A Trip Around the World: Dublin, Damascus, and Hakuna-Matata

28 May 2013, Tuesday

From St. Kevin’s Park on Camden Row I walked back out to Camden Street (which actually becomes Wexford Street right there) and walked north about four blocks. At some point Wexford becomes Aungier Street, and at the corner of Aungier and York Streets I found the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, which I’d wanted to see on this Dublin drill-down trip. (Dublin is, of course, filled with churches. And they say the South has a church on every corner. Ha!)

The Carmelites are a Roman Catholic religious order founded in the twelfth century (present in Ireland since the latter half of the thirteenth). It is a contemplative order; the original Carmelites were hermits. The current building here dates from 1825, but is located on the site of a pre-Reformation Carmelite priory built in 1539. Still, you must remember the Catholic community in Ireland spent long centuries (that is, from the first decade of the 1600s) under the rule of the Penal Laws; Catholic Emancipation only came in 1829. Thus this church would have been outwardly unassuming; careful.

It’s not much to look at outside, but inside—that’s another story.

It’s not much to look at outside, but inside—that’s another story.

The stained glass is beautiful.

The stained glass is beautiful.

There are more than a dozen shrines inside too. One of the most visually impressive is the Our Lady of Dublin shrine, in which is ensconced a twelfth-century Madonna and child—a life-sized statue carved from black oak. This places the statue, historically, in the same school of art as some of the statuary in Westminister Abbey. Think about it!

Our Lady of Dublin. The shine itself was completed in 1915. (Don’t forget you can click on this photo and click again to see it up close.)

Our Lady of Dublin. The shine itself was completed in 1915. (Don’t forget you can click on any photo and click again to see it up close.)

Another important shrine is St. Valentine’s (who knew?). Not a lot is known about Valentinus, a third-century Roman saint commemorated on 14 February, the day of his death as a Roman Christian martyr. A church was built at the site of his death (in Rome), and during one of the many restorations and reconstructions, this one in the 1830s, the remains of of the saint were discovered. Some of them were given to an Irish Carmelite priest, and now they reside here. (Valentine’s skull resides in Rome, still, and there are other relics at a church in Prague. I’m not sure what to think of this sort of thing, honestly, but feel I should report it.)

This was as close as I got to Valentine. This gentleman was there for a very long time, and I didn’t want to disturb him.

This was as close as I got to Valentine. This gentleman was there for a very long time, and I didn’t want to disturb him.

I also photographed the shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, popularly known as the Little Flower. Born sickly to petit-bourgeoisie—and very, very devout—parents in France, Thérèse became a nun at fifteen, was dead of tuberculosis at twenty-four (in 1897), and became famous after her death, though I’m not entirely sure why. Who can explain these things? I suspect it had to do with the times—the highly sentimental times—and the tragedy of her youth.

The shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, built in the mid-1950s, also includes a beautiful mosaic of “Our Lady of the Smile” (that is, the Virgin Mary, whose smile Thérèse is said to have seen).

The shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, built in the mid-1950s, also includes a beautiful mosaic of “Our Lady of the Smile” (that is, the Virgin Mary, whose smile Thérèse is said to have seen).

The front door is flanked by two statues—the Beloved Disciple and Mary. Inside there is a large anteroom, off which there is a small coffee shop and a bookstore. There’s no hint of the huge church beyond—probably for caution’s sake, again.

“This is the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

“This is the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

“Refuge of sinners, pray for us.”

“Refuge of sinners, pray for us.”

I began the walk back, then, to the hotel.

The chimneys of Dublin always fascinate me—especially when there are trees growing from them!

The chimneys of Dublin always fascinate me—especially when there are trees growing from them!

The festival was over, but the posters were still up. One of these days, though, I plan to be a part of the story!

The festival was over, but the posters were still up. One of these days, though, I plan to be a part of the story!

The day before, I’d mentioned the Damascus Gate restaurant on Facebook, thanking Patrick Comerford—a Church of Ireland priest I’d met through a mutual friend—for the recommendation. Patrick sent me a quick message (“You’re here?”) and suggested we meet for coffee, so that was my next stop. We had a delightful conversation about writing and editing (certainly two of my favorite subjects, and Patrick, a former journalist, has also published several books); I am so glad he had time to hang out with me!

At the Damascus Gate again: me and Patrick Comerford.

At the Damascus Gate again: me and Patrick Comerford.

As is his wont (you really should check out his wonderful blog), Patrick took the long way back to his office, and blogged about it later. So I’m famous! 🙂

By this time Gerry was back from work, and we still had a big evening planned—earlier in the year he had purchased tickets to see the Lion King stage production (a birthday present for me). But first, we walked around the corner to the Bleeding Horse—a historically and literarily significant pub that dates back to at least the mid seventeenth century.

It’s been remodeled since the 1600s, of course, but is still authentic, still very popular. (We were beating the crowds—we had a 7pm show to get to across town!

It’s been remodeled since the 1600s, of course, but is still authentic, still very popular. (We were beating the crowds—we had a 7pm show to get to across town!)

The show was at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre (pronounce this like board-GOSH)—the largest theater in Ireland, designed to present those large theatrical productions that were previously unable to be shown here. Gerry referred to it simply as the Bord Gáis; we took a cab.

The Bord Gáis (with a 2,100-person capacity) opened in March 2010 in an area of Dublin called the Docklands—an area right in the center of the city on either side of the River Liffey that is experiencing a large amount of development including shopping, offices, hotels, you name it. The Bord Gáis is one of two entertainment venues; the other is the O2 concert venue. You can read more about the Docklands area here; it’s a great neighborhood website and there are some fantastic photographs.

Speaking of which, I am kicking myself because when I dressed up I took a smaller purse … and did not take my camera. Once we arrived, I was just ready to scream from the missed opportunities! Sure, you can look at this photo I downloaded from Wikipedia …

This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication; it was taken by a user who calls himself “DubhEire.”

This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication; it was taken by a user who calls himself “DubhEire.”

… It was taken from the other side of the Grand Canal, which, in the daylight, is an absolutely accurate photograph. In particular, you can see the fabulous red art installation in the courtyard. But it’s nearly impossible to judge the scale unless you zoom in and look closely for the one human walking among the red poles (just to the left of the little bit of blue you can see here).

But now look at this one!

A little more impressive, yes? This building is STUNNING.

A little more impressive, yes? This building is STUNNING . (Photographer: Ros Kavanaugh for the Dublin Docklands Development Authority)

I borrowed this small photo (photographer: Ros Kavanaugh) from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority website. Now you can see more of what I saw. There are four floors above the ground floor; Gerry and I stood on the third and looked out over the courtyard (notice that art installation I mentioned is actually a collection of streetlamps when the sun goes down), across the water, to the skyline. The view was magnificent.

Google’s street view for the Docklands was made in 2009, it seems, when the Bord Gáis was still under construction, but this will give you an idea of location.

 

So … we were somewhat overdressed for The Lion King. But who cares! You may have seen this show—it’s been around since 1997, it seems—but I had not, and holy cow, was it good! I loved all those animals moving slowly down the aisle in the opening number! The reviews said the production requires twenty-three giant trucks to haul it (which makes me wonder how many ferries had to be scheduled, since it had just come from Manchester, UK). Eighty-five thousand people (more casually dressed than we were, probably) came to see the show the eight weeks it was in town; the company we saw was fifty performers from seventeen different countries. (Read more here.)

It was great. Our seats were fantastic. And we were back snug in the hotel by 10:30. 🙂

More Gardening, More Books … My Kinda Day! (Part 2)

27 May 2013, Monday

Now duly fortified with my new (though much less lovely) rain hat, I walked up Nassau Street to Kilkenny Design to buy some things—I wanted to get a Nicholas Mosse mug for a friend, for one thing. I first visited the Nicholas Mosse shop out in Co. Kilkenny in 2006, and just fell in love with a particular design on a particular mug, which I have used every single day of my life since then. Gosh, I love that mug. It’s the “Old Rose” pattern. Naturally, on this day, I saw a new pattern, and even though I was sure I’d never love any mug as much as my Old Rose, I had to have it.

This pattern is called “Clover.”

This pattern is called “Clover.”

When I was done here, I went back to Dawson Street and headed south, stopping at Hodges Figgis, a venerable old Dublin bookstore (founded in 1768, the bookmarks say, although now it’s owned by Waterstone’s, the British equivalent of, say, Waldenbooks, or B. Dalton’s). I did pick up a couple more books on my list.

But this really wasn’t intended to be a shopping tour—I shopped last fall, you’ll remember. No, this was intended to be a sightseeing tour. The parks and churches tour! I’d seen both already on this trip. And my next destination was St. Stephen’s Green—Ireland’s best-known public park.

The visitor’s guide tells us the name, St. Stephen’s Green, dates back to the thirteenth century, when it was adjacent to a a church called St. Stephen’s. The land was marshy and used by locals to graze livestock. In 1635 these twenty-seven acres became, officially, a park, and by the early 1700s—with the advent of Grafton and Dawson Streets—Stephen’s Green was a fashionable location of several promenades. But, as things do, the park deteriorated over a hundred years or so. In 1814 local homeowners took it over—and locked it, which was a source of some contention, until Arthur E. Guinness, a scion of the Guinness brewing family, made it possible for the park to return to public use (in 1877). Guinness also paid for the renovations that made the park what you can see today.

And it is still, after all these years, Stephen’s Green—no name change to honor Arthur Guinness’s generosity and none for Queen Vicky’s husband either. My fave story from the Wikipedia article is this one:

After the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria suggested that St Stephen’s Green be renamed Albert Green and have a statue of Albert at its center—a suggestion rejected with indignation by the Dublin Corporation and the people of the city, to the Queen’s chagrin.

Outside Stephen’s Green, having just crossed the street called Stephen’s Green North.

Outside Stephen’s Green, having just crossed the street called Stephen’s Green North.

So. I entered, really, from a side entrance, if you consider the Fusiliers’ Arch the entrance; I am a goof for having missed that. (However, here is a Flickr walking tour of the park if you’d like—and it starts at the Arch. The Fusiliers’ Arch, at the Grafton Street corner, commemorates the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the Second Boer War—1899–1902. They were fighting in the British Army, of course, and in its early days—it was added in 1907—this monument was called “Traitors’ Gate” by Irish nationalists.)

It was a lovely lush day for a walk in the park.

The duck pond at Stephen’s Green.

The duck pond at Stephen’s Green. Don’t forget, you can click to zoom in.

There were swans. And baby swans! I took quite a few shots of this and it was very difficult to decide which to use. :)

There were swans. And baby swans! I took quite a few shots of this and it was very difficult to decide which to use. 🙂

The park was redesigned to a Victorian-era design in 1880, and this knot-work pattern is a reflection of that. I’ve just crossed O’Connell Bridge; the pond is behind me now.

The park was redesigned to a Victorian-era design in 1880, and this knot-work pattern is a reflection of that. I’ve just crossed O’Connell Bridge; the pond is behind me now.

I was also doing some people- and dog-watching. I loved these two in their little sweaters, tho’ I was never able to get a shot when they were facing me. Be sure to zoom in by clicking on the photos.

I was also doing some people- and dog-watching. I loved these two in their little sweaters, tho’ I was never able to get a shot when they were facing me. Be sure to zoom in by clicking on the photos.

This really was the end of the line for the tulips, but I was pleased to see a few still in bloom. The lawn is truly manicured!

This really was the end of the line for the tulips, but I was pleased to see a few still in bloom. The lawn is truly manicured!

There are a variety of statues in the park, including this one of poet James Clarence Mangan, born James Mangan (1 May 1803, Dublin–20 June 1849). This bust was sculpted by Oliver Sheppard and erected in 1909.

I thought I had a map with information about who this woman is … but I do not. She’s lovely though.

I thought I had a map with information about who this woman is … but I do not. She’s lovely though.

I was cold and wet, so I kept moving through the outer circle of the park. I didn’t have the energy to see every single statue, and haven’t posted all the photos I took of the ones I did see.

I was really most interested in the nature scenes. Look at these trees!

I was really most interested in the nature scenes. Look at these trees!

And these! There are more than 750 species of trees in Stephen’s Green.

And these! There are more than 750 species of trees in Stephen’s Green.

And here’s the exit on to the southern edge of the park. I’ll admit this gentleman gave me pause.

And here’s the exit on to the southern edge of the park. I’ll admit this gentleman gave me pause.

Back at the hotel (which was still a few blocks’ hike), I read a little until Gerry got back from work. We’d planned an early supper at a Middle Eastern restaurant—one of our favorite ethnic meals—we’d both discovered independently. Gerry’s office isn’t far from this neighborhood, and walking through one day he’d seen the Damascus Gate restaurant. Meanwhile, I’d heard of it on the blog of my friend Patrick Comerford. You can imagine my delight when we began to compare notes. 🙂 There are many fantastic (yummy-looking from the outside, and also well-reviewed) restaurants within just steps of the Camden Court Hotel, though. It was hard to choose.

I’m not kidding when I say “across the street.” At the Damascus Gate Restaurant on Camden Street, Dublin.

I’m not kidding when I say “across the street.” At the Damascus Gate Restaurant on Camden Street, Dublin.

This starter—Hummus bel lahmeh—was delicious. As was the rest of our meal.

This starter—Hummus bel lahmeh—was delicious. As was the rest of our meal.

After supper we strolled around the neighborhood.

On a quiet side street, some Dublin townhomes with those lovely old Georgian doors Dublin is so famous for.

On a quiet side street, some Dublin townhomes with those lovely old Georgian doors Dublin is so famous for.

Tiniest bank in the world! And it had an ATM!

Tiniest bank in the world! And it had an ATM!

Before we’d even gotten to the canal, we could see what Gerry called, simply, Rathmines Church, but whose official name is the Church of Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners. It has a very distinctive copper dome. The first church was built here and consecrated in 1830; it was enlarged in 1856 and the portico added in 1881. Sadly, much of the church burned in an electrical fire in 1920; the original dome collapsed with a sound that was heard for miles. Reconstruction began immediately, and the dome was replaced with one (constructed in Galsgow) that had been intended for a Russian orthodox church in St. Petersburg, until the revolutions of 1917. So here it landed.

I think this dome must have been intended for a larger church—because even from this distance (three or four blocks) it seems huge. I love the mural on the side of the black building, which is a pub and venue—The Bernard Shaw.

I think this dome must have been intended for a larger church—because even from this distance (three or four blocks) it seems huge. I love the mural on the side of the black building, which is a pub and venue—The Bernard Shaw.

It was a lovely day altogether! Back at the hotel we relaxed, worked, and later watched a movie on the iPad … which was quite convenient! (Also, it was Seven Psychopaths—which was hilarious. Particularly Christopher Walken. OMG.)