Part 3 of our trip wrap-up, again written with the help of B, like the previous Ancient East and Boyne River entries. To be honest, the city was mostly me taking the lead and B nursing his sore feet and grumbling at the pace of the agenda. I did learn that I was too way ambitious in the agenda overall, and will scale it back in the future. B hopefully learned that I need more input from him on the agenda.
Our first stop in Dublin proper was the museums. There are three branches of the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, all open to the public. Sadly, we didn’t have room in our agenda for the Decorative Arts Museum. Google led us to the Natural History Museum first, which was a lovely collection of taxidermy animals. Everything from Polar Bears to Tigers were represented. Lovely visit if you have kids, but we stayed less than an hour. If your partner isn’t a fan of zoos due to cruelty reasons, chances are he won’t like a room full of what was more than likely trophy hunt kills. Sadly there is no back pedestrian entrance to the Archaeological museum next door, and we had to walk around the block to get to the entrance.
The National Archaeological Museum is stunning! Around a third of the displays were Viking and another third Norman and the rest prehistoric; B was delighted. This museum made the entire trip worth it for him. There were the remains of bog finds, including bodies, and even a display on all things gold. If you are remotely interested in the time periods on display plan on spending at least half a day, we had to go back a second day in order to really see it all. B was glad to know that most of his Norman reenactment is spot on, and he did find a few details of Viking that he didn’t know. Also, he has so many project ideas because the display catalogs are so inexpensive that we purchased several. My Book Cat app tells me the list price of books with a scan of the ISBN, (and what books I already have at home) and most of the books were under that price even new!
We visited both St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral and both are a must do in Dublin. St. Patrick’s has wonderful black marble columns that contrast with the local tan granite, giving a feeling of greatness. It was wonderful to see William Marshal’s father in law, Strongbow’s, tomb and effigy at Christ Church and the catacombs in the basement even have a mummified cat and mouse, as well as some very cool relics. Both have several rooms of original and reproduction hand made stamped ceramic following tiles which B found very investing for some reason. I don’t think he had previously considered flooring choices and learning that pottery was more than just eating and drinking vessels was enlightening.
There is a dual ticket available to the Dublinia museum available with Christ Church. For a little over €7 more, you can see both (a savings of around €1 per ticket). We didn’t find Dublinia to be particularly compelling, as most of the museum is recreated displays of medieval life. If we didn’t already have a pretty good grasp of the day to day living aspects of the Middle Ages, this would be worth the visit. The staff was super friendly once we told them we did light reenacting back home, and it turns out that most of the staff are true history geeks. The views of the city from the tower were quite nice, however.
Our next stop required us to catch a bus. We had already learned from the bus into city center that buses do not make change, so I researched our fare the evening before to make sure we had exact change. This isnt unusual, it’s just that I didn’t plan appropriately after dropping off the rental car. What we didn’t know is that in the city center, at stops that have multiple bus routes, you need to hail your bus like a taxi in order for it actually make the stop. B and I were at the station and watched our bus fly by before we knew what had happened. Thankfully this route had another bus in 10 minutes and we watched what the locals did to ensure the bus stopped for them. I haven’t traveled extensively, but I have negotiated traveling by bus in other metropolitan cities and this is the first time I’ve had to indicate for a bus to stop at a designated stop on its route. Once we finally got on the bus, B put the €5 note into the slot and the driver was NOT happy with notes, as apparently inner city buses are coins only.
Catching the bus was for the sole purpose of taking us to the National Botanic Gardens. The site is 19.5 hectares and could take all day to explore. They had a recreation of a Viking home and garden display, as well as a walled herb and vegetable garden display, with beehives. The Palm House glasshouse was magnificent to behold and the grounds were relaxing and pleasant. We opted out of the paid tour, as I’m not a true botanist; I only like to take picture of beautiful, colorful flowers. We took a stroll though the Glasnevin cemetery on our way out, but didn’t stay for the exhibit or tour, as the recent Irish independence history was not of interest to us.
The next morning we visited Trinity College for the Book of Kells display. No photos were allowed, and since the work is so well documented, I didn’t covertly try to sneak any pictures of the displays. The actual book was directly observed by a guard, so there was no way to even try to get a picture. We arrived a bit ahead of a large group and was able to see the pages open without a crush of people for a bit, then we waited until after the group moved on to have a closer look at the folios. There was a lot of interesting information about the use of pigments and parchment in period.
The Heritage Card covers the guided tour at the Dublin Castle, which includes access to the Undercroft (remnants of the Norman city walls) and the Royal Chapel. The tour included a great history of the city and the church, including the political history of the city. The State Apartments, including the throne room and great hall, where the president in invested, are truly stately. You could clearly see the progression of history from medieval to present, as many official government offices are located there today.
The one thing that made Dublinia worth it for me was that the staff recommended a visit to The Chester Beatty Library based on my comment that I reenact a medieval Turkish persona. It’s located behind Dublin Castle, so we added it to our agenda. There was a temporary exhibit of the Ruzbihan Qur’an, a 16th century Safavid Persian illumination, but the Saljuq Qur’ans were on loan to the Met (isn’t it ironic?) until the end of July. In the permanent exhibit, there were other manuscripts from Japanese love stories to some of the first pages of the Bible (200-300AD). This was hands down my favorite exhibit in Dublin, but it was very specific to my interests.
Our last stop was St. Michan’s Cathedral. It was a very touristy attraction and the draw is actual mummies in the crypt catacombs which are worth seeing. The chapel is nothing special, but the tour guide is very theatrical and funny. Officially, you can not take pictures or shine lights in the tombs, citing “respect of the dead” since these crypts are active (families that own them can intern new bodies). However, the tour guide very obviously does turn his back, so to speak, and there are skulls strategically placed within touching distance of the velvet ropes. One point of note – admission is cash only, and there are no ATMs within easy access, so come prepared.
While in Dublin, we rented a flat through AirBnB between the Georges St. and the Aungier St. bus stops. We were within walking distance of most of the places we wanted to see (with the exception of the bus ride to the Botanic Gardens). B even cooked breakfast each morning, since nothing open until 9am and his internal clock was up at 6am. One of our favorite memories was having dinner that we picked up “take away” and had a picnic at St. Stephen’s green. We feed chips (fries to Americans) to the seagulls and pigeons, and got to wander the neighborhood a bit. I highly recommend renting a flat in the middle of the city – we really got to live a few days in the middle of the city, and B would have liked another day just to explore more.