I had an opportunity for another "sanity vacation" in conjunction with a business trip to Boston and Atlanta. Just like the Netherlands trip last December, on a sanity vacation I stop thinking about work and family and community for a long weekend and get a quick snapshot of a place that I have never been to before. Ireland had a particular appeal from both an ancestry and a business perspective.
Thursday March 1st
I arrived late morning and headed for the Hilton Dublin, which had the twin benefits of being inexpensive and centrally located. I walked through St Stevens Green and along Grafton street to get a feel for the area. In the afternoon I took a walk along the Grand Canal, which passes directly by the hotel. There is little "grand" about it at only 20 feet across, but it did have some nice scenery (large picture above and thumbnails below). I grabbed a snack at the Portobello Pub and then dinner that evening at the Barge Pub, both near my hotel.
Friday March 2nd
I started my first full day in Dublin walking by the Georgian offices around Merrion Square. This was the most impressive architecture in the city and the famous entry doors were striking. Merrion Square itself was an interesting contrast. There was a light snow cover on the ground in the park in the same location as palm trees.
I then walked over to Trinity College to see the Long Room and the 1000 year old Book of Kells. The area inside the College was completely unmarked, but I found my way. The Book of Kells is an incredibly intricate (158 strokes per quarter inch in some spots) hand illustrated version of the Gospels. It is impressive to see, but they can only display 4 pages at a time (The page of Kells is the cynic's perspective). Further, in a regressive policy I always dislike, the Long Room and the Book of Kells prohibited all photography, even without flash. A fire drill cut my visit short in the Long Room. It looks a lot like the famous pictures, except there are now computer terminals beside most of the busts. I grabbed a fish & chips lunch on Grafton Street and headed out to the Guinness Brewery.
The Guinness Brewery is the largest in the world. They have a new facility across the street from the main processing that is set up for touring. They tell the history and story of how Guinness is made, how to properly pour a Guinness and you end up in a bar on the top floor where they pour you a sample. A couple of views from the bar are shown below. The tour is good, but not great in that it seems too distant from the actual operations. From Guinness, I headed for the Literary Museum on O'Connell Street. After the museum, I did some shopping along O'Connell while I walked back to the hotel. I walked to dinner at Jury's, a famous Hotel and Pub about a mile southeast of the hotel.
Saturday March 3rd
I started the day with a tour of Dublin's two famous churches, Christ Church and St. Patrick's. Christ Church is the more interesting, including a tour of the original 12th century crypt beneath the sanctuary. The first two pictures below are of the upper section, the next two are of the crypt and the last is the outside.
I then walked 5 minutes down the road to St. Patrick's. The cathedral is most impressive from the outside. From St. Patrick's I took a bus to the Jameson Distillery, the birthplace of Irish Whiskey. Their tour was good, but a bit too long and over structured. I learned that the taste variations in whiskey stem from the way they are made. Scotch barley is dried using smoke giving it a hickory taste. American bourbon is aged in new barrels giving it less oak flavor and Irish whiskey is distilled three successive times and aged in used barrels. There was a tasting room at the end of the tour to emphasize the contrasts.Bad Ass Cafe, made famous because Sinead O'Connor once waited tables there. I walked through Temple Bar, which has the charm of an up and coming "left bank" neighborhood a bit like Soho or Greenwich Village. I finished the day shopping around Trinity College and on O'Connell Street. I had dinner at a local Pub and turned in early to prepare for an early flight back to the states.