Sunday, June 13:  Poorman’s Bloomsday

Spent today touring Dublin. June 16 is the 100th anniversary of James Joyce’s Bloomsday, I don’t expect this account to be as comprehensive. With a late night last night, and no restrictions on the timing of a free breakfast, we slept in. But by 10 AM we were back on the streets, getting a good breakfast (bacon and cream cheese bagels) just a couple doors down from yesterday’s lunch. We plotted strategy, reloaded back at the room and set out for another day of big-city sights. On the street, Pat was pumping up the younger half of the contingent with her rally-cry of “Power-tourists!” and David burst into a high-pitched, high-speed, high-volume litany of every place we might possibly go today. A woman just ahead of us looked over her shoulder and gave David a long, knowing smile. I offered that it “had been like this every day, for the past three months.” She pointed to her college-age son, and said David reminded her of him when he was younger. We walked together for several blocks and she gave us loads of tourism advice.

After a short walk, we arrived at Trinity College, the only college of the University of Dublin, dating to 1592. (Photo 218) Until just recently, it was only open to Protestant males, while the Catholics also forbade anyone to attend. Women attended in 1903, and now much of the student body is Catholic. We signed on for a student-led walking tour and I kidded the guide that now that I was on the other end, it had better be a darn good lecture. And it was. Thirty minutes long (about equal to the boys’ attention span) and witty. (Pointing out the chapel and the examination room at opposite ends of a U-shaped complex, he referred to one as examination by man, and the other as examination by God.) Found out later that it was his third day at it. Our tour finished with a paid visit to the Book of Kells exhibit, a display of an illuminated book of the New Testament with a history tracing back to 800 AD. I was more interested in the upstairs, the Long Room of the Old Library, at 65 meters long, it is two meters longer than the reading room at Trinity College in Cambridge. The many old books here are shelved, not alphabetically, but by size. At each of the 60 or so alcoves off the main aisle stands a bust of a notable Western (European) intellectual. Shakespeare, Newton, Homer, Locke, Plato, Jonathan Swift. David claimed to recognize 10 of the 40 we could see, while Robert said he recognized 1 (Shakespeare). With a re-test Robert recognized more. There were a few older books on display here also, including a Processional from Regensburg, Germany dating from c.1450 that I imagined Dave Tinsley would have enjoyed studying.

We grabbed drinks across the courtyard at the Arts building, and then choose to split-up. Pat took the boys off to the east to visit a few museums, while I was given my release to go see the Guinness Brewery. Being on the complete opposite side of town, I took a taxi out. The “Guinness Storehouse” is an old building from the huge James Gate brewery site (26 acres today) that aims to tell the whole story of Guinness in a self-guided tour. I skipped the usual stuff about how beer is made, but watched a video on the 250-year history of the operation. There was also a very interesting video from 1954 showing a cooper making a barrel out of oak, using hand tools and no measuring devices save for a compass to help keep the ends circular. As I worked my way up through the building, I ended up at the circular Gravity Bar atop the building, collecting my pint of Guinness, and admiring the 360 degree view of the city. There must have been about 200 people there, including some TV celebrity I was supposed to recognize (from the “West-Enders” show?) and an emcee of sorts keeping everybody entertained. It appears that Guinness is formally exporting the whole Irish Pub Experience, sort of like a franchise operation.

Back at the room, I got caught up on my web page duties, and then when the boys surfaced, we all trotted off to an Internet cafe nearby. The connections were good, but the ventilation was horrible and so the heat from all the computers was almost intolerable. David snagged an ASCII-to-binary conversion chart and is now translating short sentences entirely into binary.

For dinner, we wandered down to Temple Bar, one of the older parts of the city where now you can get a dinner for 50% more than what it would cost you elsewhere. We satisfied the boys’ cravings for Mexican food by eating at Alamo, with a Texas themed interior and a Mexican menu. Across the street, a pub was very busy with a crowd watching the England-France soccer match as part of the opening weekend of the Euro 2004 Championship. Our waitress would wander across the street whenever a cry went up and then report back to us. Back to the room, England had a 1-0 lead. We watched a Beckham penalty kick blocked by France and then in two minutes of stoppage time France converted a free kick into a goal, and then England’s goalkeeper broke up a breakaway in a manner that earned France a penalty kick. Converted, France won 2-1.

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Photo 219  Hore Abbey
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Photo 220  Celtic Crosses

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Photo 221  Rock of Cashel