Posted by: mdmusingsie | August 13, 2012

Turasóir arís, cuid a sé

To complete the circle, we headed back to Dublin where in less than 24 hours my friend would be back on an airplane, heading for Wisconsin (via Illinois, if you want to get technical).

Not content to rest and reflect on our adventures to date, we set off to cram a few more attractions into our pocket of memories.

In order to save precious exploration time going to the airport to drop off luggage at the hotel then coming into the city, we discovered a place right in the city center of Dublin that will store your luggage for the day for a very nominal fee (less than 5 Euro or about $6 USD).  The place is called the Global Internet Café and they are a short walk up O’Connell Street from the Quays.

Our load lightened, we headed off for a pub lunch to build our stamina before queuing to view the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  The artwork in these ancient texts is certainly impressive.  Some of the smaller books have such tiny print, and I mean hand print, that they would be difficult for a modern reader to interpret, let alone someone reading by candlelight.

Across town we headed via Dublin Bus to see Kilmainham Gaol.  A number of movies have been made in the facility so you may already recognize it even if you’ve never visited.  A much longer queue awaited us, and we were the next to the last tour of the facility, which was actually generous of the staff as it normally closes at 5:00 pm but they started tours up to 4:45 pm and the tours last approximately an hour.  I suspect the fact that is was Monday and the majority of the museums are closed, contributed to the lines at other attractions that were open.

My last visit to Kilmainham was a decade ago, and having learned more about Irish history in the interim, the names of some of the jail’s high profile prisoners were more recognizable.  In an interesting twist, a song called Grace by Frank and Séan O’Meara (written in 1985) that had been playing on the bus ride back from the Aran Island Ferry caught my attention.  It was about a political prisoner marrying his sweetheart just hours before he was to be executed at Kilmainham.  That song played over in my head as the Kilmainham tour guide related the story of Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford, the inspiration for the tune.  I suspect it’s the romantic in me, but it’s difficult to not feel for these star crossed lovers and keep tears from forming as I listen.

Grace was also interred at the gaol for her activism.  Using her artistic talents, she painted pictures on the wall of her cell, one of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child has been replicated.

The prison was modern for its time when it was built in the late 18th century.  Separate cells were supposed to allow prisoners time to reflect on their crimes and repent.  In the 1862 the east wing was opened, which afforded plenty of natural light into the cells. A public gallows executed prisoners in front of the gaol until 1865.  During the famine, the prison population swelled as people committed minor crimes just to get in where they were provided shelter and food.  Women and children were housed in the older portion of the prison while the men occupied the new east wing.

Fourteen men involved in the Easter Rising of 1916 were executed by firing squad in the stone breakers’ yard, including James Connolly who was wounded and unable to stand so they tied him to a chair before shooting him.  Eamon de Valera was the last prisoner to be housed at Kilmainham, and later became Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and President of Ireland.

After being neglected for nearly four decades due to the painful memories of famine, rebellion, and civil war, a committee was established to preserve the buildings and the troubled history they represented.

With all the attractions closed at this point, we collected our luggage and proceeded to the hotel.

I suspect some people out there are wondering, “What about the Guinness?  Shouldn’t a trip to Dublin and/or Ireland involve Guinness in some form?”  Neither of us are beer drinkers, so we passed on the Guinness tour, but decided that we had to at least sample the famous beverage (yes, despite over half a dozen trips to Ireland and my current residency, I have never tried it).  We ordered a half pint at the hotel bar and took turns taking sips.  For a dark beer, it does have a surprisingly light taste; however, we both concurred that it simply tastes like beer, which neither of us ever developed a fondness.  Even when the bartender put in a shot of blackcurrant, a common practice for novice Guinness drinkers it seems, we still didn’t care for the taste and left the glass three quarters full.  Oh well, we can say we tried and will save our pennies for something more to our liking such as Bailey’s Irish Cream chocolate truffles.

I hope you enjoyed your whirlwind tour of Dublin, Galway, and the surrounding areas.  I know we did.  You should now be able to count to six in Irish as well (for those who haven’t availed themselves of something like Google translate to convert the titles of this series of articles, they were cuid (part) a haon (one) through a sé (six)).

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  1. Thank you Dawn for your Blog.  I have made copies & sent them to your Mom.  The last mailing will go out today.  Love, A. Jan


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