On my must-see list for Dublin is famed Trinity College. Here are found the famous Book of Kells and the library’s Long Room, both worth a return visit.
Our apartment is located just a few blocks from away, so while Joy was shopping (she said it was for groceries) I sneaked away for another look. What I saw was a university teeming with students and tourists. Seventeen thousand young men and women study here; they come from all over the world. Because of its academic reputation, Trinity attracts 2700+ international students, a fair number.
I tried to remember what the campus looked like on my first visit, but so many of the buildings have been built since then I had to reorient myself. I think I remember not having to pay to visit the Long Room. This time its price of admission was lumped in with that of the Book of Kells, both for eleven euros (nine if you’re superannuated—old age should have some benefits, don’t you think?)
I couldn’t get a good picture of the Book of Kells, since they keep the lights dim, so I took one of another illuminated manuscript so you’d get the idea. (I recommend Googling real thing.)
The Long Room is lined with busts, going clear back to ancient Greece’s Homer. One bust in particular was my goal: Dr. Lawson. I remembered seeing him on my first visit. It was such a thrill to know that another Lawson (surely a relative) did something significant enough to have his bust in Trinity College library. So there you have it: Aristotle, Cicero, Plato, Bacon, Demosthenes, Milton, Newton, Shakespeare, Swift and Dr. Lawson.
I studied his bust to find a family resemblance. And I found it. Observe the nose.
After her shopping Joy and I met for lunch at Falafel and Kebob, an excellent Middle Eastern restaurant featuring—you can believe me on this one—falafels and kebobs. We could have smoked a hookah, too, if we wanted—a choice of mint flavored or merely charcoal. We passed. Didn’t want to spoil the aftertaste of our good lunch.
Did you learn to sing the lament of “Sweet Molly Malone” when you were in grade school? I did. As I was out walking there she was, right on the sidewalk. And the words came back to me…
In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!
She was a fishmonger, was Molly Malone, “for so were her father and mother before,” and they, too, “wheeled their barrows through streets broad and narrow…” It was fun to meet her in person, though I confess when I was in grade school this wasn’t exactly how I pictured her.
The next day we had a good morning joining about 35 others on a 2 ½-hour free walking tour of Dublin, led by Ollie, an irrepressible student who pays his way through university this way.
Ollie was knowledgeable, witty, and possessed of a strong enough voice that we heard him easily. He led us, among other sites, to Dublin’s castle, Christ Church Cathedral (Dublin has two cathedrals, St. Patrick’s being the other and younger one), the Temple Bar area (the famous drinking section I mentioned in the last post), and Trinity College. It was after this stop that we met sweet Molly Malone again. We’re getting a pretty good feel for the central attractions of the city.
“While you are in Dublin,” someone told Joy, “you need to do the Greystones Cliff Walk.” It’s along the coast south of here between the little towns of Bray and Greystones. So we did. It felt good to get out of the city’s hustle and noise for the tranquility of rural Ireland. We were ready for a change of pace, change of scenery.
We caught the train at Connolly Station bound for Greystones, about an hour away, the end of the line for normal people. But not for us. No, at the Bray station we left a perfectly comfortable train which needed only eight minutes to get from point A to point B so we could prove ourselves still able—barely—to trek for two hours up and down and over and around the remaining four miles.
The town of Bray boasts a long, beautiful beachfront and esplanade.
I had to admit, after having expressed myself sufficiently on the subject of not being able to ride the train to the end of the line, that it would have been a shame to miss this town.
A kindly young father out with his toddler son offered to take our picture. He’d probably never seen such a sight before.
A further word about the train. The track was built in the mid-nineteenth century at the time that Greystones had a total population of 93, an enormous expenditure to connect these tiny coastal hamlets with Dublin. The cliff walk was born during the construction, as there was no other way to get machines and building material to the line.
To this day the upkeep on the train, which passes through several tunnels, must be a severe drain on the company’s budget.
I’m glad they spend the money. I have to confess the views, even though the day was typically overcast, were often breathtaking and the other hikers we met along the way were unfailingly friendly, though they must have shaken their heads when we weren’t looking at these two pasty-faced, much-too-well-layered aliens puffing their way over the uneven terrain.
We ate a hearty lunch at a vegetarian café in Greystones, congratulating ourselves on conscientiously choosing such healthy fare.
That conscientiousness lasted until we walked past an Irish sweet shop. Well, the café hadn’t offered any real desert. A little Irish ice cream and a couple of Irish chocolates are good for the soul. (Not necessarily for the body, but that’s not relevant here.) Then we headed back toward Dublin, leaving the train only once to visit the port of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Doon Leary).
We had been told to see the pier but what captured our attention was a modernistic building that dominates the near cityscape. It turned out to be the city council and library building. Such a beauty must be a source of enormous civic pride. This town is very much alive. We’d like to return for a less rushed look around.
But we gladly caught the next train north. We had planned to ride to the other end of the line beyond Dublin, Howth, a fishing village that had been recommended. Joy and I wanted to see it, but our bodies rebelled. So we went home. By train.