Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Day 2 - More Than Just A Taste Of Dublin

We woke up surprisingly early this morning. A combination of the early night last night and the anticipation of the day ahead conspired to kick Trish and I in the rear a bit. Trish did get up for a little bit during the evening; she was going to step outside to cool off, but found that she was locked into the hallway outside our room. She managed to sneak out through the owner’s residence. We found out later that was ok, and that the expected late-night walkers to do that, but it was certainly disconcerting to have to creep through someone’s stairwell to the outer door.

We went into the breakfast room that morning and ate a hearty traditional Irish breakfast (including ham, stewed tomato, black and white pudding – don’t ask – and eggs), then hopped into the car and headed out.

Lusk is a little closer to Dublin than Skerries (at least it’s one stop closer down the rail line), so we headed to that train station instead. Unfortunately our friend “Jill” had a hard time picking up a satellite, so we had to find much of the way ourselves. About the time we found the station she “woke up.”

Remembering our parking dilemma the day before, we looked for non-metered parking around the train station. The station’s lot was filled with cars (presumably left there by the morning commuters), but there was a field next door with an open gate that had a few more cars parked in it. We debated with each other as to whether we should park in the field or not… the desire to get on the train and not look for other parking options won out, though we were certainly nervous about coming back to find our car locked into some farmer’s property (luckily nothing like that happened).
We sped into Dublin and got off again at Connelly station. Across from the station we found an internet parlor that “rented” computer terminals for 1 Euro an hour. We bought an hour and went through our email, then headed out.

Trish wanted to see a show at the Abbey Theatre (Ireland’s national theatre) that evening, so we stopped by the box office. Our timing wasn’t great – it was the final week of a play we’d never heard of called The Big House, which was all right… but in another week a new play written and directed by Sam Shepherd (and starring Stephen Rea) was going to open. To rub a little salt into the wound, a new adaptation of Playboy of the Western World was due to open in October. Sigh… what were we going to do? We bought tickets to The Big House and bemoaned the great theatre we were going to miss.

We made our way from the Abbey back to Connolly Street, that grand plaza I’d gotten a glimpse of the day before. Trish realized on the way that it was getting really sunny (we found out later that the week we were there had the best weather the country had seen all summer – there’d been four months of rain previously). She didn’t have a hat, and we couldn’t find the sunblock we’d packed. So, we headed onto the side streets of Connolly to find some sunscreen at a chemist. While we were shopping, we also picked up a new purse for Trish at a local department store.
Suitably pursed and screened, we boarded the Dubliln Tourism hop-on-hop-off bus. This bus goes around to most of the major attractions in the city, and your ticket allows you 24 hours on the bus with a tour guide (ours was named Anthony, a kick in the pants, for Gods sake!). You can get off at any of the attractions, then get back on and continue the tour. A great deal!

We went along about half the route, listening to the history of the city and having little bits of local color pointed out to us over the loudspeaker by Anthony. About halfway through the route we got off at the Guinness Storehouse, part of the Guinness brewery complex. Our Dublin Pass gave us free admission to the storehouse (and allowed us to bypass the line), and a little gift as well.
The storehouse is an amazing show… in the foyer, set into the floor, is the original lease signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759. The term of the lease is 9000 years (no, really!). The brewery has since grown to 60 acres of land in Dublin, and produces 3,000,000 pints of Guinness a day. All that for 45 pounds a year (the rent spelled out in the original lease).

Once you’re inside, you’re treated to a multi-media show as the ingredients that go into making Guinness are explained, and the brewing process is demonstrated (every hour they start a new batch and allow one of the visitors to give it his or her name. While we were there a woman named Dorothy lent her name to a batch- very cool.

We could have spent hours and hours in the storehouse, looking at the advertising wing, the educational sections, etc… but by the time we’d gone through about half the tour we were ready to sit down and get something to eat. Luckily, your ticket to the storehouse also allows you a free pint of Guinness… so we sat down in the restaurant and had some VERY hardy beef-and-Guinness stew (with carrots on the side and a dollop of mashed potatoes on top) and our two free pints. Well, ok… Trish drank about a quarter of her pint, and I couldn’t let that go to waste… After lunch we went up to the top of the storehouse to get a view of Dublin from the “Gravity Bar” (the bar actually hangs out over the building and is enclosed in glass all the way around… it can be a little disorienting when you’ve got 1 and ¾ pints of Guinness in you). Then we made our way back to the hop-on-hop-off bus and took the rest of the tour back to Connelly Street.

We had a little time before the play at the Abbey started, so we wandered up from Connelly a little way. We wanted to get a cup of coffee (I needed it after all that Guinness), so we looked for a café that was still open at around 6pm. We found one in the Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery; a modern art gallery tucked up just beyond the Garden of Remembrance.

The coffee at the Hugh Lane Gallery was fine, but what really captured our attention was a stained glass room just inside the doors (the gallery was technically closing, so we couldn’t go much beyond the front doors. Good thing, too; if the rest of the gallery was as enchanting as the stained glass room, we would have spent an entire day in there). One piece in particular, The Eve of St. Agnes by Harry Clarke, totally captivated us. After devouring it panel by panel we fairly stormed the gift shop (which was trying to close) to find a print of it; they had one, but it was over $100. We settled for a notebook with the piece on the cover… and more than a couple of sneaky photos of the panels.

After the gallery and our coffee stop, we still had a bit of time to kill. We stopped in a pub across from the Abbey called Murphy’s and had a slice of chocolate fudge cake and a pint of Carlsberg… and Trish drank some tea (she’d had enough beer for one day). While we were at Murphy’s, we started quizzing the patrons on where we should next in Ireland; we didn’t have a room at the Hillsview House the next evening (they were full up, and we’d only reserved two nights), and we knew that we wanted to get out into the countryside. We heard at least two people (a patron and the bar keep) suggest County Galway as one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. We filed that away and headed for the Abbey.

Before we went in, though, we took a quick stroll up by the River Liffey and got some photos of the Ha’penny Bridge and the… colorful folks sitting by the riverside. By the time we got to the theatre Trish’s feet were more than ready for the rest.

The play itself was… challenging. Written in the 1930’s, The Big House is a melodrama about an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family who live in a manor house and rent land to the Irish farmers. This family is the defacto aristocracy of the area, but they’re treated ill by the English (because they’re Irish) and treated ill by the Irish (because they’re English).

It’s a four-act play that covers a period from 1918 through 1923. Each act takes place in a different time period… and I’m sorry, but it was BOOORRRRRRING!!!! Trish fell asleep soon into the first act, and I was struggling by the time intermission came around. Maybe it was the stilted, melodramatic style the play was written in, maybe it was the fact that the history related in the play wasn’t OUR history… but it just wasn’t grabbing us and we were both tired. We sort of skulked out the of the theatre, embarrassed that we were leaving at intermission (something we always hate to do, especially when the tickets cost us 30 Euro each). We passed a young couple talking quietly around the corner of the theatre, and tried hard not to make eye contact, because then they’d know
we were leaving.

After a few steps, I realized that they were following us. I marshaled enough courage to turn to them and ask them what they thought of the play… and they answered with an American accent that they were glad someone else was leaving at intermission! Turned out they’re also actors (from Los Angeles) named Piper and Adam. We had a great discussion about theatre and what didn’t work for us in this particular production as we headed for the train station… small world, eh?
We got into Connelly in time for the last train out to Lusk (actually, we were early for the last train, having left at intermission). As we waited on the platform a voice came over the loudspeaker telling us that the train on our platform was being delayed, however, because it had been vandalized. Visions of our rental car being locked in that farmer’s field started to swim in our brains… luckily, though we did get out after the vandalized car was pulled into the yard, and the malevolent farmer we’d imagined hadn’t been at his gate; we got in the car and headed back to the B&B.