was articulate, dynamic, and not overly nationalistic. He had plenty of fun trivia for historians and etymologists alike. Among the various topics covered were how someone could “lose face” (by melting her wax-based makeup off) and the powder explosion which caused a complete ruin of the inside of the castle in the 1800s.
From Dublin Castle we walked down Dame Street to the Christ Church Cathedral. Yes, CK and I had visited the cathedral last time we were here, so I didn’t take more than two photos this time, but the tour was different. They now offer personal headset mp3 players for rent so that you can have a quiet tour at your own pace of both the cathedral and the crypt. Another new aspect was the huge art display spread all over the place, of various student works regarding “Reimagining Icons.” Some of the works were to my taste, and some weren’t. A lot of the art had to do with Mary’s face, a sliver of cross, or an iron hatchwork (the significance of which is escaping me at the moment). So despite this being a rerun of sorts, it was definitely not the same show as last year.
From the cathedral we went back to the hotel, where we checked in and promptly showered and napped. Yay for a NAP.
The afternoon awakening was followed by a quick jaunt over to the National Museum of Ireland: Archeology & History. We looked at a lot of prehistoric through Viking artifacts, with a quick peek into a room full of peat bog-preserved clothing and miscellaneous treasures and reliquaries before being tossed out at closing time. On our wander back towards the hotel, we first stopped at a rare/used bookstore for a browse through the various books and maps, then we generally wandered the streets in search of something casual yet interesting for dinner.
Our afternoon wander took us from Exchequer Street and Wicklow St. (same street; changes names), over to Grafton Street, which is pedestrian only and is devoted to shopping and dining, over to Duke Street, Dawson Street, Molesworth Street, and finally to the National Muesum on Kildare Street. When we reversed the route, we didn’t quite make it back to Exchequer St. in a direct line, but rather went up Grafton St. to Suffolk and over to Dame St. We saw a street vendor selling photograph prints from www.theapplegallery.com, one of which I covet. Down the street a bit, we found dinner at The Millstone Restaurant
Dinner was fun. CK ordered the mushroom and brie appetizer. FE ordered the goat cheese salad. I had the butternut cider soup. I liked my soup, though I could have done without the dollop of sour cream in the middle. For entrée, CK had the beef medallions in peppercorn glaze, FE had the poached salmon, and I had the Irish Stew. It was all plenty good and very filling, so we all waived off on dessert. Hopefully we’ll get down to the Queen of Tarts on Dame Street at some point, since it has been mentioned in both of our guide books as a place to stop.
We walked dinner off by retracing our steps around Dame Street and down South Great George’s Street to Castle Street, another pedestrian only walking area. We discovered Powerscourt Townhouse, which is a converted mansion that now houses everything from a bridal salon and a bonsai gardening store to antiques and jewelry and a (dum dum dum) knitting store which we think was named “Things in Knit.” Unfortunately (or fortunately) the knitting store was closed. There was a sit-n-stitch going on in the middle of the Powerscourt courtyard, however, which made us smile at each other. Pretty soon thereafter I declared that I was done with walking for the evening, and we headed back to the hotel in order to kick off our shoes, re-hash the day, and plan tomorrow. So here I am. End day one.
I will deal with photos, etc. some other time.