Dublin is the capital of, and largest city in, Ireland. Located on the east coast of Ireland, in the province of Leinster, at the mouth of the River Liffey, it’s bordered on the south by the Wicklow mountains. Dublin celebrated its ‘official’ millennium’ in 1988, meaning the Irish government recognized 988 as the year in which the city was settled. It was established as a Viking settlement in the 10th century and, despite a number of attacks by the native Irish, it remained largely under Viking control until the Norman invasion of Ireland was launched from Wales in 1169.
Did you know there are more Irish in America than in Ireland? Thirty-four and a half million Americans list their heritage as either primarily or partially Irish. That number is, incidentally, seven times larger than the population of Ireland itself (4.68 million). Irish is the second-most common ancestry among Americans, falling just behind German.
The greater Dublin area has a population of nearly two million. If dozens of building cranes are an indicator, an economic boom is going on. Though some traditional industries have declined, tech companies, such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, Accenture and Pfizer have European headquarters here.
Guinness has been brewed at the St. James’s Gate Brewery since 1759. Jamesons Whiskey was distilled in Dublin from 1780, until it moved to County Cork in 1976. The original distillery is now Jameson Experience Visitor Centre and the Irish Whiskey Academy.
Our ship docked at seven a.m. Since we were in a working port, a shuttle was necessary to get into town. I was glad we’d gone to the port talk, so we knew we had to buy twenty-dollar roundtrip shuttle tickets. Although the ship wasn’t leaving until eleven p.m., the last shuttle was at seven p.m. So, those who didn’t make that one had to take a taxi back.
I checked on the Hop On, Hop Off tours and the green bus had the best customer reviews. The ship’s shuttle took us to Merrion Square, where we were able to purchase day tickets from the driver for twenty Euros each, senior price. And, we could use a credit card that doesn’t incur international fees. With thirty-two stops on their route, we covered a good portion of what we were interested in seeing.
Number one on my list was the Book of Kells at Trinity College. This illuminated text of the four gospels was created in 800 AD by early Christian monks. It was painstakingly hand lettered and illustrated on velum, which is calf skin prepared for writing. The skin of over one hundred fifty calves was used to create Ireland’s finest treasure.
This is not just a text . . . it is an intricate work of calligraphy and art. The carefully preserved displays are rotated every few months. No photography is allowed of the actual books. The Library usually displays two of the current four volumes at a time, one showing a major illustration and the other showing typical text pages. If you can’t get to Dublin, you can view it here: Book of Kells, Digital Collection. Just the medieval inks they used for coloring their art was amazing.
It’s hard to imagine how long it must have taken to detail the letter designs.
There were other items to see as well. Seeing “The Long Room” was like going to heaven! This main chamber of the Old Library was built between 1712 and 1732. Not only is it filled with over 200,000 of the library’s oldest books, it is one of the most impressive libraries in the world.
I could easily have spent hours here!
We returned to the Hop On/Hop Off bus and went around the route again. Along the way we went through Phoenix Park, formed as a royal hunting park in the 1660’s. The English name comes from the Irish fionn uisce meaning “clear water.” It’s touted as the largest enclosed recreational park in any European capital city. Within it’s 1,750 acres is the President’s Official Residence, the Dublin Zoo, the Wellington Testimonial (the largest oblisk in Europe), and a herd of wild deer. The Wellington Testimonial was built to commemorate the victories of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
We passed by the Ha’Penny Bridge (built in 1816) AKA the Liffey Bridge (since 1922), as swans swam underneath.
All this sightseeing left us a bit parched . . . so we attempted to wet our whistles at The Temple Bar. It was pretty packed, so we continued on and stopped at Trinity Pub. We had great service and our new favorite beverage, Smithwicks. I have it on good authority, that it’s pronounced “Smitticks.” However you say it, it’s a delicious ale.
Since we were nearing the end of the time the HO/HO (Hop On/Hop Off) bus continued, we stopped where we had started. We saw the Oscar Wilde statue, and his home which is now part of American College Dublin. This flamboyant Irish poet and playwright led a controversial life and died at the young age of 46.
We returned to the ship and enjoyed a fabulous performance by Celtic Storm. This talented group featured three dancers and the musicians who provide the perfect accompaniment. The older sister of the dancers is the lead dancer for River Dance. At the end of the show they were rushed off the ship, to return to Belfast, before we could buy their CD.
We retreated to our cabin ready for rest and time in Belfast tomorrow.