We checked out of the Hilton Dublin in the morning and took a taxi to the Academy Plaza Hotel. We dropped off our luggage and set out to tackle our sightseeing itinerary for the day. First on our agenda was Trinity College. Ordinarily, a college campus would not be on my vacation itinerary but I knew Trinity College houses the Book of Kells. This world treasure is a hand-written Latin translation of the four Gospels of the New Testament. It was done by monks some time around 800 AD.
I knew the general location of Trinity College because I vaguely remembered walking past it when we explored Temple Bar during our first evening in Dublin. As we got closer to where I believed the university to be, I asked a nun for directions while waiting to cross the street. She happened to be on her way there so she invited us to follow her.
We signed up for the 12:30 campus tour. It does not have anything to do with the Book of Kells but since we were on the campus, we figured we might as well do a campus tour. It cost €10/person. I had no idea we would end up doing the same tour again later that week - more about this later. Anyway, we had about 30 minutes to kill before the tour so we grabbed a junk food breakfast at the student union.
The Trinity College tour lasted 30 minutes. It was all outdoors. Our student guide introduced himself as Steve despite wearing a name tag that said David. He explained he could not find his name tag that morning so David loaned him his. Steve led our small group consisting of two Germans, two French, and Traci and me to the center of the campus. He began his narration by telling us Trinity College is actually a university despite its name. Whereas it is not uncommon in the U.S. to use the terms "college" and "university" interchangeably, these two terms have distinct meanings in Ireland having to do with the degrees offered. Steve pointed out campus buildings and statues and provided commentary of each. Trinity College was established in 1592 but all of the buildings have been rebuilt since that time. The oldest dates back to the 18th century. The campus can house 800 students; however, nearly 16,000 students attend the university. Steve is one of the lucky few who managed to get on-campus housing. Our tour ended at the entrance of the building that houses the Book of Kells.
It cost €9 per person to see the Book of Kells. We entered a dimly-lit room containing history museum-like exhibits that explained everything about the Book of Kells from the materials used to create them to how they were smuggled to protect them from raiding Vikings. There were also exhibits explaining the Book of Armagh. This book was created around the same time and is a handwritten translation of the entire New Testament. The Book of Armagh also contains the confessions of St. Patrick in his own words.
We progressed through the displays until we finally reached the room where both the Book of Kells and the Book of Armagh were on display in a glass case. We were told a different page of the book is displayed each day. As I stood there admiring the ancient text, I wondered if the people who created this literature had any idea people would be still looking at their work 1200 years later.
From the Book of Kells display, we walked up the steps to enter the other major attraction at Trinity College - the Long Room. The Long Room is a long dark wood library with a high arched ceiling. The shelves are stocked with 200,000 books from the floor to the ceiling. The library is roped off to prevent visitors from taking books off the shelves. However, there are display cases containing open books representing several periods in history over the last four centuries. You could read excerpts of what people found important enough to put in books. Also on display is Ireland's oldest harp which dates back to the 15th century. We finished off our visit to Trinity College with a quick look through the Book of Kells gift shop. Traci bought some postcards containing pictures of what we saw since photography is prohibited.
For lunch, we ate at Beshoff's again. They had a prawn and chips special. It was not as good as the fish and chips we had there on our first day in Dublin.
We caught the LUAS tram to Heuston Station and then walked several blocks to the next destination on our itinerary - the Guinness Storehouse.
Guinness beer is produced in Ireland and shipped all over the world. Guinness has been a source of Irish pride since 1759. Given that its founder, Arthur Guinness, signed a 9,000-year lease, I suspect Guinness will continue to be a major enterprise in Ireland for many years to come.
The Guinness Storehouse is a popular tourist attraction in Dublin. Visitors can learn about every aspect of Guinness beer in great detail. We could smell the factory for several blocks before we actually reached it.
As Traci and I were entering the storehouse, we ran into a couple we met at the wedding. They had stopped in to load up on some souvenirs from the Guinness shop. We were all surprised to see familiar faces. We did not chat long because their Hop-on Hop-off bus was arriving.
Traci and I bought tickets for the self-guided tour of the storehouse. There are seven floors of Guinness exhibits ranging from the production process to the various ad campaigns over the years. I do not drink alcohol but after walking through several floors of Guinness pride, I became curious when we reached a station called the Guinness Tasting Experience. Every visitor gets a free cold glass of the beer. I took a sip - yuck!!! I guess it must be an acquired taste. Worst of all, the after-taste from that one sip seemed to linger.
I felt I had learned enough about Guinness after the tasting experience and was ready to go but Traci was not. One of the many things I admire about her is her desire to get the most out of a new experience. She was determined to see everything the storehouse has to offer. Therefore, we soldiered on through the rest of the floors. There were some memorable exhibits along the way such as the film about barrel making. We participated in a class that taught us the six steps for pouring a "perfect pint" of Guinness. We were given a certificate when we poured our "perfect pint". Everyone was allowed to drink their pint. Traci and I gave ours away but we kept our certificates.
Drinking beer is not our thing but one of the coolest features of the Guinness Storehouse is the Gravity bar on the 7th floor. It is from here that you can enjoy a great 360-degree view of Dublin through the large floor-ceiling windows.
learning how Guinness beer is made
all visitors of legal age can sample Guinness beer
learning to pour a perfect pint
view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar
By the time Traci and I finished checking out the view from the Gravity Bar, it was almost closing time. We had probably spent more time in the Guinness Storehouse than most visitors - 2.5 hours. We took a quick look through the souvenir shop. Despite not liking the beer, I wanted to try the Guinness-flavored potato chips for some reason. But then I remembered someone had told us that we could purchase many of the items sold at the storehouse for cheaper at one of the many Carroll's souvenir shops located all over Ireland. Therefore, we left without purchasing anything.
For dinner that night, we finally had our ritual pizza meal at a restaurant called La Pizza. It was located just a block away from our hotel. This place was only so-so at most. I had a greasy pepperoni personal pizza and fries. Traci had a personal pizza with half prawns and half pepperoni. The prawn half was not very good. This was the second time the prawns disappointed us in Ireland so we decided to avoid them for the rest of our trip.
We had a taste for something sweet after dinner, so we walked a little further on O'Connell Street to Burger King. We tried their Hottie desserts. We shared the hot toffee sponge cake and the raspberry & white chocolate blondie. You may have noticed we have not been eating the healthiest meals on this trip but hey this is vacation. We decided to save the healthy eating for when we returned home. continue...