Friday, August 14, 2009

Dublin's Fair City...

On our way to the hotel, Joe gave us a tour of Dublin, so that we could get our bearings. We purchased the "Hop On, Hop Off" bus tickets as we found the last time we were in London that it was a good way to get around.

The Wellington Monument is 200 ft tall, making it the largest obelisk in Europe and the second largest in the world, behind the Washington Monument. The foundation stone was laid in 1817.

We stopped in Phoenix Park for a "comfort" stop. The park is the largest enclosed urban park in Europe and encompasses 1760 acres. It contains the Dublin Zoo, which is known for its pride of lions, one of the which is the MGM lion. The park is also home to a herd of wild deer.

Another awesome tree..

Ashtown Castle is a fortified house located in Phoenix Park. It was found hidden within the walls of a much larger and more recent building. When the larger building was deemed structurally irreparable due to dry rot and was being demolished, Ashtown Castle was discovered within and has since been restored. The green hedge surrounding the castle shows the footprint of the building that was demolished.

The Victorian walled gardens located in Phoenix Park.

Lots of beautiful flowers and lots of bees enjoying them. Can you spot the bee?

More flowers, more bees...

Aras an Uachtarain (Irish for President's House) was developed from an 18th century park ranger's lodge and has gained a special place in the hearts of the Irish people in the 21st century. A light is always left on upstairs to welcome all Irishmen back to Ireland.

The O'Connell Monument built to commemorate Daniel O'Connell after whom the street was renamed after independence. The base of the statue is heavy limestone with four winged figures representing Patriotism, Fidelity, Courage and Eloquence. I am sure he loves the pigeon sitting on his head. Supposedly, this is why Winston Churchill never wanted a statue of himself!

Many, many taxis on O'Connell Street...since deregulation and the reduction in the cost of a taxi licence from 75,000 Euros to 5,000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of cabs, to the point where it is hard for all of them to make a living.

Of all the large cities we have been in, Dublin ranks the highest for the amount of pedestrians on the streets. According to Joe, this is a regular day in Dublin.

A billboard depicting the sport of hurling, a game similar to hockey in that it is played with a small ball and curved wooden stick. It is Europe's oldest field game. When the Celts came to Ireland following the last ice age, they brought with them a unique culture, their own language, music, script and unique pastimes. One of these pastimes was a game now called hurling. It has been part of the Irish culture for the last 2000 years.

Licence plates in Ireland tell a lot of information. The first two numbers are the year of the car, the letter following indicates the city (D for Dublin; LM for Limerick), and the last numbers are the unique plate number.

Croke Park Stadium right outside our hotel. It seats 80,000 people. U2 played there a couple of weeks ago, and the city was looking forward to a soccer match being held there on Sunday. They will fill the stadium. Europeans love their soccer!

The River Liffey in Dublin...

Entrance to Trinity College, Ireland's oldest university, founded in 1592. It is divided into 3 faculties, comprising 24 schools. The library contains over 4.5 million printed volumes and manuscripts including the Book of Kells.

I had no idea that I had captured this guy pinching the girl's bum until I loaded the picture!

Trinity College...

The Book of Kells contains lavishly decorated copy, in Latin, of the four gospels. It has long been associated with Saint Colum Cille (c 521-597 A.D.) who founded his principal monastery on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, in about 561 A.D. The Book of Kells was probably produced in the early 9th century by the monks of Iona.

The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin around 1653 for reasons of security. It came to Trinity College through a donation by Henry Jones, who became the Bishop of Meath.

Once again we noticed that you couldn't possibly figure out the Irish language without the English translation!

The monks transcribed the gospels and added the elaborate drawings and symbols shown below. It was used as a decorative altar piece.

A Sphere Within a Sphere...this artwork was donated to the College in 1982 by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro and stands next to the Museum Building built in 1857.

Christ Church Cathedral is the oldest of the city's two medieval cathedrals. Building on it began in 1038!

Dawson's Lounge, the smallest of Dublin's 714 pubs. It holds 20 people including the bartender!

Bull & Castle where we hopped off the bus to have lunch. I had my first Bulmer's (cider). It was pretty good!

The Guinness brewery is celebrating its 250th year of being in operation. It has always been considered a very good employer, providing health care and pensions long before it was common practice. It is Ireland's No. 1 tourist attraction (probably because of the free pint!).

We hopped off the bus at this point and took a taxi back to the hotel. It was getting into Friday rush hour traffic and the bus was crawling at this point.

A highlight of the tour was the bus drivers. They are doing live commentary, which must be hard because it would be the same story day in and day out, and you don't know if anyone is listening to you anyway. One driver amused himself and us, by saying at each stop "Welcome aboard. My name is Matthew. We hope you enjoy the tour." At the next stop, he would say "Welcome aboard. My name is Mark. We hope you enjoy the tour." He used a variety of names which made everyone laugh, once you caught on.

So it is Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra to Ireland! We really enjoyed the bus tour and would do one again. Things to watch for are making sure there is free time and staying in one hotel for several nights rather than moving each day. The people were great and Joe, the bus driver, made it a wonderful tour.

It's off to London....

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