Saturday, September 21, 2013


I decided to go to Dublin for a couple of days - might as well step foot in a new country before flying home. Of course, two days are not enough to really see anything and I didn't really like Dublin. It may have been that I wasn't there long enough to feel even remotely comfortable there - cities take a little time - but I didn't see anything that would inspire me to go back. I may have been too close to the rowdy frat boy pub culture of a city (as opposed to a small town pub).

Huge trunks at Trinity College

I stayed in the dorms at Trinity College and I was immediately turned off - arriving in the evening - and finding out it's a semi-fortress with only one entrance at night. I don't know the reason for this, but it felt as though the college doesn't like its city.

View from my window - The Ireland Institute
didn't take down the old sign

My dorm room was fine except for the toilet. It was so close to the sink that I had to put my hand on the sink each time I sat down so as to avoid knocking my chin on it (the sink, not my hand). My knees weren't thrilled with climbing fifty stairs, either. Let alone with my suitcase in tow!

Building detail - foxes or cats?

At one point, while crossing the campus (I was about as far as you could get from that one evening entrance), a guy stopped me and asked if I had been a student in the 70's. He was there taking a trip down Memory Lane, reliving his school days (and thinking I was younger than I am). But eating in the cafeteria at breakfast did remind me of working in the dining hall at Pembroke. I picked up a tray, found it covered in crumbs (and the next one and the next one), so I asked where the clean ones were and was told those were the clean ones. Of course.

The Book of Kells -
not my photograph

Staying on campus did not keep me from having to wait in a long line to see the Book of Kells  - worth it, by the way.* No photos allowed, so these are off the internet. I have always loved the Book of Kells (and the Lindisfarne Gospel and the like) in the same way I love cathedrals. These people really know how to reel you in! Were they conscious of playing with our minds? I don't know, but I assume they must have been.

Probably the most famous page -
not the one displayed that day

It is currently bound in four volumes with two on display. The pages shown are changed regularly. Not to worry - they are all beautiful. When you stand there and look at them, you are overwhelmed with thoughts of the devotion and skill that went into their creation!

The Long Room

The Book of Kells is in the Old Library. In the same building is the Long Room. Most old colleges have beautiful central library rooms - I used the one in the Widener Library at Harvard as a high school student. My mother was a graduate student there and that gave me access to the stacks. It's where I learned to love just staring at shelves of books.

The Long Room again


This is why I "liked" the Facebook page "No I Do Not Have Too Many Books!" - so many great photos of books. Needless to say, I ended up with lots of photos of the Long Room.

Just books!

*Worth the wait if you aren't surrounded by rich Americans discussing their retirement homes near golf courses, the values and whether they had lost money or not in the Recession, investment portfolios, yadayadayada. I hadn't had to hear anything like that in a long time. I used to take my dogs to a dog park where there were similar conversations. Ugh!

Good idea for those without retirement homes

I had a map of the city from the tourist office nearby. Turned out it was completely out of scale! I wanted to go see Kilmainhaim Goal - now a museum to commemorate the struggle for national independence. It looked like quite a walk, but I'd taken plenty of long walks, and there were a number of things to see along the way.

Spotted along the way

I planned to go to the choir practice at Christchurch - turns out it happens every month except August - which I didn't find out until I got there.

Window at Dublin Castle

I stopped to see Dublin Castle, but wasn't interested in going inside. It was the seat of British power when they were lording it over the Irish. Now, aptly, it's home to the Irish government.

More Dublin Castle

Then I stopped at a very old - 12th or 13th century church - I don't remember the name - with a wild garden, which I enjoyed very much.

Window of the old church
with grasses from the garden

I walked and walked and was planning to stop at the Guinness Brewery, but I was running much too late because the map was so crazy. The mapmakers had just squished up the western end of Dublin.


By the time I made it to the jail, it was closed! I was quite cranky by then, so I headed for a half pint of beer across the street and watched show jumping (horses) on the television.

Kilmainhaim Gaol -
entrance where they held the hangings

I was so far away that I took a taxi back to Trinity - good thing since it started to rain - and had a good political conversation with the cab driver. His brother lives in the U.S. and is wealthy, but he plays soccer with a bunch of working class guys who vote Republican. The cab driver said he's stunned by how conservative the working class is in the U.S. - that they just don't understand what's wrong. His brother is a liberal and votes Democratic and the working class guys are stunned that he's not a conservative. The cab driver was also horrified to learn from his brother that in the U.S. you can have your health insurance cancelled for using it. He thought Obamacare was a great improvement. I told him that it just entrenched the private insurance system of handling health insurance and was Obama's attempt to head off health-care-for-all at the pass. He would have none of it because he was so fixated on the fact that your insurance can be cancelled. He wasn't getting the bigger picture.

A sign on the way to the jail

The next day I got out of town  - so I really only spent one full day in Dublin, but it had made me cranky! I took a tour to Tara and Newgrange. The woman who led the tour has been doing it for years. She repeats herself quite a bit. Maybe it was helpful to those who don't pay attention, but I found it annoying. I also almost missed the whole thing because she changed the time of the tour and never notified me. I stood in front of a Dublin Pizza Hut for more than half an hour, rechecking my email from her several times. Just as I was giving up, a young woman arrived who had the correct time.

The oldest site, a passage tomb - being worked on - off limits

The Hill of Tara is now a large grouping of earthworks, but it is about 5,000 year old and was the site where pre-Christian kings were crowned, among other things. It also has much newer Christian artifacts. Tara in Gone With the Wind is named for it. It has a commanding view of a large percentage of Ireland.

View from Tara - earthworks in foreground

Next we headed for Newgrange - unfortunately referred to by its British name rather than its Irish one - Si an Bhru. It is an ancient "temple" with a commending presence on a hill. I put quotes around temple since there is disagreement about what to call it.

Newgrange from the visitors' center

It is in the Boyne Valley, which has three large "temples" and thirty-five small ones. They all have astronomical, astrological, spiritual, and ceremonial importance.

River Boyne 

One of the "temples" has yet to be excavated (Dowth) and you can't visit it and it is assumed to be, in part, for the celebration of the Summer Solstice (my birthday!). The other has more limited tours (Nowth) and is connected to the two equinoxes.

I like this photo from 1905 before reconstruction

Newgrange is older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. It has a lot in common with Bryn Celli Ddu, which we saw on Anglesey in Wales (photos in a previous post), though this is much larger, covering more than an acre. The society was agricultural and did not yet use metals.

Looking out from the entrance of Newgrange

Entrance to Newgrange -
a reconstruction except for the large stones

It is known that Newgrange was used as a calendar to register the Winter Solstice. For a few days on either side of the solstice, the temple is aligned with the rays of the rising sun and the interior chamber is lit up for 17 minutes.

On the Newgrange hill

The entrance is low and narrow and small groups are squeezed into the passage and into the dark and then there is a simulation of what the solstice illumination is like. There is a national lottery every year for the few lucky people to get the real experience. I wonder how often there is sun.

Very much like the carvings in Central America

It is assumed that this event was seen as the beginning of the new year and a celebration of the end of the longest night. 

Entrance stone

There are many theories about the carvings on the stones, but no agreement. Other carvings in the area are believed to be maps of the path of the moon. As beautiful as this place was, it didn't feel as powerful as sites I visited in Scotland or Wales, I imagine because I couldn't just be there on my own or with a small group of friends. The others had greater intimacy.

Sheep are everywhere - why not Newgrange?

And so back to Dublin for a bit more wandering and, of course, packing. I had thought about going on a musical pub crawl, but decided I wanted something quieter. 

Whiskeys at The Green Hen

I had good food every night in Dublin - just had to go to the green, organic, locally sourced places. For some reason they were easier to find than in Paris and a little less expensive and all near Trinity. Though in one I was near a loud guy from Texas. I preferred the small towns of Wales and Scotland where I didn't hear so many American accents. The people in the line for the Book of Kells - the retirement home people - all had New York/New Jersey accents. Ugh!

George Salmon

And I can't leave Trinity College without showing George Salmon, who spent his whole life there and was provost. He swore that women would only be admitted to Trinity over his dead body. He died in January of 1904 and the first woman entered that same month! Take that, George!

Revolving sculpture at Trinity

Some of you know about the fox that sniffed my toes on my vision quest and about the fox that ran down the road beside my car under a Hunter's Moon in Occidental after listening to Mike Tuggle read from What Lures the Foxes. Well, on the morning I had to head to the airport to go home, I was crossing the main quad of Trinity at 6:00 a.m. and what should cross my path, but two red foxes!

Red fox at Trinity

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