It was a very good decision of ours to return to Dublin and revise our initial impression from our previous visit. Although the sky wasn’t exactly clear, the Liffey River offered stunning reflections of the Ha’penny Bridge
and O’Connell Bridge.
We opted for a Hop On Hop Off bus experience to make the most of our limited time.
We hopped off at Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed public park in any European capital city. The 11 km perimeter wall encloses 1,752 acres, twice the size of Central Park in New York and bigger than all the parks in London put together.
The name of the park is not related to the mythical bird but the Gaelic expression Fionn Uisce, meaning clear water. The park was originally formed in the 1660s for royal hunting and was opened to the public in 1747.
We had intended visiting Dublin Zoo which is also within the grounds but we didn’t really have the time to do it justice. We did discover the Wellington Monument, commemorating the victories of the Duke of Wellington. The 62 metre tall obelisk is the largest in Europe and would have been even higher if funding hadn’t run out. The four bronze plaques around the base were cast from cannons captured at the Battle of Waterloo.
Instead of hopping back on the bus, we walked in the direction of the city centre, stumbling across Old Jameson Distillery on the way. Founded in 1780 as the Bow Street Distillery, the building is now a Heritage Centre displaying the various steps that produce Jameson Irish Whiskey.
We ventured far enough to admire the magnificent derelict still in the entrance courtyard.
Continuing on foot, we reached the northern end of O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare. A bronze statue of Charles Stewart Parnell stands at the base of an imposing granite obelisk, a memorial to the founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the late 1800s.
Having worked up a bit of a thirst, we couldn’t possibly pass Brannigan’s without closer inspection. The pub was named in the late nineties after local policeman James Brannigan, otherwise known as ‘Lugs’. As well as serving in the force for over forty years, he was a distinguished boxer and was known for dispensing his own form of justice.
The Nescafé jar was an absurdly incongruous adjunct to the commercial coffee machine.
We hopped back on the bus to appreciate O’Connell Street from the top deck. The huge Christmas tree was a new addition but apparently Dubliners weren’t too happy about it. The 18 metre structure cost the city €300,000 and would supposedly remain for ten years, thereby saving money that was usually spent each year on multiple trees around the city. Designed by the French firm that created the lighting for the Eiffel Tower, the 100,000 bulbs would look spectacular at night.
With winter upon us, the leafless trees allowed an uninterrupted view of the gorgeous façades along the street. Many of the original buildings were destroyed during the Easter rising of May 1916 but have been beautifully resurrected.
As we made our way back to our hotel, we detoured through Merrion Square where a new memorial had just been unveiled. The pyramid-shaped granite structure is dedicated to the members of the Irish Defence Forces who died while serving with the United Nations. Four bronze figures, representing the Army, Navy, Air Corps and Reserve, stand guard over an eternal flame that emanates from the Defence Forces badge.
The manicured gardens are at the centre of the square and the lovely Georgian houses that surround it have been home to many famous folk including literary notables Oscar Wilde and W.B.Yeats.
I know the Irish are often, unfairly, the subject of ridicule but I can’t help sharing this. I have to question the logic of the placement of the toilet roll holder.