Originally published 19 November 2012.
Our first day in Dublin was definitely a good one! Yesterday’s adventure in Cork was a bit of a bust, but once we got to Dublin, the excitement was on! We decided to do the Hop on-Hop off bus tour and get an overview of everything before deciding what to do next. I’ve never done one before because I generally like to walk and explore on my own and find things the creative way, but seeing as there’s much to do and not much time, we wanted to be as efficient as possible. The bus drivers were wonderful! They were funny and seemed to have a fabulous attitude, even when sitting in traffic!
The Kilmainham Gaol (jail) was just across the street from our hotel, so that’s where we picked up the bus. That’s where people involved in the 1916 Rising were hanged and strangled, so it’s very important to Irish political culture. And a little creepy to know we’re sleeping across from it!
Our explorations then took us to the Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey. The Liffey river is the barrier between North Dublin and South Dublin. Apparently it’s like the Mason-Dixon line in the States. We bussed along the river a ways until we came to Phoenix Park, the oldest city park in Europe, dating back to 1662! The streetlights are all the original Victorian gaslights, so that’s kind of a neat thing, too. The Dublin Zoo is there, which is the fourth oldest zoo in the world. They’re known for their lion birthing, and as a matter of fact, the famous MGM lion was born and raised in the Dublin Zoo!
We came again to the River Liffey and heard about the Vikings who came to settle the area in the mid-9th century. I wish he’d talked more about that! One of these days I’ll go up to Scandinavia and get the full scoop from the source!
Moving right along, we came to O’Connell Street, named for Daniel O’Connell. There are LOTS of things named for O’Connell, and with good reason… he’s Ireland’s emancipator!
Stop here, switch buses, and on we go! Next stop: Trinity College. My friend Andrea went to Trinity last fall for a semester of school, and she inspired me with her stories of life in Ireland! Queen Elizabeth the First of England founded the school in 1592.
We made our way around again and decided to stop at the National Irish History Museum… mostly because it’s free! We only got through one exhibit—the one about war. It’s a huge museum made in an old Army Barracks, which is pretty interesting. It was just way too big to be able to get through in a day.
Next stop: Lunch, then souvenir shopping! We found a really busy café (appropriately called “Busyfeet”), and you know what the best thing about that was? Cherie’s and my hot chocolate came with mini marshmallows—white AND pink ones! =) Fun fun. Now that we’d gotten all fueled up, it was time to do the thing we needed to do: Shop.
Now, those who know me know I loathe shopping. But put me in a new country and it’s great fun! It’s an interesting way to learn about the people and culture in that country—what they like, what their stereotypes are, what’s authentic, how good or bad is the conversion rate between dollars and their currency, etc. AND you get to decide what to take back as a reminder of where you’ve been! I got a green wool blanket and some wool socks, as well as some Christmas presents. Cherie and Matt had the same idea: Christmas shopping!
Purchases made, we decided to take our things back to the hotel and figure out exactly how to get to the Brazen Head, where our dinner reservations were for the evening. Lucky for us, we would be able to hop the bus back to the Gaol across from our hotel. Unluckily for us, where was a protest going on in the streets! Abortion is still illegal in Ireland because of the STRONG Catholic presence, but apparently not everyone shares their stance. These folks were very much pro-choice. They were also irritating since we were trying to adhere to a schedule!
But fortunately, our bus finally came! We had to follow the protestors down the street for a ways, but the driver got a call giving him permission to deviate from the normal route and get around the marchers! He had a lovely attitude, as all the bus drivers did, and delivered us to the stop closest to our hotel in a timely manner!
Armed with long johns and hand warmers, as we had been all day, we set out to find the Brazen Head!
It’s the oldest pub in Dublin, dating back to 1195! The lady at the front desk said it would be a 20-minute walk and gave us directions. It was actually a 40-minute walk and it was not easy to find! Had we not known what we were looking for, we surely would have missed it! An interesting thing about Irish signage: it’s bad! Even the Irish laugh about it and say you really have to know where you’re going before you can go anywhere! We could not rely on road signs, but thankfully we had landmarks! And we always knew where to look:
Dinner was a very special, very culturally stimulating event. It’s called “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Faeries,” and Cherie and I both said it was our favorite thing we’d did during the trip! It was so good, it deserves its own post. That’s coming up next!