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Report 2018: Southern Ireland with Mom

By nikkihop from Texas USA, Spring 2012

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Page 10 of 12: June 19, 2012 – Dublin, Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour, Book of Kells

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Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour in Dublin

Since DM's doctor prescribed 24 hours of inactivity and we cheated a bit last night by going to the show, DM stayed in bed while I went out to forage for some pastries at a local pastry shop. We made tea in our room and ate cinnamon rolls and croissant, and watched crazy TV in the form of a children's program about getting chickens to lay eggs through various "scientific methods" such as singing love songs to the chickens. None of the chickens laid any eggs, so it was both bizarre and disappointing. They're rating system for TV programs must be a lower standard than ours.

At 10:33am we caught the hop on, hop off bus tour, which worked out great. You buy a ticket that is good for 48 hours, and then you can get on and off at about 22 stops all around the city. Our plan was just to ride for the full hour and a half circuit to wait out the doctor's timetable. We had gorgeous weather for it -- blue skies with white puffy clouds here and there and a brisk breeze. We sat on the top deck of our red double-decker bus, under the open sky. We drove past St. Stephen's Green, Christchurch Cathedral and St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Guinness factory, the Kilmainham Gaol (jail), Phoenix park, the Jameson Distillery, O’Connell Street, and Trinity College, where we finally got off so we could see the Old Library and the Book of Kells.

This was DM's number one to-do while in Dublin, so we did it first to see if she could make it. She limped through it and did really well. The Old Library is inspiring. Literally, it inspired the Jedi Archive in the new Star Wars movies, and the dining hall in Harry Potter's Hogwarts. The library is about three stories tall with an intricate wrought iron spiral staircase rising to the loft gallery that circles the entire "long room" of the library. It's about 50 yards long and contains more than 200,000 really old books stacked on floor-to-ceiling mahogany shelves jutting out from the right and left and capped with white marble busts of famous educated men. Once in there, it's hard to leave, it's so beautifully textured and fantasy-like.

We were a bit hungry though, so we left and ate at the Porthouse Pub, a short walk (or hobble, as the case may be) away. We then hopped back on the bus and got off at Merrion Square, which is famous for its Georgian architecture and brightly painted doors. We took a few obligatory door photos and headed over to Number 29 Georgian, which is a museum of a restored Georgian townhouse just off the square. We took a couple of wrong turns and had a hard time finding it since the entrance sits below street level at the cellar entrance and the pedestrian signs aren't great. The wandering was making me anxious because although she said she was fine and that her ankle felt better, I was worried about any extra walking. I wanted to take a cab everywhere, but DM wouldn't hear of it.

There was yet another fillum before you start your guided tour, and DM and I both fell asleep -- again! I didn't even try to stay awake. The fillum wasn't that interesting and was slow. We're not even embarrassed anymore about snoozing through these fillums. We take it as our God given right as tacky tourists. The tour started out well enough, but it became immediately apparent that our guide, a sixtyish woman with a small lisp, was not the most efficient of souls. She kept having senior moments, saying things like, "Now if ye'll notice the basin there, which is called a ... a ... what's the word? It's escaped me."

The group kept trying to help her out. "It's a hipbath, isn't it?"

"Oh! Right you are! A hipbath ... a hipbath. That's it exactly." This poor woman could not walk and talk at the same time, and if someone asked her a question, she would stop where she was to answer it, causing the whole queue of people on her heels to screech to a stop and wait, toe-tapping, to answer it. I wanted to turn to the handful of ladies who were part of our group that kept interrupting all of us with these stop-and-answer-questions-rest-stops and say, "Do you see my mother's face? She had a lot of questions yesterday and look what I did to her." I will add here that DM's eye and the left side of her face from brow to cheekbone had purpled up nicely. She has a lovely Tammy Faye thing going on with her eyelid too.

The tour, which should have taken no more than 20 minutes, took about an hour. The group behind us, which started well after us, was breathing down our necks towards the end. We were happy to get out of there.

We walked a block to the Shelbourne Hotel to try to have high tea, but there was a dress code and we felt out of place in our sneakers (DM) and flip flops (me), so we did the next best thing and caught the hop on hop off bus to the Queen of Tarts cafe for tea. We told our driver where we wanted to go, and tried to get off the bus at the stop before the cafe. We actually made it off the bus when he honked at us and called out, "Who gave you girls permission to get off my bus? It's the next stop!" Laughing, we climbed back on and he dropped us right in front of the Queen of Tarts.

The cafe is this adorable old fashioned tea shoppe with a bright red exterior and a yummy display of cakes, tarts and sweets. DM and I had the Victorian sponge cake, which is exactly like strawberry shortcake with clotted (whipped) cream, and a pot of tea in mismatched antique china cups and saucers. This was DM’s second favorite meal in Ireland.

Back on the bus, we hopped off again at Christchurch Cathedral, which has spooky old stone vaulted crypts below the church where you can see a variety of artifacts and stone effigies and tombs. The church itself is a Gothic wonder, much like the National Cathedral in Washington DC, but older. We tried to visit St. Patrick's Cathedral a couple blocks away, but it closed at 5:00pm, so we went back to the hotel.

I mentioned earlier that our hotel room has a really nice bathroom. It’s one flaw is the toilet. It doesn't flush every time. DM has struggled with it, but I have had no trouble, so after a little experimentation, I determined it's because I am a forceful flusher. I really show that toilet who is boss. DM tried it and sure enough, she was being too tentative with her flushing technique. She is now showing the toilet who is boss too. So, if you ever stay at the Grafton Capital Hotel, be warned. You must walk up to the toilet in a firm manner and then press forcefully down on the handle with conviction! Take that!

Flushed with victory (sorry, bad pun), we headed off to catch a cab to The Church Bar for dinner. I hailed a cabbie outside the hotel and thought, "What luck!" until we got in the cab, asked to go to the Church Bar, and the driver had no idea where it was. How many Church Bars are there in Dublin? Sheesh. So out we got so we could ask the hotel for the address and a new cab. The hotel receptionist also thought it was crazy that our taxi driver didn't know this famous place. Our new cab driver did, but took us on a circuitous route that left me thinking he was after a bigger fare with some clueless Americans. Cabs have only cost us between €5 and €10 so far, so this €15 ride seemed fishy. At least we got to our location without DM doing any walking, so it was worth it.

The Church Bar & Restaurant used to be St. Mary's Church of Ireland, an 18th century church with a gallery wrapping around the inside of the nave (think the courthouse in To Kill A Mockingbird), complete with wall-sized pipe organ and spectacular stained glass windows. The church closed in 1964 and lay derelict for a number of years until it was purchased in 1997, and restored into a restaurant and bar. It was fascinating to eat dinner where Arthur Guinness, founder of Guinness Brewery, was married in 1761. We sat in the bar because we couldn't get a reservation for the fancier gallery portion of the restaurant. DM ordered a hamburger to see if it compared to U.S. hamburgers (it didn't -- too bland, and on ciabatta bread with a weird side of red cabbage coleslaw). I ordered lasagna (I know, not very Irish), which came with salad and French fries? I've never eaten lasagna and fries before but mine was all delicious.

After dinner, DM wanted to see the Ha'Penny bridge, so called because you used to have to pay a half penny toll to cross the River Liffey here. It's a pretty Victorian white iron bridge with street lamp pendants hanging from scrolled archways periodically spanning the bridge overhead. We walked a block or two through the Temple Bar district and took photos of the famous red Temple Bar pub before heading back to the hotel for showers and WiFi fix.

I headed out again after dark, which doesn't come until 10:30 or so, to photograph the Samuel Beckett bridge, which I never found on my trek last night. I barely found it this time. I took a wrong turn somewhere, and actually ended up on the far south of Dublin, only figuring out my error when I hit the Dublin canal, which does not look like the river Liffey. Argh! I retraced my steps and must have walked five or more miles to get to the bridge, which was really beautiful lit up at night. It's designed to look like an Irish harp spanning the Liffey. I took several photos and then caught a cab back to the hotel with a very charming cabbie that pumped me for information on my trip the whole way back. I returned to our room exhausted and fell in to a coma. Only one more day in Ireland!

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