The second day of our trip to Ireland involved a drive south from Belfast to Dublin. Once again, the sky was an unpromising grey, but we’d had luck the day before. Maybe the skies would be kind to us again.
First, of course, was Trinity College. I was beside myself with excitement. I actually almost attended Trinity College instead of going to Edinburgh. I would have been right next door to the Book of Kells all the time! But, in the end, I was encouraged to go to Edinburgh instead, and I’m glad I did. It’s a great city.
The Book of Kells… what can I say about it? After reading a couple dozen information boards about it and other books’ development and history, my appetite was whetted and my anticipation was as high as it had ever been. I walked into a dark room with a glass-covered table at one end. And there it was.
The Book of Kells is divided into parts and those parts have been separated. While, of course, I mourned the fact that the book is no longer whole, it allowed me to see more of it, since they had two of the four parts opened.
The Book of Kells is highly illuminated and covers the four Gospels. It was so beautiful, I don’t even know how long I stood staring at it. One page was open to the first chapter of John: In the beginning was the Word…
It was perfect.
The other page was open to the gospel of Luke and the story of the ungrateful servant who was forgiven his debt, but turned around and demanded a payment from someone indebted to him.
Each page was perfectly and gloriously illuminated, whether in a picture of one of the apostles, in the grandiose first page of John, or in the minute script of a single chapter where capital letters were filled in with bright colours.
Finally, we had to move on, but I was soon consoled by a walk through the library. It was massive, with dark wood shelves going all the way to the ceiling, busts of famous men throughout history, and more old, beautiful books under glass.
No pictures allowed, which is frustrating, as always, but I was mostly content to just sit and stare up at the books. It was a glorious library.
I wish I’d gotten a chance to peek into the leprechaun museum, but somehow I get the feeling that if it was a real leprechaun museum, they wouldn’t let you find it (or if you did, you wouldn’t be able to leave) so it must not be about real leprechauns at all. And it was probably full of creepy dolls. So, never mind that.
Irish Gaelic and Scots Gaelic are similar enough that if you learn one, you can sort of figure out the other. Since I kind of started to learn Scots Gaelic, I kept getting sidetracked by signs in Irish that I could almost make out parts of. Intriguing and annoying at the same time.
I love the feeling that you get when you walk into a cathedral that’s been around for centuries and that people that you only know of from books walked and talked and preached and prayed in.
Jonathan Swift preached at Saint Patrick’s and is buried there. Saint Patrick himself is said to have been there baptizing new believers at a well (you can see the rock they think was at the well).
Then it was back into the rain. The high spirits that we had achieved from the Book of Kells were slowly dampening, but we went on. And even in the rather gloomy weather, Dublin had its bright spots. Specifically, bright doors.
We wanted to go to Phoenix Park, which is supposed to be very pretty. Ignoring the fact that it was pouring rain, we struck out. After all, the map made it look very close by.
It was not close by at all. After dodging cars and trams for an hour (Dublin does not understand the concept of consistent pedestrian walkways any more than it knows how to logically direct the flow of traffic) we reached the gate of the park, stared at it in glum dismay (it was not impressive looking from our angle) and then decided that it was too wet and miserable to walk in a park and we needed food.
So we fought our way all the way back into the centre of the city and found food.
None of us was really up for a long evening in Dublin to try to hunt down some music. We just wanted to escape and go home and put on dry clothes. So we piled into the car and left Dublin.
I shouldn’t say we ‘left Dublin’. It was more like an hour of being forced to go in circles and nearly put on a boat for Wales before we managed to escape Dublin. Once Dublin has you, it’s really hard to leave.
I mean, really really hard to leave. The roads just don’t let you out and they don’t tell you how to get where you want to go. Hannah and I were afraid Karen was going to explode with rage (which is saying something because she’s quite a happy person).
The drive home was entertaining, mostly because we got to listen to Karen’s dark invectives against Dublin. But memories of the Book of Kells and of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral kept me from truly disliking the city. If it hadn’t been for the rain, I think we would have had a pleasant time at that park.
But it’s Ireland. Rain happens.