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June 01, 2006: Ireland Trip - Dublin, First Day

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The first distinct difference between being in a B&B and being in a hotel was quite obvious this morning when, for the first time since arriving in Ireland, we actually had to (gasp) pay for breakfast. Heh. Ah well.

Today we decided that our best bet would be to do one of those Hop On, Hop Off bus tours around the city. Last night we hiked out to the closest stop to our hotel, which is the one at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, so this morning after breakfast we returned there and waited until a bus showed up so we could buy our tickets and then climb aboard. It turned out to be a pretty good way to at least get a view of the city, since doing it by foot would have taken far more time than we've got available to us during our two short days here. The busses run every 15 minutes or so and you just get on or off at any of the 20 or so stops along the way, all of which are situated near something interesting.

Our first stop was the old Guiness Storehouse. I wasn't sure if I wanted to bother with the tour, since I'm not a big fan of beer (I really cannot stand the taste of it), but it turned out there's nowhere around where I could linger in a coffee shop while Richard went off by himself, so we figured what the heck and did it together. And it was actually pretty interesting, even to a complete teetotaler like myself. The old storehouse facility offers a self-guided tour that covered the history of coopering (making the wooden casks used to store the beer), brewing, and of the company itself, especially its impact on the economy of Dublin, which has been substantial. In centuries passed they've been the primary employer for the city, and during parts of our tour around the city throughout the day we heard about various parks and buildings they have either donated to the city, or for which they are providing sole financial support to keep them from going into disrepair. Also, I am apparently a clueless idiot because it wasn't until today that I finally made the connection between the Guiness Book of World Records and the brewing company (duh).

Our next stop was the Kilmainham Gaol, which we'd been told by someone (neither of us can really remember who now) was a place we shouldn't miss. I was expecting lots of wandering around and peering into tiny stone cells, and there was a very small bit of that, but the tour itself primarily focused on the fact that a number of the leaders of the 1816 Easter Uprising were held and executed in this particular facility, and not so much on the actual building itself. We did get a bit of additional history of the facility itself, including the fact that the youngest person ever imprisoned there was an 8 year old boy, and that at one point they were shipping prisoners from this jail off to Australia. And the museum section gave a lot more history on the design of the building itself, including an overview of how views on how prisoners should be housed and treated changed over the centuries.

Third on the list was to stop at the city center; or rather, the area near the main bus terminals and the tourist information office, in order to track down bus schedules. We did a little bit of gift shopping, but after chatting with a very helpful man in the tourist office, we have now tracked down where we can store our luggage after we check out of our hotel tomorrow morning, what bus we need to take to get to the center of town, and how we can actually get to the airport tomorrow night without having to try to track down a taxi.

Our last stop for the day was to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, and it turns out we were lucky to arrive when we did. When we asked about purchasing tickets the man behind the counter told us that actually they were just about to close, so he simply let us walk in without paying and told us we had about five minutes to take it all in. So we bypassed all the rather interesting-looking displays and exhibits about the Books themselves and found the room where the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow are displayed. Since it was nearly time to close, there were actually only a few people there, so we had the books nearly to ourselves. There wasn't much time to linger, but there was enough time to at least get a sense of how incredibly detailed and vividly colored these books are. I'm not sure how old the Book of Durrow is, but the Book of Kells was written in (I think) 800-something AD.

We also had a chance to walk through the Long Room, which is simply amazing. It's this huge long room that is filled, floor to ceiling (two stories high) with ancient books, whch are situated in little alcoves down the room. The entire room has that wonderful smell of old books and I am sure I am not the first person to wish that I could just start at one end and work my way through every single one of them, just to have the chance to turn the pages and read those old, old words.

Luckily our timing with buses from yesterday didn't carry over today, and we managed to catch the very last bus for the Hop On, Hop Off tour, which took us back to the cathedral where we started. We ate dinner in a trendy little restaurant and bar, and then, through trial and error and poking our heads into any shop that looked promising, eventually found somewhere that sold bus tickets. So we are now set for tomorrow with one-day passes that will supposedly let us get onto any bus in the Dublin system including the one that will eventually take us to the airport, in less than 24 hours, heading in the direction of home.

Pictures are online for Kilmainham Gaol, and from around Dublin.

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