Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dublin Highlights

Despite the rough beginning to the trip, my three days in Dublin were pure delight.  The weather was pleasantly cool and mostly blue-skied sunniness, aside from the occasional five-minute bursts of rain (I was glad I kept my umbrella in my purse!).  Here are just a few of my favorite things from Dublin:

  • Christ Church Cathedral -- Beyond a doubt, it's my favorite cathedral I've ever been inside.  I visited in the evening, while their choir rehearsed, lending the most lovely and perfect ambiance to the experience.  I gazed up at the stunning, larger-than-life architecture, marveled at the beautiful stained glass windows, read the inscriptions on all the tombs, and was quite fascinated by the crypts underneath.  When I had explored to my heart's content, I sat down and let the choir move me to tears with their singing.  I had actually been a bit emotional that entire day -- being in the midst of so much beauty and so many interesting things made me even more grateful for the success of my eye surgery.
  • The Book of Kells at Trinity College -- I have long been enchanted by illuminated manuscripts, so for years now it has been a dream of mine to see the real Book of Kells in person.  It did not disappoint.  Even though you only get to glimpse just a few pages of this priceless masterpiece, the entire exhibit on rare manuscripts was riveting.  I also really enjoyed getting to see the exhibit on the preservation of rare books at the Old Library, which, I have now decided, is absolutely my dream library.
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral -- It has long been a desire of mine to attend a choral Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral.  In fact, that was one of three reasons that I settled on Ireland for my summer vacation.  Unfortunately, jet lag chose to strike on Sunday morning.  The service at Christ Church starts promptly at 11:00 . . . and by that time, I had taken a wrong turn and wound up at St. Patrick's.  Sadly, I had to give up on my dream.  But, then I noticed that St. Patrick's does a choral Eucharist, featuring their excellent Men and Boy's Choir, at 11:15!  I hurried in, found a good seat, and tried not to feel too disappointed at not getting my first choice.  When the service began, I was shocked to learn that I had accidentally stumbled in on the perfect Sunday - it was the 300th anniversary of the first Sunday that Jonathan Swift preached there!  In the end, I was very happy with my "second choice".
  • Street performers in Temple Bar -- The Temple Bar area encompasses loads of restaurants, shops, bars, and markets.  It's a busy, bustling, excited, energetic place to walk.  Although I enjoyed browsing through shops and markets and feasting on some very nice gelato, the real highlight for me was all of the street performers.  I saw folk dancers, acrobats, and various musicians.  My favorite was a group who played traditional Irish folk music.
  • The fantastic bakery in Rathgar -- In the interest of saving money, I stayed in a B&B (Abrae Court Guesthouse, heartily recommended) in the charming little village of Rathgar, about 15 minutes from Dublin's city center.  There was a little bakery in the village that had really friendly employees and the most delicious veggie paninis I have ever tasted.  For two nights in a row, that was dinner!
All in all, I was a little sorry to leave Dublin, as I had quite a wonderful time there.  But, I couldn't be too solemn about leaving - I was on my way to see neolithic passage tombs!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"