Dublin Days 4 and 5

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.

Kilmainn Gaol Jail

Kilmainham Gaol Jail

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.

One of the hospital buildings

One of the hospital buildings

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.

The Merry Ploughboys

The Merry Ploughboys

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.

Dublin Day 3

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.

Today was a very busy day that took us from the busy streets of Dublin to the quaint roads of the Irish seaside. But the day began with another lecture, this one from the director of the Inter-religion Center at Trinity. The lecture took place in the brand-new Ecumenics Center, a building so new that we couldn’t even find the lightswitch. Ecumenics is not, as I first thought, a weird Irish spelling of Economics. It is in fact, as the director explained, “the intersection between religion and politics.” As he talked, I could definitely see why this would be such an important area of study for the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland is 84 percent Catholic and one’s religion is something that affects every area of one’s life, even for people who might not attend mass on Sundays. Nearly all the schools are segregated here by religion, so Catholics and Protestants go to separate schools. The Catholic Church dominates social life as well as it sponsors various sports teams and holds social events. Inter-marriage between Protestants and Catholics is very low and the lack of interaction between the two groups has caused problems (more on this once we get to Northern Ireland).

Dun Laoghaire

Dun Laoghai

Next we had another lecture on Irish travellers, similar to gypsies, before leaving campus to explore the seaside outside of Dublin. We got a packed lunch from the campus dining center and then boarded a Dart train (similar to the NJ PATH) for a 20 minute trip to the town of Dun Laoghai. It was a gorgeous day and we ate our lunch while watching the waves lap against the piers and rocks. We then walked down to an ice cream place called “Teddy’s” and got their famous “99” ice cream, which consists of this really creamy vanilla ice cream with a stick of chocolate in it. It was delicious.

One of the swimming areas

One of the swimming areas

From there, it was about a 15-minute walk to some of the swimming areas. I thought the water would be too cold to swim but there were a lot of people swimming and those that went in said the temperature wasn’t too bad. The swimming area was cool because you literally jump right off the side of the stone area into the sea. No steps or gradual decline here.

An excerpt from Finnegan's Wake

An excerpt from Finnegan’s Wake

After that, we walked up the hill to the James Joyce Tower, which houses the James Joyce Museum. Joyce is an Irish writer who has written books such as Ulysses, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man, and the practically unreadable Finnegan’s Wake. The tower is so named because Joyce lived there with two of his writer friends before leaving Ireland at the young age of 22. I had read a few books by Joyce in high school, so it was cool to see the various artifacts they had there.

GuinnessFinally, we boarded a bus to go to the Guinness Museum in Dublin. The whole museum was very cool and was shaped like a giant Guinness glass. Our tour guide said that, if full, the glass would hold roughly 12 million pints. Another fun fact we learned is that Guinness is made from barley, water, yeast and hops and that everything except for the hops comes from Ireland. The most interesting part of the tour for me was learning that Arthur Guinness originally signed the factory lease for 9,000 years! That’s quite a commitment and makes it easy to see why Guinness is so synonymous with Dublin and Ireland.

The brewery

The brewery

Dublin: Day Two

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.

The jet lag definitely made it difficult to get up for my first full day in Ireland. After breakfast, we had the first of many lectures we would have over the next few days about Ireland. This lecture happened to be on the Irish economy and the Celtic Tiger. After it was over, we had time to venture outside Trinity for lunch.

streets of dublin

The streets of Dublin

Walking the streets of Dublin is a very interesting experience. First of all, there are always a lot of tourists here. About 4.6 million people live in Ireland and there are more than 6 million tourists annually. This, combined with the crazy way people drive here (and in Europe in general) is probably why they paint “look left” and “look right” on the crosswalks. I couldn’t help but think that New York City, or any other American city for that matter, would never be so accommodating to its European visitors.

We eventually found a cheap café for lunch and ordered paninis, which turned out to be a mistake because the Irish have a very different idea of paninis than I do. They put it on a weird poppy seed roll and even put stuffing on it! Neither of us were big fans of this interpretation, so we went to the Spar’s across the street afterwards for candy. (Spar’s is basically the Irish version of a 7Eleven.) They take their chocolate seriously here; the store had a whole area just for “luxury chocolate.” Some of my favorite candy here so far are Aero Bars, Malteasers, Galaxy Bars and Mars Bars. With apologies to Hershey, the chocolate really is much better over here.

Dublin castle

Dublin Castle

We then went on the walking tour of Dublin, which was very interesting and helpful in getting our bearings. There is so much history in Dublin everywhere you look. The only cities I can think to compare it to in the U.S. are Boston or Philadelphia, but even those cities are only hundreds of years old, not thousands. Some of the tour’s highlights were the Bank of Ireland, the Temple Bar area, Dublin Castle, the new Dublin City Council Building, the Four Courts and the Liffey River.

There were some flags flying by the river, which our tour guide said were there because of an upcoming gaelic football tournament. All the counties enter a team and the Dublin County team had made it to the semi-finals. All the athletes are professionally trained and though they don’t get paid, our tour guide said the athletes are pretty much guaranteed a job for life because of the prestige that comes with playing on the team.

Sand sculptors near Dublin Castle

Sand sculptors near Dublin Castle

After the tour ended, we made our way to a section of Dublin where there were a lot of Irish pubs and restaurants. We ended up eating at a place called O’Neil’s and I had some of the best fish ‘n’ chips I’ve ever tasted. A few of the others who were with me had Shepherd’s Pie, which they said was fantastic as well.

Liffey River

Liffey River

Dublin: Day 1

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.

My trip to Ireland started on August 23 in Newark airport, where the main group flight left from. Our flight left at 9 p.m. and it took us about six hours to get to London’s Heathrow Airport. Once there, we dropped off one of our bags to be put in storage and then headed to a different terminal to catch a flight to Dublin.

We flew on Aer Lingus and one of the cool things about this carrier is that they said the announcements in both Irish and English. The other, even cooler, thing is that their seats were much more comfortable and roomier and almost everyone slept through the hour-long flight. It was raining when we left London, but it had cleared up by the time we broke through the clouds over Dublin and I was able to get my first view of Ireland through the airplane window.

I’ll pause now in my description of the days events to clear up some confusion about Ireland. Ireland is one island with two countries on it. There are 32 counties in total. Twenty-six of them are in the Republic of Ireland and the other six are in Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is independent while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Dublin is in the Republic of Ireland and Belfast is in Northern Ireland.

Anyways, the plane finally landed, we went through customs, got our luggage and then got on the bus to head to Trinity College, where we would be staying in Dublin.

Trinity College, Dublin

Trinity College, Dublin

Trinity College is located right in the heart of Dublin and has a very beautiful campus with a lot of cool old buildings. As we rolled our bags through campus to our rooms we walked past some fields where people were playing Gaelic Football, which as far as I can tell is a mixture of football (soccer) and rugby.

Trinity is Ireland’s oldest university and was founded as a Protestant school. Catholics were not even allowed to attend the school until the 1970s. In contrast, Ireland’s second largest university, University College Dublin is located across town and was founded as a Catholic alternative to Trinity.

After a short orientation that night, we had dinner and were then able to walk around Dublin a little bit before giving in to the jet lag (Ireland/England is 5 hours ahead of New Jersey). Dublin is the biggest city in Ireland but its narrow streets and unhurried nature make it feel much smaller at times. We of course had to go have a pint of Guinness at one of the local pubs and, on the way back, we even stumbled upon an ice cream shop that sold Guinness ice cream!

The view from room at Trinity College.

The view from room at Trinity College.