October 12 7:50am
Dublin doesn’t thrill me over much. I have rarely seen anyone smiling, though the exceptions have been notable. People here are not as outwardly focused as I thought they were in England – It isn’t uncommon to get bumped or shoved on the sidewalk with no apology, and people don’t really look you full in the face when they talk to you, almost as if they don’t expect that you’ll be polite or nice either. It is a strange, closed sort of feeling, that doesn’t let me really warm up to the place. I am looking forward to getting out of Dublin, and into the countryside.
Just thinking, it may be that people here think we are English (for whom there is not a great deal of affection) or maybe they realize we are Americans… In Dublin, I have not seen the same support for the offensive against terrorism that the US is waging in Afghanistan…so that could also explain the sullenness I see. (Frankly, I don’t think so.)
Our last day in the Cotswolds was another rainy one. In the morning, we did our laundry and the kids did schoolwork. We had lunch at home and then piled into the car and drove to Gloucester. We went specifically to see the cathedral there and the day was so wet, we really did not get the chance to walk around. That might have been interesting because there were lots of little quaint shops.
The cathedral was very interesting to me. Everyone else just came along. Fortunately, there was a brochure for kids as well as for adults, and some of the activities in it kept our younger members at least occupied, so that they neither punched each other or practiced their golf swings with their umbrellas(!) while we were inside.
(Yesterday, here in Dublin, we also visited a cathedral, St. Patrick’s. Despite all the moaning and groaning, while we were visiting it a choir of German students came in and sang. It was incredibly beautiful: Perfect music for that building. Like most of these cathedrals that I drag everyone to, this one dates from 1200s-1400s. The tall arched interiors are wonderful acoustically – the high sounds seem to come from the top of the arched ceiling and the low sounds through the arches along the sides of the nave. St. Patrick’s in Dublin was the site of the first performance of Handel’s Messiah, so it has a very long and special choral history.)
Backing up a minute, as I am getting a bit ahead… on Tuesday, we packed up and drove to Holyhead, Wales. We thought we were in for a 3 hour drive, but an accident on the “interstate equivalent” between two exits that were twenty miles apart held us up for more than 2 hours! It was awful (for Gerry especially) but we did have time to eat the picnic lunch we had. The last part of the drive was across the top of northern Wales, past the Snowdonia National Park. Incredible! All of north Wales seemed worth a longer visit so we will try to see some of it on our way back next week. When we finally got to Holyhead, we found our B&B, took a walk along the beach, had dinner and went to bed.
Wednesday morning, we got up early. Literally it was the “crack of dawn” at about 7 am. We had to be at the ferry by 8, and miraculously we were! The ferry left at 9 and our crossing was rough, but not awful. Gerry Jr. slept, Oscar read (yes, that’s right!), Gerry Sr. read and napped. I read too but that’s no surprise. We were in a “preferred seating” section of the ferry which might have been worthwhile if the ferry had been full, but it wasn’t, so the extra expense wasn’t really worth it. The weather during the crossing was all gray with some rain, so we couldn’t see anything out of the windows.
Once in Ireland and through the customs and immigration, we headed to Dublin (we landed in Dun Laoghaire – pronounced Dun Larry). On the map, it looked like a drive, but Dun Laoghaire is really just a suburb and the trip was probably less than 10 minutes on city streets. Our hotel fortunately had rooms ready for us at noon, so we dropped off all our luggage and had lunch before venturing out.
Our first afternoon was kid-directed. We headed off to the GAA Museum of Sports with an interactive section where you could test your skills. Can you guess who chose that?? GAA, we discovered stands for Gaelic Athletic Association … and the sports covered are hurling, Gaelic soccer and handball. These are not your run of the mill “Wild World of Sports” sports, mind you. We did learn something, and the boys did get to test their skills for these particular games, but the rules of the games were lost on us, and so unfortunately, we didn’t get as much out of it as we might have. Gerry Sr. enjoyed picking up a bit of Irish history, but I found a certain nationalistic streak to the museum that put me off, despite my interest in the sports themselves.
Wednesday night we walked to the area near Trinity College to have dinner.
Yesterday, we took one of the bus tours of the city. It was a hop-on, hop-off job. Our first hop off was at the cathedral which I mentioned earlier. Our second hop off was for the Old Jameson Distillery. This is a distillery for Irish whiskey – a tour and a tasting. Gerry Sr. participated in the taste comparison, between four Irish whiskeys, then Irish whiskey against American bourbon and Scotch whisky. It was pretty interesting. Try it at home – the differences are very noticeable.
(Before I forget, I need to mention that the day was spectacular! Sunny and warm – a beautiful day! For those of you who know Ireland, that says a lot – very uncommon weather for October here. Seems we bring a little of Puerto Rico’s sunshine with us wherever we go.)
After the tour, we hopped back on our bus and rode it back to the Trinity College area, getting off at St. Stephen’s Green (a park) and walking around the main shopping area near the college for awhile. The museums and tourist attractions close early at this time of year – 4:30 and even 4:00 – so we didn’t get to see much more after the distillery. We finally walked back to our hotel, which is near the Customs House, and rested. Venturing out again about 8, we had dinner and then visited an internet cafe. We were finally home again about 10:30. The kids are happier in the city: Their fighting has been reduced to less than one hour, or two spats, a day.
Today, Friday, we are headed to the countryside to visit our friend, Reinita, and her family. I know that Oscar cannot wait to see his friend Garret!
October 16 10:30am
We’re back last night from a weekend visit to a friend in the countryside. Get a map and try to figure out where we were – it isn’t a major tourist area! We drove west from Dublin on the N4 to Kinnegad, then continuing on the N4 slightly more to the NW toward Mullingar. Reina lives in an area between Mullingar, Asthlone and another one I can’t think of…but you’ll see it on the map.
We had a great time and actually saw a lot considering it isn’t a well-known tourist area. We saw both family and commercial peat bogs, old manor houses and castles, lots of cows and sheep. We ate hearty Irish food, including boiled bacon and cabbage (we all liked it!)
Mostly the kids played – Oscar and Garret are friends from last summer in San Juan. Gerry met some girls at Garret’s school…and was able to put his basketball to good use a few times.
We returned to Dublin yesterday afternoon, took a long shower and stayed in. We have discovered a television program called “Coupling” that is on Monday nights…We’re trying to get the videos now!
Today is Gerry Sr’s birthday. He’s in charge of all the activities – king for the day!
October 17 10:00am
Yesterday was Gerry’s birthday! We celebrated by going to a restaurant called Knights at the Arlington Hotel. We had good Irish food, but we went primarily for the show of Irish music and Irish dancing. It was fun! Even the kids enjoyed it (which is more than I can say for the teenager at the table next to us!)
We spent the day “touristing” like mad. We were up and out of the hotel about 11 and walked first to the Guinness Storehouse, which is an exhibition (extremely well-done) about the history and brewing of Guinness. The climax of the tour was a glass of the stout in a roof top bar (No smoking allowed, YEAH!) with a 360 degree view of Dublin.
Afterwards we cabbed it backwards to the Trinity College area, ate a quick lunch and went to see the Book of Kells. The exhibit is very good, but hard to keep kids engaged, so if you go, go with time to enjoy it. The kids did like a video that showed how the books were bound…Adults liked it too. The Book of Kells is a manuscript of the four gospels, in Latin, produced by monks in the 8th century (their monastery was at Kells). You get to view only four actual pages of the manuscript in a special room, along with two pages from two other nearly contemporary books, but the exhibition that precedes it shows many pages and pictures and gives you a good idea of how the monks produced the books.
After the Book of Kells, you get to tour a part of the Trinity College Library called the Long Room. It is impressive – two floors (high floors) open in the center, of oak bookcases filled with leather-bound books. Unfortunately you cannot take pictures so I can’t show you how incredible it is. At the base of the columns leading to the upper floor are busts of philosophers and other Dublin greats. The effects of the dark oak book cases, the brown leather of the books and then the stark white of the marble busts add a great deal to the impressive nature of the room. It also contains an exhibit about libraries and the Trinity College Library which is interesting if you love books.
Well, we didn’t call it quits yet! From there we walked to Dublin Castle and took a tour. The Castle is the now the state rooms where all the pictures of visiting dignitaries are taken and where international heads-of-state meetings take place. The tour also included a trip to the foundations, where we saw remains of the Norman fortifications that provided the base for the 13th century castle and later the 18th century castle.
We’re off back to Wales this afternoon on the ferry. Next you’ll hear from me, I’ll be lost in Snowdonia!