Sunday, October 14, 2012

Discovering Ireland: The Conclusion


Beep, beep, beep! Bang, bang, bang! Beep, beep, beep! Bang, bang, bang!  I am in the hostel in Kilkenny, not quite fully awake yet, wondering what on earth this noise is that I keep hearing. A garbage truck? An alarm clock? I leave the room to take a shower, and a woman is frantically trying to get her locker open to remove her stowed possessions. The beep, beep, beep was not a garbage truck in reverse, but the noise made when she swiped the card she was issued to unlock the locker. The bang, bang, bang was not a garbage truck smacking a dumpster to get the contents out, but the lady pulling furiously on the locker in a vain attempt to get it to open. Even though the hostel was supposed to be staffed 24 hours a day, there was no one there at 8:00 in the morning to assist her in getting the locker open. Nice going, Kilkenny Tourist Hostel.

Finally, we were off to Dublin for the last couple of days of our trip. Thankfully it was mostly motorways to get back there. We had a couple of missed turns due to a bit of confusion on the motorway approaching Dublin, then it took a while to spot the Budget Car Rental, and I thought, well, logically, that a gas station would be close to the rental agency since you have to gas up before you return the vehicle. Wrong. It was borderline infuriating to try to find a gas station. After asking two different people where a gas station could be found, ("You mean, a petrol station?" "Yes.") we had a direction to go in and found one. I wanted desperately to be rid of the car, and I am sure my travel companion felt the same way. So, it was back to Budget, and the last challenge was to park it in a tiny alley (which I passed twice trying to find it....). Success. Goodbye little red rental car. I conquered you and the roads in Ireland too. No more driving for me for three months.  I wish I took a picture of the little car, but I did not. I must ask you to use your imagination here.


We were back at the Generator Hostel, located right next to the Jamison Distillery (see the tower?), for our last two days. After my colorful experiences at the previous hostels, I felt like I was in paradise here.

After dropping my things off in the luggage room, I headed over to Cinnamon Cafe for lunch. I had a bagel with goat cheese and red onion jam. It was so terrifically satisfying. I then walked a short distance over to St. Michan's Church, pictured above, where I went on a crypt tour with a rather noisy bunch of tourists. The tour took place in two of the crypts (there are twelve total beneath the church). Our tour guide was theatrical, with a booming, articulate, and strongly projected voice. He was quite appropriate for the nature of the tour. The first crypt held two brothers, who were educated at Trinity College, and eventually accused of treason, and sentenced to death. (Queasy folks - skip the next sentence). They were hung but kept alive to be drawn, set afire, and quartered. Their remains in coffins and their death sentence certificate were located in one of the rooms of the crypt. The crypt preserved remains fairly well because they are made of limestone, which absorbs moisture and due to the crypts underground location, the temperature held pretty constant. The second crypt held four rather intact remains and we heard stories about who the deceased could have been and why they were buried the way they were (one had his legs cut and crossed).

After the crypt tour, I went off on a long walk to the old jail, Kilmainham Gaol, photographing along the way. I don't remember what this building is, but the Liffey is in the foreground.

I knew I was headed in the right direction when I approached Heuston Railway Station.  I think it is the prettiest train station I have ever seen. I also passed a couple of museums along the way, which I unfortunately did not have enough time to visit. I learned that the map I was using was not to scale when I kept walking, and walking, and still hadn't reached my destination.

Touring Kilmainham Gaol was my absolute favorite thing that I did in Dublin, not because it was fun or exciting, but because it was so rich in history and I learned so much in the two and a half hours that I was there about Ireland and the people who fought, suffered, and died for its independence.

The structure of the jail was influenced by Jeremy Bentham and his panopticon design, which I learned about in the spring in my Business Ethics class. Many political prisoners were held here. A woman who was in the same tour group as I was, is a descendent of one of the political prisoners who was held here. She shared some information with us on the tour.

I waited patiently for this lady to move so I could have a perfect picture, but she wasn't budging! Maybe she was waiting for me to move...  During the tour, we learned about the living conditions of the jail, the political prisoners who were held in the jail, and how life in jail, in order to be a punishment, had to be worse than life outside the jail, which, especially during the famine, was quite terrible.

We learned about Anne Devlin who protected the names of some 50 rebels from the government and suffered terribly for it, tortured mentally and physically in prison and was followed by the police once she was out. Her lifelong commitment to secrecy helped Ireland become independent.

Because there came a time when public hangings were no longer acceptable, killings took place here, where there were no windows, and no chance for escape. The men who died here were political prisoners who died for the sake of Ireland's independence. I wandered the extensive museum here after the tour was over and looked over notes, personal belongings, and photographs of the former prisoners of the jail. One note was written by a man to his mother, informing her of his death sentence, and expressing that he was not afraid to die for Ireland. This was a somber experience, but I learned so much history here.

I headed back to the hostel after the jail, then went across the street for dinner and had tagliatelle with roasted vegetables in, what else, but a cream sauce. I did my last very expensive load of laundry then headed to bed.

4:20 am. Fire alarm. Get up, get out. It's freezing outside and there is about two hundred of us. I was speaking Spanish with my hostel roommate who was from Spain. (Right? At four o'clock in the morning, very drowsy, in cold weather, I was having conversation in Spanish. Whoda thunk it?) We were outside for at least 20 minutes while they cleared the building. It turns out some drunkard tried to open a door that is not to be opened unless there is a fire. Great. Back to bed.

I headed back over to the Cinnamon Cafe for breakfast the next morning because it brought me so much joy the day before. I had a warm croissant with nutella, sliced banana, and powdered sugar. Yum.

After some frustration and a few wrong turns, I found the post office (which I found rather easily the last time I was in Dublin) and bought postcard stamps. This building is also rich in history, and the bullet holes in the columns speak to that history. I waited for a long time for this bus to get out of the way, but it was not going anywhere. That's not a very good place to park for those of us who are trying to maximize our tourist experience by capturing pristine images of historic Ireland!

I looked at the statues and monuments along O'Connell Street.

Some had bird poo on their heads...

...and some were seemingly unnecessary.

I walked on to try to find Trinity College. I found the college with no problem, but I managed to not see the main entrance, and I walked for what seemed like forever, but was really just the entire length of the campus, trying to find an entrance. By the time I realized the error of my way, I was hungry. Close to a college = cheap food! I ate where James Joyce met Nora Barnacle (Lincoln something or other...can't remember). When I sat down in the big, plush chair, I sank in and felt like a midget. Too embarrassed to get up and go to a different table, I embraced the Alice in Wonderland moment. I had a smokey chicken panini with brie, olive tapenade and rocket.

Since I was right at the National Gallery I stopped in there. The artwork was unbelievable. Some of it dated to the 12th century. There was an exhibit of Irish painters' work and it was neat to see paintings of places I had been to, like Killarney, from the 1800's. There was also a European painting exhibit, of which I also really enjoyed. There was a Van Gogh (that I totally dismissed and walked by at first until the name caught my eye), a Rembrandt, one by Rembrandt's teacher, along with a couple of other big names. I learned that I'm not a fan of Yeat's work (sorry, Ireland).

The museum took a couple of hours to get through. After the museum, I strolled through Merrion Square, a nice, lush park that has gardens and a few sculptures, including one of Oscar Wilde.

There's Oscar. Just hanging out on a rock.

I finally found the entrance to Trinity College and took a couple of great pictures of this stunning tower.

I did not see the Book of Kells. I couldn't justify spending the amount they charge to see it, so my visit to the Trinity College campus was brief.

This guy? Real. Clearly, I didn't realize that the first time I walked by him.

I walked on to Grafton Street where there were lots of shops, street performers, and musicians. This is where I heard the most beautiful music playing. A band called, "Mutefish" was playing away and I didn't ever want the show to end. The music was so moving it resonated with me all day. Imagine fairy music. It was just spectacular. There was a flute player, a drummer, a couple of guitarists, and maybe another member. I must order their cd before I leave the UK.

I walked on in search of The Queen of Tarts. I wasn't leaving Ireland without having a treat here. I had a warm pear tart served with cream. Marzipan was baked into the tart shell. Mmmmmm. What a way to end the day and my stay in Ireland.

Here is a taste of what is to come:

The view from my window!

I am so glad I have the city view!

1 comment:

  1. The pictures are great! Thanks for sharing, Ireland looks so pretty. Also, I think it is funny that statue guy is actually a real guy.