Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Ireland 2010’ Category

National Gallery of Ireland & National Museum, Dublin, 5.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 6, 2010

This morning we walked downtown to the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Archaeological Museum, enjoying the crisp sunshine and the quiet streets.  In Baggot Street there are sculptures to admire, and also beautiful flower boxes on the Georgian houses that line this part of town.  Many of the houses have very impressive front doors, so much so that tourists can buy table mats that feature ‘the doors of Dublin’ (though one taxi driver told us that the reason they are all painted different colours is that when in the past they were all painted black, a drunk couldn’t distinguish which one was his, so now they are all the colours of the rainbow.)  The letter boxes, however, are shamrock green, not the pillar-box red that seem to be the norm everywhere else.  (I think we can guess why this is so in Ireland.)

Also, for the first time in my life, I saw locks.  There is a small canal nearby and these locks manage the flow of water as it flows downstream.   Locks have intrigued me ever since I read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, (which tells the story of their journey along the Thames between Kingston and Oxford in the 19th century) but I have never seen one and never really understood how they worked.  I was amused by the sign warning passers-by not to swim…

En route, we visited the Merrion St park, in search of the Oscar Wilde statue.  Dublin is full of sculptures of its famous men and women, and remarkably they are all recognisable representations of the subject.  Even when the statue surmounts allegorical whatnot, as some of them do on O’Connell St, the statue still looks like its subject.   It must be city policy to ensure that the statues can be identified by ordinary people, but if contemporary Irish sculptors are anything like those we have in Melbourne, I bet they don’t like it and would rather do something more abstract…

Before long we were at the National Gallery and it is wonderful.  Taking photos is, of course, not allowed (except in this little space between the galleries) so I can’t show you any of the wonderful paintings we saw in the special exhibition of the ‘rediscovered’  master of the Golden Age of Dutch painting’  Gabriel Metsu, but you should get some idea from this link.  He was a contemporary of Vermeer and scholars like to quarrel about who influenced whom, but who cares, his paintings were wonderful.  I like these so-called genre paintings because they are full of intriguing details like little foot-warmers or a lady’s mules tossed off beside her bed.  He paints a lot of dogs too, big ones and little ones, and many of game birds, but no cats, not as far as I could tell in what is quite an extensive collection.

There is also often a little story behind the image, as with the two adjacent paintings of a man writing a letter and his lady-love receiving it.  We know that the letter is a love-letter because there is a painting behind the seated young man and the frame is decorated with doves, and we can tell that the letter she’s received is a love-letter because her serving woman has pulled aside a curtain covering a painter of a ship on stormy waters.  This was apparently a common allegory for the travails of love in those days! 

The gallery also has a very good collection of other Dutch painters, a Caravaggio and heaps of his ‘school’, some very fine 18th and 19th century portraiture, allegorical and religious paintings, and scenes of rural life.  One particularly striking (and very large) painting was of some street urchins playing at soldiers.  I think it was called The Military Parade, or something like that, and it was a very powerful satire on the pomp and ceremony of the British occupation. I wish I’d written down the artist’s name…

After a cup of tea, we then set off for the Archaeological Museum, round the corner in Kildare St.  It isn’t huge, but that’s because they have split the collection between four separate museums.  We didn’t have time to visit them all so we chose the most interesting…

It features a wonderful collection of prehistoric finds from the Bronze Age, and there are numerous cabinets showcasing hoards of weaponry and metalwork that show the sophistication of Irish craftsmen in this period.  The prehistoric gold collections are breath-taking: fabulous necklets and bracelets, clothing clasps and so on…most impressive of all are a set of massive hollow golden balls, bigger than tennis balls, each with a hole through it so it is believed they were strung together as a kind of necklace. 

Once again we weren’t allowed to take any pictures, and sadly the website is a bit mean about sharing any images, so the only picture I have is of Tim outside on the steps –   wearing his new Irish cap.  I’m sure it is some kind of joke they play on unwitting tourists because it is constructed with a medley of different tartans….

Our adventures in Dublin have come to an end now for we are off to Bordeaux tomorrow.  Thanks to a flight cancellation by Aer Lingus we will be spending much of the day at Gatwick so there won’t be any updates tomorrow…

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Christ Church Dublin 4.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2010

Posted in Dublin 2010, Ireland 2010 | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Dublin Writers’ Museum, 4.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2010

We visited the Dublin Writers’ Museum today… 

Please visit my ANZ LitLovers blog to see my impressions.

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The Chester Beatty Library & Dublin Castle, 3.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 4, 2010

                                  

After lunch, we set off for Dublinia (a museum about Viking Ireland) but we were waylaid by Dublin Castle.   We were walking right past it and it was open – how could we not go in?  

It’s in excellent condition, and all open to the public except for the interior for which one has to book a tour.  After our long walk from our hotel and then the Trinity College tour we were too tired to hang around for that so we contented ourselves with wandering the grounds and visiting the Chester Beatty Library…    

It’s fascinating to imagine these places in use. Cold and draughty, I bet, but the people probably felt safe and secure inside as people in gated communities do today.      

The British had some sort of castle here from the 12th century, though what we see now dates mostly from the 18th.  They held on till handing it over to Michael Collins and the provisional government of Ireland in 1922, probably never imagining that they would end up relinquishing their entire Empire by the end of the 2oth century… 

   In amongst the grounds there is one of Dublin’s great treasures: the Chester Beatty Library. Beatty was an American mining magnate who liked collecting  Oriental art and books, and when he died he left most of it to the city of Dublin because he spent most of his retirement years here.  It’s an amazing collection, one of the best we’ve seen.       

Source: Wikipedia

 

On the first floor there was an exhibition of his artworks from the Mughal Empire in India (before they were conquered by the Iranians) and the illuminated manuscripts have the same charm as the medieval ones that were exhibited at the State Library of Victoria last year.  Texts were surrounded by exquisitely detailed pictures of everyday life, and the princes were shown engaged in all kinds of princely activity from riding elephants to loafing about on decorated chairs.  The colours were fresh and alive as if they were painted yesterday, and the originals are augmented by excellent computer generated closeups on the walls.      

Source: Wikipedia

 

Upstairs, the  Sacred Traditions gallery showcases Beatty’s collection of religious texts and artworks.  To see the 2nd and 3rd century papyrus of the gospels is a wonderful experience; I love all forms of ancient texts whether they are on scraps of Babylonian clay or the Rosetta stone. They all represent a supreme moment in human history when man moved on from the oral tradition to writing his ideas and memories down so that they could be passed on to future generations.      

      

There was much else: Beatty collected from all the great religions and there are texts from Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and so on. Definitely a must see attraction for anyone visiting Dublin, but by the time we reached the roof garden at the top my ankle was causing major grief and it was time to head back to the hotel.      

PS WordPress is jumping around all over the place tonight and moving my pictures and text about without any instructions from me, but I am too tired to mess about with layout! 

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Trinity College & the Book of Kells, 3.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 4, 2010

We really enjoyed our visit to Trinity College and the Book Of Kells.     

Tim looking sceptical!

 

We signed up for a tour led by one of the College students, and although we have some doubts about the veracity of his anecdotes, it was very entertaining.  We were shown all over the college, including (because we were a small group) some parts not usually shown to tourists, and it really is a very impressive place.      

Sir George Salmon, Provost

 

This gloomy looking character at right, Sir George Salmon, (Provost of Trinity) we were told, was strongly opposed to the enrolment of women, declaring that it would happen ‘over his dead body’ which it did because he died four days before the first woman enrolled.  (Wikipedia says he actually agreed to it in 1901 three years before he died in 1904.)     

I’m inclined to think that our guide told us more than a whopper or two.  When he found out we were from Australia he told us that Trinity wasn’t letting The Book Of Kells tour any more since they’d lent it to Australia where something had been spilled on it.  Not true!  We checked, and there was some minor damage but that was from the vibration of the plane’s engines on the long haul flight, and not because some drongo spilled his coffee on it! I know (because I’ve read about it in our National Gallery’s magazine for members) that the procedures for the loan of art works are meticulous, and I’m not really happy that people went away from this tour thinking that Australians are careless with precious treasures on loan.  We are so far away from the great art centres of the world and most Australians can’t afford to see these works of art unless European galleries lend them to us so I would hate to think that anyone really believed what he said…     

Also dubious was his story about the unpopular professor who was harassed by some drunken students one night.  When they broke all the windows in his rooms (at left) he retaliated by firing at them and they promptly went back to their rooms to get their guns as well. A gun fight ensued and the professor was mortally wounded.  None of the students was convicted of his murder because they were British aristocrats, he said, but I bet it was more likely that all the witnesses were drunk and they couldn’t prove identity.    

What is true is that the books in the Trinity College library are shelved not by Dewey but by height. There are literally thousands of grand old books there (some of which were on display) and although now specific titles can easily be found because it’s all computer catalogued, it must have been a nightmare for the librarians in days gone by!   There are also splendid busts of various alumni including Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett, as well as other great men of letters,  (no women, of course), and a very interesting display about the British/Irish in India, some of which was quite chastening to read.   

What is also (probably) true is that the spectacularly ugly modern buildings (in the Brutalist style i.e. large lumps of concrete) have won architectural awards and that the plants which were supposed to decorate the one supposedly inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon all died because of the composition of the concrete.   

Source: Wikipedia

 

From the tour we went in to see The Book of Kells.  It’s beautifully displayed, augmented by other illuminated manuscripts because (of course) one book, even with four pages on show isn’t really enough to captivate a horde of tourists.  There was an ancient bible from the 6th century, and various other works on vellum, as well as cabinets showing the tools they used and the sources of the colours such as lapis lazuli.   

We found all this fascinating, but we’d walked a long way from our hotel to the city centre, so we adjourned for lunch to a nice pub nearby…

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Bus tour, Dublin, 3.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 4, 2010

Whenever we visit a city entirely new to us, we like to take one of the Hop-on-hop-off bus tours that whiz around the city showing the most popular tourist attractions.  It doesn’t take very long and it helps Tim (our navigator) to orientate himself to the city and then we can find our own way around (mostly) without getting lost.

So we started our day in Dublin with The Bus Tour.  Photos, of course, were taken from the bus, but sometimes one can get a better shot from the top of the bus than down at ground level, and this was certainly the case with Christ Church…

It was not quite the case with the Wellington monument, seen here listing somewhat like the Leaning Tower of Pisa – but that was because the bus took off again just as I pressed the shutter!  It’s interesting that there are still so many ‘British’ aspects to Dublin because I had assumed that many of their artefacts might have been razed with independence, but not so.  This monument (which dwarfs the Phoenix monument see at left) commemorates Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon, and it is still there in Dublin’s splendid Phoenix Park – a huge park – the biggest of its kind in Europe.  It was originally the king’s private hunting grounds but was ‘given to the people’ some time in the 19th century (I think).  It’s bisected by a long, long avenue with open park and woodland on one side (which the guide assured us still had deer in it) and the zoo and the president’s palace on the other.

As you’d expect, the guide was more enthusiastic about the Guinness Storehouse – which, he told us was the most popular attraction in Dublin – than he was about Dublin’s literary history, but he did point out the James Joyce Bridge (which didn’t seem especially Joycean to me), and he noted Trinity College’s literary alumni, about whom more in a later post.

I got the biggest thrill out of our drive down O’Connell Street, where I saw the monument to ‘the liberator’ that I had identified in Chapter 6 of Ulysses. Here it is, ‘the hugecloaked Liberator’s form’  where Leopold Bloom sauntered along his way!

The Martello Tower is closed at this time of the year (sigh) but the Writers’ Museum is open and so there is plenty more to see tomorrow…

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Dublin, 2.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 3, 2010

Ahh, Dublin at last!  We’re just settling into the Dylan Hotel in Eastmoreland Place and very nice it is too.   We had an easy trip from Conwy to Holyhead and then came over on the Jonathan Swift ferry.  They admitted it was a rough trip, but it wasn’t too bad really.  After all, once you’ve been to Tassie on the Spirit in a gale, no stretch of water is really scary…

Our first tip for fellow travellers to Dublin is that taxis don’t take credit cards.  We didn’t change our pounds to euros aboard the ferry (too hard to do, lurching around from deck to deck), and guess what, nowhere to do it at the  port.  Fortunately our taxi driver was a trusting soul and he drove us into town to the nearest ATM…

It’s nice to be in a good hotel.  B&Bs are very friendly in a home-away-from-home kind of way but my goodness, some of them are poky!  Some we’ve stayed in have been fine, but others literally don’t have any space to put the suitcase, or there’s so little room to move around that the hapless guest is at risk of knocking things over.   

And sometimes, too, owners just don’t think through the needs of travellers.  It’s all very well having pretty little knick-knacks all over the shelves – but where should the traveller put the toilet bag/s? How does one manage to recharge all the digital stuff we carry these days (phones, cameras not to mention iPads and netbooks) when there is only one inaccessible power-point?  How can one air the towels if there’s only one very small towel rail? A few extra hooks and small shelves and perhaps a double powerpoint would make it all much easier for the traveller at very little cost to the owner.

All our hosts have been really nice people, but a couple of the B&Bs we went to left a bit to be desired.  Price is no guide, the most expensive one we stayed in had heaps of room but rather dubious plumbing.  The one with the most impressive awards had a tiny bed and even tinier bedding.   We had to choose between covering out feet or covering our shoulders because the blanket and bedspread weren’t long enough to cover both!

There are no such problems here at the Dylan.  We have plenty of room to spread out and be comfortable and it’s good to have services like laundry and so forth.  There’s a good dining-room for nights like tonight when we’re tired after travelling for most of the day.  It’s very modern, and everything works, though I bet they have fun changing the light-globes on these amazing light-fittings!

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Off to Europe 2010

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 19, 2010

It’s not long now before we set off again, this time heading for the UK via Singapore, then Ireland, France, Portugal and Spain. 

The plan is to blog these travels as I go, because this time I’m taking my net-book and nearly all our hotels offer wi-fi internet access.

So watch this space!

Posted in Europe 2010, Ireland 2010, UK 2010 | 6 Comments »