Friday, August 5, 2011

Ireland Revisited: Alive in Dublin

Day 2 of 35: Thursday, August 5, 2010

O'Connell Street Bridge, Central Dublin

The exercise of the day before seems to have worked, since we were no longer dead come Thursday morning. Unlike 2006 -- when it seemed to take us a week to shake the jetlag -- we felt almost peppy after a quick, 13-hour nap.

We spent the day strolling the central part of the city with extended stops at Trinity College Dublin and the National Museum's Archaeology section. At Trinity, we were entranced by the Book of Kells display, but absolutely dumbstruck after walking up a short flight of stairs from it and entering the Long Room old library. (The Long Room link is to an interactive, wrap-around panorama; it may take a while to load, but is well worth it.) If ever there was a cathedral to learning and the preservation of thoughts, this is it. Photography is not allowed there, nor is touching the books, and that's a good thing, else we would have spent at least a week in that one room.

As the day progressed and our legs wore down, the crowds around us grew and grew, especially along Grafton Street -- and it didn't take us long to notice that among the many languages and dialects we heard around us, two were conspicuously rare: Irish and American English. The rarity of Irish is easy to explain -- it was tourist season, after all. The lack of American tourists was a bit startling to us, though. In 2006, we encountered many of our countrymen and women all over the island. This time, not so much. The much worse condition of the economy in 2010 than in 2006 is one obvious reason, as was the dollar's weaker position versus the Euro, but we were surprised at the degree of the evident dropoff in tourism from the US.

Here are a few images from the day (a slideshow of 20 more can be seen over on

An Túr Solais ("The Monument of Light," more commonly called "The Spire of Dublin"), which dominates O'Connell Street by the General Post Office, was constructed in 1999 on the site of Nelson's Pillar. Nelson's Pillar, a controversial structure from the time it was built in 1808, was destroyed by some IRA washouts in 1966.

View down the Liffey toward the Custom House dome from the middle of the O'Connell Street Bridge.

Trinity College, Dublin.

Diane, above, unaware of an admirer. She was resting after our visit to the Book of Kells display and the Long Room in the old library, and I was strolling around taking photos, including this telephoto shot from across the quad.

Arnaldo Pomodoro's "Sfera con Sfera" ("Sphere Within Sphere"), above. My first exposure to Pomodoro's work was in 1969, when he was a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley and I was a first-year graduate student. I remember vividly my delight at finding -- unexpectedly -- his various works in glens, glades, and gathering places around campus. In a neat confluence, the work shown here is directly adjacent to Trinity College Dublin's Berkeley Library.

I hung around outside the Berkeley Library for a while, watching this fellow painstakingly set up his equipment for a Very Serious Shot of the Pomodoro sculpture. Over a period of about fifteen to twenty minutes, he adjusted his tripod's height over and over, twisted his lens repeatedly to find just the right framing, and moved his whole tripod structure left and right (sometimes by minute amounts), trying to get just exactly the right combination of visual components. Once he had his vantage point's angle and elevation just right, he waited for the instant when nobody would be in the field of view, either in person or in reflection. Repeatedly, he appeared ready to press his remote-control shutter button, only to have someone wander into view.

Finally, his moment arrived. He held the remote up in his right hand, then hesitated, squatted back down to look one last time into the viewfinder, and...

... a half dozen little kids came running out of the library, full-speed, and jumped onto the outer Sfera, spinning it around its vertical axis like a carousel, completely changing everything about the composition.

The photographer slumped down for a moment, and then slowly and methodically disassembled his equipment, put it away in his backpack, and left. We saw him again about an hour later, wandering along Grafton Street, looking left and right as he walked, searching for another target.

The National Museum's archaeology section is in a gorgeous old building on Kildare Street, near St. Stephen's Green. Photographs are not to be taken in the Museum, as I was very, very politely informed shortly after taking this one by the fellow looking at us here.


Please visit our 20-image slide show from this day on!


Next: August 6, 2010 -- The National Stud
Previous: August 4, 2010 -- Dazed in Dublin

1 comment:

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

It's official. If they ever tell me that i must spend the rest of my life in one room, never to leave it, but they give a choice of which room i'll serve my sentence in, the Long Room is it.