Dublin, Day One

Okay, no more thumbnails. Full-sized pictures below.

Overcoming some massive inertia this morning, I got up, made it down to breakfast, and walked down to the pharmacy and back. It was a nice walk, and I saw a couple of cool things along the way:

Back and feeling ready to face the day (having bought toothpaste, deodorant, and shaving cream), I caught the shuttle bus down to join the Hop-On, Hop-Off Dublin City Bus Tour.

This tour is amazingly good. They hit 23 stops, with great running commentary from the guides along the way. I was determined to ride the whole thing around and then get off at various stops on the second trip, but I couldn’t wait. There was a whole lot of very cool things to see, and having limited time today, I picked two that were must-sees.

First off, I took the tour of Kilmainham Gaol. It was everything I could have hoped. Shane, our guide, was extremely knowledgable about the Gaol’s history, and had a number of stories about the prisoners – famous and not – who had spent time in Kilmainham. I’d seen pictures of the Gaol, but they don’t convey the tiny, cramped cells, the narrow corridors, low doorways, and general oppression of the place.

 

The great hall of the Gaol has featured in a number of movies, but again, seeing it on the screen doesn’t really prepare you for what it’s like to actually be there. It’s constructed in the panopticon plan, so that guards can see every prisoner at all times – there’s no place to hide. Even the little arches along the top had walkways for the guards.

 

The tour finished up in the yard where the leaders of the 1916 uprising were executed. This is the cross that marks where James Connolly, wounded in the uprising and unable to stand, was tied to a chair for the firing squad. The large wooden gate is where he was brought in from the Royal Hospital in ambulance for his execution.

 

Back on the bus1, I got off next at Trinity College. It was Freshers Week, so the place was full of students, but there were tours running to view the campus, including the Book of Kells exhibit and the Long Room in the library. Now, they didn’t allow photographs in the latter two places, so I can’t show you anything about them. But they were very cool.

I was able to take a couple of pictures on campus of some interesting things, including the campanile in the main yard, and the nearby statue of Provost Salmon, who famously said that women would be admitted to Trinity over his dead body, then was forced to sign a statute allowing them in. When he did so, he said that he had signed with his hand, but not with his heart. A short time later he died of a heart attack. The story goes that he was buried at the entrance used by the women students, forcing them to step over his body2.

I also took a walk through St. Stephen’s Green, looking for the statue of the Fates. I found it, and also a swan.

 

I made a quick stop at Grafton Street to get my iPhone and iPad set up on the 3 network3, then tried to figure out how to get back to my hotel. I finally took a cab, because I was running out of time – I had to get to the hotel, grab my confirmation for the Musical Pub Crawl, and get back to Oliver St. John Grogarty’s for 7:00.

I want to note at this point how helpful the staff here at Ariel House are. They are amazing. Not only are they friendly and willing to answer questions and ready to make suggestions about places to go and things to see, but they know how to get everywhere. They’ve been absolutely great. I just need to learn to ask about how to get back.

Also, the breakfast here is wonderful.

Anyway, I made it to the pub in time, and the evening was incredible. Our two guides, Mark and Ray, played guitar and button accordion respectively, and Mark also sang. He even pulled out a bodhran at one point. The whole group was friendly, and we made our way from Oliver St. John Grogarty’s through Temple Bar to the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn, and after that crossed over the Ha’Penny Bridge itself and down O’Connell street to Brannigan’s By The Spire.

At each stop, there was much singing and playing and telling of stories and explaining the history and culture behind traditional Irish music. It was great fun. I even sang a song4 when they asked the audience to sing something from their home countries5. Here are some pictures:

Then it was back to Ariel House, and this post, and now to bed, for I am sleepy. Another big day tomorrow, and another post tomorrow night.

Oh, one more picture for you. This is the spire on O’Connell Street as we walked past it tonight.

 

  1. Before I got back on the bus, I grabbed a bite to eat at the Kilmainham Gaol Tea Shop. It was a flapjack, which is not the same thing in Ireland as it is in Canada. It’s like a baked granola bar slice. And that was lunch. []
  2. This story is completely false, but fun. Well, I mean, he did say those things and then he died, but he’s buried in a family crypt. []
  3. Also to grab a quick burger at the Burger King there – I needed a quick, simple dinner. []
  4. Well, 60% of a song, anyway. It was hard enough making it through the first three verses of it. []
  5. It was The Idiot, by Stan Rogers, that I chose. []

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