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June 17, 2002
Éire: Dun Laoghaire (Russell)

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Grafton Street in Dublin

We leave Western Éire with very fond memories, and a sad feeling that we didn't get to spend nearly enough time here.  One reason was the outstanding hospitality of Patsy and Mary Considine.  On the morning of June 16th (Happy Father's Day!) when we left Moher Lodge, both Patsy and Mary came out to wish us farewell and linger for a few last moments.  Mary pronounced Cameron and Joss the best-behaved children she had ever seen (she also rewarded them with some Euros, which mom and dad didn't discover until later), and we all spent a long time saying goodbye to "horse" (before leaving, the boys gave him a name: "Raincloud").

Another reason for our melancholy is that our departure from Western Éire brings us yet one step closer back to the United States.  We spent most of the 16th driving across the country back to the east coast and Dublin.  We left at 10:30 AM, and as we drove through the various towns, we saw pubs decked out in green, white, and orange flags and banners, and people scurrying about in advance of today's big World Cup game -- Ireland against Spain.  After the 12:30 PM kick-off, there was hardly anyone to be seen in the streets, and as a result hardly any traffic around us.  We listened to the game on the radio, rooting for Ireland as Spain scored 1-0 in the first seven minutes, then Ireland brought it back to 1-1 in the last 30 seconds of regular time.

We pulled into our B&B in Dun Laoghaire at 2:30 PM, just as the game was down to its final nail-biting minutes of overtime penalty kicks.  We were going to wait in the car until the game was over, but Joss suddenly had an urgent call of nature.  We had no choice but to knock on the door.  As we were quickly admitted, we saw a lounge full of people all watching the game on the telly, and we were just in time to see Ireland lose.

Dun Laoghaire (pronounced "dun leary" -- go figure) is a small ferry town on the southeast outskirts of Dublin.  Rick Steves recommends it for its convenience; there is a DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) system with very convenient stations that can take you right into downtown Dublin.  Windsor Lodge, run by Tony and Mary O'Farrell, is our first Rick Steves' recommendation in Éire, but it is also the least impressive place we've been in.  There's nothing inherently wrong with it; it's just a little more "lived in" than the other places we've been (especially compared with our last two B&Bs) -- the foot pedal on the wastebasket is ggone; the toilet seat doesn't stay up; Mary ran out of towels and had to give us beach towels.  (We are staying in the only room they had available: a single family room with two doubles, although one is actually more like a twin-and-a-half.)

For our first night's dinner, we tried to go to the B&B-recommended Tuscana Italian Restaurant, but when we showed up at 4:30 PM they didn't have any openings until 8:30 PM (Happy Father's Day!).  Instead, we ate at the RS-recommended Bistro Vino in "The Village" on Glasthule Road.  Afterwards, the boys discovered "Pictionary" in the lounge and we had a great time playing it together for the first time.  And the next morning, we ate breakfast as the United States beat Mexico 2-0 to advance to the World Cup Final 8 for the first time since 1930 (the very first the World Cup).

June 17th was our one and only day to see Dublin, so we walked to the DART station only half a block away.  According to Rick Steves we were supposed to take the Howth train, so we waited an unnecessary 20 minutes before we discovered that we could just as easily have taken the Malahide train to get downtown.  We finally got there after 11:00 AM on a clear and partly sunny day (one of the first we've had in Éire).

Dublin, Éire's capital and largest city, is actually fairly compact and easy to see on foot.  Our first stop was Trinity College, founded 500 years ago by Queen Elizabeth I (built mainly to help reinforce Protestantism in rich young men, today the student population is mostly Catholic -- and half women).  Here, in the Old Library, we saw the 1,000-year-old Book of Kells, one of the most important documents of the Dark Ages.  This 680-page illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels was first begun at the Iona Abbey in Alba (which we had visited several weeks ago), then was moved to Éire for safekeeping when the Vikings invaded.

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Trinity College

Everything at the library was very well laid-out and educational.  A "Turning Darkness into Light" exhibition introduced us to the history of the Book of Kells through huge posters and films, then we were able to see the book itself, along with the Book of Armagh and the Book of Durrow.  Upstairs, we were just as impressed by the Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library.  Nearly 65 metres in length, this huge gallery holds 200,000 of the library's oldest books, all available for checkout (in the 1850s, the gallery ceiling had to be raised in order to accommodate more books).  We were awed to look down the length of the room, lined with two-story high bookshelves, busts of famous figures, and dim rays of sunshine creating just the right atmosphere.

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Sorry, no photographs are allowed in the Old Library.  But here's a nifty shot of Russell...

After a picnic lunch, our plan was to walk several blocks along the Liffey River to see Dublin's Viking Adventure.  This attraction, like Jorvik in York, was supposed to be a rather touristy look at historical Dublin, but we thought the boys would enjoy it.  Unfortunately, when we reached the address, all we saw was an abandoned building.  So we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Grafton Street, Dublin's pedestrian shopping district, where we searched in vain for a stuffed puffin or an "Irish" animal for Joss' collection.

After another game of Pictionary back at the room, we succeeded in having a very nice dinner at Tuscana Italian Restaurant, where the crowd was much smaller tonight.  Today's events mark our last overseas excursion before we return to the U.S.  Although we are technically in Éire for one more night, tomorrow we are moving to a Travelodge near the Dublin Airport only so that we can repack our bags once again.  Our only other plans for tomorrow are to drop by Dublin Airport itself to do battle with British Midlands.


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