Monday, June 6, 2016

When getting oriented in Dublin, look out for ducks, fire trucks and Christopher Walken references

First 24 hours in Ireland checklist: Shake off jet lag. Attend orientation tour at University College Dublin. Scope out bus system (Hooray for buses with WiFi!). Wander through central Dublin. Don't get run over by fire truck.

I'll explain in a bit.

First, though, University College Dublin, or UCD for short, is a few bus stops to the south of downtown Dublin. It used to occupy some buildings near St. Stephen's Green in central Dublin until the university received a donation of 133 hectares of land outside the city. In the metric system, 133 hectares is somewhere between "big" and "really expansive."

It now has scores of buildings, many of which are in that '60s modernish style. But it has some cool features, including a student union that contains a pool, an on-campus pub and a debate chamber. Students start the semester by debating controversial topics to get everyone's spirit of activism and intellectual curiosity flowing. (Alas, it wasn't open when we toured campus, so no pictures yet.)

Our study abroad group from Murray State got the whirlwind tour on our first day that included learning how to follow the correct line of tape to get to our classroom. 

Apparently someone thought this classroom building at UCD was big enough that it required a complex system of letters and colors to guide students through it.

We also explored the streets of Dublin on a busy Saturday after a trip to the National Gallery of Ireland and an "information scavenger hunt" on St. Stephen's Green.

People lounging by the duck pond at St. Stephen's Green.
St. Stephen's Green served as a crucial spot during the uprising of Easter week April 1916 and features monuments and historical markers all over it. That includes one of Countess Constance Markiewicz, who was one of the leaders of the Volunteer Army who took control of the green in their bid to spark an uprising and free themselves from British rule.

Sun shines on the Countess.
(More on all that in future posts). 

Now the Green is a popular spot for families, children, students, couples, friends – similar to Boston Common or, rather, Boston Common is similar to St. Stephen's Green.

Dubliners come to enjoy the afternoon and the ducks. Of course the ducks have remained a priority even during the Rising in 1916. During the week in which the Volunteers controlled St. Stephen's Green, the British and Volunteers would observe a truce twice a day for the park superintendent, James Kearney, to feed the ducks. Still, he Kearney later reported, the fighting killed six foul, broke seven benches and destroyed 300 shrubs.

After St. Stephen's Green, it was on to Grafton Street, the big touristy shopping/outdoor entertainment area that runs through the center of downtown. As we worked our way through shoppers and bubbles being blown and past the man selling his poetry books for 10 Euros and around the juggler, we heard a burst of a truck horn as a fire truck rounded the corner, splitting our group in half. I'm still not sure how it managed to rumble up the rest of Grafton Street without smashing a stray tourist, poet or juggler.

This is what it had to go through. 

This is the fire truck NOT running us over on Grafton Street.

Later on, four of us wandered through more of the city to see Dublin after dark, although in June, that requires a lot of wandering to wait for it to get dark. We're so far north, sunlight stays around until 10:30ish.

The Ha'Penny Bridge, so called because it used to cost one, is now a walking bridge over the Liffey River that links the two sides of central Dublin. It's near Temple Bar, which is the popular nightlife area.

For 100 years, a ha' penny would do to cross the bridge. And if you haven't got a ha' penny?

The Temple Bar area was packed on Saturday night with revelers, nightclub goers and bachelorette and themed stag parties. (We saw a "Hulkmania" group including the presumed groom dressed as Hulk Hogan and a batch of pirates)

We also saw these guys (to the right) rocking for the crowd. Those two – a drummer and guitarist – kept up a continuous jam for quite a while. We stopped for 15 minutes, then started walking back to the bus stop and could still hear them in the distance.

Finally, the end of the orientation to Dublin must end with the return of the popular feature: Sign of the Day. I'd ask for a drum roll please, but it's more appropriate in this case to ask for "More Cowbell."

Here you go:
From the door of a clever pub in Temple Bar.

1 comment:

  1. Then God bless you. In response to your question about the ha'penny.