Sunday, September 17, 2017

24 hours in Ireland: History and beer

Scene: Isabel Iris Garsuta on winning Miss University of Bohol Personality 2017: “It is a dream come true. To God be all the glory!   I am so grateful to all the people who have helped me on my journey throughout this pageant.” Her proud mother, Mariz Garsuta, posted on Facebook, “I wish you all the best, your journey as Miss UB personality 2017 has just began. Continue to instill the Christian values, the University of Bohol trinity of virtues and inspire the youth.” Erick Karcher is Mr. UB Personality 2017.

Isabel Iris Garsuta and Erick Karcher  Courtesy: UB 
Scene:  Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 director Chief Supt. Mario Espino was the guest of honor in the blessing and inauguration of the new P14 million police station in this city last week.  “A very comfortable and welcoming facility for the residents of Tagbilaran City. Maganda and presentable,” said Supt. Patricio Degay Jr., city chief of police, in a phone interview.   However, police had been left red-faced after the marker of the building was revealed - along with prominent spelling mistakes.  A close-up photo of the marker posted on the social media received “negative” reactions. Some residents have found at least eight “errors”- like “Police Regional Police" instead of Regional Police Office and “governemnt” instead of government.  The names of councilors were also spelt incorrect: Dulce Philipp S. Besas instead of Dulce Amelia C. Glovasa, Albert C. Torralba instead of Alberta C. Torralba, Agalon N. Polinar instead of Vicente N. Polinar, Agustinus Gonzaga instead of Augustinus Gonzaga and Nicanor S. Besas instead of Philipp S. Besas. It had “Sanguniang Bayan” instead of Sangguniang Panlungsod. Some residents shared that it must be double-checked since it was a marker. Degay said he didn’t know of the spelling errors since the marker was from the regional office. “I don’t have control with it since it was the regional engineering office which was in-charged,” he said.   Seemingly seeing the funny side, Degay said the marker would be remove and correct.  “We will have it correct as quickly as possible,” said Degay.

DUBLIN, Republic of Ireland-  After London, I decided to visit Ireland.  The reason Ireland is so popular with tourists is the overall experience. It is full of beauty and punctuated by charming coastal villages.  Yes, U2 and Westlife.

I hate travelling alone.  Solo travel depression is very real thing.  Solo travel is boring, eating alone is depressing and I hate an album full of selfies.

But all of these were gone when I arrived in Dublin, Ireland’s largest city and capital.

Dublin's charm lies on scenery, people and the craic. The good news is these can be explored even in 24 hours. For one day, tourists can visit the Trinity College, Temple Bar, Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle and more.

Ireland’s capital needs no introduction. It has history, charm, sights, museums, galleries, theatres, shops, pubs, restaurants and an abundance of character. Photo by Leo Udtohan
There are two ways to explore Dublin faster – rent a bike at bike stations, a hop-on-hop-off bus but a little pricey or do a walking tour. For me, Dublin is one of the most walkable cities in Europe that I found to be best enjoyed by foot.

Tip: Start in the north at Phoenix Park and head south to the River Liffey, cross the famous Ha'Penny Bridge and find your way to the medieval streets of Temple Bar. Pause for a pint before heading to the Trinity College campus. Shop along nearby Grafton Street before jaunting on to the peaceful St. Stephen's Green. From there, literary fiends can drop by the Writers Museum or the James Joyce Centre while visitors that enjoy a drop of the good stuff can tour the Guinness Storehouse or the Old Jameson Distillery.

And no matter what you decide to do on your Ireland adventure, every destination you head to will captivate, surprise, and inspire the curious traveler.

Here are the “must-see’s” and the “must-do’s” in Dublin:

Pubs. That's what you likely know about Dublin. There are at least  2,000 liquor licenses in the Irish capital.

James Joyce, one of Ireland's most influential and celebrated writers, once said it would make a great puzzle trying to cross the city without passing a pub.

Your VRS at O'Neills Bar and Restaurant
in the historic heart of Dublin.
The city has at least 2,000 pubs to relax
and drink Guinness beer. 
The pub is the social hub of any Irish town, and here you’ll find friendly chatter while observing the finer points of pulling the perfect pint.

Some rudimentary Dublin rules to follow:

1)If someone buys you a drink, buy them one back.

2)Don't expect to drink all night.  Most pubs close at 11:30 p.m. on weeknights and 1a.m. on weekends. Something about curbing alcoholism.

3)If you are drunk and have awful lots of feelings, don't call an Irishwo/man British. You are starting a fistfight. The Republic of Ireland is independent of the crown. It has been a Free State since 1922. Northern Ireland is part of the UK.

If you are in Dublin, it is a must to visit the Guinness Storehouse where the beer was born to travel.  The dark, tangy porter beer first brewed by Arthur Guinness in Dublin in 1759 wins the hearts and minds of beer lovers in United Kingdom and Africa.  The Guinness Storehouse is very touristy. Here you will learn the history of Guinness, how Guinness is produced, how it is marketed, and even learn how to pour the perfect pint. The tour ends with a pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar. From here, you have 360° views of Dublin.

Trinity College. Founded in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland's oldest university. The historic buildings, gardens and monuments are worth a visit. Famous students here were Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde. 

The statue of Molly Malone, an attractive 
young woman making her way in the world, selling 
seafood by the barrow, through the streets of Dublin.  
The city is so enamored with the legend of Molly Malone
 that a statue to her memory was erected near Trinity College, 
to celebrate the millennium anniversary of the city’s founding. 
Photo by Leo Udtohan
The school library houses the Book of Kells. It may seem like a crumbling old bible, but look closer at the amazing designs and colors on these manuscripts (a different page is carefully turned every day).  The Book of Kells was written in 800 AD by a group of monks and was buried in the ground for safe keeping against the Vikings. In the 1600s it was rediscovered and sent to Trinity College where it has been ever since.

Other displays include a rare copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, read out by Pádraig Pearse at the beginning of the Easter Rising in 1916, as well as the so-called harp of Brian Ború, one of the oldest harps in Ireland.

There are at least 200,000 of the library's oldest volumes at the 65- meter Long Room, the library's main chamber. If your eyes are tired from all the reading, take some time to walk down the enormous hallway and admire the marble busts that pepper the unending rows of bookshelves.  There are 51 busts that scattered across the library including Socrates.

Museums and castles.   Dublin has many museums, galleries, castles and churches. And they are really good. But best of all they are free. These are the Chester Beatty Library, Natural History Museum, Museum of Modern Art and National Art Gallery which are highly entertaining.

Dublin Castle is the heart of historic Dublin and is where the city gets its name from the Black Pool - 'Dubh Linn' which was on the site of the present Castle garden. Founded in 1204, Dublin Castle spans 44,000 square meters and has two museums, cafes, gardens and a conference center. The government buildings and the State Apartments are the most important state rooms in Ireland. The grounds are free to explore.

Cathedrals.  Ireland used to be the most Catholic country in the world. The church's connection to the island nation dates to St. Patrick's conversion in the 5th century. There are many ancient but empty churches here. According to a local newspaper here, in 1984, nearly 90 percent of Irish Catholics went to Mass every week. But by 2011, only 18 percent did. It's a massive cultural shift.

Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university.  Photo by Leo Udtohan
I, however, still love to visit old churches when I travel. I visited Saint Patrick's Cathedral even the walk was long-ish and  a bit uninspiring. Saint Patrick's is the National Cathedral of Ireland which was built between 1220 and 1260. But for friends of world literature this is a pilgrimage, and a must - Jonathan Swift of "Gulliver" fame was dean of and is buried in the cathedral.

Horse drawn carriage to see Dublin City in comfort and style.
Photo by Leo Udtohan
Another lovely church to visit is the Saint Augustine and Saint John The Baptist Church. I passed the famous The Beer Market near Dublinia on my way to the church. Outside the establishment, I saw a Filipino who was very familiar. He smiled at me. I just smiled back since I was in a hurry to catch the Holy Mass. While inside the church, I realized that the man I saw was a Boholano priest! After the Mass, I went back to The Beer Market to see him. Unfortunately, he was no longer there. That night, I had a chat with Wilma Diez-Balag, a resident of Cogon District, who asked me if I met Fr. Julian Lupot who is in Ireland. I suddenly remembered the man I saw in Dublin.  Wilma confirmed it was Fr. Julian. I still can't stop feeling the regret not being able to talk and shake hands with him.  Sigh!

With 24 hours, you can get a good taste of Dublin. 48 hours would be ideal. But even with just 24 hours in Dublin, I manage to get a good taste of the city and find a lot of reasons to return.  When I return to Dublin (someday) I wish to visit the sheer cliffs of Moher on the emerald Isle to see how it feels to be one small step from infinity. The cliffs have appeared in several films, including The Princess Bride (1987) (as the filming location for "The Cliffs of Insanity"), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), and Leap Year (2010).  In music, the cliffs have appeared in music videos, including Maroon 5's Runaway video, Westlife's My Love, and Rich Mullins' The Color Green. Most of singer Dusty Springfield's ashes were scattered at the cliffs. 


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