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Phoenix Park by Ann Treacy
February 28, 2010, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Dublin

1. On Saturday we went to Phoenix Park – to see Áras an Uachtaráin (the President’s house). Our plan was to leave early and get our tickets earlier – but no go. We didn’t leave early and of course we didn’t really know where to get the tickets once we got to Phoenix Park. We’re not really as organized in real life as we may appear on the blog – but we got there early enough to get the ticket somehow.

The Phoenix Park is a huge park. We rarely go there because it’s really the opposite side of Dublin – but I think it’s the largest park in Europe – definitely the largest walled park. There’s 6 miles of fencing surrounding the park. It was created as a hunting park in the 1600’s (going off memory now, not Wikipedia so don’t go making any bar bets on the following but…). So the British brought over a herd of deer – in fact you can still see the herd in the park. We only saw one, big deer, but we have seen the herd in the past.

1. We went past the Wellington Monument and the Cross, which was built when the Pope came to visit in 1979 (again making up that date). Patrick must have told us a million times that he was there for the Pope’s visit. We walked past soccer fields, polo fields, cricket grounds, and the zoo. We went up to the Ashtown Castle. (That’s where we were able to get the tickets for the tour of Áras an Uachtaráin.)

Ashtown Castle has a nice café and we were starving. We went into the interpretive area; they started the movie just for us. We walked through the walled garden, played in the playground and eventually got the bus to the President’s house.

Sadly we couldn’t take pictures in the house – but we did get a picture outside. The house is beautiful, but I have to say the view of the Dublin Mountains is amazing. The tour guide was great. She repeated some of the stories we heard last weekend in the government buildings – but her delivery was much better!

I remembered the story of the fireplaces (in the house and government building). They were designed by Pietro Bossi. He found a way to color marble. On his deathbed his eldest son hoped for the secret to dying the marble – and Bossi just said, “there’s only one God and there’s only one Bossi.”

Also they had a bowl created from wood found at the Battle of the Boyne – at the time of the Battle. Apparently one bowl went to the President and one to Ian Paisley – in a peacemaking/peace-appreciating effort. I actually could rattle off a few more tidbits except that I suspect that without pictures the stories lose something.

One last tidbit Phoenix Park isn’t named after the phoenix rising, it’s actually an English corruption of the Irish Fhionn-Uisce, which means clear water. There’s lots of clear water in the park.

Christ deliver us by Ann Treacy
February 26, 2010, 7:16 pm
Filed under: Dublin

Last night Patrick and I went to see Christ Deliver Us, a play by Thomas KiIroy produced at the Abbey. When Patrick ordered tickets the box office told him that the play contained sensitive materials, there were no refunds, and only front row sees were left. Gulp!

So we were a little nervous going in – but while the show was bleak and certainly not for kids it wasn’t what I imagined. The show is a picture of Ireland in the 1950’s. So there are some statements about religion and sex – but the nudity was minimal and absolutely no audience participation. When I say the show was bleak – I mean the themes. It was very black. So that’s a little bit more my style than Patrick’s. The staging was really impressive.

The action in the first act was a little choppy but the staging was so creative that it worked. One scene includes a group playing hurling on stage – something that makes you a little nervous if you’re in the front row and not know for your quick eye-hand coordination. There’s a dance class scene that goes from awkward (dance class in a single-sex school is rarely everyone’s favorite) to fun to watch when two dancers are able to find the music. One character is killed and then buried under the floorboards in a clean easy sweep that is so surprising – and other great moves.

We started the evening at the Winding Stairs, a restaurant we have tried to visit before. It was worth the wait!

We were in the Taoiseach’s office by Ann Treacy
February 26, 2010, 6:52 pm
Filed under: Dublin

Last weekend we wrestled with a lot of kids activities. Kate had a birthday party. Lily had a slumber party. But in the midst of the social schedule we managed a quick trip into town for a tour of the government buildings. We were very proud of ourselves for getting out of the house in time to get tickets to take the tour.

Sadly we couldn’t take any pictures in the building. And we were followed by security everywhere (everyone on the tour, not just us!). But it was fun. We saw the cabinet rooms and some the slick technology they use. The walls of the building are full of very modern art, which I liked. We got to see the Taoiseach’s office. The Taoiseach is like a Prime Minister. (There is also an Irish president; we’re hoping to visit her house tomorrow.)

The tour guide provided a lot of information – maybe too much to take in on a Saturday but it was fun.

A weekend of kids theatre by Ann Treacy
February 26, 2010, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Bray, Dublin

Last weekend, we went to two children’s plays. On Friday night we went to see the Internal Teen Machine, the musical. A play put on for kids by kids. It was cute. The girls seemed to enjoy it. We took the girls’ friends Ailbhe and Cait. We had dinner before at the Fanciest McDonald’s in the world. (We have McDonald’s about twice a year so that was a treat of sorts.)

On Sunday we went to see The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly at the Ark. We didn’t know it beforehand but it was a one man show. But it was one seriously energetic man! It was a great show. It’s the story of a little girl who saves the townspeople from cashing (in a boat) into a cliff. There’s not much point in giving away the story – but the staging was amazing. The little girls is a packer (she packs things, not a football fan) – and all of the props fit into a wooden crate that opens in a hundred different ways. (We have a picture of the star with some of our group here.)

We love the Ark but it always invites at least a little audience participation and there’s always one kid who takes it too far. And for some reason the parent does nothing to stop the mouthy kid! It’s kind of frustrating for the better behaved kids. Now my kids aren’t always the better behaved kids – but they do know when they’re taking it too far in a public setting – like mouthing off to an actor on stage. For those of us with normal boundaries it’s as cringe inducing as watching the Newlywed Game.

Facebook Developer Garage by Ann Treacy
February 26, 2010, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Dublin

Last week I went to a Facebook Developer Garage. It was interesting. It was fun to hear from folks who develop application that run on Facebook. I phrase it that way because only one of the five who spoke worked at Facebook. If you’re a Facebook user, you know how Facebook changes periodically. Most of us find that annoying – well imagine how well that works for a developer. Criminy! 

I learned a lot about gamers. The biggest gaming demographer is women, aged 48. But as the speaker pointed out any real gamers (the 18 year olds we all imagine) are out playing real games on game sites. Facebook is kind of gaming junior. I’m not saying I’ve never been sucked in by a Facebook game – my super nerdy score of 150,000 on Word Play will attest to some playing. (Although I haven’t touched it in a year since I did get a little addicted.)

It took place at the Science Gallery – my favorite place in Dublin.

We touched an 800 year mummy! by Ann Treacy
February 22, 2010, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Dublin

So the reason we’re so busy this week is that the girls were off from school Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday we decided to have a church day.

First we went to Whitefriars, where they have bones from St Valentine. We wanted to see this before Valentine’s Day but that didn’t work out. It was fun to see them today. The church is very ornate. They seem to have relics (our word of the day) from lots of saints and plenty of candles to light. Whenever Irish Grandma picks up Aine from school, they go to the church at the school to light candles; so Aine was *very* into lighting candles at Whitefriar.

Whitefriar also has a life size oak figure of Our Lady of Dublin. I tried to get a good picture there. Hopefully it came out.

After Whitefriar, we went to St Michan’s. OK, first let me say that St Michan’s is an untapped gem. The church from the outside is pretty unassuming. It’s just north of the Liffey, kind of near Smithfield, very near a Viking ruin that’s currently being excavated. So while that way too much detail for most readers I guess what I’m saying is that this is pretty much off the tourist path.

According to Wikipedia, “While the exterior of the church may be unimpressive, the interior boasts some fine woodwork, and an organ (dated 1724) on which Handel is said to have composed his Messiah.” We didn’t hear that at the church, but clearly I’ll be adding that from now on. I did take a picture of the woodwork, which apparently was done from one piece of wood. Impressive.

On the altar is a drape that came from the Dublin Castle Chapel. They quit using the Dublin Castle Chapel years ago and folks figured the drape had been tossed – until someone noticed it decorating a stall in the Liberties market! Makes me want to go to more markets.

The coolest part of St Michan’s by far is the crypt beneath the church. Originally (1095) the site was a Danish Chapel. It was rebuilt/reconstructed in 1686 – but the crypt seems to date closer to the original structure – or at least the inhabitants too.

I tried to take some pictures. The walls in the crypt contain limestone, which has kept the air dry, the temperature is very temperate and apparently there is a lot of methane (a natural gas or as the tour guide told us, cow farts) creating ideal conditions for preservation. Among the preserved remains are a 400-year-old nun, a six-and-a-half foot alleged crusader, Henry and John Sheares (leaders of the 1798 rebellion), and a body with its hands and feet severed. The various holders of the title Earl of Kenmare were also interred here.

But the very best part is that apparently it’s lucky to touch the hand of a crusader – so they let you go in and touch the mummy!! It’s supposedly 800 years old. You have to climb over the 3 other mummies to get to it. We all touched his hand. Creepy, but cool!!

The tour guide was fantastic. He was so animated, informed and excited about everything. Never mind turning a blind eye to cameras. In the crypt are burial rooms. Back in the day, families would pay something like 2-3 years’ salary for the right to be buried in the crypt. Essentially they bought a room but then the families could always be buried there. None of them are buried there today – but if an Abbott or Hamilton wanted to be buried (I don’t know if that’s the right word, maybe laid out is better) there they would have to take them.

The Hamilton family is the family of Scientist Sir Wm Rowan Hamilton. What I love about all the stuff we do is that the pieces always fit together. Today we saw a statue of Hamilton – and I knew immediately who it was – or at least where he could be buried. (Also it’s a sign of how good the tour guide was – because really what a boring thing to remember or relay here – but I had to do it.)

To nip it in the bud, it was really good and we all got to touch a mummy. That’s the only thing that will be on the quiz.

Howth in Feb by Ann Treacy
February 22, 2010, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Dublin

On Lisa’s last full day in Ireland we went to Howth. Howth is the opposite side of Dublin Bay from where we live. You can take the DART from Bray to Howth, which is pretty much like taking it from start to finish. The journey can get a little long, but it’s pretty and it is a good way to get there.

Luckily the girls like to play on the poles in the DART so that passes the time.

We went down the pier and saw about 8 seals, which is always a thrill. The pier didn’t seem as high as when we went there with Aine 2 years ago. In fact I’m sure it wasn’t as high, since the water is definitely higher (bringing the pier closer to the top of the water). Sadly the boats don’t run to the Eye of Ireland (little island off Howth) yet. But we’re coming back in April, when they do run.

We climbed up to the abbey ruins. We had a nice lunch as a place called Deep. The girls and I shared an appetizer platter that included mussels and calamari; maybe a sign that we eat out too often. It was a good but tiring day. We got loads of good pictures because Howth really is very picturesque.

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