Today Brian and I found ourselves visiting Trinity College. My National Geographic Ireland book introduces the college campus as a break from the bustling city of Dublin. Immediately after entering the gates to campus, the sound of traffic from Dublin’s busy streets subsided. After entry through the gates, I found a beautiful, green campus full of visitors from all over the world. I thought how strange it would be to walk through campus in Iowa City and have to dodge visiting travelers. Trinity College also houses the Book of Kells – a decorated copy of the four gospels written in Latin. The monks of Iona (an island off of Scotland) produced the book early in the 9th century. Sometime in the 1600s, the book was sent to Dublin because of threats to its security. I found The Long Room in the main chamber of the Old Library much more awe-inspiring than the old book. The room was over 200 feet long and contained 250,000+ of the Library’s oldest books.
After visiting Trinity College’s campus, we made our way to St. Stephen’s Green – an enormous park in south Dublin. Today was a perfect, sunny, 70 degree day, and the park was full of Dubliners soaking up the rare sunshine filled afternoon.
The plan after strolling through St. Stephen’s Green was to head to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I interrupted our walk with the observation of a pub advertising €3 pints of Guinness and Budweiser. This has been by far the best deal on a pint of beer I’ve found in Dublin. The pub had the typical, old, Irish pub feel on the outside, but once we entered the pub the ambiance was much more new age. This new Irish pub feel was quickly turned on its side by a number of old, Irish, boys Brian and I met.
P.J. was the old boy behind the bar who greeted us with, “Can I get you boys a pint of Budweiser?” Ironically, nearly everyone in the bar was drinking pints of Budweiser – I guess to them it is an import (I tried one as well. It actually tasted much different than Budweiser in the states. Almost like a Heinken). We quickly stood out as soar thumbs in a bar full of native Irishmen. On view, I imagine most native to the country can identify us as tourists – perhaps even Americans. The second we open our mouth, I’m sure we scream American tourist.
Midway through our first pint one of the old boys came over and started up a conversation with us. Where were we from in the states, he inquired. Iowa. Iowa? We told him where it was located but he still seemed to be unfamiliar with the location. James, as he introduced himself, had a thick, Irish, accent. Until today, I’ve had no trouble understanding the Irish accent. It took some work to focus on what the old boys we met tonight were saying. James was full of advice and provided much insight as to his thoughts on the states. He was nothing but kind to us, however it wasn’t difficult to sense his distaste for the states as a whole. Yet, he kept insisting that he was going to be the next president. Peter later introduced himself. He had recently visited the states to attend the wedding of one of his nephews in New York City. “I insisted to my family that I wouldn’t go,” he told me. “But, on last thought I gave in and made the six hour flight to New York. I got off the plane, exited the automatic doors of the airport, and felt the blast of hot air from outside. I told myself then I’d never again visit New York!” He did tell me how much he wanted to go back and visit the Grand Canyon. I ended up having about a 3o minute conversation with Peter over a Guinness. He was a great guy with no more than four teeth.
One last memory of the evening. Brian and I were bellied up to the bar when a college aged Irishman looked in our general direction and motioned to come talk to him. I did the old look both directions thing because I didn’t expect he was talking to me. When I looked back at him he said, “You, American, come over here.” I couldn’t help but laugh. David was quite drunk and had an accent thicker than the pint of Guinness I was drinking.
So we didn’t make it to St. Pats. We did however stumble into a bar that gave us our first true feel of the old Irish.