A March 2002 trip
to Dublin by Aaron Loukonen
Quote: This is the story of six months traveling alone in Europe, on a quest to see friends long-since made, to rejuvenate good friendships, and to see as much of Europe as possible. It all started in Dublin, Ireland.
I would recommend to anyone getting ready for a big trip that they choose to remain unscheduled - meaning that a change in plans is welcome rather than feared, and that they are ready for life to to begin its lesson, not try to force their own ideas on it. That will only end up in disappointment.
Attraction | "Guinness Brewery Museum - Guinness Storehouse"
In the Storehouse is a multistoried museum that takes you back to the original days of Guinness and the "genius" that went into its creation. Now, I like Guinness and in fact it is one of my favorite beers, but they went a little overboard praising their beer. It is very good beer, but it isn’t that good. They made it sound as if it were black gold. I guess that is the point of a museum dedicated solely to a single beer.
It is a very comprehensive museum, covering every part of the history of Guinness as well as how it is made and so on. It also costs 9 euros to get into the place, but at the top, on the ninth floor, is a bar where you get a complimentary beer with your ticket. That is excellent, but even better is the 360 degree view of Dublin that you have from the bar. You literally can see almost all of Dublin. So, if you are a Guinness fan, then the brewery is a definite must for you.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 15, 2002
St James's Gate Dublin 8
01 408 4800
I walked up most of it that is in the Reserve. At one part, there is a little canyon that is absolutely beautiful, walls maybe twenty feet high with a path that runs along them, and covered in moss. It is very picturesque, very quiet and seemingly isolated, even though the road is only a hundred yards away. There are several paths on which one can enjoy a quiet little hike, looking at the old growth forests of the area, and enjoying a picnic lunch at one of the many small campsites. The only problem was a proliferation of beer cans that seemed to line every little campsite on the path. Evidently, Irish people aren't terribly compelled to carry their trash out with them and just throw aside their rubbish. That was sad, but they have done a grand job of keeping the area beautiful and natural.
It is a little hidden treasure, and definitely a good way to spend part of a day. You can also visit the village, where there is a little cafe called Poppy's. The food is excellent, although they are a bit expensive. Also, the village itself is just a quiet little corner of Ireland, surprisingly only a half hour away on the bus.
Knocksink Nature Reserve
Today has been a flight day. I spent 9 1/2 hours on the direct flight from Denver to London, where I am writing this from. It didn't seem so long, and I even managed to sleep a little, which is uncommon for me. Usually, I cannot sleep at all on planes.
And so the journey begins. I have bid goodbye to my home, to my family, and to my friends, for likely the next six months. That strangely wasn't difficult to do, seeing how I am very excited about this trip. That is the point, really. I am very excited. I am also nervous, but that is besides the point. I would expect myself to be somewhat nervous. That seems to me to be a natural response to uprooting oneself and moving halfway around the world for a half year, hoping that the friends that I made two years ago will remember me enough to let me stay with them or at least to hang out with me for awhile. Going into a trip like this, you never know what to expect, you never know what is going to work out for you or turn to crap on you. Of course, that is pretty worrisome, but then again, that is what makes this type of thing exciting. It is this headrush, this adrenaline rush, the feeling of being way out of your league and in a place where there isn't anyone to help you and if you screw up you are up shit creek with a turd for a paddle that is so damn addictive. That is why I canít get it out of my system, even after two months in Chile, even after being in Finland and Africa. That is why I am already planning months of travel for next year and thinking about how much I would be willing to sacrifice to make it happen. That's also a major component of this game--how much you are willing to give up to live your dreams. Right now, with little to hold me back, I am willing to sacrifice almost everything. I sacrificed comfort and my little niche in the world, that is for sure.
But that is what I live for, this feeling of discomfort, this feeling of newness, being in a place that I have never been in before. It is that reason that man went to the moon, to go places that no man had gone before. Granted, where I go isn't necessarily new for mankind, but it is for me, and that is what I care about.
And so I embark, with the crazy idea that I am free to do what I want until the money runs out. If I can make money here somehow, then maybe I never have to leave. No, that is not a possibility. But I worked for a long time for this, and I am going to enjoy the fruits of my labor. As long as the money holds out.
Ok, plans for today. I have a flight for Dublin at 8:40 tonight, which is a long 7 1/2 hours away from here. I might go stir-crazy sitting in the airport here in London that long. I could try to get on an earlier flight, but that would mean that I would have to give up my knives, because I would have to go stand-by. That could turn out to be a severe problem. I rather like my knives, and they are useful. Not only that, there is no guarantee of an earlier flight, and so I might lose my knives for nothing. So I will probably end up staying here until my flight. It wouldn't be so bad, but I can't even check in my big bag until 6, which is five hours away. So I can't even go to find a comfortable place to sit. Right now I am cramped up against some mailbox, in the corner where I finally found an outlet to plug my computer in.
So, after arriving in Dublin, I need to meet up with Rachel. I am a little worried that I won't recognize her, since it has been a year and a half. I am thinking that I should call her before I head off to Dublin, before I even board the plane, because that way I would know if it is going to be possible for me to go to her place after arrival. I am going to get to Dublin at 9:55 pm, after all, and that isn't a good thing. I would prefer to have somewhere to go, or someone to meet. So, I will call after 6 or 7 tonight, when she hopefully will be home.
Ok, that is my first journal of this trip.
I am a fortunate soul, I think. I called my friend Rachel before I left London. She gave me some brief instructions, and told me to call when I got into Dublin. So, I flew over, and didn't even get into the terminal until almost 10:30, which I found to be somewhat worrisome. I could just see myself wandering, exhausted around a dark and unfamiliar city. That was almost as bad as the prospect of dropping into Santiago, even in the middle of the day, with no Spanish skills to speak of and absolutely no idea what the hell I was doing or where to go. That had me scared, no, terrified, the sweaty palms and shitting oneself sort of scared. If you want to be scared, screw the amusement park scary rides and so on, just drop into a third world country with no language skills and a Lonely Planet guidebook as your only companion. If that doesn't scare the hell out of you, then you are one brave (and stupid) individual. But I wasn't so scared at this prospect, much due to the fact that I at least know the language and I had the phone numbers of three people whom I could call.
But I was very tired, so much that I forgot my ticket on the plane. Fortunately, I was a blubbering fool when I talked to the customs guy, who demanded to see the ticket, which is the point that I realized that it was still on the plane, and so I was able to get it. So, I got my bag, and headed out to try to find a phone to call Rachel again. And wouldn't you know it, she was waiting there for me. I have to tell you, I am always impressed when people are so willing to be extremely helpful. I was a little worried, and it was very relieving to see Rachel standing there. I was also a bit scared that I wouldn't even recognize her, after a year, and it was funny when she said, "Is your name Aaron?" I don't think that I have changed all that much, but maybe I have. Anyhow, we immediately went out and caught the bus to her place. It turns out that she lives with her family, and they already had a room set up for me, a place to stay so that I wouldn't be expected to stay in some hostal somewhere. So I was pretty excited about that, obviously. I ended up staying up fairly late talking with Rachel, which was cool.
The next day, the 30th, I got up, about 11 or so. I had breakfast, and then Rachel and I set out for a walk in Dublin, which turned out to be tremendously interesting. Dublin is different and the same as I presumed, strange as that may sound. It is different because there was no way that I could have predicted the styles of architecture, the people, the culture. There are the old wall style of business districts here, the high side-by-side building that stretch for blocks, giving you the impression that you are walking through a canyon. There are also the UK style cottages, the pleasant little homes that American artists love to paint. There are old and magnificent government buildings with their marble pillars and huge bell towers and such.
Dublin is an interesting city that is hard to categorize or summarize, especially when it comes to the people. There are the very European style people, who could be in any Western Europe city and fit in as if they live there. There are the obviously Irish people, with characteristic facial features, dressing habits, and so on. Some look very unkempt, which of course isn't a characteristic of Irish folk but not terribly uncommon here. And there are the very scruffy looking types, who it seems are characterized by fellow Irish as being from the North. People from the Belfast region are supposedly scruffy and rough and not the sort that you want to pick fights with.
Anyhow, we walked around quite a bit. I don't really remember the names all that well of the places that we visited, and so I think that it would be wise to invest in a map of the areas so that I can record the names of them. We visited a castle that was an important part of the British hold and government in Ireland, and thus has loads of history. We walked down some of the most important streets, some of the busiest shopping streets. It was all very interesting. I managed to finish off a roll of film, although I am trying very hard to keep from just taking boring building pictures, and instead am taking people pictures. Much better.
So, anyhow, that night after dinner Rachel and I went out to a pub in central Dublin, where she was going to meet some of her friends. I was very curious to see how the Guinness in Ireland is different than that which I drink in the States and in other places in Europe. It was much better, which wasn't too surprising. It was fuller and richer, and obviously more fresh. I had a few pints of that and enjoyed my conversations with Rachel's friends. One couple, Karen and Justin, had just returned from a journey to Australia and southeastern Asia. It was very interesting to swap stories and travel advice. They were great people.
Rachel and I caught a bus back to her place about 3:30 or so, and then she made some cheese toasties, since I was ravenous. Her brother Andrew came home from the pub that he had gone to, quite a bit more inebriated than we were. He managed to get on the subject of the Irish independence struggle, which was something that both I and Rachel were attempting (unsuccessfully) to keep him from going into. He was determined to go into it, and being the Irishman that he is, he couldn't help himself. Yes, that was a generalization, but not an unfair one. He raved about that for an hour, which was actually quite interesting to hear the perspective that he held about it, particularly the one that he held while drunk. I listened to him for a long time, until we had to move to another room, as their sister Nickola had to be up and at work shortly after 6 am. He ended up popping in the movie Michael Collins, which is about a key figure in the independence struggle. I actually outlasted them both, and watched it almost in its entirety, which is considerably long.
The next morning, or this morning, rather, I was up at 12, which was pretty good considering I went to bed after 8:30. Neither Rachel or I felt like getting around to doing anything really strenuous, and since it was Easter and the buses weren't running very frequently, we just stayed in. That was entirely accurate, really, because we ended up taking the dog for about a 6 or 8 mile walk, down to the bay and all around that area, even to the University of Dublin. That was an excellent walk, but I ended up very tired. My legs were just wiped out, it's been such a long time since I have taken an endeavor of that magnitude.
I did see a lot which is excellent, and Rachel and I talked quite a bit. We have talked more in the last two days than we did in two months in Finland. It has been a great opportunity to get to know her better, and to see her life here in Ireland. I guess I know how to pick out the excellent people to stay with, because I have enjoyed the last two days immensely getting to be part of her family. They haven't been shy about being themselves around me, which is terrifically refreshing. We had an Easter supper tonight, after I slept for a couple of hours in a chair. The five of them and I had a great conversation, and the food was great. Tomorrow I must find out what I can do to help them out, because they haven't asked a thing from me, and I was feeling very guilty that I haven't done a thing for them. I especially felt guilty after they got me a small Easter egg. That was fabulous, and very unexpected. But tomorrow I really do need to offer to do something for them.
So, it's been a good couple of first days in Ireland. I am finding out lots about life and culture and history and all of that in a very short time, and that is what I like to do.
I have had a few good days. It's been good. Yesterday I spent with Rachel again, and this time with her sister, to see some of the sites north of the Liffey. We first stopped in the GPO, or General Post Office, which had a quite a bit of interesting Irish history behind it. It seems that a lot of the revolution for the independence of Ireland took its base from the place, and so it has quite a niche in the history of the land. That was very interesting.
Then, we just walked north of the Liffey through several neighborhoods, some rather scrappy, and then crossed the river to go to the Guinness brewery, which was big to me, as it is my favorite beer. We took the tour in the Storehouse of the immense facility, which was a bit overwhelming but interesting all of the same. There in a tower, seven stories high, is the finale of the tour, which not surprisingly is a pub where a free pint of Guinness is included in the price. It offers a fantastic view of Dublin, with 360 degrees of view. Dublin isn't a skyscraper sort of a city, so most of the buildings are well below the tower, so there was an excellent view.
We did a fair amount of walking that day, seeing a lot of what Dublin offered the visitor north of the river, and even delved into the Temple Bar, which is a central shopping part of the city. Rachel and I ended up in a pub called O'Neills, which was a really good little pub. Not bad at all. After a few pints, and much conversation, we headed back to her place. Actually, it was a rather small amount of drink. We were there 5 hours, and only had 4 pints, and that is much below the typical Irish standards. Still, we spent most of the time talking and not drinking, and so it showed. Back at her place, we ate a little bit, and I watched a little TV with her folks. I didn't make it fifteen minutes, so I guess that it was a really long day. I ended up sleeping for about an hour on the couch before moving it upstairs to my bed. I was tired after so much walking and had no trouble sleeping. I have been having a little difficulty falling asleep, as my night schedule is still much with that of Colorado's, and so when it is 4 am here, it is only 9 pm in Colorado. That has taken me a few days to get used to, for sure.
Still, it was almost 11 am when I finally woke up this morning. Perhaps I had a little sleep to catch up on, I guess. I got out of the house as fast as I could, this time alone. I headed straight to the tourists office in the Temple Bar, because I wanted to find out what buses head to the airport at 4 or 5 am in the morning. I picked up a map there as well, which was just embarrassing. I guess they simply want you to not be able to forget that really are a tourist and for everyone else to find it an obvious fact. They gave me this huge ass map, like two feet across, and as thick as a Where's Waldo book with all of the advertisements. That was just sad. I found the Temple Bar map that I needed, which was about two by four inches wide, and tore it out and threw the rest of it away. I was too embarrassed to carry the damn thing around. I might as well wore a T-shirt with a big leprechaun and the words "TOURIST PIECE OF CRAP" right across it.
So, I proceeded to spend the rest of the day walking around Temple Bar. The place isn't all that big, but there are loads of interesting people who hang around it. It is like Boulder, Colorado without all of the stupidity all crammed into a few city blocks. Really it is like Pearl Street Mall there without the fakeness that Boulderites like to just drip. It was authentically strange and a great place to take a lot of good photographs.
I went to the City Hall, which is right there in the midst of it all, right next to the Dublin Castle. There is an interesting little museum about the roots of Dublin, that charges just an outrageous fee for normal people. Being a student, I only paid 1.50 euros, which isn't bad at all. It was interesting, but it had those knowledge wands, the little handsets that you can listen to as you walk along. They always ramble along forever and usually are as tedious as hell, so you are almost better off just reading the text on the walls. That gets you through in half the time.
Then, I went out and did my email in one of the many joints in the area. There are proliferations of internet cafes along that strip, more than I could have ever imagined. I thought that there would be only a few of them, and there are in most places of the city. Here they are very common.
Then I called my friend Will in Germany. He wants to come and visit me in Ireland, and to spend a weekend just traveling around. That is definitely cool with me. I spent most of the afternoon and evening just photographing people. I did pretty well. I managed to fill an entire roll of film and more. Usually, when people are the subject, then it is more difficult and only a few photos are taken. Today I got well over 30. It was a very good day photographically speaking. Most people don't realize that I am taking photographs of them, and go about their lives not realizing that they have been captured by my film. That is the beauty of a zoom lens. Even if they do, they only see the last moment of the picture, the part where the photo is already taken and there isn't a damn thing that they can do about it. I had a few people today request that I take their picture, and they were good subjects as well. You always hope for some of those people in every day. They are the best photographs.
I have decided against taking those vague building pictures, for several reasons. Number one, nobody likes to look at them. You are lucky to keep five minutes of people's attention when you are trying to show them. They are always like, "Hey, these are fantastic photos. Oh, what's on TV? Wouldn't want to miss my show..." So, I am going to take almost all pictures of the natives, of everyday situations that will be fascinating material for people to look at. That is my photographic goal of my travels in Europe.
After eating my supper and all that, I was to meet another friend that I had made in Finland called Matt. We met the O'Neills pub, where I was the previous night. Rachel also showed up, with another friend. We had a nice talk over some pints. As one might expect, I had some Guinness. It was a good ending to a good day. Rachel and I came back to her place and had a little more conversation over some food. So, it ended up to be a good day of just wandering through a strange town, as I was beginning to get a feeling for the directions.
I have been fairly unsuccessful in the past couple of days trying to get an idea of which direction I have been facing, because Dublin is a little confusing of a town. I had a little trouble after it got dark, but really, I was getting around quite well, at least in the center, by the end of the day. I just needed to get a feeling for it.
I am now sitting in a little cafe called Poppy's in the little town of Elliskerry, where Rachel works. She works in a little nature reserve called the Knocksink Nature Reserve. It's a charming little place with a "river" running through it. Actually, it is pretty much a river, like the St. Vrain River that runs through Lyons, Co. I walked up most of it that is in the Reserve. At one part, there is a little canyon that is absolutely beautiful, walls maybe twenty feet high with a path that runs along them, and covered in moss. It is very picturesque, very quiet and seemingly isolated, even though the road is only a hundred yards away.
Today I was alone out there, and it was very enjoyable. The only problem was a proliferation of beer cans that seemed to line every little campsite on the path. Evidently, Irish people aren't terribly compelled to carry their trash out with them and just throw aside their rubbish. That was sad, but they have done a grand job of keeping the area beautiful and natural. It is a little hidden treasure, and definitely a good way to spend part of a day.
I had lunch with Rachel here at this little restaurant. The food was excellent, although I ordered some rhubarb crumbly shit, and even paid for it. Then they forgot to bring it out to me, and I had to go ask for it after the rest of my food. At that point they informed me that they were out of the rhubarb, but they had apple if that would be satisfactory. I asked if it were the same cost, and they were like, "Oh, you already paid. Yeah, I'm sure that it is, if not more." I thought to myself, "Yeah, I'll bet it's not..." but I wanted a damn desert so I ate the apple pie, which wasn't great when I wanted rhubarb but enough to appease the smoldering wrath of a man shirked of his rhubarb.
But I had a good conversation with Rachel about my camp counselor experience and the following dislike for large groupings of children. She has to teach on her job, and she's had times when she was out in the woods with 15-20 young boys all beating each other with sticks. That's typically how it goes, some little bastard picks up a stick and starts beating his neighbor, and before you can say "Deep Shit," you have a severe issue on hand when they all seem to find it to be a good idea and proceed to follow the original bastard's example. I don't envy Rachel for her that part of her job at all. I would just quit on the spot and leave the little boys out in the woods to fend for themselves. It's too bad they don't have wolves in this country...
Ok, I have a bus to catch. That is important. I must go.
On the bus now. The cranky-ass bus driver is going like a bat outta hell, on a road that is normally fairly bumpy as it is. He's flying around corners like there isn't tomorrow, which at the way he's driving, there may not be. I remember the bus ride out here being a lot more smooth and slower. I guess it is a good thing to get back to town as fast as I can, if I actually survive the trip.
Irish countryside is really great. It's very green, as one might guess, but it truly has retained its character. The homes are often in the old style, and fields are hedged in trees and shrubbery. It's quite interesting, and I wouldn't mind having the opportunity to examine it more slowly and thoroughly. At this time, it's flashing by at a dangerous rate. Also, the freakin' driver keeps slamming on his brakes for every passenger who wants on or off, or for every stop sign. He doesn't believe in slowing down prior, only in the weak hope that his brakes are going to hold forever. I am afraid that I am going to have to write more later, it's too difficult now to get anything out properly with all of the bumping and all.
In a Dublin coffee shop, a little place called The Coffee Place (yes, pretty original). It's just a little place to sit. I am very tired today, I think mostly because I didn't pull off much sleep last night. I am walking around really slowly, like a zombie. It's really a pity, because it is such a nice day outside. It is the first day that I have seen with a full sky of no clouds and the sun shining brightly. Evidently that is an uncommon thing. But, unfortunately, my knee hurts pretty badly as well.
Dublin is very busy today, as you might expect due to the great weather. There are a lot of people outside today, but I just don't have the energy for taking pictures of them. With such good light, today would almost be perfect, but I have taken a lot of pictures of the woods, since that was pretty amazing, so maybe I don't need so many people pictures. Today just isn't the day.
Back at Rachel's, I have a lot of packing to do. I am really tired. I need to figure out a way to adequately thank this family for everything that they have done for me. They have really been great. They've taken fantastic care of me, and so I need to show how much I appreciate it. It's been a very nice experience staying here, seeing how they live, and being taken such good care of. Very nice.
Today I am flying to Finland, which I am greatly looking forward to. It was such an early morning, seemingly surreal because I didn't wake up until I was already on the bus almost. I said goodbye to Rachel and her mother, who were nice enough to drive me way into central Dublin to find the bus. I was at the stop by 5 am, but the damn bus didn't get there until almost 5:45, which really was pushing it when I was supposed to be on the plane and in the air by 6:30. I had to rush through the airport once I was there, and they almost didn't have a seat for me at that point.
I managed to make it barely, but I was so late that they had to put me in the business section instead of the low-class citizen section. It's hard to tell the difference between the two, other than the fact that everyone around me paid twice what I did, and so they get to get off the plane first. The leg room still is miserable, it doesn't improve on this flight. Maybe on the trans-Atlantic flights...
Anyhow, note to self, don't ever get a flight out of Dublin at 6:30 am. The buses are not dependable or regular at that time. I was waiting for the bus line Aircoach, which might not have been the best idea, as two buses from the bus service Airport Link went by as I was sitting there. My service simply was recommended by the tourism department, which doesn't necessarily mean that they are correct all of the time. Anyhow, it was a frantic morning that would have been unnecessary and wouldn't have happened in the States, where you can get your ass to the airport whenever you need to. But, that is Ireland for you.
Anyhow, I am flying into Copenhagen and then on to Helsinki. I will catch a long bus ride to a town, Kankaanpää, to see my friend Mia.
Helsinki Airport -- Back in Finland again, for the third time. I still enjoy coming into it, and seeing it approaching. This is the first time that I have come in to see snow on the ground, especially around Helsinki. There isn't much, and it is 3 degrees C here, so it isn't so cold, but still I wonder if my winter coat might have proven useful. It would have been terribly bulky, but it might get pretty cold here, especially north in Kankaanpää. I would have had to leave the coat with Mia, though, when I headed back to Ireland next week.
Anyhow, it's good to be back. Finland is one of my favorite countries, for many reasons. It is just a different sort of a place than the US. I do look forward to coming back here in the summer time, when there will be 24 hour sunlight. I sort of wish that I could go on into Helsinki for a couple of hours, just to walk around and look at the old sites. I have a bus in an hour and a half, though, and besides, my knee is bothering me too much to allow me to do much walking right now. Still, just to be back in the old running grounds of my student days, that is always a good time. I talked a lot about those days with Rachel, they came out a lot, even when we were talking about more current things. That was really the only part of our lives where our paths were the same. It was enjoyable to talk about those times, but I think that I liked talking about our current lives and today's events more. There is only so much that you can drive that stuff along before it becomes a drag. It's a bit like me talking about Chile every time that I had the chance. It wasn't that I was trying to do so, it was only that a lot of things that I think about have some connection still with Chile. I could be talking about how people go to university classes, and I would think of Chile and say something about it. I'm sure that Rachel got very tired of hearing about Chile, and I made sure not to bring it up much after awhile. No point getting on her nerves.
Something happened that was a little strange this morning. I was in the backseat of Rachel's car on the way to the bus-stop, and I had this strange sensation that my vacation was over and I was heading home. It was terribly depressing, even though I am barely a week into the trip. For a brief moment there, I felt something like how I will probably feel when I am getting ready to head home, that feeling that the party is over and the fun has ended. The feeling had a lot to do with the degree of tiredness that I was feeling, but still, it seemed very real there briefly. It was a powerful emotion.
The place to start is the Temple Bar area, which lies directly in the center south of the Liffey River. Here is a fascinating array of shops and buildings. Here you can find numerous eateries, coffee shops, internet cafes, and much more. The streets are often only narrow alleyways, which is a striking difference to the typical broad avenues of most cities in the States. There are also numerous historical buildings, or large and antique-looking government buildings. Right in the middle of Temple Bar you can find the tourist office, in what appears to be a church with a high peaking tower. They give you a tourist booklet with maps, but most of the space is taken by advertisements and as a result, the booklet is about the size of a Where’s Waldo book, only twice as hideous. If you need the maps that are inside or don’t feel like buying one of the hugely overprices ones at the office, then just cut them out. Otherwise, you condemn yourself to looking very much like a tourist, which is just sad and pathetic.
At any rate, there are several streets that run south of the Temple Bar that are crammed with all sorts of stores and shops. This area seems to be a major part of the shopping area for Dubliners, so most days, even cloudy and rainy days the streets are filled with shoppers. If shopping is your game, then this would be the place. Also in this area is the Trinity College, with a fascinating campus of old buildings and beautiful sculptures. Don’t be fooled by the main area, a central square that is surrounded by buildings carefully cleaned and maintained, as it is a large tourist draw. It’s beautiful and all, but the campus is very much a functional school and there are many beautiful and more authentic areas around it that are quietly ignored by the majority of visitors. Also on campus is the Book of Kells, which is one of Europe’s oldest books, dating back more than a thousand years. It is interesting, and the museum around it provides a thorough history of Ireland’s monks and other settlers. But the admission fee of six euros is a little steep, even though the tour ends with a view of the Long Room, a beautiful and very old library that is two stories high and crammed with ancient books. It’s worth the cost if you are interested in that sort of thing.
Now, two more interesting features of the Temple Bar area are the Dublin Castle and the City Hall. The Dublin Castle, along with the GPO (General Post Office) across the Liffey on O’Connell Street, are a vital part of Ireland’s historical struggle against British rule. I would recommend watching the movie Michael Collins before viewing these sites so that you have an idea of the sort of history that is so important to them and yet not so known to many visitors. Inside the GPO are several paintings depicting scenes of the Irish Freedom Fight. Also, in the Town Hall, you can get an excellent idea of the origins of Dublin. There are several interesting video displays and much text on how Dublin came into being and all that has happened since. You also get a little handset that you can listen to, with loads of informational dialect. In fact, there is too much, and I wouldn’t even bother with the handsets. If you listened to all of the material, you would be in the museum for at least a couple of days. They have one narrator who speaks her piece, and then they bring on another guest narrator who supposedly is some expert, and he tells the same stuff, only in different words. It goes on and on and then on some more. It’s better to just read the text.
Now, you can also walk far west to the Guinness brewery. If you get lost trying to find it, just ask a Dubliner, they will certainly know where to direct you. In the Storehouse is a multistoried museum that takes you back to the original days of Guinness and the "genius" that went into its creation. Now, I like Guinness and in fact it is one of my favorite beers, but they went a little overboard praising their beer. It is very good beer, but it isn’t that good. They made it sound as if it were black gold. I guess that is the point of a museum dedicated solely to a single beer. It also costs 9 euros to get into the place, but at the top, on the ninth floor, is a bar where you get a complimentary beer with your ticket. That is excellent, but even better is the 360 degree view of Dublin that you have from the bar. You literally can see almost all of Dublin. So, if you are a Guinness fan, then the brewery is a definite must for you.
Those with good legs or a couple of weeks to spare can explore more of Dublin’s center by foot. You could go as far south as St. Stephen’s Green or as far north as your nerves will allow, and everything in between. For those who are photographically inclined, there is much material and many interesting people to capture on film. Of course, if walking around for hours and miles on end isn’t that pleasing of a thought, find one of the many buses that circulate the center. Don’t take the tourist bus, the big, gaudy red double-decker things with no ceiling on the second floor. It would be bad enough to lug around the 2 square foot map booklets that basically label you as a tourist. It would be unforgivable to ride this things, and if you went to a pub later and someone recognized you as a person that they had seen on one of the buses, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you were ridiculed heartlessly. Spare yourself the indignity. But, anyhow, you can see a lot of Dublin and enjoy a lot of it, simply from the bus. There is so much to see, that you would almost have to live in the city for a couple of months to get it all in.
Dublin is a bustling city, full of people and pubs and Irish spirit. Speaking of which, don’t neglect the opportunity to visit a pub or two. O’Neills near the tourist office is a good one to start at. You can even take a pub tour, which you can find out more about at the tourist office. You just go around visiting various pubs and having half-pints. Of course, few make it to the end, and even fewer remember it, due to the degree of inebriation that participants attain. But, then again, that is the point.