Saturday, November 3, 2012

ten years, man. TEN YEARS.

That's how long it'd been since Mike and I had been to Dublin before we went there three weekends ago. Dublin holds a very special place in my heart, not only as one of my favorite cities from my college travels in days of yore, but also because Dublin is the place where, just over ten years ago, Mike and I started dating. (And the rest, as they say, is history.*) Also three weekends ago, two of Mike's good friends that he's known since college were there as well. It was essentially an anniversary trip and the chance to see some Denver friends closer to our neck of the woods. How can one resist a setup such as that? We couldn't. Off we went.

We rolled into Dublin mid-morning on Saturday. Mike had found us a really great hotel (two minutes from Trinity College! five from Temple Bar!), and once we'd dropped our bags, off we went to explore. Saturday was gloriously sunny and unseasonably warm, and I hadn't thought about this until we arrived, but it was so nice to be traveling in an English-speaking country for once. Far less confusion and brain pain. And maybe it's the separation of the years talking, but I found Dublin much cleaner than I remember. It also has a very spread-out, open feeling, which I really appreciated. Mike says it's probably because the streets are wider there, although I surmise that it might have been the unexpected sunshine, the musical English being spoken around us, or just my excitement at being in Ireland again. Whatever it was, it was refreshing, and fantastic to be back in a city that we both really enjoy.

This amazing building (ca. 1891) was one minute's walk from our hotel.

Behold! The Oliver St. John Gogarty in Temple Bar. One of the goofy, touristy pubs in this neck of the woods, but at least you can count on finding good music here.

The River Liffey.

One for the collection: manhole cover featuring Irish Gaelic, and the three-tower symbol of the city.

After a quick lunch at the Stage Door Cafe (Mike had Guinness beef pie, I had beans on toast, and we split a bowl of homemade veggie soup [yum!]), we went around the corner to take a quick lap through the tiny, but packed-with-goodness, Temple Bar Saturday food market. While we certainly didn't regret eating where we'd eaten (good food! nice people! delicious Bailey's coffee!), we also felt that we might have missed out on something else fantastic.** 

Cripes, just look at the bread.

Gorgeous little hand-made cheeses.

WANT, WANT, WANT. Too bad I was so full I could barely stand upright to gawk at this. (I should have just gotten one, and hang the consequences.)

A considerate reminder for those of us who sometimes forget that these crazy people drive on the wrong side of the road.

This amazing building now contains a hostel, restaurant, and several other businesses, but it was built as the Dublin Working Boys Home and Harding Technical School (a residence for destitute boys working in the city, away from their families) in 1892.

Seriously gorgeous detail on this thing.

Christ Church Cathedral. The oldest parts of this place date to 1186, or thereabouts.

Christ Church.

Remnants of the Augustinian canons' chapterhouse, in use from 1163 to 1537.

Sadly, the line to get into the cathedral was only a few people long, but they were taking (almost literally) forever to buy tickets, and the cathedral was closing down for some sort of performance, so we decided to come back Sunday between services. And then we continued up the road and stumbled across an interesting little church that looked old and had a bit of an overgrown look (which always intrigues me), and having no other agenda, we went in.

St. Audoen's church, the oldest parts of which date to the late 12th century.

The Portlester chapel, built in 1482 and then un-roofed in 1773 when the congregation had dwindled to the point that the church could no longer afford to maintain its own building. So now you have these dramatic arches and some old grave slabs in this weird little courtyard. 

Inside the church: another old grave slab. Can I reiterate again how nice it is to travel to another English-speaking country? I can actually read things here!

The nave, originally built in about 1190.

The lucky stone! An early Celtic gravestone that was placed in the church around 1309, stolen several times, and always found its way back. Believed to impart luck to anyone who touches it.

Effigies of Earl Portlester and his wife, who paid for the chapel of the same name. And also for this monument, which is not actually their burial place. Dates to 1455. 

Sadly, you can't climb the tower 'cause it contains three of Ireland's oldest bells (from 1423). Once a week, they ring the bells by hand, and no one but the actual bell ringer is allowed up the tower. After a quick swing through their exhibit on the city's medieval guilds and the history of the church, it was off to St. Patrick's cathedral, since I've managed to impart my cathedral obsession to my husband. And also, it was close by. Oddly enough, it, too, was closed (some sort of graduation ceremony), so we had some coffee in the park next door and I took an unreasonable number of pictures of these incredible brick buildings next to the park next door.

I really, really loved these buildings.

Very Industrial Revolution-y.

Apparently, these are the Iveagh Trust buildings, financed by Sir Edward Guinness (yep, from the beer family of the same name) as affordable housing for the city's poor. He also designed and financed the park between these buildings and the cathedral; the Iveagh Baths; and the Iveagh Markets. 

St. Patrick's.

Weird little faces, high up on the side.

St. Patrick's, from the park.

St. Patrick's well was apparently somewhere near here.

It was at this point that we were summoned to meet up with Jensen and Carol Ann, so we made our way back towards Trinity College and rendezvoused at The Hairy Lemon (yes, this is a real place) for a pint or two. We went our separate ways for dinner, and we wound up at The Bull and Castle, right across the street from Christ Church Cathedral. And man, was that a good choice. Mike started with some ridiculously delicious salt-and-pepper shrimp, and then had a silly-expensive, but awesome, filet with whiskey peppercorn sauce and chive mashed potatoes. I had a "goat cheese crouton" (which turned out to be a slab of goat cheese--which is apparently a big thing in Dublin, hooray!--on a thick slice of buttered baguette) on a bit of salad with pine nuts and beets, and then went to a major salad of arugula and spinach (it was an accident! the menu said nothing about spinach!) with marinated red peppers, chicken breast, and lemon vinaigrette.*** By this point in time we were entirely stuffed, but our waiter was charming, and the menu listed "deep fried Mars Bar" as a dessert option, and so it was a done deal. It came with vanilla ice cream, and was full of chewy, caramelly, nougaty goodness.**** Sadly, no pictures exist to commemorate this fine meal, but rest assured that we will return there someday. And then eat their Guinness pie and fish 'n chips, which were gorgeous.

Regrettably, Sunday was cold, gray, and rainy, but at least it started with brunch at Gallaher & Co. I had their Eggs Lesley (poached eggs on brown soda bread toast with red pesto and creme fraiche), and Mike had the Irish breakfast (a couple of remarkable little pork sausages, baked beans, bacon, mushrooms, black pudding [surprisingly good!], a fried tomato, and two fried eggs). The food and coffees were pretty good, but the best part was the the building: it was on the ground floor of that fancy old building near our hotel, and their tiny, retro-modern dining room was pretty great (fancy ceiling, lots of chrome, open shelving, exposed brick, and big windows). 

After brunch, it was over to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (astounding) and the Old Library (awesome) again, and they did not disappoint. Naturally, no photos are allowed anywhere in there, so you'll just have to click on these here links to see how incredible it all is. (I think the library looks like something directly out of Harry Potter, and I really do not have the words to describe how astonishing the Book of Kells is.) 

At least we could take pictures inside the campus walls.

Then, we had a little time to kill before the cathedrals opened back up to tourists, so we took a quick spin past it another remarkable brick building, the George Street Arcade (built in 1881). Shortly thereafter, we stopped into Peter's Pub for a little warmth, and ended up chatting with the bartender for a bit too we didn't make it back to Christ Church before it closed for the afternoon service. Thankfully, St. Patrick's was open for an extra half hour.

Near George Street: neat.

The George Street Arcade. Also neat.

Super fancy brick work.

St. Patrick's.

"This stone was found 15th June 1901 six feet below the surface on the traditional site of St. Patrick's Well..." This thing dates (roughly) to the 10th century.

 Another 10th-century grave slab. So remarkable.

Some of the regimental flags hanging in the cathedral's North Transept, which contains a collection of monuments to Irish citizens who died in the service of the British Army. The oldest flags here are 150 years old, although some are as recent as WWII, and there are also giant monuments to Irish soldiers who died in Britain's wars in China and Burma.

Ornate stone staircase in the North Transept.

The choir, which served as the chapel for the "Most Illustrious Order of the Knights of Saint Patrick"...hence the banners, helmets, and swords (1783-1869).

Thought this was interesting: Jonathan Swift had his servant buried in the cathedral--an honor which is usually reserved for far more prominent members of society (knights, priests, nobility, etc.).

Jonathan Swift's grave. He served as Dean of St. Patrick's from 1713 until his death in 1745, during which time he published Gulliver's Travels. Also on Swift's watch, the combined choirs of St. Patrick's and Christ Church held the first ever performance of Handel's Messiah here in 1742.

After St. Patrick's it was dinner at The Hairy Lemon, which was fine, but sadly, despite their delicious-sounding menu, not fantastic. Mike's fish and chips were decent, and my Irish stew was just fine...although our starters of onion rings and some garlic bread topped with Irish cheddar were outstanding. (Go for the bar food, I guess is the moral of the story here.) 

Monday morning we started with breakfast of a slice of delicious, tart lemon cake that we'd picked up at a small craft market over the weekend, then it was off to the airport. I'll leave you with a few photos from our delightful hotel.

Bye-bye, funky hotel. Lobby decor: that purple chaise thing on the left is at least seven feet tall.

This is the first thing you see, upon entering the place: a conversation circle of these chairs...

...which are almost as tall as Mike. LOVE.

And that was Dublin. Yup, I still love Ireland. Excited to go back sometime, hopefully soon.

What I'm reading: finished Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons, and all I can say is, Sicily, I am coming to you one day! And oh, how we'll eat. I quite enjoy Matthew Fort's writing, although at times he verged on pretentiousness (honestly, who quotes Theocritus...?). I will admit, though, it's occasionally fun to have to look up big words, and his descriptions of food are downright enticing. Plus, recipes! Recipes at the end of each chapter! I'm positive I can't get most of those ingredients here, but it's still fun to contemplate cooking something Sicilian. I do wish Mr. Fort had gone with a little more cultural tourism, but who can blame him for being more-or-less strictly a food tourist, in that country? Not me. I'm clearly in no position to judge, here. 

Next up, I am taking a break from my electronic books to read an actual paperback (gasp!), which was loaned to me by our good friend Steve. Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, by Michael Korda, comes highly recommended. It's pretty fat, though, so don't expect a report of any substance for a good, long while.

My favorite things: over-the-knee sweater socks. Keeping my wimpy legs warm since 2011. It's only a matter of time until I snag them beyond repair, but until then, these things will continue to rule.

Next up for the blog: um...who can say? You'll be the first to know, when I figure it out myself.

*And also a miracle, 'cause how anyone could survive moi for ten years is truly a mystery. (Mike, you rule.)

**I truly envy cows, with their whole multiple-stomach thing. Could definitely have used a second stomach for a second lunch, as there were so many little booths cooking up such delicious-looking foods.

***I felt like a failure, eating nothing but salads, but my stupid stomach was on strike again, and I wasn't as hungry as I would like to have been. Sigh. They had such a lovely menu.

****Score two for deep-fried desserts: deep-fried Twinkies (which I tried at an Irish festival in Denver, oddly enough), are also spectacular.