Thursday, November 22, 2012


The drive to the airport was considerably shortened by choosing Southampton instead of Gatwick for a weekend away - however that was largely undone by an afternoon of fog cascading delays through the evening. Nevertheless, I made it into Dublin in good time to settle into my room & have a brief wander around Temple Bar & over and alongside the Liffey.  The slightly cooler air necessitated a winter coat & beanie/toque, but it was hardly uncomfortably cold.

My airbnb host had previously sent me a useful Google map with places to visit/eat/drink around the city.  Immediately catching my eye was small the eatery named Brendan's close by that apparently served the best full Irish breakfast in the city - for those working at the adjacent produce market.  It was a good meal to get me fuelled for a day wandering - & I got to meet a fellow Brendan.  It was a little strange being in Ireland for the first time & seeing my first name plastered in all sorts of places (it's an Irish name if you haven't joined those dots yet).  Along with the coffee shop, there was St Brendan's Hospital and then a minor character with the same name popped up in the book I was reading.

My first encounter with an Irish accent that completely bamboozled me was here.

I found Dublin a great city to wander around and get glimpses of a long and varied history.  Unsurprisingly, a lot of this was to do with rebellions and struggles.  I spent a good hour or so at the National Museum at Collin's Barracks where there was an intriguing exhibit detailing all the various places Irish have fought around the world.  It seemed to me that there were Irish fighting in most of the major conflicts around the world in the centuries before WWII, even when it seemingly had nothing to do with them.  Either they're always spoiling for a fight, they liked to fight oppressors or were just looking to be somewhere else.  I was puzzled that the republic refrained from sticking it to one of the biggest oppressors in WWII, but by then I suppose they had their independence & didn't fancy all the bombing.
Wishing I had a wider angle or could get a bit further from Collin's Barracks

The most interesting place I found to visit during my stay was Kilmainham Gaol a little west of the city centre.  Entry was by guided tour, but it was only six euros & it would have still been good value at twice the price.  The building itself wasn't particularly interesting, but the endless self-deprecating stories told of failed rebellion after failed rebellion were fascinating.  It was rather chilling, & not just from the mid-afternoon gloom & wind, standing in the windowless courtyard where the key figures from the 1916 Easter Rising were executed.  Obviously, that rebellion was also pretty rubbish & mass support for the independence movement only really got going after the harsh punishment handed out in that cheerless stone enclosure.
The Victorian addition to Kilmainham Gaol

General Post Office - one of the key buildings seized during the Easter Rising

It turns out that that famous stout does taste better in Dublin.  It may be accentuated by my only previous Guinnesses were consumed on the other side of the world, where all that shipping may have done something to it.  Still, it was good fun (somewhat surreal) sitting in a neighbourhood bar nursing a pint, reading Rebus and explaining the differences between Kindles & tablets to a guy setting up the karaoke whom I could hardly understand.  Dublin sure is not short of bars & pubs (I saw quite a few claiming to be the oldest around) - that is to be expected; but oddly, almost as plentiful as watering holes are convenience stores and, even more bizarrely, American diners.

Sunday was spent walking around a lot - two walking tours probably contributed to that.  The guides were excellent, with gentle ribbing of the hated English and yet more stories of disastrous attempts at overthrowing the rulers.  The intervening pub lunch was interesting - I quickly saw why a potato blight would lead to an awful famine.  I ordered Irish stew - the first guy behind the carvery put a healthy serving of mashed potato on my my plate & then covered it with stew.  The next guy then loaded more mash on & then thought I could do with four pieces of baked potato as well.  I don't think I've ever had so much potato in my life, & I didn't even finish it all. 

The oldest part of Dublin Castle - the tower at the back

The filled in bit where the black pool (the literal meaning of Dublin) used to be beside the castle. The River Poddle still runs underneath - what a great name.

The weird bit of Dublin Castle - it's only a castle, why not use vivid primary & secondary colours? Bare stone is so last century.

Of course, no visit to this city could be complete without visiting the Guinness factory.  Well, the Storehouse which is quite the behemoth of an old building surrounded by the still working factory.  With seven, or so, industrially-sized floors there's plenty of space for all the necessary visitor experience bits & bobs.  There were quite a few old industrial artefacts - even older than some of the stuff we've got at work, hard to believe as it is.  Getting to pour, & then hastily consume, my own perfect pint I then had to dash off to walk across town, get my bag & head to the airport.  No time for dinner that night, just as well all that spud meant I wasn't hungry or in need of a meal.

So a very good weekend in Dublin & I think I got a good overview of Irish history - I now look forward to visiting other counties, perhaps some of the southern ones.

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