Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dublin, Ireland — City of Culture —Museums

If you read the post before the last one, I stated that I would write about my recent trip to Ireland that lasted two weeks. Since this is a blog about St. Kitts I thought I'd throw in some comparisons between the two countries. I found that nearly everything we judge is anchored by what we know or has happened to us most recently and for me I tend now to judge other places according to St. Kitts, so here we go.

Before we left St. Kitts for Ireland I was given the responsibility of deciding what we'd be doing in the second half of our vacation. The first half was pretty much set in stone, because we would had to stay in Dublin for the first week for Julie's Veterinary Conference at University College of Dublin.

The research I did before we left was very intensive. I didn't know anything about Ireland, which in some ways is good and other ways bad. All I knew was that I couldn't pronounce three-quarters of the town or county names and found it hard to distinguish one part of the country from the other without a map right in front of me. For instance, Ireland has Ulster, Munster, Kilkenny, and Kilarney. Anyways, I researched for a few weeks and finally devised a pretty cool plan, at least I thought so.

I was excited about the trip there too. We decided to take British Airways, which gave us a quicker and straighter flight to Dublin, although we still had to stop in Antigua to pick up enough passengers to make the flight worthwhile and then to London, before finally connecting to Dublin. I was excited to fly with British Airways because I had heard that their customer service and food was better than most U.S. airlines. Honestly, who wants to fly 10 hours and not be comfortable and hungry? Not me.

The British Airways bird at Robert L. Bradshaw Airport St. Kitts.
I was right about the British being more mannerly and accommodating. We also had great food, free wine, more than enough flight attendants, every person had their own blankets, pillows, and most importantly, headset tv screens with enough movies to keep you busy the entire flight. I mean check out these first class seats!

Eventually we were flying into Dublin Airport. I was able to get a really cool picture of my first sight of Ireland from the plane window.

We managed to find the right bus to the city center and from there to our hotel south of Dublin. This was the first time I rode on a double-decker bus. They are super cool, comfortable, the isles are wide, and they're pretty prompt. In St. Kitts the public bus system uses vans with no set times and you're risking your life to ride on one because they drive like maniacs. They're constantly involved in accidents and not a week goes by you don't see an accident.

For an example read this article from this past May:

Fortunately I don't have to ride the buses in St. Kitts. I've only ridden in them half a dozen times.

We wasted no time in getting to see Ireland. Julie arranged a horse ride at a stable beside Phoenix Park, which is equivalent to our Central Park in the U.S. I quickly found out that horses are still a large part of everyday life in Ireland and they have some of the most beautiful horses in the world.
Imagine going to a large city and being able to drive or ride a bus for fifteen minutes and being able to ride a top-quality horse in the cities park.

Julie saddled up but I decided to just take pictures this time.

The horse stable outside of Dublin, near Phoenix Park.
Mounted Police in Phoenix Park.
Cool Irish Trees.

And that's how you navigate a roundabout in Ireland. Julie is on the far left in the green shirt
The following days I did what I do best—explore. Again I had preconceived notions about Ireland from what I heard in the U.S., and these notions painted a picture of a dreary, uneducated, drunken country. I couldn't have been more wrong. I found Dublin to be one of the most cultured cities I've ever been to.

Dublin has an amazing mixture of people from all over the world. Riding the bus into the city center was a cultural experience in and of itself because I'd hear no less than four different languages being spoken by different passengers. Dublin has been a center of literary, music, and history for hundreds of years and the people who live there don't merely see this as history, they see it as what makes their city unique and continue to keep all of these unique attributes alive today. Just look at these pictures for example.

Flower market
Street performers.
These are just a few of the numerous musicians and entertainers in Dublin, mostly on Grafton Street. It reminded me a lot of Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California that I visited around 2005.

If literature is even the slightest bit interesting to you, then Dublin is king. Chances are you've heard of these guys—James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and many others. Right beside St. Patrick's Cathedral there is a park with a wall with plaques remembering some of Dublin's best writers.

I was also excited to learn that all of the national museums in Dublin were free to the public. I love museums but what made these different was how long ago they were started. For instance, The Museum of Natural History of Dublin is one of the oldest in the world and includes over 10,000 exhibits and specimens from all over the world. Remember that Ireland was part of the British Empire and Dublin was one its largest cities. The group of scientists started collecting animal specimens in the late 1700s and the actual building was opened in 1857. That's four years before the American Civil War!

The Dublin Natural History Museum

Whale Fossils.
Just take a look at these exhibits.

Tasmanian Devil
I don't see the resemblance. Do you??
And finally two that you might see in St. Kitts.

Green Vervet Monkey.
Centipede. I've yet to see one this big though, thankfully.
I could post an entire blog on just natural history museum photos but the show must go on.

The same day we jaunted just around the corner to the art museum, better known as The National Gallery of Ireland. This museum, again had an amazingly thorough collection of sculptures, drawings, and paintings from just about every well-known artist a person could think of.

Personally, I like to draw and paint but didn't appreciate art history until I took a class in college where we were taught the history and stories behind each piece and the artists. It's always incredible to see the pieces you've read about and looked at in your textbook in person. I visited the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, around 2003, and this museum was a little more interesting in the fact that it showcased many artists from varying times and places.

I didn't take any photos in the museum but there were many masterpieces that were simply amazing. Some of my favorites were as follows:

Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs,1864 By Frederic William Burton. Courtesy:

The Taking of Christ, 1602. By Caravaggio. Courtesy:

Peasant Wedding, 1620 By Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Courtesy:

I like all three of these the best because they all have stories behind them and each one touches a different emotion. From top to bottom, there is romance, drama, and finally humor. Look closely or better yet follow the links to the National Gallery and read the background information.

Again, there are too many paintings to post here in one blog post but anyone can visit the online gallery at Album

The museum holds masterpieces by famous artists Claude Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, Yeats, Poussin, and many others.

The following day I visited Dublin's Archaeological museum, but that will have to have an entire post of its own, so stay tuned for that post. In the meantime, if you live in St. Kitts you'll appreciate this last photo, which I believe they should have at every pedestrian crossing like they do in Ireland.

Just remember, look left in St. Kitts or any other place where everyone drives on the right. It took me awhile, but you definitely learn quickly after a few close calls and honking drivers.

Til next time.