A van pulled into Dublin on Nov. 17, filled with Fairfield study abroad students eager for a weekend in the Irish city. Our first stop on the weekend trip was to Kilmainham Gaol, a famous old jail, built in 1796, that had held children, revolutionaries and criminals for centuries before being retired in 1924. The cold, darkened, stone cells were sealed shut by wooden doors that age has cracked until they resembled a desert floor. The courtyard was barren, as it would have been while in use, but the bullet holes in the stone were clear at the execution locations. The gloomy atmosphere was an accurate representation of Irish history, however, a positive note would have been appreciated.
Our next stop was Dublin Castle. The 13th century tower stood like a proud beacon beside the gothic style personal chapel that the British Viceroys of Ireland had built, they resided in the castle to govern Ireland until Ireland’s independence in 1922. The rooms were all accented with gold, intricate crown moldings and royal arches. On the walls hung old paintings and large mirrors everywhere you looked, the perfect spot for a mirror selfie… just saying. The dining room was elaborate and is still occasionally in use, as it was when Queen Elizabeth II visited in 2011. Saint Patrick’s Hall is one of the oldest rooms in the castle and by far one of the most elaborate. Three huge paintings line the ceiling and the room is done in blue and gold, blue being the official national color of Ireland. It is in this room that the president is inaugurated every seven years.
After the castle and the mirror pic in the throne room that we totally did not take should anyone ask… we made our way to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the old library filled with books so old they’re blocked off from the public. While the Book of Kells, a book of gospels written in Latin from the 9th century complete with handpainted art, was certainly interesting, it was a bit overrated. After five minutes crowded around the beautiful work with 20 or so other people, you’re rather sated. The library, however, was one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen. The light streamed in from the tall windows, lighting up dusted books and the tall ladders that hung off the edges of the tallest shelves. Busts of old scholars lined the corridor like soldiers standing guard and the air held the thick scent of old books and worn wooden shelves, like a library in an old house.
Sunday morning, Nov. 18, after breakfast at the hotel, we set off to our first cheery location — a cemetery. A famous, historical cemetery, but a resting place of the dead nonetheless. The tour guide explained that this was the burial place for numerous notorious revolutionaries as well as other well known figures. He showed us the crypt of Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell, who was asked at one point in his life to be the monarch of France after their revolution but he declined, leading to Napoleon’s rule. That being only one of the many incredible facts of his life. Regardless, his tomb looked fit for a king or a pharaoh, with the story of his life written along the walls and accents of gold spread throughout the chamber. However, the weirdest part, besides the fact that a cemetery is a major tourist attraction, was the tiny room beside his chamber that looked fit to be a broom closet without a door. In there, stacked atop each other like boxes in a storage closet, were the actual lead-lined caskets of his children and grandchildren, seven of them to be exact.
From there, we visited an old tenant house in Dublin that had originally belonged to a wealthy family before falling into disrepair and being divided amongst numerous poor families. The house held an odd mix of artfully constructed crown mouldings and fireplaces beside cheaply-painted walls and messages graffitied by the stairwell.
The Guinness Storehouse was our final stop and one of my favorites. We took a tour that told us the history of the factory and how the delicious beer is brewed. We learned how to properly pour a Guinness and how the professionals taste-test it to ensure it maintains it’s excellence of quality. I was even able to pour my own Guinness like a pro in the Guinness school section of the building, and enjoy it on the top floor with a 365 degree view of Dublin City. All in all it was an excellent weekend and I’m excited to return and explore more the fabulous city!