Visiting Dublin Castle, The Pig's Ear, The Dublin Zoo, The National Gallery of Ireland, and the Parnell Heritage Pub and Grill! Monday, July 2nd, 2012
4.5.12 13 °C
It was a brisk Irish morning when I set out on my sight-seeing journey around Dublin, Ireland. I was feeling refreshed, and ready to explore the drastically new environment in which I now was. My first destination of the day was Dublin Castle, located in Dublin City, just a short cab ride from my hotel. I was beginning to experience the hospitality of the Irish people, as my cab driver was nothing but lovely, and had an even more pleasent accent. I arrived at the castle and was blown away by the beauty of the exterior of the building. I snapped a few photos, and continued on to join my tour group. A guided informational tour of the exterior, and interior of the castle costs €4.50 for adults, (1 Euro is equal to 1.2834822 Canadian dollars), and gets progressively cheaper the younger the visitor is. Our group consisted of roughly 16 people, a few children included. We began with our tour guide, Arthur, taking us around the outside of Dublin Castle, and giving us a detailed history of the castle, and its grounds. I learned a great deal, including the following facts; The castle was built on the orders of King John, in 1204, on land previously settled by Vikings. The castle sufferred fire damage in 1673, and went through rebuilds throughout the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The only remaining original structure of the building is the Record Tower (dating from about 1228-1230). Our group was fascinated with the heritage of the area, and became even more interested once we actually entered the Dublin Castle. The interior of the castle is beautifully decorated with a variety of important, and expensive decor, and consists of a great many gifts given to the Irish from other national leaders. Photos were not permitted in certain rooms of the castle, but I was too enveloped in the fantasy of what I was seeing to remember to be 'snap-happy', anyway. It was as if I was plopped into the middle of a Disney princess' castle. It's not hard to imagine that the castle is now used for State receptions and Presidential inaugurations, considering the beautiful state it is kept in. As the guided tour ended, our group said our goodbyes to eachother, and to Arthur, and tried to shake off the magic I'm certain we were all feeling. I gave a silent farewell to the Dublin Castle, and knew that I would remember the first experience of my dream trip around the world forever.
By the time the walking tour of the Dublin Castle had ended, it was around 12:30pm, and I still had quite a few things to do and see while in Ireland. I had worked up an appetite, and decided to check out some of the local cuisine I had heard so much about. I chose a restaurant called The Pig's Ear located on Nassau Street, in the city centre, not too far from Dublin Castle. The restaurant itself was beautiful, both inside and out, and the menu consisted of classic Irish cuisine, with a slight modern touch. For lunch, I ordered the organic Irish salmon with crushed potatoes, radish, sweet peas, broad beans & little gem lettuce. Not only was it mouth-wateringly delicious, the presentation was near par with what you'd expect to see on the Food Network. I was certainly pleased to have chosen The Pig's Ear for lunch in Ireland, although I've never been too big a fan of eating alone in a restaurant. Oh, well. Sacrifices must be made during my dream trip around the world, if I want to get everything done that I've set out to!
Now with a full stomach, and a belly full of Irish enthusiasm, I set out to discover the remaining sites of interest in the city. The next thing I packed into my glorious Irish adventure was the Dublin Zoo, located in the Phoenix Park in Dublin City. I learned that this is one of the world's oldest zoos, and is home to more than 600 species of animals within its 70 acre grounds. It cost me €15 for admission, and I went wild viewing and learning all about the various species present in the Dublin Zoo. This was a special experience for me, as I am a season-pass holder at the Toronto Zoo, and visit quite frequently to meet the zoo keepers and animals, so being able to contrast the two was very interesting. I expected it to be blatantly obvious that I was in an Irish zoo, and anticipated different species of animals, or at the very least, different animal enclosures, but to my surprise, the Dublin Zoo is very similar to the Toronto Zoo, and this warmed my animal-loving heart. Aside from the parrots asking for crisps in an Irish accent, I couldn't tell the difference. Haha, just kidding.
My next stop was a guided tour of the National Gallery of Ireland, located in Merrion Square West Dublin. It cost me a total of €25.00 for a two hour informational tour of the gallery, and all it's works. Our group was 6 people, myself included, and our tour guide, Cathy, led an exciting and very informative tour, chronologically around the gallery. We learned about the history of the works present, as well as the history and folklore of the National Gallery itself. If I had to choose one event in Ireland that I will hold as my favourite or most enjoyable, I'd have to go with this guided tour. Aside from the fact that I am ultra-interested in post-impressionist art, the delivery of the information from our guide was one of the things that made it so memorable. I am learning more and more as this trip unfolds that it's not so much what you do in your life that counts, it's the experience of it all. Our tour group was wonderfully interested and in great spirits, along with our guide who virtually made the trip with her wit, charm, and obvious knowledge of the art works, which she shared with us. I left the National Gallery of Ireland with a fulfilled sense of self, great inspiration for my next art composition, and a head full of information regarding the artists and works of this world-renowned gallery.
After a long day of sight-seeing, and learning, my Irish experience was nearly over. I headed back to my hotel, showered, got in to a change of clothes, and then went down stairs to the restaurant that is virtually attached to my accommodations. I expected to simply order some delicious Irish grub, vacuum it all up, and return to my room for a good night's sleep before checking out the next morning and making my way to my next destination, but that is not at all how my night played out. I had ordered my food, and was waiting for it to arrive when a group of 5 ladies, around my age, sitting at another table invited me over to sit with them. I was a little apprehensive first, but eventually accepted their offer. Once we got to talking, all 6 of us hit it off, and the evening quickly became much more enjoyable. After our meal, my new found Irish comrades suggested that we go out for a drink at a local pub, the Parnell Heritage Pub and Grill, and I decided that it wouldn't have been a trip to Ireland without partaking in a bit of classic Irish fun. We 'cheersed', and continued our conversations over some authentic Irish beer, (which I have to admit, I'm not the biggest fan of, haha), and eventually ended up back at our hotel around 1 in the morning. We said our goodbyes, exchanged information, and promised each other that we really would keep in touch. I intend to hold true to that. I assured myself that I had not drank enough to feel sick the next morning, and was soon fast asleep, dreaming about all the adventures I would soon face, in my next foreign destination, the Netherlands!