Vacation 2019: To Dublin

The next few blog posts are about my 2019 vacation. Two years ago I went to Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention, when it was in Helsinki. I skipped last year in San Jose, and decided to go this year when it is in Dublin, Ireland. A friend from the WXR cruises organized a bus tour of Ireland the week before. I had no chance to write about anything for the first few days, but now I’m sitting in a comfortable hotel in Cill Airne, othewise known as Killarney, with an hour to go before dinner, so I’m going to start catching up on my reporting.

On Tuesday the 6th I took VIA rail from Kingston to Montreal (Dorval, actually) and the shuttle to nearby Trudeau Airport. When flying east I prefer Montreal’s YUL because it is easier to get to than Pearson YYZ in Toronto. VIA was on time — unlike my wife’s train to Toronto the next day, and the one home the day after that, both of which were about an hour late. I then had to wait three and a half hours before boarding, but that’s the way the train connections worked out. I had checked in the day before via the Internet, so just had to deposit my suitcase — but I arrived at the baggage dropoff machine 4:15 before my plane’s departure, so had to wait 15 minutes for the machine to accept it.

Clearing Security went quickly, but would have been quicker if I’d remembered to take off my belt with the metal buckle. I found a cafe and bought a late lunch / early dinner, and since it wasn’t busy, felt free to occupy a table and an electrical outlet to use my laptop for an hour or so. Boarding went quickly, the Airbus A330 was comfortable (I actually had room for my legs, which isn’t true on some flights), and the flight was smooth. I got maybe 1/2 hour of sleep after they turned the lights off; the one problem with the flight was that the entertainment system didn’t work, but I find there is enough going on inside my head that I rarely get bored.

I was far back in the line at Immigration, which took at least a half hour for me to get to the front, but the agent was very quick once I got there. Picking up my bag was a bit of a wait also, but nothing I didn’t expect. The plane landed around 8:30 am local time on Wednesday, and was out by around 10.

The problem was that I had thought I’d be met at the exit by someone from the tour company, but I hadn’t read the fine print that said I had to change terminals. Fortunately I met someone on the same tour who called the company and found out where we were supposed to go. The company’s shuttle had a list of who we were and what hotels we would go to — three different ones, involving a long drive around Dublin. For some reason they went past my hotel to a different one before coming back to drop us off; I’d have appreciated the extra time to rest before the 2pm pickup for a brief tour of Dublin.

The two highlights of the tour for me were St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to take notes about the history of the cathedral, and jetlag wiped most of what I was told from my memory.

I did remember a little more about Trinity College , which is the sole college of the University of Dublin. It makes more sense when you know that the University is the sister of Oxford and Cambridge and uses the same collegiate system, though there has only ever been one college within it. Odds and ends I do recall are

  • The University had a history of not paying its architects.
  • About 800 students live on campus, out of the 16,000 or so who attend.
  • The library is a legal deposit library for both Ireland and Great Britain, so is entitled to a copy of every book published in either country.
  • The books are organized by size, with the largest ones on the bottom shelves and the smallest on the top.

But the most touristy thing about it is that it houses the Book of Kells , a fantastically illuminated manuscript written around 800AD, consisting of the four Gospels. It was once a single book but has been divided into four, roughly corresponding to the books of the Bible; two are on display at any one time, and they turn the pages about once every two months. Rumour says daily, but that would be too much wear and tear on a 1300-year-old treasure.

We were on our own for dinner, but the driver had told us about a nearby side street with several restaurants, so I joined some friends from the 2017 Writing Excuses cruise, had dinner, looked at some swans, and returned to the hotel to basically crash after having been up for about 36 hours.

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