The Emerald Isle...
Dublin's Grand Canal
I had an opportunity for another "sanity vacation" in
conjunction with a business trip to Boston and Atlanta.
Just like the Netherlands trip last December, on a
sanity vacation I stop thinking about work and family
and community for a long weekend and get a quick
snapshot of a place that I have never been to before.
Ireland had a particular appeal from both an ancestry
and a business perspective.
I arrived late morning and headed for the
Hilton Dublin, which had the twin benefits of being
inexpensive and centrally located. I walked through St Stevens
Green and along Grafton street to get a feel for the area. In
the afternoon I took a walk along the Grand Canal, which
passes directly by the hotel. There is little "grand" about it
at only 20 feet across, but it did have some nice scenery
(large picture above and first and second thumbnails below). I
grabbed a snack at the
Portobello Pub and then dinner that evening at the Barge
Pub, both near my hotel.
Merrion Square palm trees & snow
Friday March 2nd
I started my first full day in Dublin walking by the
Georgian offices around Merrion Square. This was the most
impressive architecture in the city and the famous entry doors
were striking (third and fourth pictures above). Merrion
Square itself was an interesting contrast. There was a light
snow cover on the ground in the park in the same location as
palm trees (large picture above right).
I then walked over to
College to see the
and the 1000 year old
Book of Kells.
The area inside the College was completely unmarked, but I
found my way. The Book of Kells is an incredibly intricate
(158 strokes per quarter inch in some spots) hand illustrated
version of the Gospels. It is impressive to see, but they can
only display 4 pages at a time (The page of Kells is the
cynic's perspective). Further, in a regressive policy I always
dislike, the Long Room and the Book of Kells prohibited all
photography, even without flash. A fire drill cut my visit
short in the Long Room. It looks a lot like the famous
pictures, except there are now computer terminals beside most
of the busts. I grabbed a fish & chips lunch on Grafton Street
and headed out to the Guinness Brewery.
Guinness Brewery is the largest in the world. They have a
new facility across the street from the main processing (first
picture below) that is set up for touring. They tell the
history and story of how Guinness is made (second picture
below), how to properly pour a Guinness and you end up in a
bar on the top floor where they pour you a sample. A couple
of views from the bar are shown in the third and fourth
pictures below. The tour is good, but not great, in that it
seems too distant from the actual operations. From Guinness, I
headed for the
Literary Museum on O'Connell Street. After the museum, I
did some shopping along O'Connell while I walked back to the
hotel. I walked to dinner at
Jury's, a famous Hotel and Pub about a mile southeast of
Saturday March 3rd
I started the day with a tour of Dublin's two famous
churches, Christ Church
Christ Church is the more interesting, including a tour of the
original 12th century crypt beneath the sanctuary. The first
two pictures below are of the upper section, the third is the
crypt and the fourth is the outside.
I then walked 5 minutes down the road to St. Patrick's (first
picture below). The cathedral is most impressive from the
outside. From St. Patrick's I took a bus to the
Jameson Distillery, the birthplace of Irish Whiskey. Their
tour was good, but a bit too long and over structured. I
learned that the taste variations in whiskey stem from the way
they are made. Scotch barley is dried using smoke giving it a
hickory taste. American bourbon is aged in new barrels giving
it less oak flavor and Irish whiskey is distilled three
successive times and aged in used barrels (second picture
below). There was a tasting room at the end of the tour to
emphasize the contrasts.
I took a bus back to the Temple Bar area
and grabbed a late lunch at the
Bad Ass Cafe, made famous because Sinead O'Connor once
waited tables there (third picture below). I walked through
Temple Bar, which has the charm of an up and coming "left
bank" neighborhood a bit like Soho or Greenwich Village. I
finished the day shopping around Trinity College and on
O'Connell Street. I had dinner at a local Pub and turned in
early to prepare for an early flight back to the states.
The "Celtic Tiger" was dubbed such because of
the strong economic turnaround of the past years, funded
largely by EC investments. It is a study in large scale
change. One of the most striking things I noticed was the
effect it had on the demographics of the city's population. I
am used to being a part of the "baby boom" generation in the
US where there are a lot of people in my 45 year old age
group. In Ireland, there was almost no one near my age in the
city. There were a lot of over 60 year olds and and a huge
group of 20 to 30 somethings. Poor economic conditions of the
past spawned an exodus of a generation from Dublin. The 20 to
30 somethings reminded me of the US in the early eighties.
There is a mood of optimism, but an attitude of get it while
you can because it may not last. They dress in business wear
that looks the same and are very trend conscious. I got a kick
out of their popular beer in the Pubs - Bud Light. It cost
more than Guinness - Go figure. I stuck with the old boring
I also got an unexpected study in crisis
management as well, in that the livestock foot and mouth
disease outbreak from England hit in Northern Ireland just
days before I arrived. The Republic of Ireland was in a panic
to keep it out. It was front page news every day, yet it
wasn't until the third day that the papers mentioned that the
disease had little effect on humans.
My assessment was that they took all the wrong
prevention steps while I was there - obviously ineffective and
very costly. One of many examples: They closed the main
entrance to St. Stevens Green (park) in the center of Dublin
and posted a notice that no one could enter the park. They
left a side entrance open with a chemically treated mat to
step on, but posted a notice to keep animals off the mat. A
city employee stayed there all day and poured chemicals on the
mat to keep it wet. They left the back entrances open without
any notice or mat. Similar inconsistent approaches were used
at the airport. Time has proven my initial assessment correct.
Foot and mouth broke out in the Republic within the month.
Infrastructure was another weakness in Dublin.
While there is a lot of money around, the transportation
system was very poor. Buses were the only mass transit
available and decoding the system was difficult for a visitor.
With the notable exception of the old Georgian offices near
Merrion Square and some historic buildings, most buildings in
the city were either new square boxes or old and run down.
City neighborhoods seemed to change from good to bad on a
block by block basis.
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