The Irish Chronicles – Beginnings

Ireland, Day One/Two
10/2/05 10:06 pm

Well, we’ve finally arrived – something we’ve discussed and planned for many years is finally a reality.

We left Pittsburgh (after I drove up from DC the night before) on time and transferred easily enough through Logan International in Boston, though the shuttle transfers aren’t all that easy to make out.  Nonetheless, we left on time on our flight to Dublin.  The plane was an older one – the seats were tight and not a whole lot of room (and the TVs were a distance away), but I won’t complain much.  M slept most of the way – she’s still recovering from some extremely tough days at her prior jobs – so I read.  Sea Rover’s Practice – pretty good insight into the privateer / pirate mindsets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  I didn’t find out until the end of the flight that they provide headphones for you to use – I missed out on watching the Fantastic Four movie – but I probably needed that nap anyway.

We had to deplane in Shannon – at “breakfast” time (in reality, like 3 a.m. for us) and when getting us coffee (really GOOD coffee!) I had my first real shock – the dollar to Euro conversion rate.  While I was aware of it…it still surprised me.  Means the almost $700 we brought for spending isn’t worth much more than 500 Euros, so we’ve got to be careful.

We were hoping to see the countryside on the short hop to Dublin, but alas, the cloud cover was pretty thick, so naptime again for me.

Customs was a breeze and we were off to get our rental.  Tiny little VW Polo, manual transmission.  Wow.  A bit odd at first, shifting with the left hand, but driving on the left was quite easy to adjust to.  Though I’ve been mentally prepping myself for it for a while.

Making our way through Dublin was a trip – traffic is as bad as it is here in PA (we hit morning rush hour), just with narrower streets.  After getting a little lost with the one-ways and the very “non-obvious” street signs, we finally made it (more like “stumbled on to”) the Mespil Hotel after about an hour of driving through town.

To which, we both promptly fell asleep for an hour.

Now, the only thing I absolutely wanted to do this whole trip was to see the Book of Kells. There are other things, sure, but to me, this was the whole trip.  So we got up in the afternoon and walked down to Trinity College (after stopping at a Bank of Ireland to exchange the bulk of our cash). Wow. Talk about narrow streets – the sidewalks are even tighter! Of course, you have to remember that Dublin is OLD, too…

Anyway, we walked the campus a bit (I have to laugh – they’ve got gorgeous greens, including signs everywhere telling people to STAY OFF THE GREEN) before entering the library.  The cost to see the Book is steep (Fifteen Euros for the both of us), BUT I think it’s utterly worth it.  Even M enjoyed it.

I was awestruck with the beautiful artwork – still vibrant even after 1000 years. The level of detail – without magnification! – was stunning. We got there ahead of a tour group, so we had about 15 minutes alone with the Book to really absorb it before the hoardes arrived.  There were three pages displayed – a rarity, we found out – as well as a section from the Book of Durrow.  Wow.  Just….wow. (Unfortunately, no pictures allowed.)

Then we went to the Long Room. Fantastic.  I had to stop at the entrance – the smell of old books was indeed a treat.  The room itself is also stunning – photos do it no justice whatsoever. The busts along the alcoves were beautiful – Shakespeare, Homer, Bacon, Newton, Swift, ect. – and just the sense of wisdom.  Overwhelming.

The displays in the center were of science texts like the 1st edition of the Origin of the Species (whoop-de-do) and Newton’s Treatise on Optiks.  Very cool stuff.

The gift shop had the usual overpriced material.  I really wanted a book on the BoK – esp. with color art and photos of the artwork – but they wanted 19 Euros or more, which is just too much for a 36 page book.  Even postcards were expensive and really not all that great – after seeing the original, it just didn’t stand up to snuff.  Though I’m sure that it’s difficult to do even professional shots of the pages simply because of their age.  Shame.

Of course, by this time we’re now starving, so halfway back we stopped and ate at Foley’s (pub).  Very good food and excellent price.  Had my first taste of Smithwick’s, an excellent red lager.

I was the walking dead by the time we got back to the hotel at 5, so I pretty much crawled into bed and slept.  M stayed up for a bit – showered and read before falling asleep.  I ended up waking back up around 2 a.m. local and couldn’t sleep.  So I just finished watching Best In Show on the TV and am starting this little journal.  I can see M’s got stuff laid out for later, and I see the map open so I’m assuming she knows at this point where she wants to head.  I really need to shower, too, since it’s now been well over 36 hours since we left home.

Now the only challenge is to not think about food – I’m starving again and breakfast is still a good three hours away.  I know I’ll adjust at some point, just wish it hadn’t taken almost three days (Sunday through Tuesday morning) to get in and settled.  No matter, we still have a week ahead of us.  Need to just focus on enjoying each moment and not worry about the days ahead.  This is a trip to be savored, not rushed.

Photos to come, once we leave Dublin.

For those who’re interested:

“The Book of Kells is an Illuminated manuscript that has survived from the Middle Ages and has been described as the zenith of Western calligraphy and illumination. It contains the four Gospels of the Bible in Latin, along with prefatory and explanatory matter decorated with numerous colourful illustrations and illuminations. Today it is on permanent display at the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, and is the most famous medieval book still extant.” (From Wikipedia)

The book is a marvel because all the illos are hand-drawn and painted. And they are in exquisitely minute detail and highly ornate.

For a literature buff like me, it’s like going to see the Wright Brothers plane for a flight afficianado. And it really is something to behold in person – the craftsmanship is phenomenal for something so….”primitive” before the advent of color printing presses. Pictures don’t do it justice at all.

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