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Monday, June 18, 2012

Dear Dirty Dublin

After Phil's (very wet) stint at the conference in the morning, we set out on the bus to visit the sights of Dublin. It's a lovely city, well-signed as our museum curator friend would say, in both English and Gaelic. How many Irish people actually speak Gaelic? (Wait, I'm googling. Now I know. It is called Irish in Ireland, not Gaelic, and everyone is taught it in school.)

On the bus ride in to town from our hotel, the Stillorgan (NOT a Joycean pun, but it became a Sicker pun), we noticed the beautiful painted doors for which Dublin is justly known. One cab driver later told us that the Georgian houses that boast the doors are strictly regulated in terms of structural and design changes; the owners' indivduality can really only be expressed through the color of their front doors.

We stopped first at Trinity College, in the center of town. The library holds the 8th century Book of Kells, which I've longed to see since my college medieval art course. It includes the four gospels, gloriously illuminated by Celtic monks. Two pages of the actual Book are on view at any one time, one with an illumination, one with text. Since the monastery that housed it was raided and destroyed by invasion and fire dozens of times over the centuries, the manuscript's very existence is pretty much a miracle.The exhibit was impressive, as was the library's long hall. The manuscripts on view in the hall included William Caxton's 1480 printing of Lord Rivers' Sayinges and Dictes of the Philosophers, a book that actually makes an appearance in my historical children's novel, so I was doubly thrilled.

We walked through Dublin Castle and saw the Royal Chapel, and then went on to the Chester Beatty Library, home to an astonishing group of illuminated texts from the Near and Far East (are you sensing a theme here?) collected by a wealthy American industrialist with Irish roots.

A quick trip back to the Stillorgan, and then we went to the Auld Dubliner pub in the Temple Bar section of town to meet the four Sicker sisters -- Biggie, Di, Pooh, and Nita -- and one husband, Gary, who'd survived driving around Ireland for four days in a large van on the wrong side of very small roads. The pub advertised live music, but sadly it turned out to be loud and bad renditions of Johnny Cash, Rolling Stones, and Coldplay, and the food was mediocre. Though the Guinness was good.

We strolled around town for a while in the evening, admiring the Liffey and its bridges. Then we had to sprint to get the relatives onto the train to their B&B (an odd place, apparently, whose proprietress insisted they wear special socks indoors) with plans to meet at the Stillorgan in the morning.

Saturday was Bloomsday, as I'm sure you're all aware. Possibly the most important day in literature. Or, according to Phil, in the history of the world. We didn't have the energy to do Leopold Bloom's 12-mile round that goes from 8 a.m. till the wee hours, so our abbreviated version, in the rain, started with dropping Biggie, Gary, and Pooh off at the Book of Kells and walking to 7 Eccles Street, where Bloom begins his day in Ulysses.

We passed costumed nutcases celebrating the day.

We located the Dublin Rotunda, an 18th century exhibition space attached to a maternity hospital, important as a forum of dioramic spectacle in Phil's most recent book chapter on Ulysses.

To our surprise, we found a beautiful little memorial garden commemorating those who gave their lives in the struggle for Irish Independence. The statue is of the Children of Lir, an Irish version of the Wild Swans fairy tale.

We lunched at a very nice pub that used to be a bank and has been stunningly restored. Some Guinness was consumed.

Then we walked to Christchurch Cathedral, which oddly is Protestant and included some strange artifacts.

Next we visited Dublinia, a history museum exploring the Viking and medieval past of the city. Di was quite horrified by the lack of sanitation in those early days, but she received a brass rubbing from the Pope granting her a remission of four days in Purgatory for the sin of excessive hand sanitizing.

Our final touristic stop was the Guinness Storehouse, a gigantic museum/brewery, where we learned how the mother's milk of beers is brewed and had the opportunity to taste quite a bit of it. Then we took a horse-drawn carriage back to the center of town and found a pub with real Irish music and excellent food. Also some Guinness. Exhausted, we taxied back to the Stillorgan, where a wedding reception featuring a large number of extremely drunk (on Guinness?), portly bridesmaids in very short skirts and very high heels didn't keep us up for even a minute.


  1. Nice new font; the commas are easier to see! Have a lovely last week or three. Wish we were there!

    1. I always respond to reader complaints! And I really wish you were here too...