We arrived in Dublin at about 6am (which was the middle of the night for us), and had no idea how to get to our hotel. After taking a few different buses, we finally reached our hotel, The Intercontinental, in Ballsbridge, a suburb of Dublin.
We forced ourselves not to go to bed, and went into the city. We visited Grafton Street, where there’s usually a lot of hustle and bustle and fun buskers, but it was a bit quiet when we went (too early and not great weather).
“On Grafton Street in November
We tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen
the worth of passion’s pledge.”
We got some brunch at Le Petit Parisien, a very quaint little cafe/patisserie with French staff.I was so tired that I literally felt drunk. My head was spinning, the world was spinning, my body felt like it was vibrating.
But we soldiered on, and took a Hop On Hop Off bus tour of the city. (I only fell asleep a couple of times.)
If you visit Dublin, I’d recommend getting the Freedom Pass. It includes unlimited Hop on Hop Off and any city bus. We used the heck out of it.
I wanted to find a pub that would be playing traditional music (one of my main reasons for going on the trip), so we landed at Oliver St. John Gogarty in the Temple Bar area.
I had a delicious dinner of vegetarian lasagna (which ended up being a frequent menu option throughout the trip), which came with salad and fries (almost everything in Ireland came with salad and fries.)
I think Aunt Lyn had had higher hopes.
On day 2, we had some breakfast at the same Parisien place, and took a long trek out to Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison. It’s a popular place, and we had to wait about an hour for a tour (though by the time we were done, the people in line were waiting for 3 hours!).
Our tour guide, Kevin, was great, and I got a kick out of every time he said “execution” or “executed” (which, considering the history of the jail, he said a lot) because he put an unusual amount of emphasis on the first syllable, “EHX-ecuted”.Every. single. time.
Anyway, some things about the jail.
Above the front door is a design (you can see it in the picture above, where the light fixture hangs above the door) with snakes and chains. Apparently, the snakes symbolize crime, and the chains symbolize justice.
Here’s a clearer depiction of it:
The jail was built in 1796, and was intended to be a more progressive prison than any other at the time. Rather than large open rooms that housed a bunch of prisoners, each prisoner was meant to have their own cell. The designer had some sort of motto about reform that I can’t quite remember, but he basically believed that prisoners needed three things: silence, solitude, and something else…reflection..? in order to improve, so he designed the jail with those things in mind.
I think that’s a bunch of hogwash, and also, most of the prisoners appeared to be people just stealing food because they were starving (including children as young as seven), and political rebels, who, ya know, kinda had a point. So they didn’t seem to need “reform” so much as a “decent shot at life.”
The spiral staircase above is pretty, but it was built specifically because it’s difficult/impossible to go up and down quickly, so it was easier to control the prisoners. The guards used a regular, efficient staircase across the way.
^This is the inside of a cell door. They all had the peep hole with the oval carving around it on the inside. It’s meant to remind the prisoner that they are always being watched (by guards, but also by God or some figurative element like their own conscience). Basically, it’s meant to freak them out.
Here is the inside of a cell which one of the prisoners painted:
The painting is by Grace Gifford/Plunkett, who was imprisoned in 1923 for getting involved in political rebellion, and who had just 8 years prior married her husband, Joseph Plunkett, in this jail just a few hours before he was executed for leading the Easter Rising. Whoa.The area above was the “exercise yard”, where apparently prisoners were forced to walk in a circle with their hands behind their backs, looking down at the ground for an hour a day. For exercise.
The guards also made the prisoners turn a crank in their cells for no purpose other than to keep them busy. If the prisoners turned the crank too quickly, the guard would adjust the crank via a screw, which is why the prisoners ended up calling the guards “screws”.
“To begin the mornin’
a screw was ballin’
‘Get up ya bowsie, and clean up your cell!'”
-The Auld Triangle
After the jail, we went to The National Museum of Ireland to see bog bodies, which are ancient human bodies that have been recently discovered in excellent condition, having been preserved by the special conditions of the bog soil. We’re not sure why they were killed (it appears that they were all killed, rather than dying naturally), but it was probably ritual sacrifice.
Get ready for some pictures of some stuff.
This man was killed between 362 BCE and 175 BCE:
After that delightful exhibit, we got a pastry and took a nap at the hotel.
That night, we enjoyed a dinner and performance called “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies” at the Brazen Head Pub, apparently Ireland’s oldest pub (from 1198).