Sunday, 18 March 2012

Hopping On & Off Around Dublin

There might have been a little rain yesterday from time to time but today was a stunner.  Today we had blue skies & sunshine.

Because the Hop On/Off bus network were not running yesterday due to the Parade, we were able to use our 2nd day of our  bus ticket today instead.   There was a Hop on/off bus stop just around the corner from the hotel which we caught & headed off for a tour of the city before getting off at our first stop of the day - Kilmainham Gaol, the largest unoccupied gaol in Europe.

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

We arrived to find a queue & all guided tours booked out until one o’clock.  We weren't discouraged however and using our Dublin Pass decided to book in for the next available tour.  We had 1hr 15mins to kill so had a look around the museum, followed by a quick snack in the cafe.

The Museum was excellent, with exhibitions that explained the political & penal history of the prison.   Interestingly, during the famine, some people committed crimes in order to be admitted into the prison, where they were at least guaranteed a basic diet. The Gaol was so crowded in those years that prisoners slept in the corridors.

Looking through the peep hole into one of the cells at Kilmainham Gaol

Built in 1796, the gray stone walls of Dublin's Kilmainham Gaol are bare & cold & give a sense of the buildings tragic history.   The Gaol is most strongly associated with the Easter Rising of 1916, which laid the foundations for Ireland's eventual break from British rule.    Many of the rebels who helped foster Ireland's quest for independence were imprisoned & executed at the gaol.

The Cross marking the spot where the 14 leaders of the Easter Rising were executed, Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Fourteen leaders of the Easter Rising were shot in the Stonebreakers' Yard including  James Connolly who had been wounded & had to be tied to a chair during his execution.   The death of these 14 men marked a turning point in Irish history.
Inscription scratched by a former prisoner on the wall of his cell at Kilmainham Gaol

Above one stone doorway is an inscription scratched by a former prisoner: "Beware the Risen People who have Harried and Held, Ye that have Bullied and Bribed." Those words were penned by Padraig Pearse, one of the authors of the Irish Proclamation of Freedom announced on April 24, 1916.   Their armed resistance in Dublin ultimately led to the creation of the modern Irish state.

Mural of Madonna & Child painted on the wall of her cell by Grace Gifford Plunkett

I had read about this painting of Madonna & Child on the wall inside one of the cells prior to visiting Kilmainham. The Mural was painted by Grace Gifford Plunkett when she was imprisoned there during the Irish Civil War. Seven years earlier, on the eve of his execution for his part in 1916 Rebellion, Gifford had married her condemned fiance Joe Plunkett in the chapel of the same prison.

Inside Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin
Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Kilmainham Gaol Cells, Dublin
Memorial plaque to those exeuted at Kilmainham Gaol 1916, Dublin
I found the tour commentary fascinating & extremely informative &  enjoyed it more than I thought I was going to.  Well worth a visit.

Kilmainham Memorial, Dublin

As you come out of the Kilmainham Visitor Centre, a group of statues catches your eye across the street.
Fourteen figures stand in a circle, at the centre of which is a plaque containing a copy of the Proclamation of Independence, engraved in bronze.   The figures, perforated with bullet holes are limbless & stand united in a circle, blindfolded, as they would be for execution.  This statue commemorates the 14 leaders of the 1916 uprising executed at Kilmainham.
On the Hop on/off bus again we stayed put as it drove us around some of Dublin's famous landmarks. 

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

The Wellington Testimonial Obelisk, Phoenix Park, Dublin

The Wellington Monument, officially "The Wellington Testimonial", is a 62 metre high obelisk which sits in the Phoenix Park. It is the largest obelisk in Europe & was built to commemorate the victories of the 1st Duke of Wellington.
Residence of the President of Ireland, Phoenix Park, Dublin

The official residence of the President of Ireland started as a modest brick house for the Phoenix Park Chief Ranger in 1751.  Situated in the 1,752 acres of the Phoenix Park it became the official residence of the President of Ireland in 1938 & has been used for that purpose since.

The Guinness Brewery viewed from Wolfe Tone Quay, Dublin

Grattan Bridge over the River Liffey, Dublin

O'Connell Street Bridge, Dublin

Springtime in Dublin
We hopped off the bus near the Ambassador theatre as it was here the Human Body Exhibition was being held.  I'd been sent a flyer on this fascinating exhibition back in NZ & was looking forward to seeing it.  With a €20 entry fee, I hoped it was going to be worth it.  And indeed it was!  

Unlike the models and diagrams I remember from my nursing studies, this thrilling exhibition allows you to peer closely at real human cadavers, preserved through a process called 'plastination', which basically makes plastic out of tissue by adding silicone. Something like that anyway.    It gives you a rare insight into the workings of our body, as well as some really thought-provoking views of the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Specimen showing the circulatory system of the Lungs
The Human Body Exhibition, Dublin

All of the exhibition’s specimens were donated in accordance with Chinese law to the Dalian Hoffen Bio-technique Laboratory, which conducts research into the innovative Plastination technique.

The Human Body Exhibition, Ambassador Theatre, Dublin

Some might find this a little macabre but I found it absolutely fascinating.  It's definitely not for the squeamish.   Now, taking photos  was prohibited so I've found the above pics on websites advertising the exhibition.... I hope they don't mind.

Parnell Square West, Dublin

Looking back up O'Connell Street toward The Spire, Dublin
Base of the Spire, O'Connell St, Dublin
Statue of Oliver Goldsmith, Dublin 
[Canadian Poet & Distinguished graduate of Trinty College]
Back on the bus we continued on to our next stop at Trinity College, the oldest university in Ireland, famous for its graduates such as Swift, Goldsmith, Wilde and Beckett.

Trinity College Old Library, Dublin
Throughout most of the building's life it was the main library for Trinity College. 
The main chamber of the Old Library is the Long Room, and at nearly 65 metres in length, it is filled with 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books.
The most famous of its manuscripts is the Book of Kells.  This ancient book was composed by Celtic monks in 800 AD and consists of both drawings and intricate calligraphy.  The main text of the book is of the four gospels of the New Testament.

The Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin

Marble busts line the Long Room, a collection that began in 1743.   The busts are of the great philosophers and writers of the western world.

Other treasures in the Long Room include a medieval harp, the oldest of its kind in Ireland and probably dates from the 15th century. It is made of oak and willow with 29 brass strings & has become the model for the emblem of Ireland.

The Long Room, Trinity College, Dublin 
The Old Library blew me away.  It was more massive than I was expecting and had me wondering if it was a set piece out of a Harry Potter film.  One thing you notice is the lack of coloured dust covers on the books.  Row upon row of dusty brown coloured spines, books that look like they've sat on those shelves for hundreds of years.... as well they may have.

Sadly, the Long Room was another place where photography is banned, so apart from the  sneaky shot looking back up the stairs toward the Long Room,  I've again pinched someone elses pic so you can see how awesome this room is.

The Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin [GettyImage]
How do you begin to describe this magnificient room?  The rich aroma of musty books?  How very small you feel standing underneath that enormous ceiling?
This is a place I want to revisit if I'm ever back in Dublin.... what am I saying...  of course I'll be back!

Oscar Wilde Statue, Merrion Square, Dublin

Statue, Merrion Square, Dublin
Our next stop was Merrion Square which was just a short walk from Trinity College. 
Merrion Square is another great Dublin park, wooded and cozy.  Here you find the statue of Oscar Wilde, flirtatiously perched on a large rock in one corner of the park, across the street from his childhood home at No. 1 Merrion Square.   The flamboyant posture of the statue lead to local Dubliners giving it various nicknames like “the fag on the crag” and “the queer with the leer”

Out of the park & onto the streets of Merrion Square there was a free family funfair going on as part of the St Patrick's Festival Weekend.  There were carousels, rollercoasters, ferris wheels, street performers & music, adding to the colour & excitement of this carnival like atmosphere.

Carousel, St Patrick's Festival Weekend, Dublin

Along side Merrion Square is Merrion Street which we headed down on our way back to our Hotel.  Merrion Street is a major Georgian Street which was originally lined on both sides by Georgian houses. 

Georgian Door, Merrion Street, Dublin

The name Merrion Street is apparently, often used as a shorthand for the Irish Government, in the same way as Whitehall or Downing Street is used to refer to the British Government.
The imposing complex of Government Buildings on Upper Merrion Street was undertaken by the British administration when in Ireland.   Fortuitously, the complex was completed in March 1922, and was available immediately to be occupied by the new Irish Free State government

In more recents times, it has been refurbished to accommodate a number of government departments, one of which is the Dept. of Taoiseach.  The Taoiseach is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. 

The Department of Taoiseach, Merrion Street, Dublin

I have to say, this old girl was a tad worn out by the time I returned to the Hotel.  After an e

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