Oireland, a Week in a Small Car - Part One
Now any of you who have been paying attention may remember that a few weeks ago I was in Oireland on a wee break. I went there for a convention but decided that the remainder of the week would make a nice holiday. So it was that the Monday morning saw myself and young Toc staggering out of our hotel in Dundalk, dropping the roof on the B and heading out onto the M1 motorway south to Dublin. This is a great motorway due to just being built with a vast wedge of European Union money. It was soo new that the Irish had yet to learn how to drive on it yet, and so kept to the inside lane and let us cruise. In fact, when we bought a road map in the Dublin Tourist Information Shop it claimed the motorway was only planned for the future.
Anyhoo, to Dublin did we drive, finding it dead easy to drive into the centre of town. Turns out that this was because there was a marathon on and most of the roads were closed. We popped into the TI shop, arranged accommodation and, eventually, navigated the closed streets to get to it. It was an interesting hotel, as it felt it was too posh to leave tea making things in the rooms. We asked about this at the TI office and they said that this was becoming distressingly common.
Having checked in we went off to explore Dublin’s Fair City. A nice looking place, quite small and strangely quiet on a Bank Holiday Monday. Having randomly found ourselves outside Trinity College I got all excited about the possibility of seeing the Book of Kells. For those who don't know, this is a medieval copy of the Gospels as started on the Scottish Island of Iona around 800 A.D. The reason for it not being called the Book of Iona would be those pesky Vikings who drove the monks from Iona to Kells in Ireland fairly soon afterwards. There was a very interesting exhibition detailing how the manuscript was created. Interestingly, the Book of Kells is actually a display copy of the Gospels, rather than one to be read, and so has more pictures but plenty of scored out lines and misquotes. Working our way through the exhibition we eventually got to the Books themselves. The library keeps two of them on permanent display with one showing artwork and the other showing the text. What really struck me about these was the size. The Books are small. Which makes the detailed artwork breathtaking, especially when you think it was done somewhere with no artificial light. From there we went to the Long Room. This is the original book repository of Trinity College and is a massive two storey room lined with books and busts. It is immense and a bibliophile's heaven. If you have seen Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones then, between your cries of anguish, it may interest you to know that the library in that is based on the Long Room at Trinity.
After this spot of culture we went to a pub. A number of the people from the convention had agreed to meet up in the Porter House in Temple Bar and to there did we trog. I have visited the Porter House in Nodnol's Covent Garden and am well aware of their fine selection of ales and stouts that they brew themselves. My personal favourite being the Oyster Stout. Rich, creamy and flavoursome from top to bottom. Anyhoo we arrived to discover that it was too busy and the majority of people had retired to a MUCH quieter pub over the way, Isolde's Tower. There was a good reason for it to be quiet, what with it having practically nothing to drink and the atmosphere of a well used sock. Still, I struggled manfully through a number of pints of stout and talked a lot of gibberish.
Tuesday. So, what can one do for a whole day in Dublin? A lot. A lot of walking that is. We wandered all over the city centre for the morning, popping in and out of all the interesting shops, hunting down toilet facilities and marvelling at the pedestrian crossing system. As far as I can see Ireland is currently moving away from the British lights, a simply green man or red man, to a three colour system. I.e. red, green and amber to chivvy you along. What is more interesting is that the signal ticks at you to let you know it is counting down to the next crossing time. Then, when the time comes, it emits a shrill 'Beewow!' noise just like an old Space Invaders game. It was most odd but did make us smile every time we tried to cross a road. Eventually we made our way to the Guinness Brewery. You can't not visit the Brewery when in Dublin. I was actually very impressed by what they had done. As such a huge international brand they don't need to put any effort in but their displays and exhibitions were very good. They fully explained every stage of the brewing process and the history of the early days of the company and had a great section on advertising. There you could watch every TV advert they ever commissioned and read their first ever print advert. Of course, getting to the end of the tour you then get your free pint. And it is true what they say, it tastes brilliant. As the bar is perched on top of the brewery you also get to see out over the whole of Dublin as far as the mountains to the south and the sea to the east.
Having failed to enjoy the Porterhouse the night before we went there for dinner but then retired to bed early, shattered from all our walking and excessive amounts of Guinness of the previous few days. I only had a quick glimpse of Dublin, but it seems nice enough, if not quite so distinctive as you might first expect.
Next time – Munchkin ventures out of town to see some old divots in the ground.