w r i n k l e d
ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL, WRITING AND AGING GRACEFULLY
Ireland, Part 1 – Dublin
Chris and I were last here 13 years ago. We had a memorable time touring the sights, staying up late drinking Guinness and growing teary eyed as we listened to penny flutes and Irish warpipes. Within days, Chris, had developed a horrible Lucky Charms brogue and somehow convinced me to sign a lease. We had hoped the kids would also appreciate and identify with the richness of their cultural heritage, but shocker, kids, or at least my kids, have no affinity for ornately decorated Gospel pages in Latin. Yes, we made it to Trinity College, but to bird, use the bathroom and buy a T-shirt in the gift shop. We missed the Book of Kells and the tour of the Trinity Library. The Irish Museum of Modern Art was closed the day we visited so instead we raced the garden grounds. We did a walk around, but not into, Dublin Castle. I loved Kilmainham Gaol even more the second time around, but the kids struggled with our guide’s thick accent and managed to learn nothing. There was nary a museum, castle, church or author home visit on our itinerary. Rather, our Dublin stay comprised mostly of walking between St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square, indulging the kids in birding and swing sets while Chris staggered behind, sacking out in 30 yard intervals on every available bench. In the evenings, we circled the drizzling streets of Temple Bar along with all the other tourists in search of good food and music.
Thusly, we had grand plans for our last day in Dublin, but we ended up sleeping in, wasting the morning with bottomless cups of instant coffee and magazine flipping. Overall, it has not been the roaring start to the journey we had imagined, but a necessarily slow one as we overcome jet-lag and navigate the balance between traveling, sightseeing, writing and teaching. Speaking of homeschooling, Chris and I are competing for the title of “Most Impatient Teacher.” According to the kids, Chris is currently in the lead, but only by a slight margin. We often interrupt our bickering over workbooks to wonder how our friends back home are managing the first few days of school with their new haircuts, freshly sharpened pencils and unsullied backpacks. It’s made me a little wistful for the first day excitement of old friends, new teachers and the structure of school lunches, homework and soccer practices.
But no time for nostalgia. Before I knew it we were once again packed up and loaded in the Peugeot headed to Belfast.
Looking for food in the Temple Bar
WHERE WE STAYED:
George Frederic Handel Hotel
Great location in the Temple Bar/ Medieval Area. Comfy enough beds. Cozy bedding. Adequate kitchen. Acceptable size. Friendly staff. But no dressers or racks to store our luggage, an incredibly awkward layout, beds on wheels that kept seesawing as if we are sleeping on a rocking boat. And don’t get me started on the super sketchy common areas. But whatever; as I keep telling my weepy kids: Home is not a building, but just us, together.
WHAT WE DID:
St. Stephen's Green
22-acre Victorian park in the city center. It has everything from flower gardens, nationalistic sculptures, a fun little playground and a man-made lake that collects tons of waterfowl. Isoo spotted 7 new life birds here!
This is Oona on 30 minutes of sleep cartwheeling through St. Stephen's Green.
They have nice T-shirts in the gift shop. Oh, and the Book of Kells are here. And the Trinity Library is where they shot the library scenes from the Harry Potter films. (Full disclosure: Chris and I saw them many years ago. While the illustrations are beautiful, I don't really blame the kids for digging their heels and refusing entrance. The library on the other hand is absolutely gorgeous, and one I'd love to revisit in the future.)
A side view of Trinity College's student library.
Dublin's most famous pedestrian shopping district. As I really hate to shop, I walked through this street pretty quickly. The kids on the other hand loved gawking at all the street musicians (this is the street where Glen Hansard sings in the opening of ONCE) and the really, really terrible break dancers.
Musician on Grafton Street
The Liffey (or Life) river runs through Dublin and is crossed by several bridges. A pedestrian boardwalk, called the Bachelor's Walk, runs the north end of the river. I once heard a story that a long time ago, the area featured many men's boarding houses and that the walkway was named for the sad, lonely men who would walk back to their dinghy little rooms after a night of carousing. I tried to research this, but couldn't find a story to substantiate my memory, which means that I could be making the whole thing up. And I ended the last sentence in a preposition so you know I'm really suspect.
The River Liffey as photographed from the Bachelor's Walk
Oscar Wilde used to live off this cute little Georgian park. While it's got some interesting sculptures and a schedule filled with cultural events, it was the cool playground that made it worth the visit.
"Gym class" in Merrion Square
The largest unoccupied jail in Europe and by far, my favorite "museum" in Dublin. It's a great way to learn about Ireland's history and the men (and women) who fought for its secession from England.
Right down the road from Kilmainham Gaol. Unfortunately it was closed the day we got there, but if memory serves, it houses a fantastic modern art collection and according to other experts, has a great garden for racing, as well as, birding.
Garden grounds of the IMMA
OK, if you ignore everything else in this lame report, the takeaway should be: Go Here. It's a little science shop conceived as an experimental pop up store next to Trinity College. It's manned by students of, you guessed it, the school's science gallery. Two years later, the shop is still there (though admittedly struggling to stay solvent). The store carries cool science related toys and gifts, and if you are lucky enough, you can walk in and ask them to teach a workshop for kids. Isoo got to build light and Oona made a drawing robot. And Chris and I got to feel satisfied that the kids actually learned something that day.
"I really love science if it means I get to burn stuff."
Making a drawing robot
WHERE WE ATE:
Queen of Tarts
We snagged an outdoor seat at the larger Cows Lane location and had, what was for Ireland – a pretty healthy and tasty breakfast.
Huge touristy landmark known for decent grub, the house Porterhouse brew, and lively traditional music. Hard to believe, but very few places feature Irish music these days as the locals prefer Rock n’ Roll and American pop. We throughly enjoyed the traditional Irish music until we discovered it was, Sloiter, the same group we heard last time we were in Ireland. Talk about career house band!
Falafels because one cannot live on Fish and Chips alone.
The Old Storehouse
Chris scoffed at the cover band, joyfully bellowing "Brown Eyed Girl", but Oona and I, shrugged and had a blast singing along anyway.
Cafe located in the very charming cobblestoned South Inner City area. Their fancy sandwiches are perfect for a picnic in St. Stephen’s Green.
Last year I discovered that I have a mild dairy allergy, which means that the day after I have any dairy, I wake up to a red, inflamed, itchy mustache. It is super unattractive and uncomfortable, and every bite of their locally sourced cheese is worth it. Not to mention the clerks look adorable in their aprons and neckerchiefs.
Checking out the goods at Sheridans
The Exchequer Bar
About the drinks in Ireland: Unless you want a pint or some airplane wine, the drink list is still pretty dismal. I ordered my usual gin martini at this trendy bar and was told I had to “wait till for the bartender who knows how to make martinis shows up.”
Jewel of the Crown
Early bird dinner special, which had us (over)stuffed with delicious Indian food at bargain prices.