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East door of Dublin Castle. St Patrick (In Ireland around 400 AD) on the right faces off with Brian Boru (High king of Ireland until his death in 1014) on the left.

Expressive king.

This post is because I love doors, and because a friend of mine blogs door photos, and she inspires me. Do you have a blogger friend who inspires you to see the world in a new way?

My intrepid offspring, Tara, and I recently returned from a week in Ireland. Each time a door grabbed my attention, it made me think of Manja (and also Norm, the door blog guy). I began a collection of them. Please take a look at these wonderful doors of early spring in Ireland. When I look at these, I can remember the mood and excitement of the moment when I took the photo.

Our first day Tara was sick in bed (drat the luck!!) and I put on all the warm clothes I had (not quite enough) and walked around by myself in the rain at 41 degrees (5 C) and the voices in my head switched back and forth from “Damn it’s cold,” to “Whoah! That’s cool!” I discovered right away some buildings that look almost identical to each other, facing each other across a carpark. One is a library and one is a museum. I went inside the museum for its free admission and heaters.

Door to the National Library of Ireland, which matches…

…the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology door.

Doors inside the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology.

The front door of our Airbnb place in Dublin – 2 George’s Quay – between Starbucks and Offbeat Donut.

Look at this magnificently adorned door in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

Over the following week the weather gradually improved. North of Dublin we visited some very very old doorways (albeit no doors) in the Boyne River Valley. I hope you consider that these count:

Entrance to Newgrange, north of Dublin. Built approximately 3200 BC, it’s older than Stonehenge. The oldest doorway I’ve walked through in my life.

Mound of the Hostages at the Hill of Tara has a doorway.

And then we made our way to southern Ireland, where they had more doors!! We were delighted to walk through them when we could.

Entrance to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, glittering in the setting sun. It was behind a gate so this is as close as we got.

At the Muckross Friary in Killarney National Park, a couple more doorways caught my eye. Again, there are no actual doors, but I liked them anyway.

This doorway is the entrance to the cemetery at the Muckross Friary.

Steps lead to a passage through a wall at Muckross Friary.

We parked by this door in the town of Cashel, when we stopped to find a place to eat. I not only love the red colour and the doorknocker, but the knob in the center of the door.

Cashir Castle hosted this sketchy door. Dare you to walk through…

My favourite door of the entire trip. Wood bound in iron, stone, and a guard bird. I thought at first it might be an eagle, but the beak isn’t right. Who is the bird to which we owe our gratitude?

A woman’s place is in the revolution.

We began noticing the painted walls of Cork within an hour of our arrival. Every corner we turned, and every alley we cut through had bold artwork with bold messages.

“End Dublin rule in Cork.” [photo by Tara McMullen]

Dublin was a nice enough city, but Tara and I loved Cork. It has a proud and unapologetic personality. It’s character was a sort of challenge. “Here we are,” the voices said, and we could take it or leave it, but they wouldn’t much care what our opinion was. We liked that.

Cork street art is only one example of that, but it’s a good example. I’m drawn to street art and graffiti anyway, so I was already looking at the walls. It was fun to have these voices revealed to us even on that chilly windy day while there were few people about.

At the end of our Ireland trip (we’re home now) I recalled my graffiti shots and thought I’d do a collection of all the wall art from the trip. When we got home, I reviewed images and was reminded that almost 100% of our graffiti photos came from Cork.

These pieces were some of the first we noticed, and we went over for a closer look.

This one really impressed me.

Close up [photo by Tara McMullen]

Close up [photo by Tara McMullen]

After touring Elizabeth Fort, we made a loop of the outside of the walls of the fort, and found this.

Recognizeable faces.

What? It’s a cat!

We continued our circle around the fort, and Tara stopped to photograph an eye in a triangle. I moved a trash bin and found the rest of it.

Something significant is going on here. [photo by Tara McMullen]

More bones on the wall. I can’t tell if those little fish are shooting backward, or blowing out in advance of their movement.

I’m not sure what the technique is that makes graffiti look like black and white photographs.

Heron flies off into the lights.

We wandered into a city park and found more graffiti that matched the style of the “Dublin” one at the top. Possibly the same political activist.

On the left: “My brother knows Karl Marx. Met him eating mushrooms in the People’s Park.” On the right: “Willkommen. The People’s Republic of Cork.” [photo by Tara McMullen]

Ziggy’s Rock and Blues Bar.

“The Artist Beyond Control.”

A nice message to end with: “Love yourself.” [photo by Tara McMullen]

This collection catches my attention because these are all merely the artworks we haphazardly stumbled across while seeing the other sites. We were not looking for street art, and it was everywhere.

Our names at our seats on Irish Rail.

We didn’t plan our time well and gave ourselves 3 minutes to eat the buffet breakfast we had each paid €13 ($15) for. Instead of eating, we collected food into take-home containers we had saved from the day before and ran out of the hotel with rollerbags and shoulder bags, and paper bags of breakfast and coats tied around our waists.

It was only a couple blocks away, over a bridge, and into the station. I had already purchased the tickets, but needed to figure out how to get them, and of course I chose a machine that wasn’t working, but since I didn’t know what it was supposed to do, I stood there, poking buttons until the intercom said our train was boarding and my stress level ramped up.

We ran to an information booth and no one was there, but when a man showed up, he directed us to use the kiosks we had just left. I was about to say I had already tried that, but I spotted a different kiosk and the screen was different, so we tried that, and realized the first one had been broken. With our tickets we ran toward the trains.  At the entrance gate Tara’s ticket worked to open the bars, but mine didn’t. I stood there frustrated again, until a woman on the other side of me couldn’t get hers to work either, and asked the agent nearby if she could just walk through the path for people with disabilities. Without looking up he said “yeah,” and she ran through. So I did too. Then I saw that our platform was at the very very end, past another whole train, so we ran the length of the train. The whole time the intercom is announcing that the train for Cork is boarding, please get on the train. We finally get to our train, but we have “E” seats, and we’re at “A” car. So we run past A, then B, etc. Finally, finally get onto our car, drag all the luggage in, and collapse into our seats.

Our seats displayed our names at them, which was cool. We were not cool, but hot, from having run so much. It was not a good start to the day. By noon when the train stopped, we had eaten, chatted, listened to the group of chattering ladies who got off the train at Mallow to go to a wedding, and finally relaxed. We were ready to take on a new city.

The River Lee flows through Cork.

Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church is right on the riverbank.

It was a short walk to our hotel, and we were too early to check in, so we ditched our bags behind the counter and took off walking West, along the River Lee. We were later to find out that Cork is built upon several rivers, and some run in tunnels under the streets. We went first to Elizabeth Fort, in the oldest part of the city, on Barracks Street.

The current fort was completed around 1626 and named after Queen Elizabeth I, of course. It has played a key role during significant historical events, including Cromwell’s occupation, the famine, the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. We were in time for the 1pm tour, and got to walk the ramparts of a fort and look out over the city of Cork. It was a great first stop. Our tour guide, Steven, not only told us about the different key moments in the history of the fort, but also had us look out across the city while pointed out the landmarks to note the boundaries of the original city. He explained that the old city wall is now gone, and only a tiny piece remains, which is in one of the city parks.

Walking the ramparts of the “star-shaped” fort with the city of Cork surrounding it.

View of St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral from the fort.

Tara was really engaging with the exhibits on display in the Fort.

Tara peers over the edge at a view of heads on pikes.

Steven explains that he wanted one of the heads to be modeled after his own, but they wouldn’t do it. #makestevenshead

From the fort we had great views of nearby St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral. We took our time walking along the perimeter inside, peeking into gardens and admiring the neighborhood now grown up around the fort. When the tour was over, we chatted with Steven a bit more and he told us about the oldest pub in Cork, and one of the oldest in Ireland. He also told us about a place to get whiskey. Tara wanted to circle the fort, so we made our way out and around and found some fun graffiti along the way. We had been noticing a ton of graffiti in Cork, and between the two of us collected a ton of photos. I think I’m going to do a blog post of only Cork street art.

We walked into what was the original Cork city, then we found the park with the wall, and went to see it. Elizabeth Market was across the street from there, so we next went to the big market. I bought snap peas and Tara bought a pomegranate, and we finally headed back to the hotel in hopes that they would now have a room for us to check into.

Street art in Cork.

The original city wall surrounding the city of Cork actually drops below street level. The plaque under the pigeons says “Remains of 13th Century City Wall.”

Elizabeth Market in Cork. Named after…uhhh… guess who.

After checking in to the hotel, we headed directly back the way we had come, since the city along the river is so inviting. We stopped at a National Monument from 1906 with an inscription on it that says: “To perpetuate the memory of the gallant men of 1798, 1803, ’48, and ’67, who fought and died in the Wars Of Ireland to recover her sovereign independence and to inspire the youth of our country to follow in their patriotic footsteps and imitate their heroic example and righteous men will make our land A NATION ONCE AGAIN.” Prior to the trip I had been studying the key points of Irish history. I had noted a couple of battles and events that seemed relevant – all being the same to me. But arriving here, I find this history is still alive. Every single tour guide tells the stories, and every common person at some point refers to England, and Cromwell, and Bloody Sunday if you talk to them long enough. Every monument you look at tells the stories once again. In the Cahir Castle (we went there several days later) there was a whole room dedicated to biographies of the 14 men who were killed after the 1916 Easter Uprising. I have a much better sense of the feelings behind the ache for Irish independence and the complications that have prevented it.

Monument to Irish independence.

Peter O’Neill Crowley

Library in Cork has this engraving of the city seal, which shows a ship sailing into the city between two towers. This suggests a history of a city straddling a river, as we learned from our tour guide.

Close up of the stonework showing the imagery of the Cork city seal.

We headed for St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral, completed in 1879. However, it was too late in the day to admit the public, and the gates were locked. So we circled the enormous gorgeous cathedral, glittering in the setting sun, and took sunset photos through the gates. Then we tried to find the oldest pub in Cork but were never sure which one it was so we settled on Forde’s Bar. A man there chatted us up and told us he had lived in Massachusetts for 20 years, which was fun because we also have lived in Massachusetts. The man left, but when I paid our bill, I paid for a couple of pints for that gentlemen whenever he returned. We had a Beamish stout, which apparently is what you drink when you’re in Cork, rather than Guinness. We had only been in Cork a few hours, but already we had detected a sharp criticism of Dublin. Rejection of Guinness was part of that criticism. More graffiti echoed the sentiment.

St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral sparkles in the setting sun.

Close up of  Cathedral entryway.

Gargoyle on St. Fin Barre’s

Beamish stout from Cork

Forde’s (in the corner, to the left) is a very old, and very comfortable bar.

St. Fin Barre’s reflects off the river. Look closely and you can see a tunnel where one of the underground rivers flows beneath the city of Cork.

Narrow Cork city streets.

Cork at night.

Inside Frisky Whiskey

I don’t know who the musicians were, but they were entertaining.

We walked once more down Oliver Plunkett Street and found ourselves in front of Frisky Whiskey, that Steven had mentioned. So we went on up to the second floor where there was live music. We drank Teeling, a new Irish whiskey we had just heard of, and enjoyed the music till we were tired enough to sleep.

Tara and me in the gorse atop Dowth

Michael Fox picked us up in Dublin and took us on a Boyne Valley tour. Most of our trip is on a budget, but we splurged for one thing: an all-day tour of the Boyne Valley. This particular region is packed with neolothic sites and points of interest, and we had little confidence in our own ability to get around to see much of it in one day. We solved this problem by hiring Michael to take us around. He studied the region as a hobby, and one day nine years ago decided to turn his fascination into a job. Now he works as a tour guide, taking people on full-day personal tours of the Boyne Valley, north of Dublin and west of Drogheda.

Our first stop in the morning was Newgrange. On his website, Michael describes it like this: “Newgrange is a Stone Age monument in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland. It was built about 3200 BC during the Neolithic period, which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Newgrange is a large circular mound with a stone passageway and chambers inside. The mound is ringed by ‘kerbstones’ engraved with artwork. It is the best know monument within the Brú na Bóinne complex, alongside the similar passage tomb mounds of Knowth and Dowth.” Note that he calls it a monument, while it’s scientifically referred to as a passage tomb. The “passage” part of that name is due to the long narrow passage leading to an inner room. However, most current scientists will agree these mounds are not tombs, or at the very least, much more than tombs.

Our first look at Newgrange, as we walked up the hill toward it.

The entrance into Newgrange. Note the fabulously carved entrance stone.

While we waited for our turn inside, we explored the outside.

These enormous stones ringed the outside and some of them were carved.

Each stone was carved differently and Tara and I imagined what the shapes could mean.

We found this intriguing hut of stone. It turned out to be a novelty building that some farmer built out of scavenged stones from the site. It has little cultural significance.

We were not allowed to access the site without supervision, and not allowed to enter without a guide. This was fine with us, because the guide told us more about the site and helped us appreciate it while we were there. We were not allowed to photograph the inside. We entered here, the entrance you see in the above photo, and walked through a very narrow passageway into a central room. The guide turned out all the lights so that it was pitch black, then lit another light to simulate sunlight streaming through into the room as it would during 17 days of solstice in December. This would have given hope to the people at that time that days were getting longer, and Spring was coming again.

I am not that superstitious, and find myself a practical person in most situations. When I walked inside and felt those gigantic stones surrounding me (the inside is filled with stones the size of the ones out front), I felt a presence. I felt something, and I didn’t want to leave. I reached out to touch the stones; to put my hand onto the stones that a hand had touched 5,000 years ago. How incredible.

This is a ring of stones we found outside Newgrange after our tour.

Next we went to nearby Dowth, part of the same historical complex. Dowth is unexcavated, and for that reason I found it particularly appealing. No modern human has attempted to put his own interpretation onto the outside of the site, as was done at Newgrange. There is a hill over two entrances, and the tops of the outside circular stones showing.

Hillside of Dowth, with high gorse. Some effort has been made to cut down the gorse, which is similar to the bush I would call Scotchbroom. You can see the tops of massive stones ringing the hill.

One of the entrances at Dowth. Behind it, gorse is chopped down on half the hill.

This is inside the entrance at Dowth, and gives some idea of what it was like inside of Newgrange.

From the top of Dowth we could look back and see Newgrange. {click to enlarge photo.}

We also saw a cemetery from the top, and Tara wanted a close up look at it.

…So we went to the cemetery. From there we looked back up at Dowth.

Michael took note of how much we enjoyed the cemetery, and next took us to see the High Crosses at Monasterboice. The site was a monastery that existed in the 6th century. The High Crosses are very large crosses that date to the 10th century with carved scenes from both the new and old testaments of the Bible, possibly used as a teaching tool to help a congregation.

This is an example of the teaching scenes on the High Crosses. Here on the left, Adam and Eve hold an apple. On the right, Cain holds a weapon toward Abel.

This is Muiredach’s Cross, the more significant High Cross.

Tara and me in front of the other High Cross at this site. The remains of the monastery behind it.

Much smaller crosses in the cemetery that surrounds the high crosses.

This gravestone is interesting because it was carved onto a stone that was already sort of gravestone-shaped.

It was midday and time for a bite to eat. We went next to the Slane Castle, which is really a faux castle. Wealthy property owners had their home built to look like a castle. Today it is open for tours and weddings, and once a year hosts a gigantic concert. Michael said he saw U2 perform here in 1981 when they were the opening band for Thin Lizzy. In the lower level of Slane Castle is a lovely little cafe. Tara and I had ordered carrot soup and sausage rolls the day before and liked it so much we ordered the same thing again. It was scrumptious. After we ate, we walked over and explored the Slane whiskey distillery.

Slane Castle.

Entrance to the old stables, now hosting a whiskey distillery.

Inside the stables/distillery grounds.

There is a bar at the distillery, where the individual stalls for horses have been somewhat maintained, and made into booths for customers. Tara and I sampled the whiskey of course. But I was already a fan of Slane before I went to Ireland.

Back on the tour, we next stopped at another cemetery that had some ruins in it. From the cemetery was a lovely view of the River Boyne and a castle-type ruin there too.

Beautiful Boyne River valley.

Next was a stop that we had been looking forward to: The Hill of Tara. This site has been important for thousands of years. The site is much more than a hill, and more like a compound of many important places, including passage tombs, memorials, wells, an promendade and a church. We stopped first at the passage tomb called The Mound of the Hostages. It is a Neolithic structure, built between 3350 and 2800 BC, and is believed to be the oldest part of this complex.

We then walked up the hill to the Stone of Destiny. It was said to roar when touched by the rightful king of Tara. Of course we both put our hands on it. Just to check.

After that we walked across the large grassy area while Michael told us about how techonological advances such as LIDAR and ground penetrating radar are revealing new discoveries, and how this is improving theories people have about the site. We found a fairy tree, we walked up a long promendade (curiously named “Banquet Hall”) from a lower area up to the top of the hill again, and then gazed in every direction, as the Hill of Tara offers a 360 degree view.

Mound of the Hostages is a dramatic name for this passage tomb.

Stone of Destiny did not roar when either of us touched it. I guess we’re not Kings of Tara.

Fairy tree?

View of the countryside.

Tara peeks into one of several wells at the site. This one is called Well of Tara.

It had been a long day and it was time to head back to Dublin. Michael drove us all the way back and to our hotel near Heuston Train Station (we were headed out on the train the next day). We had fun chatting all day, got great tips for what to do in the remainder of our stay, and were truly grateful for our time with Michael. It was a great decision to hire him as our guide.

In Ireland for the first time.

The Custom House in Dublin, on the River Liffey.

Tara and I boarded our first plane Tuesday morning. After a 6 hour layover in Washington, D.C., we boarded our second plane and in 7 hours arrived in Dublin. Exhausted. Sadly, during that time, Tara developed a cold. Though we felt excited and upbeat at first, the kiddo was wiped out by noon.

I was tired too, but tucked my sweetie into bed and went out to take a look at Dublin. Our room is in the center of town, near the mouth of River Liffey, a couple of blocks from Trinity College. I walked along the water at first, and admired The Custom House across the water. Then I made my way south through the streets past Trinity College. School was clearly in session and crowds of young people pressed past me on the sidewalk, all the boys in suits and slacks – they looked so nice.

Sights of Dublin on the way to Trinity College.

Streetcar curves past shops near Trinity College.

 

Narrow streets of Dublin.

St. Andrews Church

Springs blossoms in front of St. Andrews Church.

Dublin has so many smiling happy chatty people. I’ve had five random strangers strike up a conversation with me. One guy watched me taking photos of St. Andrews Church.

“You wanna take a photo of me? I’m famous.”

“Oh yeah,” I ask, “what for?”

“Football,” he replies.

“Unfortunately,” I tell him, and this is with real regret, “I know nothing about football.” I’m sure he’s not famous, but it would be nice to know more about the World’s Favourite Sport.

“You must be from America,” he says. And we both know Americans are famous for being completely out of the football/soccer loop compared to most of the rest of the world. “So what’s it like? Living in America?”

I tell him that so far, Dublin is a lot like Oregon. Same climate, same early stage of Spring, same plants grow here. He talks about Trump a little, and says he’s not racist like people are in America.

I walked past Trinity College and continued south to the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, because it was one thing I wanted to do, and wasn’t sure if Tara did. I found the museum easily and was pleased to see that the entrance fee is free. This is one of those museums in which the building itself is a big attraction. I happened to stop first at the almost-identical library across the parking lot (oops forgive me: carpark), and shot a photo of the whole building (which is enormous):

National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology

The entire floor inside is mosaic tile. Some places are so beautiful that I hesistated to walk on it.

Columns inside the museum.

Decorated bronze mount.

Ancient carved stone.

Roman silver artifacts.

Exceptional metalwork

Carved stone 1-2 century AD

Golden cross.

After the museum I found a convenience store and bought some medicine for Tara, then went back to the room to deliver hot lemon medicated tea and cough syrup.

It was quiet and warm in the room and I couldn’t help it but take a nap! Later that evening, I went back out for sustenance and found quite by accident, two great places. I stepped into The Vintage Kitchen and put my name down for an 8:30pm table, then went next door to Mulligans.

It turns out that Mulligans Pub is an old and famous pub! Apparently James Joyce drank here, as well as John Kennedy. I was treated well and surrounded by Irishmen, their accents rising around me. I finished my pint of Five Flags lager, and walked back over to the kitchen.

The Vintage Kitchen is another narrow, quirky place with immediately friendly staff. The waiter insisted that if I like seafood, I needed to order the chowder. I obeyed. I enjoyed the quirky atmosphere and in no time had my chowder, which is to die for. I filled a little dish with mussel shells that I dug out of it, and dunked a variety of homemade breads into it. The chowder, though listed under “starters,” was a meal unto itself. Alas, I still had a risotto coming. No worries though, once I crammed as much of the fabulous risotto with kale (and leeks and broccoli) into myself, I asked them to pack up the rest for my sick kid. Tara was happy to take the leftover dinner off my hands.

John Mulligan’s Pub around the corner from our AirBnb.

Inside the pub

Inside The Vintage Kitchen

The rain makes everything sparkle at night.

Pubs and cobbled streets.

We had a better look at Dublin the next day.

One of my many guises

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