We arrived at the Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Lairy) ferry terminal to begin our month in Ireland.
Some of you may wonder why we did not head to Iceland as we had planned. That was our intention but various factors caused a change of destination. Firstly, the camper took a little longer to get on the road than we had planned. Secondly, son David's graduation as an office in the Army Reserve was brought forward a few weeks. This meant that we would only have about two weeks to spend in Iceland and that was not enough. For one thing the journey over, via a day long ferry to a Denmark port, a long drive north to another port and a two day ferry trip to Iceland, was not only time consuming but also very expensive. So if we are going, we want the maximum time over there that we can manage, and two weeks was simply not enough.
So we decided to change just one letter in the destination and go to Ireland instead where we would have a full month to explore the whole island. Iceland is on hold until later this year.
We stayed for 5 nights in a lovely campsite called Camac Valley just outside Dublin City. Apart from its large and semi-private pitches delineated by hedging and its good facilities, the bus into the city stopped right at the entrance. A definite plus.
Dublin is an attractive compact city and easy to walk around. The River Liffey runs through the centre of town and many small bridges cross, both for cars and for pedestrians. It's a small river, shallow and not very wide and it's hard to imagine it once carried all sorts of boat traffic in times past. In fact the main bridge is actually wider than it is long, reputedly the only bridge in Europe with such a claim. To get our bearings, we started off with tickets on a big red open-topped bus which operated a hop-on hop-off circuit of the major sites. So for two days we could get around easily by bus.
We visited Kilmainham gaol, newly restored now but still a grim place, used over the centuries as a place of incarceration mostly for the rebels who wanted freedom for Ireland. World renowned Trinity College is right in the centre of town and of course the major attraction there is to see the exhibition of the Book of Kells. The book itself is under glass and naturally you only get to see it open at one double page. But what a page. We had seen that page blown up on huge panels in the exhibition and it was impressive enough. But to see the fine detail, the miniscule embellishments, the colours and gold leaf, the wonderful calligraphy on pages only a little bigger than an A4 sheet was to see something else again. Stunning.
The 16th of June was Bloomsday - the date the James Joyce set in his novel Ulysses and named after the main character Leopold Bloom. Everywhere in the city were people dressed in Edwardian clothing of the Joyce era, many emulating characters in the novel. There were tour groups following in the author's footsteps and readings of his work on street corners.
Christ Church Cathedral at one end of the town was another highlight. While we were there, the organist was in full flight on the instrument with the sound reverberating through the building. The cathedral is not on the scale as other famous cathedrals like St Paul's or Notre Dame, but then Ireland was always a country of modest population size and so the grand spaces were not required. But it is nonetheless a beautiful structure.
Dublin Castle is likewise right in the centre of town and still used as a government building for special occasions. We were fortunate to arrive at just the moment that a guided tour was leaving and so we were able to look through the State apartments with its sumptuous dining rooms and the Throne room used by kings and queens in past times.
No-one comes to Dublin without going to the Guinness factory and having the obligatory pint. It's very touristy with a huge shop selling all the 'merch' that huge crowds were buying in droves. But it was quite interesting anyway as you wind your way upwards over 7 floors of 'The story of Guinness'. At the very top in the Gravity Bar, you get a free pint of Guinness and 360 °views around the city as you sip. We are told that a Guinness in Ireland tastes SO much better than a Guinness anywhere else in the world - but we are not big fans of stout...
And how lucky to be in Dublin for the 'Street Theatre World Championships' held in Dublin's most beautiful Georgian square, Merriam Square, right opposite the house where Oscar Wilde grew up. Streets were blocked off and the park was jam-packed with entertainment. Street artists from around the world - many of them Australian - put on their acts in the park or on the surrounding streets. Of course, these are the best and every one of them was a knock-out. There were jugglers (of assorted things including knives and chain saws), balancers on unstable surfaces, unicycle riders, unicycle riders who juggled, sword swallowers, mime acts, pogo stick artistes, magic acts and so on. They were funny and clever and best of all, the rain held off all day! As a theme there was to be a world record attempt at the most 'Where's Wallys' in one place. The crowds were heavily littered with Wallys of all shapes and sizes, all ages and nationalities, dressed in red and white striped jumpers and beanies and sporting big, round, black glasses. Many had numbers on their backs for the record-breaking photo - the largest number I saw was over 18,800 so the organisers had mustered quite a response to the challenge.
So, despite there always being more things to see and do no matter where you go in the world, it was time to move on from Dublin. We still have a month or so to see the rest of the island of Ireland.