Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Walk Through Dublin

By Claire
Our campground had a great deal for getting us into the city. The Hop-on, Hop-off City Sightseeing, Dublin bus would pick us up at the campground and bring us back at 4:15. Door to door service at €4 each, round trip! We were dropped in the city center and with the help of a free map, we found our meeting point for another walking tour with our favorite group, Sandemans New Europe Tours. I think Dublin is working out to be the easiest city we have been in, in terms of finding our way. It's very walkable too.

We met up with our tour guide, Peter, and began our 3.5 hour tour with an 11,000 year history in 11 minutes. We started the walk with Dublin Castle, rather a disappointment since it has mostly been torn down with only a courtyard of Georgian style buildings and the former prison tower remaining. The buildings are currently used for fancy state and charity functions. One interesting fact is that the walls of the tower are 12 feet thick.

I really loved the beautiful grounds on top of the spot where the Poddle and Liffey Rivers came together making a black pool (Dubh Linn in Irish); thus the name Dublin. The grass has brick "river eels" snaking around with lights for eyes. The site now also serves as a heliport.

Peter showing us the serpentine design of the grounds.

Crossing the Ha'Penny foot bridge we learned that it is so named because of the amount of the toll charged. The story is that, years ago, the city demanded that the ferry owner either upgrade his dilapidated boat or build a bridge; he said he would be happy to build a bridge, provided that he could charge a fee for crossing. A half penny was the amount negotiated. The bridge survived, somewhat rickety, until the early 2000's when it was upgraded to its present status.

This is the General Post Office. It was on these steps that Patrick Pearse read the famed proclamation of Irish Independence in 1916. This started the Easter Uprising, a bloody, five-day failed revolt. The leaders were all executed. Originally, people were generally either apathetic or opposed to this radical group; but this act by the British led to a sympathetic turnaround in Irish sympathies to the movement. Ireland was forever and profoundly changed by these events. Bullet holes from the siege are still visible in the columns.

To get back to the other side, we walked over the O'Connell Bridge, wider than it is long. This bridge commemorates Daniel O'Connell, known as "The Liberator" for founding the Catholic Association and demanding Irish Catholic rights in the British Parliament. His is the house we wanted to see but couldn't find on the Ring of Kerry. This bridge spans the River Liffey which has historically divided the wealthy, cultivated south side form the poorer, cruder, north side. Even today the north is considered rougher and less safe.

We walked around the Temple Bar area which I really liked in spite of the crowds. This area is so named because of a sand bar that was used for loading and unloading of merchandise. William Temple, provost of Trinity College Dublin in 1609, had his house and gardens here and it is thought that the area was named after him. Unlike the areas surrounding it, Temple Bar has preserved its medieval street pattern, with many narrow cobbled streets.

Just before the crowds

Temple Bar Pub with picture of William Temple

We shoved our way through the growing hoards, noting the National Library with a W.B. Yeats exhibit, past the statue of Theodore Wolfe Tone, a leading figure in the United Irishmen Irish independence movement and regarded as the father of Irish republicanism. We ended at St. Steven's Green, lush, quiet and peaceful.

Peter invited us to a pub where we could get a discounted lunch. Most of us were starving by that time so we followed the group and enjoyed our meals at €10 each. Yes, Dublin is mighty expensive. We've heard that a pint will cost us €6.

My main impression of this city is of the crowds. I realize that it is July and the height of the season but it doesn't make it any easier. At times I felt like we were just slogging through masses of tourists and I had to ask myself, what are we doing here in yet another big city? The lack of color adds to my distress. I feel like I'm in a black and white movie.

All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
~ W.B. Yeats, from his poem "Easter 1916" on the Easter Uprising in Ireland


Karin said...

Ahhhh yes, (sigh) St.Stephen's Green. A lovely quiet place of repose while outside it can be pure bedlam! The Shelbourne Hotel, across the street from The Green was were Michael and I would meet for a quiet drink after a day of us each "doing our own thing". The Shelbourne has a nice history as well.

Grafton Street is always chockablock with people....but a lot of fun to walk it. Did you see the Beweley's Cafe? Delicious cakes inside well as good soups and sandwiches.

Again, you are bringing back so many wonderful memories...I hope you see the famous Abby Theater. I remember being disappointed in the Castle as well, and also Kilmahain Jail. Temple Bar....what fun to have a drink and dinner in that area!

St. Patrick's Cathedral is a wonderful church to see. Most people find it amazing that Jonathan Swift, who wrote "Gulliver's Travels" was Dean there in the 1700's and also where Handal's "Messiah" was sung for the first time! We love to read and found Dublin a mecca of used bookstores.

Also some fantastic charity shops abound on George's Street where I found the book "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" by de Bernières. I will never forget the lady who sold it to me....she made me promise her one thing: that I would finish it! At the time I thought it odd, but I promised!!! It was a bit difficult reading at times, but I kept my promise and finished it! (which was a FANTASTIC book, by the way - the movie was awful, pure awful). I have often wished I could go back to thank her...because it is quite possible I wouldn't have finished it!

I regress. I wait to see what other "treasures" you find to do or see in Dublin. A great city with a great reputation. A few years ago, it actually was rated the "Best City in Europe to Visit"....and I am sorry it has gotten so expensive now. I might add that I found everyone very friendly and helpful, even when I had to stop people on the street for directions....some even offered to take me where I wanted to go!!!!

Oh yes, Trinity College with the Book of Kells, etc. Another must see. Well, you will never see it all, but have fun trying! :-)

Today I am full of envy....ha, ha. When you get to Wales, I will not have much to say, but Ireland, YES!

Karin on Paros

Elle said...

Just to say that in spite of the crowds, your post made Dublin sound very fun (+ Karin's comments!) The fotos did show some colorful scenes. I esp loved the landing pad with lights for serpentine "eyes".

We all embark on journeys for various reasons, desires, rationals; ultimately returning to one's "Mother Ship" with the fresh (yet seasoned) eyes of the road-wise traveler is the best day of the journey.

Stay safe these final days ~ no mention of ankle, & Claire keeps on tirelessly touring. For me, most accidents happen just minutes before leaving, always in a rush: five stitches for me last summer in Corfu! So tomorrow I leave for Crete, s-l-o-w-l-y... happy trails in Wales!