Note: Prior to studying abroad in London, I spent 10 days in Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the prequel class “The Pale and Beyond.” We spent five days in Dublin and then five days in Belfast learning about Irish culture and identity. For more about my time in Ireland, check the Ireland category tag on the right.
We started the day four of our trip at Dublin’s Old City Hall where we were given coffee and lots of delicious biscuits, which our professor continually convinced us to eat more of. Eventually, we started putting the biscuits in our coat pockets because we were too full, and they were soon all “eaten.” Next we went into the main city council chambers to get a city planner’s perspective on Dublin’s growth in the past few decades and the challenges the city still faces today. It was really interesting and the city planner touched on a lot of interesting topics such as historic preservation, the Dublin bike scheme, transportation and housing development, and some of the “patchy” regeneration Dublin has experienced. There’s a lot of economics involved as well as politics and architecture. Interdisciplinary knowledge has certainly been a theme throughout the trip so far.
We had lunch at the nearby Epicurean Food Hall and I got fish ‘n’ chips from Leo Burduck’s, which is suppose to be famous for that. Then we got on the tram again to visit the Kilmainham Gaol jail. Kilmainham Gaol is very old and has an eeriness and dampness about it that befits a jail. Many Irish leaders leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish Revolution and the Irish Civil War were held in there and, while it would be a stretch to say the place is haunted, many parts of it feel like a graveyard and it commands similar respect. Many films, including “In the Name of the Father” were also filmed here.
On the way back, a few members of our group wanted to check out the nearby modern art museum but it was closed due to construction. As consolation, we all walked through the grounds of the museum, which used to be an old 17th century hospital. It was very beautiful and you could see the Irish countryside in the distance.
We finally made it back to Trinity and had about an hour to get ready before departing for the Merry Ploughboy Pub. The inside of the place looks like a traditional Irish pub with a bar at the back, a stage at the front and several rows of long tables. We took up one of those tables and enjoyed the traditional Irish food they served us while we waited for the entertainment to start. The first people out on stage were the Merry Ploughboys themselves who performed many traditional Irish songs. They were great at getting the crowd involved and the songs were very fun. They then yielded the stage to some Irish dancers before coming back on to play a final set.
Throughout the evening, we all had a lot of fun enjoying each other’s companies and having a few drinks. We also had some unpaid entertainment throughout the night courtesy of a rather drunk old Italian guy at the next table over. He kept yelling at the Merry Ploughboys to play Italian songs proving that Americans are not always the obnoxious drunkards.
For our last full day in Dublin, we had most of the day to explore the city and do whatever we wanted. I began the day by going on a two-hour walk around Dublin with my roommate. We walked up the Liffey River and came across some cool old churches and also some cute residential areas. We didn’t have a map with us but were always able to use the river to guide us back into town. The personal highlight for me was the two bookstores we came across. I got a copy of Dubliners by Joyce for only 3 (about $5). It seemed like the perfect book to buy in Dublin and I also got a few other books, which, will certainly not make my suitcase any lighter on the return trip.
By the time we finished our nearly two-hour long walk we were starving. We were too tired to walk around and find somewhere cool to eat, so we ended up having lunch at T.G.I. Friday’s. After that, we did some shopping in the downtown Dublin shopping area and also picked up some souvenirs for friends and family.
We then went back to Trinity so we would have some time to chill before going to the Riverdance performance that night. We all got a little dressed up and then met on the steps to walk over to the show. The theatre was called the Gaiety Theatre and had that ornate, old-fashioned theatre feel to it. We had to walk up quite a few flights of stairs to get out seats, which were in the last row of the theatre. We were a little worried about not being able to see anything but once the performance started, it was easy to enjoy the music and watch as dancers filled the stage.
At intermission, we all got this traditional ice cream treat, which was basically ice cream with some sort of congealed food coloring type thing. Regardless, it was pretty good and after watching the last half of the show, made our way back through the Dublin night to our rooms at Trinity.