Little Museum of Dublin, St. Patrick’s, Archaeology, and Guinness

When I looked at it this morning, the weather forecast for today called for rain all day. Did that keep me from venturing out? Fiercely intrepid me? No way! Despite the inclement forecast, I visited the Little Museum of Dublin, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Museum of Archaeology, and the Guinness Storehouse.

Sun showers on a Dublin street

Alright, forgive me. I am a lousy liar. I can’t let my duplicitousness go by uncorrected for a single paragraph longer. I’m not fiercely intrepid. In fact, if there is one trait that everyone who knows me—friend and foe—knows about me it’s that I’m a wimp.

The truth is, it’s not intrepidness at all that got me out into the elements. It’s that, while I don’t mind spending money, I hate wasting it. I spent all of this money to come to Ireland, I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste it sitting in my hotel room, cowering from the rain.

That being said, cowering is one of my strongest skills. In retrospect, it seems a shame that I passed up the opportunity to employ it.

As it happens, the forecast notwithstanding, it rained only on and off throughout the day. And I even got a few sunny periods in the mid-afternoon and evening. I took the picture located near this paragraph during the first sunny break. Although, even then, some sun showers fell on me, which is why you can see open umbrellas in the picture.

The Little Museum of Dublin

The Little Museum of Dublin is appropriately named. It’s a museum. It’s little. And it’s about Dublin.

The museum is located in a Georgian house on the south side of, and a number of blocks from the River Liffey, unlike the Georgian home on 14 Henrietta Street that I visited yesterday, which is on the north side, but also a number of blocks away from the river. The Little Museum is across the street from St. Stephen’s Green Park, which I visited on my first day here.

The U2 room of the Little Museum of Dublin
The U2 room of the Little Museum of Dublin

Living up to its name, the museum consists of only five small rooms. To visit any of them, you must buy a ticket to take a “guided tour” of two of those rooms. You can explore the other three on your own.

There were at least two guides on duty today. I know this because as the group I was in went into the second room, another guide brought a new group into the first. I mention this because I don’t know whether what I’m going to say about the guide holds for all of the guides at the Little Museum of Dublin.

A variety of pictures and documents concerning Dublin fill the walls of each of the rooms. The rooms also contain a few mannequins and statues that relate to Dublin.

For about 35 minutes, the guide proceeded to provide a jam-packed narrative about pretty well all of the pictures and other items. He punctuated his talk with frequent jokes, many of them groaners. The guide gave his whole spiel in a stagey voice. He finished by singing a traditional Irish pub song that’s apparently usually sung upon last call at the pub.

Two of the three small self-guided rooms had pictures and illustrations of old Dublin on the wall, with descriptive placards beside them. The third room was exclusively a tribute to what I assume is the most famous Dublin band, U2. That room contained U2 pictures and paraphernalia.

Reading the description above, The Little Museum of Dublin probably comes off sounding kind of hokey, and it kind of was. But it was, nevertheless, an enjoyable way to spend some time,

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Exterior of St. Patrick's Cathedral
Exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The tour book I use said St. Patrick Cathedral feels like an Irish version of Westminster Abbey. I’ve been to Westminster Abbey. Um, well, okay. I guess they have the same feel in that they’re both churches with apses, transepts, stained glass windows, and a quire. But all of those aspects are common to many old, esteemed churches.

Oh, and they both have famous people buried in them. Maybe that’s what the book meant. Although, in the case of Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as far as I know, the only one of the people interred there who is famous is Johnathon Swift. Gulliver’s final travels, as it were.

The €8 admission fee to the cathedral (€8 if you’re of the decrepit persuasion, €9 if you’re a young whippersnapper) includes an audio guide. At the spot near where Swift is supposedly interred, the audio guide says he’s buried under the floor.

Interior of St. Patrick's Cathedral
Interior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The floor bore no markings to indicate that. In fact, the audio guide said no one is sure precisely where his remains rest.

I find that weird. I’ve been in several churches that had people buried under the floor. They usually have an appropriately engraved metal or stone rectangle on the floor marking the grave.

A bust of Swift hangs on a wall in the general area of his final resting place. And an epitaph engraved in stone hangs beside that. According to the audio guide, Johnathan Swift penned the epitaph himself. I assume he did that before death. If he managed to write it posthumously, my opinion of him would rise considerably. And I may start believing in a god or gods.

Bust of Jonathan Swift
Bust of Jonathan Swift

According to the audio guide, Swift’s isn’t the only body interred there. More than 600 people are buried under the floor, in the walls, and around the cathedral. I saw no grave markings on the floors. The floors consisted solely of unmarked decorative tiles. However, at least one of the in-wall graves was appropriately marked.

Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a Gothic building constructed in the 13th century. Most of the exterior is still as it was then. But much of the interior is considerably newer. In the 1870s, Benjamin Guinness, a descendant of Arthur Guinness, funded a major renovation of the interior. Yes, Arthur was that Guinness. (Consider that to be foreshadowing of a later section of this post, because it unintentionally is.)

National Museum of Archaeology

An artifact at the National Archaeological Museum
An artifact at the National Archaeological Museum

The National Museum of Archaeology contains several archaeological artifacts, which are much more sensible things for an archaeology museum to have than, say, U2 artifacts.

The vast majority of its collection, which spreads over two floors, originates from Ireland. Although, the museum has small collections of relics from Cyprus and Egypt on the second floor.

How do so many archaeological museums, along with more general museums that have archaeological sections, have a few, and in some cases lots of ancient Egyptian relics? Did every ancient Egyptian spend all of his or her days making stuff to be displayed in museums thousands of years hence?

The first floor of the museum contains exclusively Irish collections, including…

A bog body
A bog body

On the tour I took to Powerscourt and Glendalough, when we got back into Dublin and passed close to the National Archaeological Museum, the tour guide recommended that we all visit it, if only to see one thing, the bog bodies.

What are bog bodies? They are bodies that were thrown into bogs, where they petrified. In the case of the bog bodies on display at the archaeological museum in Dublin, they date from between 400 and 200 BCE.

A couple of the bodies on display are mostly complete, although extremely emaciated. Some are just portions of bodies.

The reasons for the bodies being thrown into bogs varied. In some cases, they were sacrifices to the gods. But some had wounds that looked like battle injuries. Maybe they fought against being used as a ritual sacrifice. I don’t know.

According to the signage at the exhibit, bog bodies exist outside of Ireland too. They’ve been found in a number of European countries with bogs.

Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse
Guinness Storehouse

I should start by saying that I’m not much of a beer drinker. I seem to recall drinking a beer sometime within the last several years, but I can’t remember when. Without exaggeration, I don’t think I need the fingers of more than one hand to count the number of beers I drank in the last couple of decades. Certainly not more than both hands.

I consumed slightly more beer when I was a younger man, but only very slightly. When I drank beer, it was a result of peer pressure. I’ve since become something of a recluse, so I don’t usually have any peers around to pressure me. Even when I travel, I do my best to travel in an invisible cocoon. People would laugh at me if I travelled in a visible cocoon, so I save that for special occasions.

I have a few friends and family whom I visit, but, fortunately, they rarely drink beer. So, there’s no peer pressure anymore.

It’s not that I dislike beer. It’s just that I think it’s meh. Back when peer pressure drove me to drink the occasional beer, when I told people that I am not much of a fan of beer, some said, “Oh, you haven’t tried such and such a beer. It’s great. It will change your mind about beer.” I tried it. Sometimes I found it a little higher in the meh range, but not above the top of that range. I’ve never had a beer I hated. But I’ve also never had one I loved. All were somewhere within the lower- to upper-meh range.

So, you might wonder, why did I go to the Guinness Storehouse? Good question, but if you wondered that, you haven’t followed along. Please pay attention. I’m trying to enjoy myself. I don’t want to have to repeat everything I say.

Guinness is the iconic beer of Dublin. Maybe of all of Ireland, for all I know. I’m pretty sure Dublin’s city council expects all tourists to visit the Guinness Storehouse. They’d probably be insulted if any didn’t. If I couldn’t ignore a little peer pressure when I was younger, why do you think I’d be able to resist the pressure of an entire city as an older man?

So there I went.

The Guinness Experience

A piece of old equipment at the Guinness Storehouse
A piece of old equipment at the Guinness Storehouse

I assume the Guinness Storehouse served as a storehouse for Guinness at one time. Today it is an experiential Guinness exposition. You enter through a glitzy store selling, not Guinness beer, but Guinness merch. You also leave through the store.

I think they want people to buy stuff. Go figure.

As I walked toward the building, most of the people leaving carried Guinness-emblazoned paper bags. So, I guess they fulfilled their goal of selling stuff to many of the visitors. But not to me.

Past the store, the exhibits begin. Creatively displayed videos, physical displays, and panels of text, including texts beside a few pieces of old equipment, explain the ingredients and processes of beer-making, and the Guinness history. One section presented various Guinness ad campaigns from over the years.

The displays were on, if I recall, three levels. You start at the lowest exhibit level and then wind your way through that level to a set of stairs up to the next level.

But the exhibits don’t extend to the top level of the Guinness Storehouse. Two tasting rooms occupy the penultimate level. The first tasting room has four boxes out of which waft scented vapours. A member of the Guinness Storehouse staff explained that they were scents of the components of Guinness beer and he described each scent in detail and its source.

The staff then handed out shot glasses of Guinness beer to attendees over the age of 18, myself included. We took those glasses, not yet sipped from, into the second tasting room. There, the staff member explained to us the proper way to taste Guinness beer, which we did.

That done, they opened the doors leading to stairs and an elevator up to the top level. That level contains a bar with floor-to-ceiling windows, providing views of Dublin in the rain. I assume they don’t always provide views in the rain, but they did when I was there.

In the bar, visitors turn in the tickets for a pint of Guinness beer, or one of their other beer brands, that are included with the price of admission to the Guinness Storehouse.

So, what did I think of my pint of Guinness? I rate it somewhere in the top half of the meh range, but it didn’t break through that ceiling.

A Dublin rainbow
A Dublin rainbow

Rainbow

Immediately upon leaving the Guinness Storehouse, I spotted a rainbow. This is the country where rainbows are supposed to have pots of gold at their ends, isn’t it? I thought about chasing after it so I could make a profit on this trip, but the rainbow looked too far away.

I’m sure that if I tried, someone else would have snatched the pot of god before I got there. Then I’d be exhausted and no richer. I can’t win, I tell ya.

Walking

Molly Malone statue
Molly Malone statue

Getting from one place to another on today’s itinerary took me along some attractive streets. I included a picture of one at the top of this post.

I also passed by the statue of Molly Malone, the woman of the famous song who, “As she wheeled her wheel-barrow, Through streets broad and narrow, Crying, ‘Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!'” I posted a picture of the statue here.

It seems at least one person doesn’t like either the statue or the tourists who come to see it. I came to that conclusion based on the “Feck Off” graffiti painted on the statue below Molly’s neck.

And notice that sweet Molly’s cleavage is shiny, whereas patina covers the rest of the statue. I won’t discuss that here, other than to say I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The last picture on this page wasn’t from one of my walks between stops. I took it after dinner at a restaurant on the River Liffey (literally on the river; it was in a boat) near my hotel. (The sun doesn’t set until almost 9:30 p.m. here. Dublin must be near the western edge of the time zone.)

Samuel Beckett bridge in the evening
Samuel Beckett Bridge in the evening

That’s the Samuel Beckett Bridge. They designed it in the shape of a harp, the symbol of Ireland. (It’s also the Guinness logo. Guinness protects its logo fiercely. To avoid copyright infringement, Ireland displays its harp symbol facing in the opposite direction from the Guinness harp logo. But you can view the bridge from either side. So, I imagine that from one side it’s the Ireland symbol. But from the other side, it’s the Guinness logo.

At night, lights on the bridge’s cables light up and can form patterns.

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