I got back to Waterford last night (Friday) after 3.5 excellent days in the capital, where we all sweated under the unaccustomed Irish sun. That squinting modifier is deliberate because both senses of it are true: everyone is unaccustomed to so much sun, and it seems like the sun is unaccustomed to shining so much on Ireland. Thursday afternoon a temperature record of 32C (89.6F) was set at Shannon Airport. That was the hottest day; high temps are retreating to the mid-20s (25C = 77F) but even that range is unusual for this country. Everyone is sunburned–including the man I saw from a Dublin bus yesterday who was lying on a lounger in his tiny front garden, getting more sunburn on top of his existing sunburn–pubs are stuffy; buses are baking; and Dublin has banned the use of “hosepipes” (garden hoses) starting Monday. Apparently in a wet country it doesn’t take very many dry days to tip over into drought conditions.
The students were surprised at how much warmer these temperatures seem when one is out in them all day rather than just going from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned university campus. But we went out in them all day just the same, and everyone survived. Fortunately it was just hot enough to be tiring, not hot enough to make anyone ill–or at least not any Georgians ill; we did notice an above-average number of ambulances on the move during our days in Dublin.
Tuesday afternoon we kicked off our Dublin visit with a tour of Croke Park, the Gaelic sports stadium. Croke Park has a significant place in Irish culture and history: it is the home of Gaelic sports (hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football) exclusively and therefore a center of Irish national pride. There has been a sports ground at Croke Park for more than a century; the stadium in its current form seats over 82,000 and, from its roof, affords some amazing views of Dublin.
After Croke Park we headed to our lodgings. While in Dublin we stay at Dublin City University’s Glasnevin campus. The rooms are basic, but comfortable, clean, and safe. Although it gets noisy in the evenings because a lot of student groups stay there, the staff seem to enforce quiet hours pretty assertively. As I am hearing that lodgings in Dublin are getting extremely expensive, DCU is a good option to look at if you’re on a budget. It’s away from the city centre but there is a bus stop right outside the campus with lots of buses going into town. Once we dropped off our luggage we took our own bus to O’Connell Street right in the middle of Dublin and gave the students a very short walking tour to get them oriented: Parnell’s statue, the spire, O’Conell’s statue, the river, Trinity College, and Temple Bar is [*pointing*] over there. Then we faculty and staff made ourselves invisible for a few minutes while the students dispersed, and sheered off to have dinner on our own! (Go to the Gin Palace. Order a Star 75. You can thank me later.)
Wednesday morning we had work to do. The Dublin visit was set up so that each class had one full day for field trips. Wednesday was the morning class field trip day. My job, along with our consultant Jonathan, was to take the students who didn’t have a morning class on a field trip. That means I got to choose our destinations! We walked via Trinity College (again–sensing a theme?) to Christchurch Cathedral, Marsh’s Library, and finally St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with a pause for lunch in a park. I love cathedrals, so I pity da fool who did not.
I somehow did not take any pictures outside Christchurch, maybe because they have put up these strange panels around the entrance. They’re covered with little-kid-style drawings depicting what’s offered on Christchurch’s children’s tours. That’s great, but the panels detract from the overall cathedral-ness of Christchurch for sure.
Next stop! Archbishop March’s library, the first public library in Dublin. The building, collections, and even the shelves date to the 1770s, so you can imagine I was in my element. Here’s my recommendation as an extremely amateur Dublin tour guide: do not miss Marsh’s Library. It’s nearly as thrilling for book/history/book-history nerds as the Long Room at Trinity, with 1/10th the tourists and for a lot less money. The only small bummer is that they allow only very limited photography, so you will just have to trust me when I say that their current exhibit of extremely rare early books (volumes of which Marsh’s holds either the only copy or one of fewer than 5) is absolutely worth seeing.
We took a little break at this point in the tour to sit under trees in a park and eat some sandwiches. As much as I love all the sights we saw on Wednesday, the picnic lunch may have been the best part. It’s the kind of thing one never thinks to do at home and never gets to do in Dublin. Plus I had a sandwich of brie and cranberry sauce on toasted whole wheat ciabatta and it was SO DELICIOUS.
Our final stop for the day was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, my favorite place in Dublin. Seeing Swift and Stella’s burial plaques in the floor and reading his epitaph never fails to give me a thrill. Not to mention, of course, that the cathedral is beautiful:
At this point the pictures are about to run out–I took very few Thursday and none yesterday. But this entry is already over 1300 words so I will take a pause here and post more about Dublin tomorrow.