ireland bridge dublinPHOTO: Bridge in Dublin

It’s a funny thing. When you tell people you just came back from Ireland, everyone has a particular place they want to know if you’ve visited…Dublin, the Book of Kells, Blarney Castle and kissing the stone, the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry….the list goes on. The fact is, there are so many beautiful and memorable places in the Emerald Isle everyone has something to say about some place there.

   Last month, with a group of friends from Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Agnes parish, along with other friends from across the state and even Florida, on a Nuovo Tour (they’re simply terrific) and under the guidance, if you will, of Msgr. Selemi, we did manage to see all those wonderful places, plus a few more. In a well laid out, carefully planned, and perfectly executed 11 days, we managed to travel more than 1100 miles through 13 counties, including Belfast in Northern Ireland.

   Traveling 1100 miles in any other country could be arduous and boring, but not in Ireland. Back in 1959, Johhny Cash had a beautiful song, “40 Shades of Green,” referring to Ireland…they don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing…..and that’s the first thing you notice. Trees, bushes, grass, flowers, hills, mountains, valleys…..they are all abundant in green and all in different shades. Honest. You have to see it to believe it.

ireland dublin temple barPHOTO: The Temple Bar

   Dublin is the largest city, the capital, and pretty much like any other big city, only a lot more fun. Thanks to Peter from Nuovo, we managed to stay in the Temple Bar Hotel, a great place right smack in the heart of all the activity both inside and out. It was a most enjoyable walk to Trinity College and the Book of Kells, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a magnificent cross-shaped structure standing where a church has stood since the fifth century because allegedly there was a park there where St. Patrick baptized thousands, or to the street corner, where at just about any time of the day…or night…a group of happy go lucky Irishmen were performing in impromptu concerts of voice and guitar, boudran, tin whistle, and accordion.   Or just staying in the hotel there’s a great pub with entertainment every night, and folks happy, eager and so welcoming to a busload of Americans. That’s one more terrific thing about Ireland….they love us!

     Dublin was also where we got to hear our first concert and learned we had brought our own talent right along with us. Steven Denner from Florida and Mick Burke from Atlantic Highlands never met before this trip, but they certainly knew how to make beautiful music together. Late in the evening, after dinner, pub visits and entertainment in the hotel pub, the gracious staff gave us a meeting room of our own where Mick and Steve sat up their own stage..actually, two barstools in front of us…..and harmonized with Mick on the guitar and Steve on the harmonica. It was nothing short of spectacular! Mick is a songwriter in addition to a self-taught musician, and his Irish ballads telling both sad and happy stories, were the envy of even the Irish who were peeking in the door to see what all the wonder was about. The pair entertained us again in Galway, where again, a gracious hotel staff and professional entertainer at the pub gave us carte blanche in setting up another concert for our group, before Mick himself took to the stage and entertained a roomful of folks to great applause. But that’s another story.

ireland dublin carriage ridePhoto: Muriel Smith (center) and Jane Frotton (right)

     Trinity College is the most renowned college in Ireland, set right in the heart of Dublin, and is the home of the Book of Kells, the centuries old..make that more than ten centuries….book written and designed by monks living in monasteries in the town of Kells in county Meath. Written in Latin, the book is lavishly decorated and printed, and while it tells the Four Gospels and the life of Christ, the artistry is a fascinating mixture of ornate animals, crosses, curlicues and patterns.   But that’s not all to see at Trinity. There’s The Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library, which houses more than 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. The room itself is m ore than 200 feet long, hence its name, and the books are shelved to the ceiling, with huge ladders for easier access. There was a great exhibit in the Long Room when we were there, showing children’s stories, legends, and fairy tales over several centuries. Even the wooden harp, the oldest in existence in Ireland and the one which is the model for the harp that is on Irish coins, and the euros minted in Ireland, is in the Library. Supposedly, it dates back to Brian Boru when he was king of Ireland in 1014, but there’s no one around to dispute the fact.

     On the lighter side, there’s always Jameson’s and Guinness Storehouse, two fine old establishments where everyone is happy and their products flow freely. Guinness, in addition to a tour of the six stories where their beers are made, stored and displayed, also offers a spectacular view of the entire city from its uppermost floor where pints of the golden brew are served. The building itself is designed in the shape of a giant pint, and while the storehouse was at one time a fermentation plant, it’s now a museum to Gyuinness, displaying everything from their advertising over the years to how to pour the perfect pint.

     Jameson, on the other hand, is considerably smaller, but it’s been around since 1780…as every label will tell you….and takes you on a tour that starts with a movie, then goes through the grainstore, malting, milling, mashing, fermenting, and distilling, maturing and vatting of the world’s fastest growing whiskey. The tour includes comparing Scotch, American Jack Daniels and Jameson’s, and while no one in the group opted for the Scotch, only a handful preferred Kentucky’s Jack Daniels to Jameson’s finest.

     Still so much to see and do in Dublin itself, but so much more of the island to see, we spent the next day traveling to Belfast, the capital of Northern Island and the home of the Titanic museum, at the site where the famed ship, as well as the lesser known Olympic and Canberra, were launched. But that’s another story……

 

The story will continue in the next article about Muriel's trip to Ireland.