A full night’s sleep did wonders and I was ready to attack a fresh, new day. But, first, the inner man needed to be restored.
With one exception, all of our breakfasts were the same over in Ireland. We always ate in the hotel dining room and enjoyed a breakfast buffet. The food is pretty much the same as you’d find in America except their bacon is closer to ham, puddings (types of sausages) are available, tomatoes and mushrooms are big breakfast staples, a cereal called Wheatabix is common, porridge is common, and baked beans are often served in deference to British guests as that is a staple of an English breakfast menu.
After dining, we boarded our motorcoach and began a driving tour through Dublin. Bill educated us on the history of the city, pointed out muse houses, directed our attention to the River Liffey which splits the town like Jekyll and Hyde (everything north of it is the bad side of town while the south is the good part of town). He also pointed out a hotel owned by the group, U2.
We stopped off at St Patrick’s Cathedral where we spent a little time exploring the grounds and church. Then it was back on the bus to our final stop over at Trinity College which educated luminaries such as Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.
The rest of the afternoon was ours to spend as we chose. I decided to take a tour of the college. Out tour guide was imminent graduate, Alex Gregory, who gave a rather eye opening view to life at Trinity.
For starters, undergraduate college education in the European Union is subsidized by the government which means the students pay no tuition, though Ireland does charge its students a student fee of 3,000 Euros a year. Alex also showed us the dining hall where all students can eat lunch every day. Supper is also served, but one has to be a scholar to get that.
Scholar is a designation given to students who score a minimum of 70 on the Scholars’ Exam which takes place each December. It is an incredibly difficult comprehensive exam given in your major. It’s a little easier for science and math students as those answers are objective. As the arts are so subjective the last arts student to get a 70 was Samuel Beckett. The perks for being a scholar are a dinner every night, a waiver of all fees, and the ability to live on campus for 5 years for free even if you have graduated.
The grounds of the college are immaculate and Alex told us that it is clipped and mowed twice a day every day. As Ireland prides itself on its grounds, I imagine a good groundskeeper earns a pretty good living in Ireland.
When our tour ended, I visited the Samuel Beckett Theatre and then headed to the library to gaze on the Book of Kells. It is actually 4 books (the 4 Gospels to be precise) and is the oldest, best preserved Bible in the world believed to have been written about 800 AD. It is incredibly well preserved and only appears to be a few hundred years old.
I finished up my campus explorations and wandered down O’Connell Street which is a famed shopping district also known for its buskers (street performers). As I walked down the street, I passed a McDonald’s and decided to stop in for a snack. I had hoped to try their local sandwich, a Cajun Quarter Pounder, but they were no longer selling it. I settled for a double cheeseburger and made my way to St Stephen’s Green.
St Stephen’s Green is the Central Park of Dublin and it is a gorgeous property. The birds there also know no fear. I could have jumped up and down and shouted, “BLBBBBLBBBB!!!!” and those birds wouldn’t have reacted.
I enjoyed a constitutional and then started hoofing it back to the hotel. As I walked I made a few observations on Irish drivers and pedestrians. The drivers seem to be a little hot tempered as I often heard honking horns and jaywalking is the national pastime. Seriously. Pedestrians often cross in the middle of a road and raise their arms and the drivers stop for them.
I got back to the hotel and puttered around until early evening as we boarded the motorcoach for our first optional excursion.
We drove to Taylors Three Rock, a famed cabaret restaurant. This place is a complete sellout 364 days of the year. The only day it doesn’t sell out is Christmas because it isn’t open that day. They serve a fabulous meal and I enjoyed Atlantic salmon for my main dish. The entertainment is also top notch as they use name Irish entertainers. I chuckled to the jokes of Noel V. Ginnity, Ireland’s cleanest comedian, was enthralled by the harp playing and singing of Rebecca Murphy, swayed to the tunes of Rob Vickers, an Irish tenor who played Jean Valjean in the 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables at London’s West End, and thrilled to the footwork of their world champion Irish stepdancers.
It was a lovely evening that ended much too soon, but we needed to get back to the hotel as we needed our rest as we would travel to a new city the next day.