Thursday, May 21, 2009

From the Liffey to the Mersey

We left Dublin today just as the weather is clearing. Forecast for today is sunny with the light cloud cover and the possibility of an occasional shower. Ain't life a bugger!

So we made the most of it by taking the Red Bus Tour of Dublin before we got the ferry. As we knew that our time would be limiuted, we drove into the City and parked in the same parking station as we had last night, almost in exactly the same spot! Only two spaces away in a very full car park - ooh how I love that parking fairy!

From here it was only a short walk through to the Tourist Visitor Centre where we bought tickets for the Red Bus Tour. Because we only had a few hours, they sold us discounted tickets that saved us €5 each - nice gesture to be sure, to be sure! The bus left from just around the corner and operated every 10 minutes - must have literally just missed one cos it took 12 minutes for the next one to get there. While waiting we watched a steady procession of Eco-Cabs pass us by - these guys must be fit. Can you imagine this in Brisbane where there are quite very steep streets in the inner city?!

It was a one-man travelling show on the bus with our driver Paddy negotiating the heavy traffic and providing a non-stop commentary as we went. We had commenced the tour part way through - at stop 8 and so he was in full swing - you know I don't think he stopped to take a breath once!

Like many European cities, Dublin was once a walled city full of narrow little lanes within where at times, two ladies with hooped skirts would have had trouble passing. And it was a small city of just 44 acres set within walls with 6 gates and 42 defensive towers. Why so many towers? Well, the Irish and the Vikings were not allowed to live within the city walls and tried regularly to burn it down. When Johnny was King, he built Dublin Castle partly to house the soldiers needed to protect the city as well as being a home for himself. There was at least one occasion when he had to pull his sword and engage the enemy himself!

St Patrick's Cathedral was a fortified cathedral because it was built outside the city walls. It housed a garrison of soldiers. Oliver Cromwell went to service in this church one Sunday and half-way through, stood up and condemned the Catholic idolatory and closed the church. He re-opened it a week later as a stable for the soldiers horses. The Cathedral is linked with some notable locals - Sir Benjamin Guiness (yes, of that family) paid for the restoration of the Cathedral as well as the establishment of St Stephens Green.
One Dean of the Cathedral was one Jonathan Swift - of Gulliver's Travels fame. He was also a sufferer of Ménière's disease which at the time was diagnosed as a psychiatric illness and so he was interred from time to time in the psychiatric hospital! On his death, he had bequeathed £7000 for the construction of a psychiatric hospital - it is now a hospital that treats alcoholics - ironically located within a couple of hundren metres of the Guinness Brewery!
Another Cathedral Dean was renowned for his lengthy sermons - as much as two hours long. He had a pulpit on wheels constructed so that he could be wheeled by altar boys up and down the aisles throwing the bible at the hapless parishioner who was unfortunate enough to fall asleep - and so we got the phrase "To throw the book at you".

Living outside the wall meant that you had some liberties - you did not have the protection of the City, so you paid no taxes! There were and still are a number of traders who hold very special trading licences. These licences allow them to trade on the streets - literally. They cannot be bought, but are handed down from mother to daughter in families. There is nothing special about what they sell - it is the stuff of everyday life - in fact the thing I saw most on sale were multi-packs of toilet paper! And they cannot open a shop or they must surrender their licence.

And then there was the Guinness Brewery. Old man Guinness was cunning - he negotiated a 9000 year lease for £80. We did not go in though as we had such limited time. There are seven floors of museum - not only of the Brewery but of its place in Dublin and indeed Ireland. They then talk of an 8th floor - this is the famous all glass Gravity Bar with its wonderful views across the City. Would have been a waste anyway with neither of us drinking the stuff that even the Irish concede is an acquired taste. But Paddy related his memories of the draymen leading their Clydesdales pulling vats of the brew on tray topped carts out from the brewery gates. As the horses walked over the cobbled inner streets, their shoes would send sparks into the air. They way he spoke of it, you could see the picture in your mind's eye! Just wonderful! And those draymen had a prized job - you see the perk was that they got two free pints at each pub they delivered to - would have made for an interesting trip once their round was finished.

Arthur Wellesley was born in Dublin. He went on to become the Duke of Wellington and Dubliners were rightly proud of their son. Through public subscription they began to construct what was to be the second tallest obelisk in the world in monument to him. Part way through the construction, while he was Prime Minister of England he was asked in parliament one day whether he was Irish. His reply? "Just because you are born in a stable does not necessarily make you a horse!" Understandably this pissed off the Irish and work stopped on the obelisk that day. It was completed to what stands today only because he left money afer his death to finish it. Funds were insufficient however and to today it is not complete. Serves him right!

Another site that I feel compelled to mention is the Croppies Acre. This field on the River Liffey just across from the CBD is the site of a mass grave. Some 1,500 to 2,000 young revolutionary soldiers are buried here. Most were pitch-headed (scalped) by turning a helmet of pitch onto their heads, letting it dry and then yanking it off, before being hung from the bridge to die. Who thinks of such bizarre and in-human tortures? Such a sad loss of young life - but then what war is any different?

Funny how governments are the same time over and world over. The planning arm here is called Dublin Limited. They had decided that they needed a new office and so in front of some pretty amazing examples of Georgian architecture, they planned to build a very new style building. But that was just the start. At the time of the excavation of the site, a full Viking village was discovered, complete with many thosands of artefacts. But, with the contempt of their office they 'gave'themselves permission to build over it. 34,000 Dubliners took to the street in protest - but they went ahead irregardless. So, although the artefacts were recovered, and Dublinia was built to house them (similar to the Jorvick Centre we went through in York - blog date 25 April 2009), the village in its setting was lost. Bloody government agencies.

And then we pass Trinity College. Chartered under Elizabeth 1 in 1593, this is set smack bang in the centre of the CBD which means that there are many thousands of young people rubbing shoulders with the professional set all the time - nice to see. Even though they were chartered under a Queen, they did not admit women until 1904 - the nerve!

So we leave Dublin with two very typical shots - the bronze statue of Molly Malone with the barrow - known locally as the 'dish with the fish' and the street filled with taxis - there is no uniformity to it. You buy a car, have it passed for roadworthiness, buy a taxi licence and go head to head for business with everyone else doing the same thing! No industry regulation here. Its a wonder that any of them makes a buck.

So we eventually get back to our starting point just before 2pm. Our ferry departure is due at 4pm and we must be at the Port by 2:30 pm, so we hurry back to the car park. In fact, I am writing this blog from aboard the Stena Nordica - our ferry from Dublin Port to Holyhead in Scotland. We were welcomed aboard by
Captain Neil Humphrey just before we set sail. At the moment I am sitting in the Internet Cafe with the laptop plugged in to power and happily typing away while keeping myself busy enough to hardly notice the rocking of the boat! There are a couple of eastern European boys here with us who are playing music and tv programs very loudly and pissing the rest of us off - just asked them to turn it down - the rest of us don't want to listen to the drivel that one of them is listening to. Got most of the blog done for today and then went down to have a look at the on-board shop. Got a 1 litre bottle of Jamesons for £21.95 and some really nice choccies. So I'm set!

So we dock in Holyhead and are now back in familiar Scottish country with the pleasant memories of the time we spent time earlier in the area. In fact, we pass within 5 miles of Caerwys where we had a week in March. The boat has docked late and so we are now pushing against the clock to get to Liverpool within a decent time so the manager does not have to wait too long.

Famous last words. We were doing just dandy until we got into Liverpool city itself. And then it all went awry. Trouble with reading directions that have been developed before roadworks start and new buildings rise up from the ground! Tomorrow I am going to buy a Tom Tom - just not worth the stress any more!!!!! And we do not want to be involved in a homicide investigation.

We are in an apartment for the next two nights - it will give us a chance to do some washing. Not planning anything really hectic tomorrow - need a day of not driving. Might try to get a haircut and go to see Angels and Demons. Or we might try to go on the ferry trip we missed last time we were here.

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