Today was superb; I’ve found my bearings in Dublin as quickly as I have come to realize what a great place it is. Despite the sheer length of the period of time I shall denote ‘yesterday,’ I got up in timely fashion this morning. Within an hour of doing so, I had acquired some needed provisions and set off for the day’s explorations. They would prove both extensive and diverse.
To start, I crossed the O’Connell Street Bridge into what is now central Dublin. Close by is Trinity College, where I had a look at the general grounds and the Douglas Hyde Gallery before going to see the famous Book of Kells. Despite grave warnings about Vatican Museum-class lines, I waited no more than three minutes to get into the gallery. The exhibits that precede the book demonstrate beyond dispute what an enormous amount of effort must have gone into the tome, though it’s really hard to comprehend in a post-Gutenberg era.
Above the Book of Kells is the spectacular Long Room: a barrel-roofed library made of dark wood. While other people milled about looking at the busts of great thinkers and a few volumes on display, I read Sweetness in the Belly. Between there and The Pavilian – an on campus pub beside the cricket pitch where I wandered for a bite to eat afterwards – I finished Camilla Gibb’s very engaging book. I will write a more comprehensive review once I return to Oxford.
At ‘The Pav,’ as the students apparently call the place, I met a group of physicists working on applied nanotechnology and the development of magnetically based random access memory for computers (the big upside of which is that it maintains the information in it without a current being applied). One of the nicest things about Dublin is how easily you can insert yourself into the conversations of strangers in pubs, or be drawn in, as I would later learn.
Other excellent things about Dublin include the size – no more than a fifteen minute walk from the farthest point I reached today (St. Patrick’s Cathedral) to the internet cafe near my hostel. Complimenting that are the pedestrian-only streets: a truly excellent element of urban planning anywhere. I haven’t used Dublin’s public transit, though trams and buses seem to be frequent and popular. After only a day here, I am willing to speculate that I could live here happily for some time.
After leaving Trinity, I went for a bit of a wander. I saw both cathedrals (Christ Church and Saint Patrick’s, both smaller than expected for such a traditionally religious place) before crossing over eastwards past Saint Stephen’s Green. At the suggestions of people I consulted before leaving, I then dropped in for a while at a pub called Kehoe’s. Over the span of a couple of hours, I had conversations with Americans about Arabica coffee beans, a fellow Canadian about Irish history, and a pair of native Dubliners about our respective countries. That pair very heartily endorsed the plan to visit the Aran Islands and Galway, suggesting that the smallest of the three islands is definitely the one to visit. One of the men also showed me a pub, about thirty metres away, where the protagonist of Ulysses famously had a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy for lunch.
As the night is still fairly young, I may have a wander past the hostel to see if I can find anyone who is interested in a bit of additional exploration. I have the sense that most of those with whom I spoke last night – including an aggressive ‘Young Republican’ American woman, intent on proving the virtues of gun ownership and and sheer villainy of the Democratic Party – have already departed. That said, the place is positively crawling with curious travellers.
PS. After finishing Sweetness in the Belly, I picked up a hardback copy of John Banville’s The Sea for half the normal price of a paperback copy, at a discount book store near Trinity. After I finish that, I will take another stab at finding a used copy of Dubliners, or possibly fork out the Euros for a crisp new edition.