After Brian completed his Ireland bike tour, I joined him in Dublin to celebrate. We had one full day there to explore, and I was determined to see as much as possible. I picked out six sights I hoped to fit in, planned a very efficient route based on the hours of each establishment, and we headed out to see if we could fit it all in!
Dublin Writers Museum
The Dublin Writers Museum was an obvious choice for a literary student like myself. I have to admit however, that it was my least favourite of the day. Perhaps had I not planned such an ambitious itinerary, I would not have been frustrated by the amount of time we were spending there. The audio tour was free, but we didn't think it was well-integrated with the museum. It's hard to absorb much information when you are listening to long clips while reading long passages of different text at the same time. But, still, it was neat to read about some favourite and illustrious authors including Joyce, Swift, Yeats, Wilde and Beckett, and see relics of the times. We couldn't take pictures of the bread and butter of the museum, but the building itself was beautiful. If we had more time, I probably would have lingered at each exhibit like all the other fan girls and boys.
Rushing a little bit to make it to our next destination, Trinity College, we passed the Monument of Light (The Spire) on O'Connell Street, which is, according to my Lonely Planet, the world's tallest sculpture.
We arrived at Trinity College just in time for a guided tour, which included admittance to the Old Library to see the Book of Kells. Trinity College is to Ireland what Harvard is to the United States of America, and counts some pretty famous people among its alumni. One of Trinity's current students, is Jack Gleeson who played Joffrey on Game of Thrones, and apparently he is one of the nicest (and smartest) people on campus!
The campus is beautiful, but by far the highlight of our visit was the Long Room and the Book of Kells. The Long Room is one of those "real" old libraries with 200,000 of the library's oldest books stacked to the ceiling and ladders to reach them. It smelled musty and amazing, as all you book lovers will appreciate.
The "Turning Darkness into Light" exhibition was fantastic leading us through a beautiful educational display space and into the room where you can get up close and personal with two pages, one major illustration and one of text, of the Book of Kells.
The Book of Kells is a 9th century gospel manuscript, written and illustrated by monks. The vellum pages are intricately decorated and even though it is very old, the colours are still incredibly vibrant. The translucency of the vellum makes the ink pop off the page. It was a total nerdgasm for me. Obviously no pictures were allowed, nor would they do it justice, but you can now view it for free online here.
Natural History Museum
On a high from viewing the Book of Kells (yes, I am the biggest nerd), we grabbed a quick bite on campus and made some decisions about our itinierary. We decided to forego the National Gallery in the interests of time (although I would have loved to see the Caravaggio) and head to the wonderfully weird Natural History Museum, basically unchaged since explorer Dr. David Livingstone opened it in 1857.
This museum was several floors worth of taxidermy - if you can name any creature from land, sea or air, it's probably represented in this museum. It's hard not to feel a sense of awe, tinged with a tiny bit of sadness, in a place like this that's just stuffed to the rafters with so many beautiful dead things. It's a bit like I imagine Noah's Ark, if it were just frozen in a moment of time. Absolute, silent pandimonium.
The ground floor is devoted to Irish species, and the entrance is marked by three breathtaking skeletons of the extinct Giant Irish Deer.
From the Natural History Museum, we hurried to Dublin Castle. We didn't arrive in time to take the tour, which would have included the Chapel Royal and the Medieval Undercroft, but we wandered about the rest of the castle by ourselves. Brian was a little disappointed that the castle was more like a British mansion than an old Irish castle, having been repurposed and rebuilt so many times, but it was a beautiful, stately place nonetheless.
Old Jameson Distillery
We had just enough time to make it to the Old Jameson Distillery for our pre-arranged tour. We had purchased tickets online the night before, which was a good decision given that they were sold out of all remaining tours by the time we arrived. Of course it had to be the Jameson tour rather than Guinness, in honour of Brian's grandpa Harvey Dodds who always had Jameson on hand for special occasions.
This distillery in the heart of Dublin is no longer in operation, but they had a few tricks up their sleeve to distract us from that slightly disappointing fact. The tour was slick. It started with a video "distilling" Jameson's 235 years of history into just a few minutes, walked us through the process of making Jameson whiskey, and swept us into a quick, but so-worth-it, whiskey tasting.
After enjoying a drink on the house, we hit the gift shop for a special, custom bottle of 12 year old Jameson, bottled and only available at this location, and then decided to head toward a pub for a hearty meal and drink.
The Celt Bar / Le Bon Crubeen
Ending the night at popular bar The Celt, we weren't able to get a seat for food, so we went next door to its sister restaurant Le Bon Crubeen which cooks all the food anyway. It was a much fancier setting than we were prepared for, but we had a good time. Brian ordered fish and chips and I ordered a "deconstructed" Irish stew that turned out to not be a stew at all.
We felt wonderful, having maxed out our day in Dublin by hitting five of the original six sights we planned on. If you've been, let us know what we missed!
~ Erica ~ Brian