by any other name
Yeah, I realize it’s taken me more than double the time to tell you about my two weeks in Ireland and Wales than it did to experience them. And you’re probably sick of hearing that old excuse about how busy I am and how exciting my life is and how my social life consists of rubbing elbows with such literati as Jonathan Lethem, whom I met last Sunday. He was great, generous with his time and shared his thoughts on, among other things, living in New York City and the evolution of books and technology. Hint: he’s not worried about books.
The whole story is long, because I do not have normal days. It involved the failure of Apple Maps (you SUCK) to get me anywhere near the venue, making me 45-minutes late, street parties that forced me to take side detours through a maze of Chicago alleys and a pen that exploded all over me, to top everything off. Then there’s the fact it was nearly 100 degrees and the a/c in my car wasn’t working.
By the time it was my turn to have my books signed I looked like an insane woman, hair standing on end, ink all over both hands, smelling of sweat and desperation. To top it off, I shared everything with him in a rant that tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop it. No, not too humiliating. When I saw him in the bookstore after the signing I apologized for unloading on him, begging him not to think of me as a smelly, disheveled bitch. It was no problem, he told me, which may have been designed to make me go away and allow him time to duck out the back door.
What, not enough for you? Happy my life isn’t all sunshine and unicorns?
To save time
and having to compose a written post, I decided to go with a photo essay to represent our second Irish bus tour, to speed the process of what’s become a shamefully slow synopsis of my two weeks abroad. After all, pictures are worth blah, blah, blah.
no, not the liffey but the corrib (and it looks like there’s a body floating in it, just below the surface)
remaining old city wall, Galway city, Ireland
bustling shopping area
note the chicago sign 🙂
home of the claddagh ring
interior – cathedral
wish I knew what this is… yeah, a FLAG, shut up, but which and why
cliffs of moher
think i’ll throw myself off here when i’m done with life
It was a great tour. We had much more time to stop at less places, so we were able to see everything in more depth. I was miffed we couldn’t stop and buy a claddagh ring in the home of claddaghs, so we wound up buying ours elsewhere. I really wanted to buy Allison’s ring in Galway, not some gift shop. Bastards. Because you can’t go to Ireland and not buy a claddagh ring. Okay, you can, but why? Ditto a wool sweater. I bought one supposedly made on a small charming island off the coast of Ireland (a big charming island), signed by the lass who knitted it. It’s a lovely, bulky fisherman’s cardigan that took up half my suitcase coming home. Oh, but this winter it will all be worth it.
For now, this ends the Ireland leg of the trip. Next up: Wales, then back to Ireland for me. Staying in Wales another month for me daughter.
We had but one full day dedicated to seeing Dublin. I know what you’re thinking, a totally American way to see Europe, but originally I’d designated the day we arrived as a sightseeing opportunity. Couldn’t have counted on Allison’s 1,000 hour layover in Rosslare (the core of hell, just wait for it) or my miserable, frozen caffeine-deprived day of total soul crushing, mental defeat. The other two days slated for Dublin I’d previously booked with bus tours into the hinterland, early morning ’til after dark. Since our arrival day was such a fiasco of layovers and delays, minimizing the time we had to see the city our first day, that left not much time at all to see a lot of a lot. It left one day.
Phoenix Park Hotel, Dublin – located, conveniently, near Phoenix Park (duh)
Worse, we slept late on our one full day dedicated to seeing Dublin. Like late late, 11 a.m., after the free Full Irish Breakfast included in the room price had ended.
I had a sort of excuse: jetlag, though honestly it didn’t really hit me that hard. Not so hard as, say, five hours spent sitting in a damn train station watching women walk around with blow up dolls and inflated penises. Allison’s overnight ferry and subsequent long, dull wait for the next train to Dublin was worse for her than my seven and a half hour skyride next to two Irish businessmen soaked in red wine, listening to them laugh like drunken, Irish frat boys then pass out and snore for four hours while I sat wide-eyed, praying for death.
Tired and dehydrated, my eyeballs felt furry. While the businessmen gurgled in their sleep I wondered how much effort it would take to open the emergency door, sucking us all into oblivion over the Atlantic. Fortunately, the low energy of chronic depression saved all of our lives. All hail ambivalence and wrenching sadness! I couldn’t be bothered to summon energy enough to crawl three feet from my seat, cheek to the active petri dish that passed for carpeting.
For once, depression saved lives.
Guiltily, we realized Dublin would be given very short shrift; we’d see very little in one shortened day. I’d be back for two days before I flew home, so I was good. Not pleased, but okay. Not so for Allison but then she wasn’t even sure what was in Dublin to begin with and ignorance, as they say, makes things suck less. She was along for free room and board, a few dozen pics and some souvenirs, and the assertion she had been to Ireland once.
I guess that’s fortunate?
I’d pre-purchased tickets for the Hop-On/Hop-Off Dublin Tour Bus, little knowing one of the stops happened to be just around the corner from our lodging, the Phoenix Park Hotel. Huzzah! The tour website promised seamless transportation to all major ports of call in Dublin , drop offs near most any part of the city. Videos of happy happy tourists enjoying happy happy times attested to the sheer wonder of it all. Unicorns leapt! Glittery pots of gold overflowed!
I felt rather smug whipping out that email confirmation. I was a planner! Time had been spent poring over maps, googling history and sites and persons of interest. Once we’d bought and consumed the most expensive ordinary sandwiches ever (about, oh, $ 5 for a cheese sandwich), our alternative to a hot Full Irish Breakfast, we stood beside the curb waiting for our super happy fun bus.
Here it comes! Ha ha, it looks stupid, we’ll feel so touristy. It’s cold, let’s sit downstairs. Glad we got tea! Haha! Aaaaand it blows right past.
Okay. Next one. It’s green, does that make a difference? It says Hop-On/Hop-Off, must be a fashion choice. Here it comes, get your camera ready! Aaaaand it blows right past.
Glance at sign, watch, email confirmation. Hop-On/Hop-Off. Check. Two days, paid. Check. Dates match. Check. Glance back at sign. Well, here comes a green one, let’s seeeee…. And it’s gone.
Ask at the hotel! They’ll know!
“YOU ask,” sez Allison.
The clerk wasn’t the same clear-eyed, ruddy-cheeked Irishman from check in, the one who’d expertly circled all the sites in walking distance then scribbled YOU ARE HERE where we were. Haha! So sweet, so funny. So not here anymore. He’d morphed into a she, a less giddily friendly clerk who did know, I think.”It’s across the street,” she said, “just over something something … something something bus stop” in a thick Eastern European accent (maybe Russian?). “Thanks!” a bit too brightly. Back away quickly.
Let’s just cross the damn street. Screw it.
There’s a red one. I’m feeling CONFIDENT. Wave, wave, my good sir!
Reader, IT STOPPED. A friendly smile from a driver completely invested in us, it’s about freaking time. I hand him my printed out email confirmation, glowing with pride. I am a planner! He looks at it. He pulls off his glasses. He looks some more. A little more.
This is not starting well.
“I think…” He scrutinizes. He shows to the tour guide, who scratches her head. “I think you want the GREEN bus.”
“But I don’t want you to stand here forever, so I’ll drive you to a GREEN stop.”
We sit. Oh, how happily we sit. Tra la, this man is our savior. The tour guide chats amiably into the microphone, same old same old to her but she makes it sound new FOR US. Interesting! Dublin is wonderful!
Halt. “And there you are, right as rain, here’s your stop. There aren’t as many green buses but one should be along…. shortly?”
And one was along. Aboard we hopped and I handed my email printout to the driver. “Errr…” Scratching head. “I think you want the RED bus.”
“We were… on… the… red… bus. He said we need the GREEN bus.”
“Well, just have a seat. Can’t have you just standing around.”
We ditched him and his stupid GREEN bus at Trinity College for the Book of Kells and never saw him again. Screw you, Hop-On/Hop-Off, wherever you are. We are the only two tourists on the planet who could NOT manage to figure you out. We are only two but we are mighty. As mighty as my social media reach. Chew on that.
Trinity College Dublin
Book of Kells
The Book of Kells (Trinity College Dublin MS 58) is celebrated for its lavish decoration. The manuscript contains the four Gospels in Latin based on a Vulgate text, written on vellum (prepared calfskin), in a bold and expert version of the script known as “insular majuscule”.
The place of origin of the Book of Kells is generally attributed to the scriptorium of the monastery founded around 561 by St Colum Cille on Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland. In 806, following a Viking raid on the island which left 68 of the community dead, the Columban monks took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, County Meath. It must have been close to the year 800 that the Book of Kells was written, although there is no way of knowing if the book was produced wholly at Iona or at Kells, or partially at each location.
It has been on display in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin from the mid 19th century, and attracts over 500,000 visitors a year. Since 1953 it has been bound in four volumes. Two volumes are on public view, one opened to display a major decorated page, and one to show two pages of script. The volumes are changed at regular intervals.
Being a planner, I’d also pre-purchased our tickets for the Book of Kells exhibit. Unlike the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus, our Book of Kells tickets gained us admission as promised.
I have no photos of the Book itself, nor the exhibits preceding it. You can’t photograph anything before the Old Library part of the tour and that only without flash. I previously posted a couple photos of the Old Library, which is so overflowing with history and culture my heart swelled to bursting. Give me that smell of old leather and dusty vellum, dark wood vaulted at the ceiling, anchored to the floor by way of strong, thick columns.
I’m a dork that way. Even Allison, not particularly into old books, found the book making exhibits of interest and took a lot of her own photos of the Old Library.
If she was just humoring me that’s okay. She didn’t make one move to hurry me.
So, no photos of brilliantly colored illuminated pages, sorry. That’s what Google’s for: ripping off copyrighted images since September 4, 1998:
The book gave me chills imagining medieval monks hunched over the vellum, feather pens dipping into brilliant blues and reds and gold inks, scratching away by candlelight. Once in that groove it’s transcendent. I know that feeling of creation, not on this scale but artistic creation as a whole. Hours and whole days fly by. You forget there is anything but you and your art until your back complains or your bladder sends you an urgent signal. Interruptions are irritations. Insistent, though, and once back it takes but a short time becoming immersed again. There’s no feeling of hunger, little of thirst. By the time exhaustion hits, demanding you put the piece aside, you’ve gone so far beyond it’s a sort of high, like starving yourself beyond what’s healthy. Unhealthy, manic creativity is fueled by abuse of the body. The monks would have known this. I wonder how long they lived, at what point the next shift pulled them off their stools and took over. Maddening the only writing they did was transcription and not personal, yet blessed are we the only writing they did was transcription or we wouldn’t have the wealth of culture we do.
For a bibliophile, there are no mental images more romantic as the bald – save for a fringe of hair – brothers sitting side by side, desk beside desk, in a muted monastery away from temptations of life. The handwriting’s so perfect, so tiny. Pencil guide lines are visible on the manuscript as are tiny hairs left unscraped from the calfskin. Hair ducts, too, eliciting a bit more sympathy for the poor animals. Modern books are worth more for content, medieval manuscripts for artistic merit first, more only if you’re either an avid historian or student of religion.
It’s the art: the sweat and labor and meticulous detail. And the romance: the names never known, artists never credited. Nothing left behind save the glorious beauty.
Video with a few details:
I wish I could say we saw loads of other sites after the Book of Kells. Truth is, we went shopping in the shopping district. A hopefully genuine Irish-knit cardigan, sheep coffee mug, few t-shirts and miscellany later we walked back through the Christ Church Cathedral area on the way to dinner and our hotel.
What we saw of Dublin was shamefully minimal. The (short) bus rides took us past monuments and buildings and a crazed-looking person in a leprechaun suit but mostly we saw what we did as we walked aimlessly through the city. If ever we wind up there together again we’ll rectify the shameful waste but this trip was ma & Timmy/Jimmy bonding time, more about time together than sites seen. We saw more than I mention here and it was, all in all, fabulous time spent in lovely Dublin, my new favorite city until the next dislodges it.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Next up lovely, touristy Killarney, Cliffs of Moher and more…
the two americans? they went that way…
“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a word of what I’m saying.”
– Oscar Wilde
“sphere within sphere” – arnaldo pomodoro
trinity college, dublin
old library, trinity college
street performers, shopping district (note American influence)
lovely pubs everywhere
lovely pubs, redux
shopping shopping shopping
wish i knew – maybe
“When I came back to Dublin I was court marshaled in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence.”
– Brendan Behan
the “floozie in the jacuzzi“
(a/k/a Anna Livia)