Friday, June 6, 2014

Dublin Days 2 and 3

Books, Parks and Beer 

Day Two:
Dublin is a city of surprises. It works hard and it plays hard. It is a resilient City filled with history. Much of that history contains heartbreak. 

Day two we took the Gray Line hop on / hop off bus. This choice was the result of a prior experience in Lisbon where the Gray Line service was much better then the similar service operated by the local bus company.

Well in Dublin the situation is just the opposite. So go with the hop on service provided by the Dublin Bus Company (as their buses actually came around every 10 minutes and ran well into the evening in June). The Gray Line version took 30-40 minutes between buses and it closes down promptly at 6 PM in June. Both companies charge 19E for 2 consecutive days.

So we did a LOT of walking.

But that is ok. Walking is how you actually get to know a city.

On day two after completing a loop on the hop off bus we visited the Guinness Storehouse. The "Storehouse" was built in 1902 as the fermentation building (where yeast was added to the brew). It was the first steel framed multi-story built in Ireland. It was closed in 1988 when a new fermentation building came on line. Then, in 1997 Guinness decided to convert the building into a visitor center.

So, the Guinness Storehouse is now a dazzling showcase for Guinness and its beer where a carefully packaged history of the company and this specific brewery is presented to visitors from around the world.

Nowhere on the tour did they mention that Guinness corporate headquarters relocated to London in 1932. Or that the company is part of the British spirits conglomerate Diageo (although the Diageo name pops up a few places around the Dublin's St James Gate site). According to Wikipedia the although no one from the Guinness family sits on the board, they still own 51% of the brewery.

What does come through throughout the Visitor Center is that the draught beer brewed here today is truly a distinctive brand and is as Irish as the harp on the label.

I was also interested that Guinness customizes its brews to the tastes of some 70 countries around the world where it maintains breweries. At one time it was the seventh largest company in the world. And, yes, by volume American's drink more of it than anyone in the world! But per capita, I'm betting the Irish still have us beat, particularly Dubliner's!

One of the Many Guinness Buildings
I liked The "I am a Factory" Look 

Looking Up Through the Steel Floors of The 1902 Guinness Storehouse

Ms. M and I Really liked the Historical Cask Makers Display

We were surprised to learn that Caskmakers apprenticed 7 years before they were allowed to work independently. And as a final hazing ritual, each had to endure being placed in a cask with all sorts of obnoxious detritus and rolled down streets, stairs etc. 

The barrels they created were extraordinarily durable. They were reused over and over. And, when they needed repair many were sent back and renewed over and over. 

An Early Version of Guinness Sea Transport 
Loaded With Casks

I Loved the Intracacy of the Displays Throughout The "Storehouse"

Some of the Guinness Advertising Displayed
Guinness also has historically treated its employees exceptionally well, offering benefits that were unmatched in the industry. Yet, until 1939 Guinness requested employees resign if they chose to marry a Catholic. They did not hire Catholic employees until the 1960's. 

Although there was pressure to move some or all of the brewery, the City took steps to assure that such a move would result in the loss of almost all of the value in the present site. So expansions and renovation has begun on the Dublin site. It all comes back to that amazing 9000 years lease Arthur Guinness signed in 1759. 

My favorite part of the tour was learning to pour a"Perfect Pint". It takes about 2 minutes. You first fill a carefully shaped glass with a specific nozzle. Then the glass is set for abut 119 seconds so that the bubbles can "fall" in the glass as the nitrogen from the special taps is released. It is really quite beautiful. Of course the best part is you then get to finish pouring the head and go on to drink it! The Tour is 16.5 E for adults (There is a discount if tickets are purchased in advance on-line).

I finished the day with a dinner of cod and chips. Yum!

Day Three:
We began again by waiting and waiting for our tardy hop-on bus for a lift to Trinity College. The bus arrived after about 40 minutes and (of course) was jammed. But the ride was very pretty as we drove through Dublin's Phoenix Park.

And what a park it is! This park is big enough to hold New York's Central Park two times over. It was walled to originally serve as a private game reserve. Today it is home to the Wellington Obelisk (or Testimonial) celebrating the Duke's defeat of Napolean at Waterloo. It is also home to the third oldest zoo in Europe, a herd of 350 reindeer and the residences of the President of Ireland and the US Ambassador.

The 203' Tall Wellington Testimonial

The Duke of Wellington was born in Dublin, hence the desire to memorialize his victory. The Wellington Monument was begun in 1817, ran out of funds and was completed in 1861. It is the second tallest true obelisk in the world (only the Washington Monument is 555' tall). Coincidentally both monuments were stopped during construction due to lack of funds and completed as funds became available. 

Our main destination, the Long Library at Trinity College, came next. This library is a simply spectacular space. It is home to two of the four surviving Book of Kells (which has two pages on display). 

This was my biggest architectural geek-out moment of the trip so far. I could have spent hours in this beautiful library admiring its intricate details and its wonderful busts (including Jonathon Swift).  

The Long Library at Trinity College

The library was completed in 1732 as a single story structure structure with a flat ceiling. 128 years later (in 1860) a second floor was added along with the magnificent arched wooden ceiling. The library holds one of the last remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and one of the oldest harps in Ireland. The Celtic harp appears on the Irish Coat of Arms and is cherished as a symbol of Ireland. The library admission was 10E at the library. Note that at the entry to the college there will be attempts to sell you a "guided campus tour" for 12E. While that might be a good deal for some, we just wanted to see the library so we went directly there.

After departing Trinity College we walked along Dublin's main shopping street; Grafton Street. Along the way where human sculptures reminding me of the Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Prior to the crash in 2008 lease rates on Grafton Street were some of the highest in the world. 

We stopped and enjoyed a nice lunch in the basement Food Hall at Marks and Spencer (a beef pasty with potatoes and onions for me). Everywhere we stopped the variety and quality of fresh produce in Irish Grocery stores made me cry. 

Human Sculptures on Grafton Street

A Sand Sculpture

Varieties of Fresh Mushrooms 
Next to the Duck and Quail Eggs 
At a Green Grocer's

Selfies at St. Stephens Green

We finished off with a walk through St. Stephens Green and a walk back to the hotel (where we encountered a long section of the original Dublin Wall).

Tomorrow we are off on a drive to Kilkenny and a night in a B&B on the coast in Tramore. I.e. tomorrow is when Roadboy learns to drive on "the other side", with a stick shift in the wrong hand.

Roadboy's Travels © 2014

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