I just got e-mail that the video I made of part of a session at McGann’s Pub is ready on YouTube. So, here it is.
Category: Ireland 2013
Mostly Churches, and the Long Journey Home
I had planned to write this yesterday, but circumstances conspired to prevent that. So, that’s the first thing to get done this morning1.
On my last day in Dublin, I was dragging my feet a little in the morning, and didn’t make it down to breakfast before 9:30, when they stopped serving. I’ve only had breakfast at Kilronan House twice in my week’s stay here, and once was very rushed so I just had cereal. The day I took my time, it was very nice, but the scheduling has just not worked out very well.
But I headed down to St. Stephen’s Green, planning to start the day with a ride on the Hop On Hop Off bus, seeing as my ticket from the day before was still good. I stopped at the Marks & Spencer’s on Grafton street to have a bacon roll and some juice, and then went and rode the bus tour right around the circuit.
Again, Dublin Castle had no tours running, due to the official suites being occupied. I could have gone on to the grounds, but I had done that last trip, and it was the interior I really wanted to see. So I waited until Christchurch Cathedral before getting off.
So, for an extra four euros, in addition to admission to Christchurch, you could get a tour of the bell tower and a chance to ring the bells. It meant more stairs2, but I really couldn’t pass up the chance. The stairs were narrow, low, irregular spirals, as usual.
Now, a little more than a year ago, the heart of the patron saint of Dublin, St. Laurence O’Toole, was stolen from the cathedral. I wanted to find out what had happened with that, so I asked at the information desk. The heart has not been recovered at this time, and the police haven’t made any progress on locating the thieves. Very unfortunate.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is just a few blocks down the hill from Christchurch, so I walked down there next.
I don’t have a good picture of the whole interior; the place was just too full of people for that.
After St. Patrick’s, I walked back up to Christchurch, took a left, and came to St. Audoen’s in a couple of blocks. I’d seen St. Audoen’s before, at night, on the Ghost Bus tour last trip. It’s the oldest continuously operating parish church in Dublin.
It was getting late in the afternoon by that point, so I made my way along the Liffey to the Brazen Head, where I was going to be attending a dinner with some storytelling and music. I got there early, so I had a drink in the oldest part of the oldest tavern in Dublin, drinking where Vikings drank in the 12th century. And, of course, my picture of that part didn’t turn out at all.
And then it was ten o’clock, and I made my way back to the B&B. Next morning, I wanted to get to the airport in good time, and spend an hour or so in the Aer Lingus business class lounge, doing up this post.
Well, it didn’t work out. After security, which was very busy and rather slow, I had to go through US Customs preclearance, which was even slower and busier. I made it through that, eventually, and then had to go through a second security screening – again, very busy and slow. At that point, I was nowhere near the business lounge, and there was only about forty minutes before my plane; this out of the three hours I had budgeted.
On the flight back, I sat beside a lovely woman named Joanne, who just happened to have written a paper on an important 16th century play back in 1975 or so. It was being staged for the first time in 450 years, and she had been invited by the university to attend, as her paper has for years been the definitive work on the subject. We had a great conversation covering history and politics and the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s and lots of other things. It was absolutely delightful.
And then I was in Chicago, and got sent to the wrong gate, and almost missed my plane back to Winnipeg. I was tired and frustrated and grumpy, having been up for about 22 hours straight, and I was very glad to make it home.
And that’s it for this trip. I’m already starting to think about the next one.
It’s been a long day, and I’m exhausted. I’ve got to get up moderately early to get to the airport for my flight home, so I’m going to finish up today’s blog post tomorrow morning at the airport. Sorry about the delay, but I am wiped.
Today, I met up with my brother, Al; my sister-in-law, Daph; my nephew, Ryan; and my niece, Keira. We got together at the spot on the north side of St. Stephen’s Green where the tour buses stop, and tried to get on a Viking Splash tour, but it’s a Friday, halfway through June, and a lot of school groups had booked the tours right up until 5:30. We decided to see how we were doing towards the end of the day, and maybe try and get on it then1 if we were up to it.
So, instead we got on the City Sightseeing Hop On, Hop Off tour. I had been predisposed towards them – there are two companies running these tours in Dublin – and the gentleman running the tour offered me a deal because I had gone on the City Sightseeing tours in Belfast. That made it an easy choice.
We were looking at three stops: Dublin Castle, Dublinia, and the Guinness Storehouse. But Dublin Castle was off limits today, due to some important heads of state staying there – I don’t know who, but it was probably connected to the G8 session starting up in Fermanagh next week.
The next place we went was the Guinness Storehouse. Al and Daph had gone on the tour about nine years ago, with a newborn Ryan on their backs. They had had a wonderful time, and were excited to go on it again.
Have to say, we were all pretty disappointed.
From what I understand, Guinness is no longer Irish-owned, but has been sold to the Italian corporation, Diageo. Al and Daph had described a tour rich in history and story, with lots of interesting facts and cool things to see and do. We all found that the tour was bland, uninteresting, and mainly focused on extracting more money from people. It was also incredibly crowded – we made it all the way up to the Gravity Bar, which was a pretty cool room, but Al and Daph didn’t even want to stay to have their “free”2 Guinness.
Still, there were a couple of cool things.
And then we caught the bus back to Temple Bar, wandered a bit until we found someplace to eat, had dinner, and then I walked everyone back to Merrion Square for them to catch the bus back to where they’re staying.
Have to say, it was a wonderful day. It was great to spend some time with the family, and lots of fun with the kids.
So, thanks to Al, Daph, Ryan, and Keira for meeting me in Dublin, and hanging out with me for the day. I had an awesome time.
Tomorrow is my last day. I’m getting back on the Hop On Hop Off bus, and I’ll try to squeeze in one or two other places I want to see.
Then I’m back on the plane on Sunday.
It was raining when I got up yesterday morning. And it rained as I hurried down to the tourist office where the tour bus was leaving at ten to seven. And it rained all the way to Cashel. Joseph, our driver, was awesome, keeping up a fun running commentary, peppered with singing songs1 and telling jokes and stories.
By the time we got off the bus near Cashel, the rain had stopped.
You can see that there’s some restoration work being done on one section of the chapel, but the majority of the site was open. We didn’t have time for a guided tour, but it was enough time to see pretty much everything there.
Then it was back on the bus and down to Blarney Castle. It was far more busy there than at Cashel, and much busier than the last time I visited. I had been trying to decide if I was going to climb to the top and kiss the stone again, but by the time I got to the castle, there was a line-up of about twenty people waiting just to get in to the castle, never mind waiting at the top to kiss the stone. I decided I didn’t need to wait in that line, so I went to see other stuff on the grounds.
After Blarney2, we headed back towards Cork City.
This was the point where I got a call from my brother and we arranged a meeting place in Dublin to go do some sightseeing together. That’s what today’s agenda is.
And then we were on the road back to Dublin. We had a brief rest stop in Cahir, where there was another castle. Because there are close to 3000 castles in Ireland, so you’re never far from one.
And then straight back to Dublin.
Now, time for breakfast, and then go meet Al, Daph, and the kids.
- As he was carefully maneuvering the little tour bus through the narrow, windy streets around the tourist office, he started humming the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. [↩]
- And a bit of an adventure trying to track down the seven people who didn’t make it back to the bus at the appointed time. [↩]
Okay, folks, I’m back from my 12-hour tour today, and I’ve processed all the pictures. But I am very tired. I was out of the B&B by 6:10 this morning, and didn’t get back until after 8:00 this evening. I am wiped.
Thus, I am going to bed. I’ll get up early to do a real post tomorrow. Sorry about that.
Why am I bothering to post? Mainly to reassure my parents that I’m not dead in a ditch over here. I’m alive and well, Mom and Dad, just tired.
Here’s a little something to tide you over.
Tomorrow, after I get the post up and have breakfast, I’m meeting Al, Daphne, Ryan, and Keira at St. Stephen’s Green, and we’re going to do some sightseeing together. That’ll be fun.
But bed now.
Today was a pretty unplanned day. The tour I had booked was canceled1, so I was on my own with nothing scheduled. I slept in a bit, had a nice breakfast at Kilronan House, and then walked down to the big tourist information office on Suffolk Street to see if there was an interesting walking tour I could take.
At the tourist office, I found a flyer for the 1916 Easter Uprising Walking Tour. That looked interesting, so I decided that would be my morning. The tour started at 11:30, so I had about an hour to kill, which I spent wandering the streets.
The tour guide turned out to be the same fellow who conducted the first guided tour I took in Ireland last trip. I told him that, and he said, “Yeah, I moved on from there. No promotion, and I was looking for something better. I was there five years; longer than some of the prisoners’ sentences.”
1801 was the first time that Ireland was officially governed by England, and it spurred a lot of Republican sentiment. The trail leading up to the 1916 Easter Uprising was a tangled mess involving promises, scandal, lies, dirty tricks, compromise, conspiracy, and the co-opting of different groups and movements on both sides of the issue.
The actual uprising was poorly organized and rushed, with sixty men riding the tram in from Cork armed to the teeth, paying for their tickets as a matter of principle. Noon on the Easter Monday, they stormed the GPO and set up their command centre.
The O’Rahilly, who led the advance party to try and clear Moore Street, was shot several times, and crawled into a pub’s doorway, where he slowly died over 19 hours. A local man tried to go to O’Rahilly’s aid, but the British commander ordered the Lewis gun to fire at his feet to chase him away. When some British troopers protested that they had to help O’Rahilly and not leave him to bleed to death painfully on the street, they were ordered to make sure no one did anything to help the man.
That’s where the tour ended. I wandered back down O’Connell Street, stopped for some lunch, and came out to find that it was raining. Across the street was a theatre, so I went in to watch After Earth2. It was still raining when I came out, so I walked back to the B&B, stopping along the way to grab some sausage rolls and stuff for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow morning.
Yeah, tomorrow is my tour out to Blarney, Cork, and Cashel. It leaves at 6:50 from the tourist office on Suffolk Street, so I’ll have to leave the B&B by 6:15, well before breakfast is served. So, yeah, that means some picnic stuff.
Bed time now.
Castles, Churches, Loughs, and Rain
Up early this morning for another tour, this one of Trim Castle, Glendalough, and Lough Tay. It started raining last night, and continued through much of the day. Sometimes the rain faded back for a bit, and once or twice it picked up a fair bit, but the day was very like a lot of days on my last trip.
I am very impressed with our tour guide, Damien O’Reilly. He was very good at imparting the information of the tour in an entertaining manner, but that was the least of the good things about him. He was excellent at putting things in context, and forming connections between historical and modern events, and generally giving us a bit of understanding about where Ireland is and how it got there. I found it fascinating.
The early part of the tour went north of Dublin, to Trim Castle. There were only five people on the bus, so it felt like a private tour, and that was great. We picked up more in the afternoon, for the Glendalough part of the tour, but Damien was great at making everyone in the larger crowd feel included, as well.
After Trim Castle, we went back through Dublin, picked up the folks who had just signed up for the Glendalough leg of the tour, and then headed out south of the city into the Wicklow Mountains.
Damien took us one other place, though he was worried that the clouds and rain would keep us from seeing what he wanted to show us. He needn’t have worried.
Then it was back to Dublin. I wandered around Grafton Street and O’Connell Street for a while, having some dinner and trying to decide if I still had the energy to go hear some music or something, and decided that I didn’t, so I came back to the guest house.
Tomorrow, my tour has been canceled. What I do instead is going to depend on the weather. If it’s dry, there are a couple of walking tours I can take. If it’s raining, I can hit some museums or maybe a movie. Either way, I’ll find something to do.
But first, I’m gonna sleep in a bit. Probably until 8:00. That’ll be nice.
The Road Wasn’t All That Rocky
My initial plan was the catch the 8:28 train from Kilkenny to Dublin, but it occurred to me that this initial plan involved me getting to Dublin four hours before I could check in to Kilronan house. So, I decided to sleep in a bit, have a leisurely breakfast, and take the 11:41 train.
Train travel in Ireland is very nice. The coaches are large, the seats are comfortable, there’s wifi on the train, and it’s just a very relaxing way to travel. What it isn’t is punctual. I don’t think I’ve been on a train that arrived or left on time. They’re never very late – only train that was more than ten minutes late was the one that broke down before leaving the station.
So, I got in to Heuston Station around 1:201, got a cab in to Kilronan House, and checked in a few minutes before 2:00.
I dropped my luggage in my room, cleaned up a bit, then went waling for a few hours. My goal was to get a little exercise, scope out where I have to meet the tours I’ve got scheduled, and refamiliarize myself with the city centre.
Last time, I got a picture of swans in the water here. This time, there were one or two ducks, and they were being crowded out by the dozens of gulls in the park.
Anyway, I grabbed some food, and came back to my room, up the 59 steps, and am going to bed soon. I’ve got to be up before 7:00 in the morning to make it to my tour on time.
- Ten minutes late. [↩]
Darkest Place in Ireland
According to the Triads, the three darkest places in Ireland are Knowth Tomb, Newgrange, and Dearc Fheanna – Dunmore Caves. Until relatively recently1, Dunmore Caves were the only known cave system in Ireland. Some 3500 years ago, a field in what is now Co. Kilkenny collapsed, opening up the system. According to archaeologists, it looks as if it may have been used by local people as a sort of refrigerator – there was evidence of animals being butchered near the entrance, and stored deeper in the caves, where the temperature holds at 9 C.
But in 928, the Dublin Vikings marched an army into the area as part of their ongoing feud with the Waterford Vikings, and attacked the three hill forts in the area. Once the men were slaughtered, it was found that the women and children had retreated into the nearby cave and hidden. The Vikings built huge fires at the opening of the cave mouth, intending to smoke out the villagers from their hiding spots. The fires filled the caves with smoke, used up all the oxygen, and suffocated the inhabitants.
According to the Annals, a thousand people were killed in the cave. That number seems kind of high, but there’s no way to be sure – over the centuries, many skeletons were removed, many by locals, who carried them to a nearby churchyard and reburied, but also by less altruistic folks. In the 1970s, when a more organized exploration and cataloguing of the cave began, a total of 44 bodies were found hidden in the narrowest, most secret parts of the caves. Most of the bodies were children and women, none of them showing any weapon damage.
Also discovered near the mouth of the cave were some silver coins, two of them struck in York, which city the Dublin Vikings had close ties with. In 1999, a guide in the cave picking up some litter, found a silver bracelet, which led to the discovery of a small treasure trove containing coins, jewelry, and a piece of purple-dyed silk. Dating on the coins show that the trove was hidden about fifty years after the massacre, so there’s a theory that it was a Viking’s sacrifice to the dead.
Anyway. Since the massacre – and the resulting skeleton-filled cave – the cave has had an evil reputation, being scene as a portal to the land of the dead. It was also said to be a gathering place for the fair folk, and the home of Luchtigern, king of the mice, who was slain by the giant Kilkenny cat, Banghaisgidheach2.
The gentleman driving the cab that took me out to the cave and back told me stories of when he and his friends would bike out to the cave after school to go crawling through it before all the safety measures and interpretive centre were put in place. Doolin Cave and Marble Arch Cave are bigger, but Dunmore Cave has a more interesting history.
So, yeah. Guess where I went this morning.
All the cave staff seem totally pumped to tell you how many steps you’ll have to climb – 152 to climb out of Marble Arch Cave, 125 to climb out of Doolin Cave, 706 steps in total (up and down) in Dunmore Cave. I’d think it was a friendly warning, but they always seem smug about it.
So, I dragged myself up out of the cave, called a taxi, and made my way back to Kilkenny city. I grabbed a hot dog3 and coke near the castle, and sat in the shade to eat my lunch and let the time get closer to 2:00.
That was the time St. Canice’s Cathedral opened to the public on Sundays.
By that time, it was about 4:00, which meant it was a little too late for me to take a trip out to Kells Priory. I guess I’ll have to save that for my next trip. I went and had a shower, cleaned up, and went to dinner at Kyteler’s again.
Tomorrow, I leave Kilkenny for Dublin. I have to say that Kilkenny has been the best surprise of my trip. I hadn’t expected so much cool stuff to see and do here, and such a laid-back, friendly attitude. I need to come back.
But Dublin next. I love Dublin.
I’ve had a couple of changes to my plans in Dublin over the last few days – one good change, one less good change. The less good change is that my tour for Tara and Newgrange on Wednesday has been canceled. Apparently, I was the only one who signed up, and that makes me sad. I’m sure I can find something fun to do instead on Wednesday.
The good change is that my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, and my niece have decided to come to Ireland to see my sister-in-law’s grandmother. We’re going to meet up in Dublin and do some sightseeing together. And that’ll definitely be fun.
But tomorrow is all about the train.