I think a common misconception about Dublin is that it is a party city, and nothing more. True, pubs are an intrinsic and colorful part of the culture, but there were many pleasant historical surprises in the city. If you are in it for the alcohol, you can tour the Guinness factory and the Jameson Distillery, but I opted out. They were very, very expensive, and I felt it was a better homage to spend a few euros on a pint and raise a toast in an actual pub. I went in search of good tours that dealt with the political and literary history, instead.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral: You really couldn’t take this all in at once. The church itself is massive, with many nooks and crannies. A few items caught my eye. One was the Door of Reconciliation – the door had a hole for warring families put their arms through the holes to shake hands.
Another was the tomb of Jonathan Swift.
All sorts of intriguing statues and memorials
After the tour, I bought piping hot fish and chips from Leo Burdock and ate them on the park beside the Cathedral. Many people argue they sell the best fish and chips – a title up for debate in the city. They use fish caught fresh in the morning, and I have to say they were delicious. I had never tried vinegar on fries before, and they were divine. Ireland was a experiencing a heatwave (82 degrees!) so a lot of people were there on their lunch break enjoying the sun.
On the green is supposedly the site of St. Patrick’s first conversion
Christ Cathedral Church is right around the corner from St. Patrick’s and Leo Burdock’s fish and chips. They had a museum exhibit on vikings which was exceptional. I learned that Dublin was originally a viking outpost, and they have an ongoing archeological dig which has unearthed many artifacts.
Within the church are signs warning of pickpockets for a little irony.
Across the street from the Temple Bar district, you can visit the GPO – the famous post office at the heart of the Easter Rising. The building itself is beautiful and still a functioning post office. I mailed postcards to family members from this site.
Eating orange & chocolate chip scones on St. Stephen’s Green.
Italian pastry shops.
Oscar Wilde’s home and Percy Shelley’s apartment
I walked around town and found Oscar Wilde’s childhood home. It was only several blocks down from Trinity College.
Percy and Mary Shelley stayed in Dublin for a brief period to deliver his Address to the Irish People. He supposedly stayed in these rooms.
Around the corner from Shelley’s apartment
Dublin Castle is not so much a castle, as an ancient fortress. Now, it houses government buildings.
You would not expect this, but Kilmainham Gaol was, without a doubt, the best tour in the city. Here is where many of the revolutionaries were imprisoned, and then executed. They have a museum which you can browse while you wait for the tour.
According to our guide, many people were not in favor of the rebellion, but when they saw how the protestors were executed, it turned the tide of public opinion, and ultimately led to freedom. Our guide began in the church, where a door slammed shut on its own accord. “One of our ghosts,” the guide said with a straight face.
The original part of the jail was bleak and horrible: dark and hopeless. Here many people were imprisoned (including children) for small crimes, such as stealing bread.
When you peek into the cell, you can feel nothing but despair.
Eventually, there was a prison reform and they added a section during the Victorian times. The main room was open and spacious, and much like modern prisons today. It was based on the idea of the all-seeing eye. Relatively few guards could see what hundreds of people were up to.
The names and titles carved over the doors were funny and showed a certain gallows humor. One said “Never Surrender”
An interesting story during the revolution. Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett were arrested during the 1916 Uprising. They were married in the jail church and allowed to spend ten minutes together under heavy guard. He was executed the next morning. Eventually, she was released. She would be arrested again when the Irish began to disagree about partitioning. This time she stayed in the Victorian section and painted an incredible mural in her cell. Her story captivated me – she seemed like an exceptional woman with a lot of guts.
The tour ends in the yard, with the site of the executions.