Our Irish adventure began in Dublin. First order of business; provision the apartment with groceries, guide my parents to the apartment as they arrived from the states, and get my hair cut. While my new barber delivered a respectable hair cut he shared his observations on US politics and the upcoming Presidential election. He is as informed on most of the key issues as most US citizens. During our time in Ireland I noted evidence of the special historical connection between Ireland and other places around the world, especially the USA. Over the past 150 years the Irish diaspora has consisted of millions of Irish people who left Ireland for better economic opportunities, especially during the terrible potato famine of 1846 (more on that when in Dingle). As an example, while scanning the local TV channels, we paused to watch an interview with a pretty young woman with a Chicago accent. She was competing to become the International Rose of Tralee, a pageant for women from Ireland and of Irish decent from around the world. To my eyes it is celebrates the Irish global influence, and an effort to maintain connections to the emerald isle. Being of Irish decent myself, I feel part the story.
As in Budapest, we purchased a two-day hop-on-hop-off bus pass. The man selling tickets made my parents feel good when he sold us 2 adult tickets (full price) for Suzanne and me, and 4 “student” passes for the kids (under 12 and in school) and my parents (over 60 but still learning). The hop-on-hop-off bus is a good way to move around downtown Dublin and get a running narrative of the key sights at the same time. It also allowed us to ride rather than walk as my parents adjusted to the new time zone and my dad recovered from his recent injury (5 broken ribs).
We stopped at Trinity College to check it out. The campus is a quiet place to retreat from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dublin. It was founded by an English monarch in an attempt to propagate the protestant church in Catholic Ireland. The Book of Kells was on display at Trinity, but based on a recommendation we opted not to queue up and pay the fee to view this document written by Irish monks over 1,200 years ago. Instead we strolled around the campus and found a large cricket field for the kids to play while the parents and grandparents sat on a bench and enjoyed a break in the weather.
Oh, did I mention that it rains in Ireland? More of that later.
Other sights we viewed in Dublin are the statue of Molly Malone (of Cockles and Mussels fame), the Medieval castle, and several old stone churches. But my favorite was an afternoon at the Guinness Brewery, which is a long-term institution in Dublin. Arthur Guinness, the founder, signed a 9,000 year lease for the Dublin brewery site. How’s that for a vision of the future? The original lease is framed in glass under the floor in the visitor center. The Guinness visitor center was certainly worth the visit. It is 7 floors high and in the center of the building is giant Guinness beer glass that would hold something like 7 million pints of the dark brew. It has an indoor waterfall and the old safe where Arthur Guinness kept the emergency backup supply of the jealously protected beer yeast.
My favorite part of the tour was when my dad and I learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. We met a few folks from the States who work for a tech start-up and were visiting on a “business trip”. We all took tips from a young man with the last name of Guinness who demonstrated the correct technique for the perfect pour. I found out later that Arthur Guinness had 21 children – so after a few generations it is a pretty big family. Then we drank the results – ah, the perfect pint.
Alex reached double digits by turning 10 during our stay in Dublin. Check out her birthday post. For her special day we toured the Leprechaun museum and enjoyed a night of Irish traditional stories, music, and dinner in the oldest pub in Dublin. We all learned a great deal about some of the history and culture. For example, it never occurred to me that Christianity reached Ireland differently from the rest of Europe. St. Patrick converted the Irish peacefully. The rest of Europe was Christianized at the point of a sword via the Roman Empire. So, much of the Irish Celtic spiritual tradition was incorporated into the Irish Christian practices to ease conversion of the people. Irish Fairies are not the Disney kind, they are magical folk who are best left alone. For example, even today there are Fairy Trees around the country that people don’t mess with. The fairy folk eventually became embodied as the partially fallen angels of the Irish Catholic Church. Also, the renaissance and industrial revolution never reached Ireland; so the Irish people basically jumped from agrarian feudalism to the information age. It looks like they are caught up now.
Our guide in the Leprechaun Museum asked the question “Where do you think the leprechaun get their gold?” Patrick piped up “California!”. That created a laugh from everyone, and the guide said that was the first time she had heard that answer. The “real” answer is that leprechaun are the shoe makers to the Fairies. Since the Fairy people love to sing and dance a great deal, they quickly wear out their shoes and the leprechauns are paid well to repair the shoes. This explains why leprechaun have so much gold and why they protect it so fiercely.