Mailboxes in all the odd places

Inspired by a post at Travel Words, where a number of unusual UK mail boxes were posted there today. I knew I had a few photos of some that were a bit different than the run of the mill red pillar box. Actually, most of these photos are not UK red post boxes but you can see that. The first was one we’d walked by in the small town of Cobh, Ireland, on the Cork harbour. The next is from Roskilde, Denmark and the little green one was outside of a little, dusty antique shop in Dublin. I think it must be Victorian era.

Victorian mailbox in Cobh

Yellow house

Victorian letterbox outside an antique shop in Dublin

And two from my visits to the old set of Coronation Street. When we visited during the 2 years that the tour was open recently, you could get your postcards stamped in the shop with an actual Coronation Street post mark and then mail them in the mailbox on the street and they’d be delivered. Naturally, I mailed a few to myself!
Postbox on the Street
The Word from the street

Tour Ireland (2002) Part 6 – Back to Dublin and the end of the trip

Dublin's Grand Canal

Dublin’s Grand Canal

We’ve done the bus tour and we’re  back to Dublin.

Glendalough was our last stop before returning to Dublin. We drove out of the bad weather  and through some pretty valleys on our way to Dublin. The sky was clear and blue by the time we reached our hotel, the Burlington. This is a top class hotel not far from the Grand Canal in the south east of Dublin in the Ballsbridge section, within walking distance of the city center. We have booked an extra night here as we’re not flying out until Sunday.


Bill never mentioned leprechauns all week. This afternoon, one of the group asked him why. He delayed answering so long that I imagined he must be thinking “Damn, and I nearly got through the tour without someone bringing that up!” Bill told us that the word “Leprechaun” means “little people” who were shoe makers or cobblers. The origins are hazy but one theory goes that when the tall, dark, warlike and aggressive Celts invaded, the natives were small, peaceful folk who lived in ring forts which probably became the fairy rings of legend. These people seemed to disappear at will through perhaps they just fled the intimidating invaders. The cute little leprechauns we see were invented for the English tourists and it just got out of hand. Now they are out of fashion and considered tacky, Bill informed us. I agree.  Ireland to me is not the cartoon pot of gold and frisky, naughty little men in green coats. It’s a place of Celtic origins, of shamrocks and a people who are easy going, traditional and open and friendly. And the beer ain’t bad either!

A little more Dublin

Carole wanted a rest since she hadn’t slept well the night before but I had lots of energy and I wanted to go for a walk. I headed out, keeping in mind to look for a drugstore for a couple of things, stopping at the front desk to register our voucher for the Saturday night. The hotel seems full of conventioneers this weekend.

I walked across the Canal and ended up on Bagot Street, which seemed to have a lot of shops so I thought I might find a drugstore there. While walking I spotted a green antique freestanding letterbox, the kind you would have outside your own house for mail delivery, not the kind the post office collects mail in. The post boxes in Ireland are green, by the way, not red as in the UK. Anyway, the letter box was standing outside a small shop absolutely packed with … Stuff! Some of it antique, some of it collectible, some of it memorabilia. I spent 20 minutes in there just looking at the eclectic assortment on shelves, tables and hung on walls.

Dublin Georgian Door

Dublin Georgian Door

I continued walking, soon coming into Fitzwilliam square in the Georgian part of Dublin and gawped at some gorgeous architecture. Dublin is famous for it’s decorated and painted doors with their fan lights above and iron railing decorations on balconies and window dressing. The most elaborate door is black but has windows and a fan light that seems to have iron and wood work that looks like white lace covering it and ivy covering the brick surrounding the doorway.

Further down the road I realized as I looked a few blocks ahead of me, that I was at St. Stephen’s Green. I could see the glass enclosed shopping center on the far corner of the park. I knew there would be a Boots in there so I headed over, purchased what I needed and sought out a camera store on Grafton street to replace the lens cap that seems to have gone walkabout today.

We have signed up for the drive along Dublin Bay to a nice restaurant. We left early but the traffic was really heavy leaving the city.  We did finally get off the main road and followed the one that follows the waterfront through Dun Laoughaire, formerly called “Kingstown”,  where the ferries dock from the UK.

Sandy Cove is our stop, just past DL. There’s a martello tower at the end of that cove where James Joyce lived and wrote Ulysses. It’s a museum now apparently. The restaurant was a modern decor.  There was a woman playing the piano during our meal and she took requests. The food was superb! The sun was starting to go down when we left there, which made the view across the bay glow with the last bright light of the day.

The tour is over and we’re on our own again.  After a week of getting up early, we slept in just because we could!  The Burlington Hotel had a lovely buffet breakfast and we lingered over it, enjoying our pot of tea. It’s another sunny day and we’ve decided to have a walk around Georgian Dublin and then take the DART out to Howth at the north end of the line.


We set out about 11 and walked the two blocks to the little bridge across the Grand Canal. I was planning to find that antique store on Baggot Street again but I guess I got turned around and we ended up missing it and turned into  Fitzwilliam Square. This is the square where the house with the most elaborate door “lives”. I had seen it yesterday on my travels if you will recall. We admired it and walked on, looking for Merrion Square which is only a few streets away. The attraction here is mainly, for me, the Oscar Wilde connection in addition to the lovely architecture. We saw a few lovely old buildings turned into hotels and the American College on the corner. That’s the house where Wilde lived before moving to London.

Greene's, Dublin's oldest bookstore

Greene’s, Dublin’s oldest bookstore

On that intersection, diagonally across and in one building is Greene’s Bookstore, an establishment of some 200 years standing. There are display bins of books and postcards outside to browse through and inside the shop has several floors lined with old wooden shelves and display tables scattered around. The shop had the kind of atmosphere where you could almost imagine men in stovepipe hats and Victorian whiskers and women in shirtwaist dresses with floor length skirts browsing and climbing the staircase, a leather bound book or two under their arms. I’ve since been reliably informed that it is no longer open and that’s a damn shame!

We had a look on the main level where I found a small pocket sized hardcover biography of Oscar Wilde. It wasn’t his story in any great detail but it was a very good overview. We also found more of the bookmarks that were decorated with individual Celtic alphabet letters as inspired by the Book of Kells.   I had bought one at the bookshop in Trinity and Carole wanted a few for souvenirs but she couldn’t find a “W” for her mother’s name. The young clerk said it was because there was no W in the Irish language. But, wasn’t the Book of Kells written in Latin? (it was)  I thought so, and there is no J or K in Latin yet there were J and K bookmarks. Oh well,  I commented wryly, you could get the M and tell her to use it upside down! *snicker* I crack myself up sometimes!  Bookmarks and postcards purchased, we walked across the road to the square.

Just inside the wrought iron fence of Merrion Square is a statue of Oscar Wilde, depicting him somewhat more slender than is usually seen, dressed in bright colours,  languidly lying back on a rock and holding his trademark flower against a face twisted in a sardonic smirk. The bright colours are all different kinds of marble I guess, it’s not painted. The statue was only erected and dedicated about 5 years ago. I won’t go into biographic details of Mr. Wilde but I’ve always found him a very interesting, flawed and tragic man, ruined in part due to his own impulsive and stubborn decision to sue a man for libel which in turn brought out admissions that destroyed his reputation and his life.

We walked a little way into the park and saw an area off one path that seemed to be a little arboretum with different kinds of trees scattered around a greenspace.  The sun kept dipping behind a cloud and we lost patience waiting for it to beam down through the trees. It just seemed like that photo *needed* sunshine and shadows.

Along the outside of the fence on the North side of the square were works displayed by artists, something you are seeing more of lately. It’s a good place to set up on the weekends with lots of pedestrians walking past. We walked along the little gallery, chatting to one artist who was trying very hard to sell us a rather large and ungainly framed painting. A bit too tricky to carry on the flight as nice as the painting was.

Howth Abbey

Howth Abbey

Side trip to Howth

After consulting our little pocket map of Dublin we set off to find the DART station nearest, Pearce station. We joined the queue for a return ticket and made our way to the platform. The trains go fairly frequently so we didn’t have too long to wait. We were, however, disappointed because the train didn’t follow the shoreline of the bay on its’ way north like it does on the southern route.

Howth is at the last stop. You arrive in an old, small train station with a pub called the Bloody Stream underneath! We walked down the block towards the waterfront, consulted a large “you are here” map and walked along the busy road looking for a  suitable place for lunch. The first two places that appealed were either too crowded or too small. We did find a little place that did ice cream takeaway but had a light lunch menu in a little room to one side, filled with families. It was a bit noisy but we found a table and ordered a sandwich.  We did have a little translation problem with the server who was Chinese. The menu said “Pastries… please ask for what is available” so we did. Blank look. Pastries… Pastries…we pointed to the menu item. Ah… “Ham and cheese, tuna…” No, no… Pastries! Point again. Oh right. Got you now. Scones and apple pie. Now we’re cooking… Carole ordered pie and I ordered ice cream. A few minutes later an Irish server came over to ask what it was we had ordered. She must have had a translation problem too!

Howth is a fishing town and there weren’t a lot of touristy type shops at all. A few postcards outside a newsagent was the extent of it that we saw. It’s a working seaside town with a large marina filled with pleasure craft. It’s a good place for hiking around the outskirts and has a nice sea wall where  you can walk out around the harbour.  There’s a rocky little island just off the coast here called Ireland’s Eye.

We walked around the seafront and then headed up into the village further to see if we could find the ruins of Howth Abbey. The street we chose had a couple of nice restaurants including one that advertised Russian food. There was a small sign at the entrance to a narrow alley of stairs that pointed the way to a restaurant with the promise of a craft/gift shop which was across from the abbey so up we ascended. The craft shop wasn’t to our taste but the Abbey was. There was a little cemetery filled with flower covered graves beside the roofless ruins.  There’s a great view over the harbour from here. We poked around the grounds for a little while taking pictures and then descended back through the village to the main road again.

howthcastlepinkThe map seemed to indicate that Howth Castle was a bit out of town on the main road so we started walking. It was about a mile away I guess and still there was no signs to which road we should turn in. There was a sign indicating where the Transport Museum was so we headed up that way, remembering from the central map that they were close to each other. There was a pretty church that we passed and then the road turn and we saw a stone tower. There was the castle! There were quite old parts, that I believe date from Norman times and some newer parts. However when we were walking around one side, I spied a propane barbeque in a courtyard which seemed to indicate perhaps that someone lived there and that it was private property.

There were no signs about entrance fees or hours so I don’t know if any of the interior can be visited. There wasn’t anyone around so we didn’t try to find out. Never did see the Transport museum but I think it was a little further up the road. There’s also quite a breathtaking rhododendron garden a little farther on but we were too early for most of the blooms Carole said.

We were getting tired by now so decided to walk back to the train station and go back into the City to find some place to eat. We got off the train at Tara street station, which is close to the Liffey and walked down to the river. I wanted to have a look at the huge domed Custom House building which is on the North Side.  We went across the wide O’Connell Street bridge where we stopped to look at some jewelry and leather that a vendor had on display. Up O’Connell Street, where there are many statues of Irish Independence leaders, and lots of shops and a large department store, Clery’s  where we stopped in for a look at the jewelry counter inside the main door.

The General Post Office building is just there as well, with its tall pillars, some of which still bear the bullet holes from the 1916 Easter uprising. There’s another pedestrian shopping area that crosses O’Connell Street, Henry Street. We didn’t get there today but Carole was there last week browsing. We also bought some doo-dads in a tourist souvenir shop. This is a good shopping district for tourists but we really didn’t spend a lot of time here. By this time we had been out and walking all day and were footsore and ready for a rest. You lose your enthusiasm for experiencing the ambience of a place when you can hardly put one foot in front of the other!

We found a fish and chip shop that wasn’t filled up after trying a few larger restaurants first. We sat and had our dinner and a restorative cup of tea. Shall we get a taxi from here or walk across to Temple Bar and get one from there? The taxi rank on O’Connell street had a long queue so walk we did. We ended up near Trinity College, thinking we could get the bus as there was a stop right by the hotel but we waited for about 15 minutes and none of the route numbers that we needed passed us by so we walked a little further and realized we were at the other end of Grafton street. We knew there was a taxi rank at St. Stephen’s Green so we went through Grafton street where many of the shops were now closing for the day. We made our way up to St. Stephens, got a taxi and arrived back at the hotel where we arranged with the concierge for a taxi to the airport tomorrow morning. After consulting his expertise, we realized the airport shuttle bus wouldn’t be practical and he’s going to get a taxi to come for us about 5:30 a.m. URGH!

Back to our room for an early night. It’s odd that some of the nicest hotels we’ve been in had no tea and coffee making things in the rooms! We repacked out suitcases to distribute our clothes and souvenirs. I managed to get everything to fit so I didn’t have to use the extra fold up carry on bag I brought.

I knew the time I had in Dublin wasn’t going to be enough. 2 full days and a few hours of 3 others. The first few days in a city I always seem to spend walking around covering a lot of ground and seeing the major sights where possible. But mostly I don’t actually spend extra time at each place. For instance, although we did go into Christchurch, we didn’t try to investigate which parts of Dublin Castle were open to the public nor spend time really browsing in Greene’s bookshop. I wanted to “see” as much as I could which gives me a “lay of the land” feel. Strictly tourist.

If I have more time, then I know I can spend a morning in a gallery or a museum or browse through lots of market stalls instead of just 2 or 3.  I can spend a few hours just poking around alleys and churches in just one small corner of  a city.  I do start off with a list of sites I hope to get to see but along the route to the destination, one always comes across interesting shops or a pretty church or an unexpected market in a courtyard that needs investigating, especially if you end up going the long way around because you took a left instead of a right at that intersection back there.  So the next time I come back to Dublin, I want to browse markets, gape in a gallery, find a small obscure museum, breakfast at Bewleys and prowl around the O’Connell Street area in more detail. And whatever else the wrong turn at the intersection reveals.

We had set the clock for something unGodly and you might know, a few of the conventioneers seemed intent on having a party in the hall outside our room. We had tried to go to bed early, about 9, but they were hollering and laughing. At one point Carole peeked out the door and saw a middle aged man on the floor with another one trying to drag him along! There were a few more as well and they had the doors to their rooms open or were parading back and forth banging on each other’s doors and hollering. Finally Carole called down to the desk and they sent someone up to ask them to at least keep their doors shut. It helped some and eventually they settled down or went out or something.

We managed to get to the airport and away the next morning. Carole was flying home via London and I was stopping over in Manchester for a last visit with some friends, flying to Canada from there, via Toronto.   As always it’s good to sleep in my own bed surrounded by my own things. I hate to come home in a way because I so enjoy seeing new places and spending time with friends that I don’t see very often.

Ireland is another place I want to go back to and a quandary, what about seeing new places? We are thinking it might be a good road trip some day. You never know!

Tour Part 1

Tour Part 2

Tour Part 3

Tour Part 4

Tour Part 5

More Begorrathon.

Dublin in Detail (2002)

Dublin, St. Stephen's Green

Dublin, St. Stephen’s Green

Continuing on my adventures for my first visit to Ireland in 2002, we’re setting out from Cobh, near Cork, to Dublin this morning by train, under gray skies.  We got to Dublin about 2:30 and took a cab to the Harcourt Hotel in Harcourt street. Great Hotel! I think it was a former home of George Bernard Shaw, or  has Shaw connections anyway. It’s expanded into a building next door as well, where our rooms were. The hotel is just a couple of blocks south of  St. Steven’s green and right across the street from the Garda headquarters (police). They have a pub where they lay out the buffet breakfast in the morning, a small restaurant and a dance bar as well. There is a resident’s bar called Barney Google’s where traditional Irish music is played most nights as late as there are patrons to play for. We took advantage of that!

My friend and cow0rker, Carole, has spent the last couple of days on her own in Dublin and met us at the hotel when we arrived. Through the rest of the day, 6 other friends were arriving from various locations in Ireland and the northwest of England. We set up a time to meet in the hotel pub for 7 tonight for drinks.

In the meantime, there was Dublin to get a first look at. Carole and I and Eoin, the first of the others to arrive, headed out and down Harcourt Street that led right into Grafton Street. Lunch was a priority and we ended up in a cafe in the top floor of the St. Stephen’s Green shopping center, a lovely glass roofed structure with lots of light streaming in.

Dublin, St. Stephen's shopping centre

Dublin, St. Stephen’s shopping centre

Grafton street is a pedestrian shopping area with some lovely stores, an upscale department store called Brown Thomas, and lots of cafes and restaurants including the famous Bewley’s. I suppose we should have gone there for lunch but as we really are unfamiliar with the city, what did we know? After a bit of window shopping along the street, we went over to Dawson street, which is parallel, to examine the lovely St. Anne’s church which seems to have associations with a number of famous former Dubliners including Bram Stoker of Dracula fame! The church didn’t seem to be open so we walked onwards.

Next, a look at the Mansion House, former home of the Lord Mayor since 1715 but now used for civic functions. Also on the grounds is a lovely looking and probably expensive restaurant.  We headed back south and came to St. Stephen’s Green which is really lovely. It was an ancient common land but enclosed in the 18th C. and laid out in it’s present form as a Victorian park in the 1870s. There are ponds, gazebos, flower beds, lots of ducks, statues and lots of trees, bushes and memorials.

Back to the hotel to freshen up before meeting the rest at 7 with hugs and renewals of acquaintances all around.  We made reservations at an American restaurant, TGI Fridays, just across from Stephen’s Green so we all walked down there en masse. The restaurant was really busy and even though we had reservations they weren’t ready for us for over 3/4 hour and we didn’t end up getting our food until 10! Luckily, they have an extensive cocktail menu. Ahem.

We were all relaxed and enjoying ourselves just the same then back to the Harcourt and the resident’s bar. We got stuck in to drinks and later an old friend of Rose’s arrived. A musician. Rose is a singer, and has sang in bars and pubs for many years on and off. She and her friend Martin entertained us with some traditional Irish melodies and her voice is absolutely stunning! It really topped off the evening. I went to bed about 2 though I believe some of the others went on a few more hours.

Saturday’s weather is going to cooperate again today, a bit sunnier than yesterday too. Breakfast was a buffet in the pub of the hotel, the usual full cooked fare. We all scattered around 11 to pursue our own interests, planning to meet back at the bar for about 6 tonight.

Carole and I planned to walk around the city to see some of the major sights. Well, as much as our feet can stand at least! The centre of Dublin is not that large and it’s flat so walking is easy. Down to Grafton Street, we paused a couple of times to watch some buskers performing.

Grafton Street, Dublin

Grafton Street, Dublin

We walked down Exchequer Street west of Grafton and came upon a huge old building that may have been a treasury building perhaps but which contains a covered market now. It’s very hip, funky, with books, records, cd’s, clothes that were gothic and flowing, lots of inventive jewelry and organic food kiosks. I bought a small bag of Turkish Delight, amazed that it actually comes in so many flavours! Carole purchased some dried lavender so her suitcase will smell lovely!

Again we walked, looking for Dublin Castle. I think we ended up walking around the back of the compound that houses the castle and a few other buildings but we came upon Christchurch Cathedral first and as that was on our list to investigate, we navigated across the busy corners to the cathedral close.

Dublin- Christchurch tiled floor

Dublin- Christchurch tiled floor

The cathedral has the most marvelous tiled mosaic floor, in dark cinnamon reds, terra cottas,  black and white and which matched quite the loveliest baptismal font I’ve ever seen.  Inset into the cobbled surroundings are paving stones imbedded with ancient brass artifacts discovered in architectural digs and there’s the foundations of an old chapter house. There’s a foot bridge across a street to Synod Hall where the Dublinia attraction is. This is a museum on the history of medieval Dublin. That would have been fun to see as well but we wanted to cover more ground.

Leaving there, we headed down Lord Edward Street and stopped for a cup of tea at a small cafe called Munchies right next door to a very unusual craft shop called Whichcraft (I’ve Googled it and it looks like it might still be there). The items are unique, modern art and are all made by Irish artisans. There’s a larger showroom across the road and down a side alley but that had all the really upscale more expensive things. Far above our budget though the first shop was reasonable.

Dublin Castle Bedford Tower

Dublin Castle Bedford Tower

We found Dublin Castle near the city hall. The castle is now mainly offices though I think you can go into a few of the buildings to see the paintings and ceilings. There’s an old Norman tower, a gatehouse tower, an old chapel and state apartments in the compound. On the other side, where we discovered some edifices of the castle painted shocking colours like blue and yellow and green (ugh!) was a circular lawn with a celtic knot tiled into it and then a cafe built in a castle looking structure which I guess was built to reflect the real thing. There’s the Chester Beattie library that has some lovely paintings in it as well (and public washrooms and some benches of which we availed ourselves to rest our feet again)

We headed down a side street on the edges of the Temple Bar area towards the river and noticed a sign pointing to an enclosed courtyard hosting a gourmet market! Most goods were organic, with cheese, meat, baked goods, pies and quiches, fruit and veg on offer. People were milling about eating things like pancakes with fresh cream, bananas and Bailey’s Irish Cream poured in!

Down to the River Liffey which looked desperately filthy with a lot of debris floating in it. It’s lined on both sides with brightly painted buildings along side some really large official edifices like the Four Courts and the Custom House. The river is crossed by a number of bridges, both vehicle and pedestrian, including a very pretty one with white painted wrought iron decoration called the Ha’penny bridge, which is what the toll to cross it used to be.

Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge

Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge

Pictures taken and then we headed into Temple Bar proper, an old quarter of Dublin, now filled with  restaurants, pubs, a few hotels, and lots of tourist shops. Streets are narrow and cobbled, buildings have bright signs and murals on the walls. Temple Bar is also very near Trinity College so there are a lot of  young people in this area of the city. There are squares with performers and street vendors. We wandered awhile then  decided we would get a taxi back to the hotel even though it wasn’t all that far to walk. Our feet hurt and we wanted a rest and a cuppa before the evening’s get together.

Dublin looks a little run down around the edges in places but it’s very colourful and vibrant. There are startlingly large ornate buildings and churches that spring out at you as you come around a turn in a street or glance down a side road or alley. They look all the bigger because most of the buildings aren’t that high. There isn’t a lot of green around but there are some large leafy parks and squares around. There are more cobbled streets than I expected, not just the pedestrian areas. We’ve seen the more formal St. Stephen’s Green but have not been on Trinity Campus or Merrion Square where Oscar Wilde’s former home is and a lot of the famous Georgian architecture stands.

I know there just is not going to be enough time to take it all in. We don’t want to exhaust ourselves though we’re pretty tender this afternoon! I don’t know if we’ll get to the north side of the Liffey where there is more Georgian architecture but the Globus orientation tour next weekend will probably takes us around some of O’Connell Street at least.

Rose made a reservation at a restaurant in Temple Bar but not until 9 o’clock and most of us didn’t want to wait that long because likely *if* we got sat down then, we still might not have eaten until a good while later. She, Mal and Rosalind decided to go there anyway and the rest of us walked down into Grafton street to try our luck. This isn’t always recommended because the restaurants and pubs in Dublin of a Friday and Saturday night are usually heaving and difficult for larger groups to get tables. We ended up at Captain America, another American restaurant but this one looked like a version of the Hard Rock Cafe with music memorabilia all over the walls. We had a little wait at a very crowded bar but were able to sit all together. The food was really good and the service was excellent!

On the way there, at the corner of Grafton by St. Stephen’s Green there was a bank of horse and buggies. Annie and I looked at them and then at each other with the same idea and on the way back, about 10:30, we broached the idea of a buggy ride to the others. Eoin and Carole decided to join us and the rest headed back to the hotel for a spot in the resident’s bar.

We opted for a half hour tour around the area, with an enjoyable running commentary by the youngish driver. We saw the area around Merrion and Fitzwilliam squares with the lovely famous Dublin doors, the large museums and government buildings, and the Grand Canal. We even got a ride right to the door of the Hotel! Can’t beat that and it really did feel magic, wrapped in a blanket against the cold night air, with the echo of the horse’s hooves on nearly empty streets.

The musicians on tonight at Barney Google’s were especially talented though didn’t sing as much. We had a comfy corner with sofas but the only down side was that the smoke didn’t circulate very well (this was before the smoking ban in pubs and restaurants) and it settled over us. Rose, Mal and Rosalind got back later after midnight after having a blast at a pub in Temple bar. Dancing was involved, I gather.  Not long before Carole and I decided to head to bed, Rose’s friend Martin from the night before arrived along with some others carrying instruments so I think they were settling in for another stretch but we were shattered with all the walking and fresh air. (and Guinness! Did I mention I have developed a taste for Guinness? It’s lovely, really!) Annie came upstairs with us for a visit and to clear her lungs of the smoke as well before bed.

Most of us made it up for breakfast for our last morning together and then five of us made our way around the corner to the antiques fair which was in the old gymnasium of Newman House. That was part of the old Catholic university of Trinity and now the University college. We had seen a sign at the intersection all weekend advertising the sale for Sunday morning and we were not disappointed!

Oooh it was lovely! Lots of linen, jewelry, china and other odds and sods of memorabilia packed into the two aisles and what looked like the stage area. I bought some old linen and a really interesting ring and Carole bought some jewelry as well.

We all converged back at the bar in the hotel at 1:00 p.m. for a goodbye drink and a Show And Tell for our morning’s purchases and activities.  We had lots of laughs, hugs, tears (that would be me!) and a group photo taken. We scattered in taxis, some to the airport, train stations and Carole and I to the Jurys Montrose which is out in a posh suburb of Donnybrook opposite the Royal College of Dublin. We were going on a bus tour and due to join the included orientation tour of the city at 3:00 and we just made it with about 20 minutes to spare once we got checked in.

That afternoon and the rest of the week were spent with the bus tour and that’ll be posted in parts soon.


More Begorrathon posts.

Dublin’s Fair City

Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin

My nephew is currently touring around Ireland so in honour of that, a few stories from my visit to Dublin (in 2002!).

I arrived in Ireland, initially spending a few days in the town of Cobh, near Cork, to visit a friend. I stayed in a B&B on the waterfront overlooking Cork Harbour with a great morning view of the sun rising over the water. We took in the cathedral that had swastikas in the floor tiling (because originally, the swastika was a symbol of good luck, before Hitler adopted it and it became a symbol of hate). We also visited the Queenstown Experience which is a museum telling the story of Queenstown (which became Cobh, pronounced “Cove”). It told tales of the Irish famine and emmigration to the New World, and had lots of photos and artifacts from the Titanic which stopped off here as it’s last land point before heading to its fate.

There’s also a little island between Cobh and Cork called Fota Island which has a little wildlife park/zoo and a restored grand house (as well as a golf course and nice restaurant in the clubhouse!) We had a nice walk around there, too, looking at the animals and birds.

On to Dublin to a weekend of exploring and partying. I met up with 10 of my internet mates from various places in the UK and Ireland and we hung out in the hotel bar at night and checked out the city in the daytime. My friend from Canada had met up with us there as we were later to take a short bus tour around the Republic of Ireland.

Dublin’s own Grand Canal

Dublin is a nice city, very historic and old and the city centre is compact and flat. Great for walking and getting around! We found a gourmet food market in a courtyard, somewhat hidden away from the bustle of Temple Bar, had a look in Christchurch Cathedral (no swastikas here!) and we found another funky market not too far from the hotel near Dublin Castle, too. We browsed the lovely shops on pedestrianized Grafton Street, walked along the riverfront, strolled through St. Stephen’s Green and sampled a bit of the night life. Our hotel had a late night residents’ bar that would stay open as long as we wanted to drink and after the pubs and clubs closed, musicians dropped in for an impromptu performance. What was even better, one of our group used to sing and joined in with one of them as she’d known him from her earlier days. I discovered that Guinness, freshly poured from a beer pump in the city where it is brewed is indeed a beautiful thing!

On one other night, after a late meal, a few of us decided to take a ride in one of the horse and buggies that cluster around the Green for tourists. The city was quiet, the clopping of the horse’s hooves echoed off the old stone buildings in the chilly early spring night and the driver kept us entertained and informed. He even dropped us off at the front of our hotel which wasn’t far from St. Stephen’s Green where we’d started from. It was kind of magical, really, and definitely unforgettable.

On Sunday Irishringsmorning, a few of us discovered a flea market/estate sale just around the corner. We spent an hour or two digging through the treasures on the tables. I found a silver ring with a setting that looks like leaves holding a turquoise, black and red “stone” made of a hard clay substance called Fimo (or feemo?). I get remarks on it to this day because it is so different looking as you can see here.

We had a last lunch together before everyone scattered to go their various homes in various directions and my friend and I were about to embark on a bus tour around Ireland with a couple of days back in Dublin when that was done. The tour was really good, too, and we saw a lot of lovely countryside, did a lot of shopping and met some really nice people, as well.

Oscar Wilde and “Mother”. Merrion Square, Dublin

Back in Dublin, after the tour, we were staying in a different neighbourhood, not far from a canal. It was a pretty spot and still close to the city centre so it wasn’t far to go. We saw a lot of the posh Georgian houses and squares here, houses with some of the famed fancy doors. We browsed in the oldest bookstore in Dublin, Greene’s, which is over 200 years old. It is across from the house where Oscar Wilde used to live, now an American College, which is also near Merrion Square where, in the park in the square, a well known statue of Wilde languishes on a rock behind a statue of a pregnant woman, purported to be his mother. Merrion Square was laid out in 1762 and has some lovely red brick townhouses with those lovely Dublin doors.

In Greene’s, we also found some plastic laminated bookmarks that were decorated with individual Celtic alphabet letters as inspired by the Book of Kells, found in Trinity College. I had bought one at the bookshop in Trinity College after we’d seen the Book of Kells and my friend wanted a few for souvenirs but couldn’t find a “W” for her mother’s name. The young clerk said it was because there was no W in the Irish language. But, wasn’t the Book of Kells written in Latin? (it was) I thought so, and there is no J or K in Latin yet there were J and K bookmarks. Oh well, anyway, I commented wryly, you could get the M and tell her to use it upside down! *snicker* I crack myself up sometimes!

I’d mentioned we’d seen the Book of Kells. The bus tour ended with a tour around Dublin and a stop at Trinity College. The college was founded in the late 16th century by Elizabeth I as a Protestant centre of learning. Catholics were allowed to attend, technically, but the Catholic Church in Ireland forbade Catholics from attending university there until 1970 unless they had the Bishop’s permission. The Book of Kells is an old gospel illuminated by monks dating from about 800 AD. It really is a beautiful book and the illuminations are so detailed and bright even after all these centuries. Here’s a link to my post which has a link to an online viewable version of it.

We also took the light rail out to the end of Dublin’s bay where the town of Howth is. Howth is a pretty “seaside” town with the remains of an old abbey high on a hill overlooking the bay. There is an island in the bay called Ireland’s Eye. Howth used to be a fishing village but is now a residential suburb of Dublin though there are lots of remoter hills for hiking surrounding the town.

Ireland’s Eye, looking over Dublin Bay from Howth Abbey ruins

I’m sure there have been changes in Dublin since we were there 12 years ago but the city centre probably remains much the same. We didn’t get the chance to go into any of the museums or do any proper shopping, preferring to walk around the old city and soak up the atmosphere and there is plenty of that in Dublin!

The Book of Kells for free

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Home of the Book of Kells

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Home of the Book of Kells

A few days ago I posted an entry to a photo challenge about Illumination. I posted a photo of a medieval copy of the Canterbury Tales, which was illuminated. There was a bit of discussion about the Book of Kells, the famous illuminated gospel at Trinity College, Dublin. Lo and behold, today I see a link to the college’s blog and they now have the whole book of Kells online, digitally scanned using the latest technology.

You can see it through this link. Each page is zoomable so you can see the exquisite detail. If you never get the chance to go to Dublin to see the real thing, this is the next best thing. Heck, even if you have seen it, this is pretty awesome since when you see the book, it’s opened to one spread of pages and you don’t get to see the rest of it unless you come on a different day and hope they’ve changed the view. Most excellent!

What I particularly like is that you see the thumbnails down the left so you can scroll to the pages that have more design on them and then zoom in to see the beautiful detail work. Next best thing to being there!