Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Finally, A Taste of Dublin

Finally, A Taste of Dublin

In the morning, while still in the suburbs or the far reaches of the Irish earth at the B & B, we had an argument with the shower and the shower won. The shower is electric powered for the temperature and the speed of the spray. Neither one worked efficiently. On the highest speed for the jet, the water still only dribbled out. It was worse than the stream you have when there is a kidney stone blockage. Hence, we skipped our shower, which does not put me in the right frame of mind for the day.

The night was not fitful. The Irish do not believe in heat. Radiators are for decoration only and have only been turned on once since we have been in the country. That one time, it was only to defrost the room and then it was turned off when the ice chips melted. Did I tell you it was cold here? Being a dormer room, the window was on the slanted ceiling with makeshift curtains. It was a very windy night, so the glass bounced in the frame like a drum with a bad beat accompanied by the intermittent rain. Window frames need to be sealed to save energy costs, but if you never use the heat, who cares? The frame let in as much air as the big bad wolf when he huffed and he puffed the little pig’s house down. With that lively tempo, we tried to sleep with one little blanket on each of our beds. If we had not made plans to move the next morning, I would have been a lunatic in the morning, but with the transfer in mind, I was able to be my, ahem, charming self.

The lovely Mrs. Kennedy greeted us downstairs, wife of the dear man I lied to the night before. She was gracious enough not to question our need for leaving six days earlier than planned and offer us a full Irish breakfast. We were the only two at breakfast and the only settings that were out, so we believe we were the only guests.

Why someone would want baked beans for breakfast is beyond me. They are not even good baked beans, but a poor cousin to Campbell’s brand out of a can and warmed over a luke warm flame. She was generous with the bacon, what we would call ham in long strips, and two pieces of sausage. Hasn’t anyone done cholesterol studies in these countries? Since breakfast lasts us until the later hours of the evening, we are able to balance our fats and work them off with walking. I have come to grabbing sugar packets for their philosophy, the way some look to the horoscopes for the warning of the day. This morning, the packet said, “ He who runs away lives to fight another day.” I took that to mean we had appeased the tourism gods and were given absolution for my previous nights straying from the truth.

Who would want to be so far away from the city unless you had a car? Having a car in Dublin is an exercise in patience; the traffic is bumper-to-bumper much of the time. But Mrs. Kennedy was charming and her house was lovely for the most part. I think she had too many brass bric-a-brac in the living room for my taste, but so be it. She has to live with it, we don’t. The question in our minds was if we were the only ones in the house, why put us up in the attic room? Never once did we infer that the room was colder than the ice hotel in Norway. Why leave on a sour note, just leave and fast?

With luggage in tow, we hopped the first bus that came along before Mrs. Kennedy decided she needed to charge us more for lost revenue. She may have been counting on our weeks worth for the kiddies’ Christmas presents, after all. Off we were to our new home, until Saturday, but Saturday is in the future and we only deal with the present and immediate future. This makes you realize how many tenses English really has.

Once in the city, we took our luggage for a walk again from the central bus station to the hostel that we had booked. It seems that our luggage gets walked more often than our dog ever did, but he was content with a large yard to run in and would come when called. Well sometimes he did. Our luggage gets abandonment issues when left too long. The wheels refuse to turn properly. The two pieces in London will be hell to deal with when we finally return to retrieve them.

The name Dublin comes from the Irish, Dubh Linn and means the black pool at the confluence of two rivers: the Poddle and the Liffey. Earlier in the history of the city, the name was Baile Atha Cliath, also in Irish, meaning the town by the hurdle-ford. The original setting was around a river crossing of the Liffey. This is the preferred name on signs for reasons of Irish language pride.

At the hostel, our room will not be ready until 1:00 pm, so the two pieces go into ‘Left luggage’, while we walk the city with a backpack on my back. If anyone ever told me I would stay at a hostel, I would have sworn to drive him or her to a therapist for delusions. Hostels and hostile seemed synonymous to me for some reason. I never felt like I would fit in and probably would feel the same now if Ron were not a blender inner. In the past, it has always been admirable to me when people say they did hostels, but it never seemed like the right choice for me. The image is a huge dorm room, which is true, they have those, but they also have private rooms with showers. When we were in Dublin the first time and passed this place, through the window, I saw elderly people in the lounge area. I figured if they can do it, I could do it.

With the luggage safely, I hoped, snuggled in with other pieces of luggage, we set off for the Tourist Board once again. We had thought about taking the Dublin tour bus, the hop on and hop off all day kind, but it was already 11:30 and they stop at 4:30 pm. Not much time for hopping, stopping somewhere and hopping again. Funny, the tourist board had not changed much since our absence.

Tonight was Hallowe’en and we wanted to do something special. Not having time to make our costumes, and not having bought kilts in Scotland, we booked a special night walking tour called the Zozimus Ghostly Experience. The tour people said they get very favorable reviews from former clients. It starts at 7:00 pm at the entrance to the Dublin Castle. We wanted to purchase the Dublin pass, which would have given us entry to three or seven sights associated with the tourist board. The woman told us it probably would not be worth our money since a few of the attractions were closed earlier than expected due to poor sales. We had planned on going to the Viking Adventure, which was recommended by friends and gives the history of the Vikings in Ireland, which is extensive. The other we wanted was the Dublin Experience, a multi-media presentation on the history of Dublin, but that was closed down. Strike three came with the James Joyce house and museum to the famous author. We were disappointed for sure. They were all still open when we were here last week for their final appearances. For tomorrow, we booked a day tour of Newgrange and Tara Hill, more about this tomorrow.

A short walk away from the tourist center is Trinity College, one of the most famous schools of higher education in Europe. One of the claims to fame is that the college was granted the status of being a repository of printed information for the entire United Kingdom. One copy of every book that is published in the U.K. and in the Republic of Ireland is kept at the Trinity College library. This is similar to the U.S. Congressional Library.

A second claim to fame for the college is it is the home to the Book of Kells. The book of Kells is a handwritten book of the four gospels of the bible that was created in the 9th century. It is believed that the book is associated with St. Colum Cille who founded his monastery on the island of Iona. In 806, the monks moved to Kells, County Meath, Ireland when Iona was attacked by Vikings and sixty-eight monks were killed. Each page of the book is intricately decorated. It is guessed that it took more than twelve artists, calligraphers, and book craftsman to create the book. The pages are written on vellum, calves hide and it is estimated it took one hundred and eighty-five calves just for this one book.

Upstairs in the old library where the Book of Kells is located, is the Long Library. This is a reconstructed library that is currently the holding place of 200,000 antique books, papers, and journals. Prior to the reconstruction, the ceiling was flat and there was limited room. In the 18th century, they redid the ceiling to be an arch of oak, which allowed additional rooms on a second level. The Victorians did not like the lightwood and stained it dark brown. Along the corridor of the first level are statues of famous people in literary, philosophical, and scientific history. For a bibliophile like myself, this was an orgasmic mental experience. Just give me a cot, a blankie, and throw me some bread and water once in awhile and I could be an ecstatic camper for a decade or so.

In preparation for our nighttime adventure lurking through the city, we decided to check into our room and take a nap. The hostel had coupons for a discounted pub dinner around the corner, so after a snooze, we had a quick dinner before our rendezvous.

At the meeting place, we met two young women from New Mexico. One of them ran in the Irish Marathon, the weekend we were unable to find room at the inns of Dublin. This was her first marathon and won the entire trip as a reward for raising money for the Arthritis Foundation. Running in a marathon would not have spurred me to be a rah-rah fundraiser, but it worked for her.

The experience was to begin. Our guide was the ghost of Major Sir, who died over two hundred years before. He treated his ‘troops’ like a Major too. We had to march initially, and Ron was picked out to be one of the platoon leaders. Ron falls into whatever character he needs to be with ease and grace, which I greatly admire. I on the other hand can be the perfect actor when on stage in the classroom, but other situations, I find intimidating. We were soon met by the real tour leader, Zozimus, a blind and aging character who also died centuries prior. We were led to scenes of great escapes, murders, and mythical happenings in the mediaeval city of Dublin. Along the way, there were other persons who added to the experience and created a memorable hour and a half tour that is worth joining and repeating. For only six pounds, it was more fun than many movies we have spent more to see. At one point, a couple of young men handed Zozimus a pumpkin, then they stole his hat. At first we thought it was part of the act, but it was not. We later found out that Major Sir and Zozimus were real people from the history of Dublin. If you ever come to Dublin, his web site is for more information.

We spent two hours at the Internet café afterward, sending the last piece and then looking up taste bud problems on since none of my nurse friends have come forth with suggestions like I had hoped would happen. I could rule out all of the causes listed: cold, flu, syndromes that I have never heard of, but after looking them up, I did not have those symptoms either. The last was gingivitis or poor dental health. I could rule that out since I bought my dentist a Mercedes with my frequent oral hygiene visits and compulsion to have my teeth cleaned every three months. Old age was another reason. I don’t think so! These buds better have years of mileage left on them once they return. I am back to square one, but after another couple of days of using the nasal spray, it is back to the chemist for more advice. Maybe I should try Sudafed, but I need to think about how much thinner I want to get before I create too many changes. This is the easiest diet I have been on.

Being Hallowe’en, we thought the pubs would be really festive. The people on the streets looked like they do every other day. The only sign that tonight was different from any other was the fact that fireworks started when we started our tour and continued for over two hours afterward. The pub was crowded and other than the bartenders who were dressed as a sailor and a roaring twenties clapper, there was only one person in costume. He was dressed as a firefighter ready to fight the blazes. At least we think it was a costume, since we did not smell smoke.

Knowing that we had to get up early for a tour, we finished our beers and were just about ready to leave, but I needed to use the facilities. I was not gone for five minutes and when I returned this guy was talking to Ron. Ron, it seems looked exactly like a friend of his and he just had to exchange pleasantries. As serendipity would have it, he turned out to be an ex-Augustinian monk who is now a Professor of Medieval history at a private women’s college. We chatted for some time and told him where we were going on our tour. He had some good suggestions of what we should try to include if we had the time to enrich the experience and then we excused ourselves and left.

Dublin is a real let down in the All Hallow Eve department. We never saw any children dressed for Trick or Treat, no adults in fun costumes, except one young woman that was dressed as a fairy or angel. She freezing in her skimpy little costume and her magic wand was not heated. She had a nasty cough.

The room is sparse, but comfortable with two twin beds. The beds and the comforters are a little shorter than we are, but they are warm if you curl your body. We are in the center of the city and can survive this better than having to commute an hour to get into town.

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