Part Two of this poor attempt at a Dublin series. Part One is here.
After a good night’s sleep, I was up and at ’em in time to meet Sister for a morning stroll around Merrion Square and the Sunday scene there.
Every Sunday morning, artists come and set up their work around the outside of the square for the public to browse and buy. If I didn’t have to schlep it with me for a week and through customs, I totally would have bought something. The artwork was fantastic. There are two artists that I recall very clearly. One looked like he painted exclusively with a palette knife so his canvases were very textured with paint that had been slathered on and smeared around. It looked very modern and kinetic but with a traditional/classic composition. I wish I had taken a picture but I didn’t want the artist to feel like I was stealing his work.
The second piece was very minimalist. The canvas was large and mostly blank except for a few fluffy birds in the middle. It looked like a winter scene. This painting was already framed and there was even a cute little fluffy brown bird perched on the top of the frame. It wasn’t until the bird flew away that I realized it didn’t come with the painting but had chosen to land on that particular frame by a stroke of fate. I love when things like that happen.
Next stop for us was the Daniel O’Connell House. Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) was an Irish lawyer who worked to repeal of the Act of Union, the Act abolishing the Irish Parliament and replacing it with English sovreignty. Though Catholics were barred from sitting in (the now English) Parliament, O’Connell was elected with a large enough of a following, after Catholic Emancipation, that the English government had to let him take his seat or face a revolt. While working towards repeal of the Act of Union, he advocated mostly peaceful tactics but he was arrested and sent to jail for three months. When the potato crop failed (at the beginning of the Potato Famine, or an Gorta Mór), he tried to get Parliament to send food to the people, to no avail. His most notable claim to fame is Catholic emancipation and he is known in Irish lore as The Liberator.
Sources: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/424717/Daniel-OConnell http://www.historytoday.com/christine-kinealy/liberator-daniel-o%E2%80%99connell-and-anti-slavery http://history1800s.about.com/od/leaders/a/danoconnellbio.htm http://www.ireland-information.com/articles/danieloconnell.htm
The O’Connell House is located at 58 Merrion Square and is where the Liberator spent most of his life. Of more recent importance, this is also the seat of the Notre Dame Irish Studies Program, which have the most competitive study-abroad programs that Notre Dame students apply for. Sister has spent several years of her life in this house and was very happy to show me around her home away from home.
On the fourth side of Merrion Square is Leinster House, which is the seat of (the now existing) Irish government. We passed by the house as well, but I am not sure which angle we came from. All I know is that my first glance of the Irish government was at the end of an alley, onto which several pubs backed. I think Sister enjoys this particular Irish quirl so much that we approached the from a back alley just to make a point about Irish security and stuff. I asked what would happen if I ran at Leinster House screaming in Arabic. She thinks I would get a disapproving stare. If I tried that at the White House, I would get shot. (Or not, depending on how the Secret Service fixes their recent security glitches …)
There were perhaps three guards at the gate. None looked very fearsome. Across the street in another unassuming row house was the Department of Something (Treasury?), which shared an alley with a famed restaurant.
I am not sure how the geography of this works, but in going through my pictures, Leinster House comes after the O’Connell House and before the statue of Oscar Wilde, who (along with Bram Stoker) also had a house on Merrion Square. The statue is inside the Square, which is an enclosed park with some paths and gardens, of Wilde, sitting in repose on a rock. The statue is made from different types of stone and there are Wilde quotes carved on benches and lamp posts around the statue. In classic Irish fashion, the people have dubbed the statue The Queer with the Leer, or the F*g on the Crag. Gotta love the Irish.
After this, Sister took me to her favorite bookstore, Hodges and Figgis, which apart from having a very Harry-Potter-esque name and sign, has a fantastic collection of books. Sister let me roam the three floors of the bookshop by myself and I found myself drawn to the graphic design section. I had just finished a class on Typography so that was still fresh in my mind. In retrospect, this trip had a lot more art than one would expect for someone with basically a second major in Irish History.
Sister and I met up with Roommate for dinner at a creperie called Lemon on Dawson Street, which had some more fantastic design. Sister and Roommate then became involved in a discussion about Ireland and how it is trying to be a post-Christian society, its economic woes, and thoughts about moving there. Because every American girl dreams about meeting a hot Irishman with a hot Irish accent and getting married and having lots of Irish babies with cute Irish accents.
But, well, that plan has flaws. Modern, age-appropriate Irishmen aren’t really the marrying type. It’s more common to get married after many years and a couple of kids. I am not clear if that is because they’re trying to be post-Christian or because the economy is not conducive to marriage. Speaking of the economy, the only place with any sort of real job or industry is Dublin, and even then, they will have far more economic opportunities if they emigrate to America or Europe. The same goes for education, for Ireland is apparently rather academically inbred. In America, it is expected that a student attends separate institutions for college and graduate school to gain perspective and be exposed to more ideas in their field. Ireland has basically one institution, Trinity College Dublin, so if you graduate from there, you end up teaching there. Roommate, who has a PhD, wouldn’t have the same sort of research and funding opportunities in Ireland so if she did eventually want to teach in America again, she would have a much harder time finding a tenure-track position.
All in all, this was a very interesting (and rather disillusioning) discussion. So for anyone who asked, that’s why I did not come back with a dashing Irishman in tow.
All three of us did a drive-by of the famed Grafton Street, noted for its shopping and culture, etc, on our way to a side street that was about as wide as my kitchen, in which was hidden a full-sized gothic church, St. Therese. It being Sunday, we fulfilled our Sunday obligation and, would you believe it, we sat behind a group of young men from Morrissey Manor. Life irony strikes again.
And last item of the day was to get back to the apartment with Sister and facetime Dad for Father’s day.
Lá na nAthaireacha Sona Duit!
(La = day, na +n = on, Athair = father, Sona = happy, Duit = be/is/are)