We awoke to a lovely sunny Wednesday morning and headed down to see what the traditional Irish buffet breakfast had in store for us. We had a selection of toast, bacon, eggs, baked beans, corn flakes, juice, blood pudding and strange spicy sausage balls. After filling ourselves with all that we could hold we headed out for our hop on, hop off tour. This is a 23 stop tour around Dublin's sights and attractions on a double decker bus with full Irish commentary. The first bus leaves stop number 1 - Cathal Brugha St (city centre) at 9:30am and the last bus leaves from here at 5:00pm. The full tour without hoping off lasts for 1 and a half hours.
Stop 2 on the tour was in Lower O'Connell Street which is the main street that runs down the centre of the city. It is also one of Europes widest streets at 49m in width. As we went past this stop (had already been there the day before), we past the Dublin Spire or as its officially known as "The Monument of Light", which is a large, pin like monument 120m or 390ft and marks the exact city centre of dublin. The tour guide described it as the tallest structure, heaviest monument and biggest ... waste of money in Dublin. It is 3 metres in diameter at the base and narrows to 15cm at the top, the highest 12m luminate at night.
We also passed the General Post Office or G.P.O which was the headquarters of the "Easter Rising" in 1916. The interior was destroyed when the British shelled the building.
Stop 3 on the tour was at Trinity College. Here we saw the Bank of Ireland, which was formerly the Irish House of Parliament. We went into Trinity College which is one of the seven ancient universities in the english speaking world. Past students of trinity include:- Jonathon Swift (author of Gullivers Travels), Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and poet Samuel Beckett.
We entered the library in trinity as Laura was keen to see the Book of Kells, which personally I had never heard of. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript transcribed by Celtic monks around the year 800. After viewing the Book and a few slightly less famous books of similar content we passed through the library itself which was like a scene from Harry Potter. It had ancient looking books that were being preserved by a team of workers for all to see.
After leaving trinity college we skipped stop 4 whcih was Nassau Street which alongside Grafton Street are the prime shopping streets in Dublin. Also here were the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Dublin. We couldnt think of anything in these places worth seeing and as we had spent a bit of time in the College we kept moving.
Stop 5 was in Merrion Square which is the largest Gerogian Square in the city and is surrounded by original Georgian Buildings and contains a statue of Oscar Wilde. We briskly walked through the square as well as the National Gallery which didnt really have any major pieces of artwork so we just glimpsed the main galleries which contained 17th and 18th Century Irish art.
We skipped stop 6 which was the National History Museum. This was partly because we werent that interested but mostly because we couldnt find it. (oops)
Stop 7 was St Stephens Green which is the largest park in Europe. In the North West corner of the Green there is a garden for the blind with strongly scented plants which can withstand handling and are labelled in Braille. Whilst at stop 7 was Mansion House which has been the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin since 1715.
We stayed on the Bus for stops 8-10 because we were anxious about the amount of time we had spent on the first couple of stops and had major tours still to do. Stop 8 was the Dublin Tourism Centre and Powerscourt Centre which is just a shopping centre. Stop 9 was Temple Bar which is known as Dubins cultural quarter but is very expensive. Stop 10 was Dublin Castle, Chester Beatty Library and Dublin City Hall.
Stop 11 was voted by the public as the number 1 tourist attraction in Ireland. The Christ Church Cathedral. The Cathedral was founded in 1038 and contains the largest crypt in a Cathedral in either Britain or Ireland at 63.4m long. The crypt runs the whole length under the church and whilst you were down there it was really stuffy and the air was thick. The crypt contained old monuments important to the church.
We stayed on the bus for stop 12 as it was St Patricks Cathedral and was under construction. The body of Jonathon Swift (author of Gullivers Travel) lays to rest here as well as the man who invented the crossword, Arthur Wynne. Our bus driver said "If you wish to see his tombstone its 6 across...." and then as we all start to mentally count, he says "....and 3 down". Very Funny.
Stop 13 was the much anticipated Guinness Storehouse tour. We wandered around learning about the beer and how it came to fruition and about the particular ingrediants and where they come from. We also got to do a preliminary taste test before the beer got brewed further. We also learnt about the advertising and products that guinness has made over time. Finally at the end of the tour. The moment of truth. The beer tasting. As you can see by the photos we both didnt particularly enjoy the beer but enjoyed the history and significance of the tour. On the way to stop 14 the Bus Driver decided to start singing. He sang the Irish Folk song "Wild Rover".
Stop 14 was the Irish Museum of modern art which didnt interest that much so we moved onto the Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol has played an important part in Irish history, as many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and some executed in the jail. The jail has also been used as a set for several films including The Italian Job, In The Name of the Father and Michael Collins. The jail was quite cold which was the way it was designed to make the prisoners uncomfortable.
As it was getting on in the afternoon after the two long tours, we decided that we would just enjoy the bus trip and go to the end of the tour on the bus.
During this time we saw Heuston Station which is the major Irish railway station, Phoenix Park and Dublin Zoo, and National Museum of Decorative Arts.
We then came to stop 20 which was the Jamesons Distillery. As we were quite cold we decided to get off and discover more about Irish whiskey. During this tour we learnt how to distill whiskey and that the difference between Irish and Scotch whiskey is that Irish whiskey is distilled three times whilst scotch is only distilled twice giving it that rougher flavour.
All liquored up we got back on the bus and basically rolled around the corner to the end of the tour. We headed back to our hotel after making dinner arrangements are the Arlington Hotel which promised a 3 course meal and Traditional Irish Music and Dancing.
The Arlington Hotel turned out to put on quite the feast. We had mushroom soup as the entree, Laura had Guinness and Beef Pie which turned out to be the meal of the trip whilst I had a slightly average Irish Stew. For dessert we had 3 little bite size pies which were quite delicious. The music then went for an hour and wasnt two bad followed by half an hour of folk and tap dancing. Just after 11 we snuck home and tucked ourselves into bed.... exhausted.