Friday, September 2, 2011

Written In My Heart

"When I die Dublin will be written in my heart."
James Joyce

We loved Dublin. The city holds the best that a big city can offer - an attractive city center with pedestrian zones for comfortable walking, cosmopolitan restaurants, pubs playing traditional music, a prestigious university, quality museums, efficient public transportation, a large public park...the list goes on and on. Our vacation was drawing to a close, so our last few days were all about relaxing. To that end, we booked into a fabulous, luxurious hotel (the Westbury) and spent our days walking the city center. Our hotel was right off of Grafton Street, a clean, pretty pedestrian zone linking Trinity College with St. Stephen's Green, a large, city park.
Our hotel's turn down service included crystal water glasses and slippers by the bed.
We couldn't skip all the tourist sites though. The Book of Kells, written and illuminated in the late 700s, was an absolute must. While seeing the pages (only two are on display) was worthwhile, the exhibit and the way it is set up is absolutely horrendous. Initially, it seemed the entrance guards were doing crowd control and limiting the number of people going in, but the time between entries was only about 5 minutes. With all the pre-viewing exhibits set up in one, tiny antechamber - and at least a half  hour's worth of exhibits to study - we quickly found ourselves battling for space among huge tour groups. Thankfully, living in Italy has prepared us for what it took to actually see the Book of Kells pages themselves. The illuminated manuscript pages were beautiful, but I have to admit that my favorite was a page out of the Book of Durrows, a book I'd never even heard of and created about 100 years before the Book of Kells.

We also visited Dublin National Museum of Archaeology, an incredibly well done museum. Marble, mosaic floors, ornate and brightly colored tile door surrounds, and iron filigree buttresses holding up the roof made the building itself almost as interesting as the exhibits displayed.

Our final stop on the tourist track was the Guinness Storehouse. I don't even like beer, and I found the Storehouse fascinating. We spent hours and hours there, checking out each of the five floors that wind around a central lobby shaped like a pint glass - ingenious! In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease for a four-acre brewery at a cost of 100 pounds down and 45 pounds per year...including water rights. Clever, clever man. Whoever manages the Book of Kells exhibit should take a trip to the Guinness Storehouse. There must have been thousands of people there, and yet flow was excellent and felt uncrowded. Every display is interesting, made so by interactive exhibits, huge barrels visitors walk through with funky ads or videos displayed on the walls, a huge waterfall, screens with headphones to watch old Guinness commercials - every single aspect of the "museum" has been well thought out and presented. The crowning glory is the Gravity Bar at the top (the foam of the pint glass, so to speak), with a 360 degree view of Dublin, enjoyed while downing the Guinness pint that's included with entry fee. Guinness tastes different here.

In Dublin, we just spent a lot of time walking, enjoying the architecture and sampling the huge variety of food available to us. Dublin is definitely on our "watch" list now since there is a direct flight from Naples to Dublin in only two hours - an easy and enjoyable weekend trip!

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