Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Diary of a World Traveler

Dublin Day 4: "Don't be so rude!"

We woke this morning after hitting the snooze button many times. But once we pulled back the blinds to see a cloudless blue sky, we were happy we got up eventually. The air was brisk, but when the sun shone on us we were never cold. It was absolutely the perfect day to explore the city of Dublin and some of its most historic landmarks!

I did not talk about yesterday much, since all we did was go to class at 8:30AM, break for an hour lunch at Insomnia (pro tip: don’t try the matcha latte, go for the chai tea), and then back to the hotel to read. We did go out to The Stag’s Head historic pub as well as Peader Kearney’s for some sessions, but they ended up being a bit boring and touristy for us. We went back home, got ready for bed, and slept until we got up this morning. Not a horrible day, as it was a rainy night in Dublin and the rainwater made everything sparkle in the streetlights. There was a sense of calm settled over the city as we walked back around 10:30. Little to no traffic, empty sidewalks, and the steady sound of rain hitting the pavement as we let our hair frizz and our feet splash. It wasn’t busy, but it wasn’t bad.

This morning, we got up around 7:45 (after hitting the snooze button many times to catch up on some much needed sleep). Breakfast was wonderful again, though I forgot to put a piece of cheese on my egg and toast. Diana and I also wrapped up a croissant to go, just in case we needed something before lunch or we ended up touring into the lunch hour. Then, after getting ready, we set out on a roundabout way to Dublin Castle. Walking Dublin in the morning rush is manageable in a small group, but nearly impossible in a large one. There are just enough people to make the narrow, uneven sidewalks feel full, and the streets jam up very quickly with bikes, motor scooters, cars, and box trucks. Because of the intense acceptance of j-walking and the length of the lighted pedestrian crosswalks, a lot of time is eliminated by ignoring the law. But when we have a professor who has never been here leading the way for 12 students, she is hesitant to cross on a red, even if there is literally no one coming. Despite it feeling like hours to get there, Dublin Castle was positively glowing in the morning light. Not a cloud in the sky, and it was perfect. We got a guided tour through the surviving medieval portions of the structure and an accessible section of the River Poddle—a now underground river that flows through the city and was once used by Vikings as a port off of the River Liffey. Seeing these ancient features was a great reminder of how long people have been walking where we are walking, doing what we are doing. That is something that I’ve really tried to appreciate while I’ve been here, since America is a relatively young country, and Wisconsin is a relatively young state. We lack the history that steeps this country’s bones. I revel in the chance to see the evidence of long-lasting human cleverness, hard work, and ingenuity. 

Once we saw the castle, we walked across the way to the Royal Chapel, which is singularly the most beautiful chapel I have ever been in. St. Patrick’s and Christ Church were gorgeous, but the Royal Chapel was used by the Royal Viceroy of England, not simply the common residents of Dublin. This means that literally every surface, no matter how simple, was covered in a bust, intricate woodwork, or stunning decorative architecture. Local Irish artists, commissioned by the state to promote Irish art, made all the dark oak woodworking and all of the busts and stonework inside. Fun fact from our tour guide: the columns were made to look like stone, but were actually constructed from plaster-covered wood so that the building would not cave on the unsteady foundation. When tapped, they sound hollow! The flawless organ presides over the room with a benevolent stare and a silent watch. The warm morning sun poured through the windows and illuminated every aspect of beauty in the room. It was surreal to be able to see that room on that day, with every inch of hard work exposed and appreciated by all of us.

All of us then walked across the courtyard to the Georgian addition to Dublin Castle: the elegant State Apartment complex, home of the Viceroys. A collection of around ten elaborately filigreed rooms are on display for tourists to walk through at their own pace, and they are something to behold. Every ceiling is vaulted. Every surface is covered in gold, crystal, or some combination of both. Every room exudes the undeniable luxury of Victorian era monarchy with style and grace. Particular favorites of mine included the dining room, the small circular room in powder blue, and the other green circular room with three huge windows. But really, the entire thing is gorgeous and I would highly recommend getting a tour of the whole thing, or even just walking through alone like we did. Just being able to see these places still standing is worth it.

Taking a small detour outside to enjoy the endless sunshine so rare to these parts, we all trekked out to the Dubh Linn Gardens—the old Gaelic name for Dublin, pronounced “doov-leen”. Stone walls surrounded the park and gave it a cozy feel. The green grass shined in the mid-day sun, a light breeze followed us as we walked the small brick paths. And the magnolia tree had already started blooming! What a wonderful way to relax in nature and take a break from touring for a little bit.

Next, we made our way back down Dame Street toward Trinity College. To avoid the long lines at the library museum, we waited until around 1PM to see the Book of Kells and the famous Long Room of the Old Library. After the quick walk from one to the other, we stood in the “q” for about 15 minutes before walking through the Book of Kells exhibition and the library. Learning about the binding, illustration, and calligraphy of the book was fascinating. Though the book itself was not really open to an exquisite page today (they show a different page every day), it was stunning to see the artistry and know that multiple people spent their whole lives making it. 

But the real treat, for myself at least, came after the book, when we got to see the Long Room. This still-functioning library has been a part of Trinity for centuries and houses some of the oldest books in the country and the world. Instantly after entry, the smell of antique books floods my nostrils and I breathe it in deeply. This is my oxygen. The two-story room is entirely paneled in beautiful dark wood, separated into multiple rows and catalogued by alphabet. All of the books can still be used and checked out by Trinity College students or scholars, but the books must be taken to an enclosed reading room and cannot be exposed to ink pens, food, or water. Extreme care has been taken to preserve not only the books, but the room itself—and that is something that I find incredibly necessary to promoting learning. To be able to touch and interact with artifacts from hundreds of years ago is a priceless opportunity that should remind us all not only how short our time is, but also how long our lives and legacies can be remembered through the appreciation of history and learning. That is what I strive to remember and perform in my life every day.

After returning to the (normal-smelling, unfortunately) gift shop, Diana and I sat on the quad to share a quick croissant before the group headed over to the National Museum of Ireland. This is part of a museum collective in Dublin, also including the Natural History Museum, the Art Museum, and a few others. The museum houses mostly fascinating human-related artifacts from the Vikings and pre-medieval Ireland, and provides information about the evolution of Ireland as a country and as an ecosystem. Though I always love learning more about manufactured items throughout history like medieval church craftwork, Viking longboats, and many, many weapons, I most enjoyed and would highly recommend the collection of four bog bodies. Yes, literal bodies. The photos above are real people, preserved for centuries thanks to the rare processes of the bog environment. The four men together have preserved teeth, bones, skin, finger nails on compete hands, intact hair styles, and even internal organs which suggest what they ate before they died. This is absolutely incredible and fascinating science! I am so happy that I got a chance to see the exhibit.

Our teachers released us after touring the museum, and as it was around 2PM, we decided to head straight to lunch rather than go on to the Natural History Museum across the way. We walk back up Kildare Street to our favorite Insomnia and got a quick chai tea and sandwich each. On the way back to the hotel, we made a pop into Boots to get some makeup with a 10% off coupon we received. I got a great haul of two pastel pink Barry M nail polish, some rose colored Bourjois blush and dark nude velvet matte lip color, and a Soap & Glory Supercat liner. So far I have tried the lipstick and the nail polish, and I love both of them. Plus, Boots has a lot of coupons and sales!

After picking up those things, we walked back to our hotel via the canal again. It was such a nice and sunny day that we decided to head up to our room, grab our books, and go back down to sit on the benches and read. This wonderful experience lasted only about fifteen minutes before the sun went under and the wind picked up and we got fairly chilly. We then moved back across the street to our hotel lobby, where there is a lovely little glass-enclosed corner that made it look like we were outside when really we were nice and cozy. 

Dinner came about four hours later. Mushroom soup, hake with tomato and zucchini sauce, and an unexpectedly delicious cappuccino and walnut cake. I had doubts about the dessert, but man, am I glad I ordered it. Another delicious meal to round out a great day. Now all we need is some sleep before heading off to class again in the morning. We also have plans to go to a music shop and the Natural History Museum tomorrow in between class and dinner. Should be lots of fun! Now I need to take advantage of my night off and actually get some sleep. 

Thanks for reading, everyone. It is so exciting to me to be reaching out to so many people about my incredible experiences. I hope you are enjoying my chronicles!

photo credit Diana Cleveland

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