Monday, May 19, 2008

Book of Kells - for starters!

"In which we do Dublin"

Saturday morning, bright and (reasonably) early, and went down to a cafe for breakfast. Another fry? Nope - I went for a bacon sandwich and... my.. that pecan slice looks nice...

We caught a train to Dublin from Newry but it was very full. I had to stand for a part of the journey, but even so the trip went quickly. During the troubles going from North to South would mean border guards, passports, train searches maybe - now, the only thing that told me I was over the border was the change in mobile phone service!

We struggled from the station to the hotel, being directed by the friendly natives, then (after a quick drink at the bar and checking in), we hit the town. First stop, the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The exhibition was good, but the books (not just the Book of Kells, but some other ancient manuscripts too) were amazing. The colours so vibrant, the illustrations so detailed. The gold as rich and shining as it must have looked hundreds of years ago.

Continuing on our culture-fest, we then headed for the National Museum of Ireland, the archaeology department. And there - we had a wonderful time looking at dead bodies. Yep! Dead bodies. Not Egyptian mummies, but the peat-bog bodies. The detail was amazing and the colour of the preserved skin, a wonderful, deep leathery looking gold and brown. There was one that was just a torso and some arms... I think Cathy rather fancied a handbag out of that. However, we'd got there late in the afternoon and only saw a very small part of the amazing exhibits on show.

Well, that about summed it up for the culture part of the day. We headed for Temple Bar, walking all round the lively pedestrian centre listening to the tired strains of 'Dirty old town' and the like from competent but tourist-weary musicians. We ended up (after a quick Chinese in the Express restaurant) in a bar by the Liffy. Sitting quietly, just drinking a beer (cider for me, remember?) and then this couple started talking to us as we looked at our map.

Enter Sharon and Pete. Two characters to add to our dramatis personae for the evening. Both English, they were over for a realaxing time after Sharon had done some work in Ireland. We hit it off instantly - and it turned out that we think Sharon's sister bought our house off us about 22 years ago. And, if not off us, off our neighbour. Small world! We also discovered that Pete's brother was the same age as my old man and that they nearly (oh, clutching at straws here) went to the same school in Camden.

Cathy disappered to the 'little girls room' which turned out to be a very little room for girls. Complaining on her return, she said the cubicles were so small you could hardly move your elbows enough to drop your trousers. Pete, however, said the gents loos were 'wonderful'. Pub loos? Wonderful? That was it. Proof was needed. Cathy and Pete headed off to the toilets again. He showed her his, she showed him hers. I think the boys loo won, but not by a lot. I guess men have different standards for what's grand in a pub toilet.

Sharon and Pete mentioned a bar called the Brazen Head - the oldest pub in Ireland (it is claimed). We'd all had a few bevvies, but that was no reason to stop. Sharon had drunk whisky earlier in the day, though she didn't like it. The reason was the Jamieson distillery tour they'd been on. She'd been picked as a taster and had an 'official taster' certificate. Then she mixed it with Baileys... ewwww....

We headed out the bar we'd met in towards the Brazen Head and Pete pointed out the Millennium Bridge, known as the 'Quiver on the River'. It's supposed to wobble. Well, Sharon and Cathy were not keen to traverse it, so Pete and I went across it - jumped up and down and ran from side to side but, alas, it neither wobbled nor quivered. We crossed back over at the next bridge and caught up with the others.

At the Brazen Head we sat outside opposite a table full of English girls on a hen or birthday weekend. All dressed smartly, glitzy even, and with wobbly head dresses on. And guess what? They were too quiet! I'd never seen such a well behaved hen party in my life. The group next to us were much more fun, Bob and his wife, his sister and brother in law, from Ohio. It wasn't long before we were all one huge chattering group. I stopped drinking, the brandy and cider mix was starting to make me feel a little too light headed, so it was on to the diet coke. The others were made of sterner stuff, but I did notice Sharon switching to the cranberry juice. Wonder what else she had in it?

Though Sharon and Pete were ready to party all night, Cathy and I headed back to the hotel about half past midnight. Tired after all our culture, walking, and - perhaps - the beer. We had a twin room and one of us snored. Loudly!

I woke early next morning, and so did Cathy. We headed out for the nearby Writers Museum, but it didn't open until 11. So we walked round the little rememberance park first. Unlike many rememberance parks it didn't have a dedication to the fallen, the sacrifice or the voilence of achieving freedom, but the vision of those who sought it. We wandered round in the morning sunshine. At peace.

The writers museum was interesting. The audio guide made the whole thing far more engaging than just looking at displays and the odd old typewriter. Having had our cultural fix for the morning, we headed back into town but were hungry for more - so we revisited the National Museum of Ireland. We managed to see the Egyptian exhibits this time - including mummies - only the displays were really dark and you could't see the descriptions or what the items were very clearly. The rest of the museum was great though. Some fantastic golden torcs and other stuff from Viking and Roman times.

We noticed the time and instead of walking back to our hotel and then to the station, we had to hail a cab. Back on the train again, past wide open beaches and green countryside, we both had seats this time. Lunch was some rather sad pastry affair from the buffet car and we eventually reached Newry again just after six.

That evening we thought, briefly, about heading out on the town again, but a good night's sleep (sans snoring) was the preferred option instead.

Monday, the following day, was the last chance we'd have to spend a bit of time together before I had to fly back to GB. Some interesting things happened even then, but that's for my next post. Which, at this rate, I might write up within the next fortnight or so...
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