In May 1998, I went with my family for a two-week vacation to England and Ireland. Ireland was particularly beautiful and – I hope you agree – quite photogenic. Here are the photographs I brought back, accompanied by text from a journal my brother Ben kept during the trip.
This story was originally published on the web in August 1998, and ported to the new site format in April 2006. Not all of the photos are shown in this post. Click one, and follow the arrows to see all of them.
At the airport in Dublin, we had to call six B&B’s before we found one that wasn’t booked! It was kind of a nice little place, but not really what we’d expected. We walked to a nice cafe for lunch (and got lost). Then we took a nap and walked to a Chinese place for dinner. After dinner we went to a few souvenir shops. One of them had a big sign that read “Irish Souvenirs” which I thought was odd since the British usually use the word “keepsake.” Another store was called “Which Craft.” Dublin was a nice city. The people were friendlier than in most cities I’ve seen. While we were walking around, some guy we passed shouted “Welcome!” Well, the motto of Ireland is Ceade Míle Fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes).
Chris wasn’t feeling well, so Dad went to look for a pharmacy. He asked some people where the drug store was. One of them said, “Marijuana?” and backed away. The other smiled and said, “We call them ‘Chemists.’ Don’t say ‘Drug Store’; you could get arrested.” And then told him where to find one.
We walked through Dublin and went to Trinity College. We saw The Book of Kells which is one of the oldest known copies of the Gospel. It’s hand-written and colored. The detail is amazing! There was a very old library above that. It’s hard to describe, but it was huge and beautiful – row upon row of ancient books. After that, we went to a museum and saw a movie about the history of Dublin. Then we went to Dublinia and took an audio tour about medieval Dublin. The tour talked about invaders from Scotland and mention “Lord Robert Bruce” – the young noble from “Braveheart.” They also talked about one of England’s Kings “…Richard the Second, or as we Irish called him, Richard the T’ird.”
Next we caught the end of a church service in Christ Church Cathedral – naturally we arrived just in time for collection. It was a nice service and a wonderful cathedral. Driving through Dublin was a bit of an adventure. The streets are so narrow that people park on the sidewalk and there still isn’t enough room for two cars to pass each other. We came across several one lane streets that weren’t one-way. In the evening, we walked to Scott’s for dinner. On the way, we passed a group of Irish kids on bikes. They said hello and asked where we were from. As I walked by, one of them said, “Hi Michael.” They called Mom ‘Theresa.’
We looked around Galway (where the Leagues supposedly came from) and went to Limerick (where all the leprechauns gather every March to write 5-line poems…)
Both of the castles were cool. Bunratty had a dungeon. There was an iron gate at the top of a long, narrow, crooked flight of spiral stairs. At the bottom was another iron gate (which was locked). Beyond that you could see a deep pit with straw at the bottom and chains hanging on the walls. You could go up and walk on the battlements. Battlements like that look nice, but they leave you completely exposed to dragons, wyverns and the like. I was also surprised to notice that one of the staircases was backwards. Most medieval castles have stairs that go clockwise as you go up. This way a defender coming down the stairs has more room to swing his sword than an attacker coming up.
King John’s castle was cool too. This was the Prince John from Robin Hood. He was a despicable king, and England never had another King John. He was restless and moved from castle to castle. He had this castle built in Ireland even though he only went there twice and never stayed long. While he was in Ireland meeting with the Irish nobles, he amused himself by tugging on their beards – they didn’t think it was very funny.
Connor Pass was beautiful, but scary. It was a steep, narrow mountain pass. It was about a lane and a half wide with cars going both ways and bicyclists getting in everyone’s way… Slea Head Drive was nice too, but not quite as pretty.
We had trouble trying to find a room in Dublin for Friday night. There’s an Elton John/Billy Joel concert this weekend and everything is booked for miles…
On the way to Blarney, we heard on the radio an instrumental version of Chris DeBurgh’s Lady in Red with an Irish twist. Then we heard a version of Abba’s Mamma Mia in Gaelic! They were both pretty neat. We couldn’t see Blarney Castle without paying admission, so we went on to Cork and Waterford.
We toured the Waterford Crystal Factory, which was really neat. A lot of work goes into those things, and their standards are very high.
Then we ate dinner at T&H Doolans. They occasionally have live music, and claim that this is where Sinead O’Connor got her start.
We finally managed to find a place to stay for the night – about half an hour from Dublin! After we checked in, we went to Blanchardstown to see a movie. We saw The General, which was an Irish movie based on a true story. It was about a gangster who had made enemies of the police and the IRA! It was a good movie.
— Ben League