Top o’ the morning to ya, what’s the craic? Thanks to a four leaf clover in my pocket and the luck of the Irish, we find ourselves in the Emerald Isle in the Fair City of Dublin (and all said in an Irish accent) as the locals gear up for St Patrick’s Day.
To escape the madness that is Brexit, we’ve popped over to Ireland on a city break. My knowledge of Dublin is rather limited, I do know that Dublin was founded as a Viking settlement and that it means “black pool” in Gaelic, that’s about it (of course I know that, I’m a geek).
What I am expecting to see is leprechauns, shamrocks, U2, Celts, Irish bars, Paddy, Guinness hats, potatoes, gypsies, a horse riding a lift on a council estate, everything else in The Commitments and other insensitive awkward cultural stereotypes from a right wing English press (save the Guardian and Independent thankfully).
Yet despite my own family’s Irish ancestry, I’m still finding it hard to leave the clichés behind even though that once upon a time, Irishmen were the butt of Englishman’s jokes. I guess with the Brexit result, we are now the butt of everyone’s joke in Europe.
We’re stopping in a hotel in the financial district looking over the River Liffey like a leprechaun straddling a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, which coincidentally was needed to pay for the hotel. Dublin is bloody expensive, it’s nearly Dublin the price of everything back home (…geddit!) thanks to the lack of value of the pound (blames Brexit again). There’s no escaping that Dublin, like most capital cities is expensive, but it’s not quite in the leagues of Norway or Iceland yet but judging the building work, they’ll be the benefit of a Brexit boom when we go Brexit bust.
From some, the craic involves being squeezed into the touristy Temple Bar area where trillions of tourists in engage in rowdy drinking while my wife does the worst Irish impersonations. The people are great though. Slightly further afield will take you to other great pubs like The Stag’s Head which feels about as Dublin and traditional as it could get.
While Dublin is as guilty as many major cities with creeping globalisation and homogenised high streets of multinational shops, it does in places retain some individuality and charm even if some of it is missed as people fail to remove their face from their smartphone.
Trinity College Library is one of the worlds great research libraries and since 1801 has had the right to a free copy of all British and Irish publications. The main chamber in the Old Library is the beautiful Long Room, 65 metres in length and housing 200,000 old books. Trinity College is also home to the beautifully illustrated 9th century monastic manuscript Book of Kells, hand drawn and painted on vellum (scraped calf skin) it somehow survived Viking raids where 68 monks did not. Today, it’s on display for a small sum and you can’t take a photo. A different page is on display everyday, we saw Folio 27. It’s hard to believe the staggering detail and besides, a photo won’t do it any justice.
You can see other old books, prints and very old pages at the Chester Beatty Library for free at Dublin castle. Much older stuff can be found at the fantastic National Museum of Ireland Archaeology department and four remarkable iron age bog bodies including Clonycavan Man, seeing the hair on his chin, his hairdo, manicured nails and the brutal manner of his ritual sacrifice.
We managed to see more recent bodies with a tour of the crypt at St Michan’s Church. Rather strange to see the caskets and coffins, skeleton bones of mummified bodies of the nun, the thief with his missing right hand and the 6 1/2 foot tall crusader. Unfortunately you can’t take a photo of these, I guess to preserve the dignity of the dead, or as I suspect, to make some money out of it. But you could take a pic of the perfectly preserved coffins of the Sheares brothers, executed in 1798 for rebellion and the death mask of Wolf Tone.
Dublin’s a blast and it’s great for a city break. It was only 40 minutes on a plane for us and a 30 minute bus ride, we couldn’t have made it any simpler. Cheers!
You can read about our trip to the Guinness Storehouse here.