We started our second day in Dublin with a lovely scenic Viking Water tour (aka Duck Tour)…
Actually we started our day at Slattery just north of the Liffey on our way to the Jameson Distillery. Situated on Grande Canal Street, we entered one of the few early houses (you know… a pint with your breakfast), where one can find a warm cozy Irish feel. There were three options on the menu so the husband and I decided to go the traditional Irish breakfast route.
After our bellies were full with homemade sausages, pudding, and eggs we headed over to the distillery. I wont say much about the Distillery other than to say the the original building was quite interesting to see. The plexiglass floors revealed the old foundation for the original pot stills. One of the original pot stills could hold 31,000 gallons making it the largest pot still in the world. The original building, still intact, was built in 1795 and from 1825 to 1975 the distillery was in operation (that’s 150 years) until is was moved out to the Middleton Distillery where they still craft there 5 (don’t quote me on that) well known whiskeys. With all that said, the tour was very Disney-like. Animetronic figurines reenacting the process of distilling whiskey and a theatrical video of a man from the New York Times visiting the distillery and meeting Mr. Jameson himself. At the end of the tour there were a blind tasting of a Scottish whisky, and American whiskey and Jameson. The husband eagerly participated only to find out the cards were heavily stacked in Jameson’s favor (using Jack Daniels – not even a Kentucky bourbon, and Johnnie Walker Black Label – the shortest aged of their sipping line).
After we enjoyed our tastings of Jameson (neat for the husband and mixed with ginger ale and mint for myself) we dedicated the rest of the day to the great writers of Ireland.
For those of you who know me, I am quite the literary nut. For as small as Ireland is, they are home to many great authors including 4 nobel prize winners in literature, including Samuel Beckett, WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Seamus Heaney.
Dublin is also known for its theater presence, where back in 1899 WB Yeats and Lady Gregory founded the Irish Literary Theater, which eventually evolved into the Abbey Theater. Unfortunately, the husband and I were noy able to squeeze a show in this trip but plan to go to the Abbey Theater next time we are in town.
We started our literary tour at the Dublin Writers Museum. A small museum located on Parnell Square (north of the Liffey) in a house built by Thomas Sherrard in the late 1700’s. There were two exhibit rooms. The first room traced the roots of Irish poetry and storytelling on to Swift, Congreve, Goldsmith, and Sheridan. The exhibit then transitioned to the successors of Thomas Moore to Mangan, Bram Stoker (the author of Dracula) onto Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. The second room displayed artifacts and information by the dominate writers of the twentieth century and the height of the Irish Literary Revival. This is where we learned about the creation of the Abbey Theater, Yeats, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey and the always colorful and amusing Oliver Gogarty.
Just down the street from the Dublin’s Writer’s Museum we stopped in the James Joyce Center. It was very interesting to think how much Dublin shunned Joyce (especially around the time he was writing Ulysses) to then have them sing his name and shower him with accolades for his writings. You almost want to feel sorry for him because a city practically ran him out, yet you stop short because he was such an arrogant man. At the Joyce Center there was a great quote on the wall that said, “What did you do in the Great War?” Joyce responded, “I wrote Ulysses, what did you do?”
The James Joyce Center was nicely curated and utilized some great touch screen experiences to walk you through the life of James Joyce. One of the touch screens show a great visual display of the family tree for the Ulysses book editions. Amazing to think how far the book has come from its rough beginnings and a country that refused to accept its author for so many years.
Post the James Joyce Center we strolled over to the Winding Stair for relaxing bite of food and a glass of wine. When you enter the restaurant you have to go up a flight of winding stairs (naturally) to the second floor. In a decent size room you enter the restaurant with about 20 or so tables. The items on the menu were refreshing a light so we selected a mozzarella, pickled vegetable and greens salad with a tray of smoked fishes (including salmon, haddock,whipped mackerel, scallops, and a few others that are escaping my memory). The wine selection was also very nice to choose from. I noticed that all of the restaurants we ate at did not include US wines, which was refreshing. Instead I was able to try various wines from Chiles, South Africa, and other countries that I don’t see on the menus back home. The Chenin Blanc I had (from South Africa) at the Winding Stair was crisp and refreshing.
After our bellies were refilled with more Irish fare we wandered back over the river and to Trinity College. Trinity College was established by Queen Elizabeth after she realized many of the Irish people were seeking education in Spain, France, and other location. At that time, it was deemed unacceptable and Trinity college was created to ensure a more noble (and proper religious) education was experienced among the Irish people. Trinity College is home to many of the well-known writers I mentioned earlier. Even Oscar Wilde attended however he transferred partly through to Oxford where he completed his degree.
Trinity College is also home to the Book of Kells, which was been housed at the college since the 19th century (for safe keeping due to the destruction that was occurring in Scotland at the time). The herds of people that shuffled through the small exhibit was astounding. It was hard to absorb all of the information in the museum due to the volume of people but it was interesting to learn that the book was not meant for daily reading, rather for special occasions. The majority of the exhibit featured large scale images of different pages from the book with excerpts about the creation of the book.
On the second floor of the Old Library is the Long Room where one can find over 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. It was times like this that I wished I had my nana with me. At the Louvre in Paris we had her in the wheel chair and were able to zip straight to the front of the line to see the Mona Lisa. At the Books of Kells you had to be quick on your toes to get a peak at the couple of pages they had on display.
After moving through the crowd of people at the Old Library we headed back to city center. By the library we noticed a sphere sculpture that looked strikingly similar to the one that is in the Vatican. We later learned that the Italian sculpture Arnaldo Pomodoro had created a series called “Sphere within Sphere” and one of them is at Trinity College (as well at the UN HQ in New York and a handful of other places).
Post Trinity College we did a retail stroll down Grafton Street. We made a stop at Ulysses Rare Book Store where they have a signed first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysess for only 350,000 euro. The store housed a great selection of used rare books, including some first and second editions of Roland Dahl books. The store used to be called Cathach Books but you can located them online at www.rarebooks.ie
Since we had to be at The Duke for the Literary Pub Crawl at a certain time we made a pit stop at Hogans for a pint of the black stuff and went to Bear, by Joe Macken and Jamie Heaslip, for dinner. It was a fabulous steak joint that served up the not so popularized cuts of meat in tasty new ways, with all types of small plates and a great wine and cocktail selection.
After dinner we headed to The Duke for the literary pub crawl. I don’t want to share too much about the experience because it doesn’t change regularly (I don’t want to spoil the fun if you plan to go) but what I can say is that is was plain old good fun! The group meets at The Duke where you have a pint and listen to literary stories, watch some theatrical renditions of scenes from various well known Irish novels and plays, and have a good laugh. The performers are well versed in their literary history and did a splendid job telling stories about Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Oliver Gogarty and Brendan Behan.
By the time the pub crawl ended the husband and I were pretty pooped. We knew we had another journey filled day ahead of us and pubs to visit in our future. We thanked our amazing literary pub crawl performers/guides and bid adieu to the night.