After an excellent breakfast at Ariel House, we braved a wicked wind to roam the streets of Temple Bar (very quiet on a Sunday morning, as you might think) and central Dublin until the museums opened that afternoon. A public art show wrapped two sides of the edge of St. Stephen’s Green, where, again, a young artist stepped up to us, told us about his experiences in the states, and added to the notes others had drawn on our map of Dublin. Such friendly folks, these Irish.
Then we headed first to the National Museum of Natural History briefly, which was a old-style glass-cases full of taxidermy type museum. We looked through the native fauna and mineral displays, and then walked through the National Gallery of Art, which had a few famous world artists as well as Irish artists, but what we were really slavering after opened at 2 p.m.: The National Museum of Archaeology, a beautiful old building full of ancient Celtic treasures.
I took a lot of photos here without flash, but even though I checked with several guards for permission, I still got ugly looks from the other patrons. My purpose was to document ideas for an art history research class that I’ll be taking next spring, and boy did I get plenty of ideas. The treasures that have been pulled out of the Irish bogs, including clothing and books, are amazing. I saw bog mummies with nearly perfect hands, which I did not photograph because I feel funny about bodies on display. Embroidered treasures and golden gem-encrusted reliquaries and book shrines. Egyptian treasures as well – I saw ancient tapestry woven textiles. A little Alice in Wonderland door (”Mind Your Head”) beside a steep old spiral staircase. The tilework and woodwork and structure of the building were as fascinating to me as the trove housed within. Even the doorknockers drew me in.
When we forced ourselves to leave at 5 p.m., we decided that it was time to find a pub and something to eat. As we walked along the nearly traffic-less Sunday afternoon streets, disagreeing on our options, Sandy spotted an interesting looking shop that was open: Sweny Chemist. He knew that I had read some James Joyce before our trip and was attempting Ulysses, and a sign in the window said it was where Leopold Bloom bought his lemon soap. Well. Although I am at the moment 28% finished with Ulysses and may not ever be 100% finished with it, my inner literary groupie thrilled to this information. The lemon soap – I remember that! Oh joy! We went inside to find the quaint little shop full of interesting knick-knacks and Joyce collectibles and a table full of used books. The volunteers there invited us to a out-loud circle reading of Finnegan’s Wake at 6:00, a cup of hot tea, and pints at a nearby pub afterwards. We weren’t sure. We were tired and hungry and were familiar enough with Finnegan’s Wake to know that it was filled with poetical Joyce-created words, beautiful but barely sensical. We went to the pub they recommended across the street, The Ginger Man, where we were promptly served our beef and Guinness pie and chicken/mushroom pie, and finished in just enough time to decide that this was an Irish experience that would be unique and that we should do it.
So we sat in with the reading group, which included Brazilians and Italians, enunciated Joyce’s fantastical words with our Southern drawls as best we could, and went out with P.J., Mirko, and Emanuele for drinks at the Ginger Man afterwards. We learned a lot about living in Ireland from those who were native, and some, like Mirko and Emanuele, who were there on work Visas. I’m really glad that we made the choice we did.