In February 2016 John and I embarked on our first European vacation to Ireland! We booked through Great Value Vacations totally on a whim (fully explained in the Day 1 post) and it ended up being one of the best trips we’ve ever been on. We’d spent the last nine years seeing as much of the US as possible (38/50 states!) but it was finally time to go abroad. Éirinn go Brách!
Our last day in Ireland. I hate when vacation comes to an end! :(
I woke up at 7:30AM and wished I could have slept longer. I definitely had a cold and was not in the mood to do anything. But we only had a few hours of vacation left and I knew we needed to make the most of it.
We debated what to do in Dublin that was open early and would only take an hour or so. We settled on going to see The Book of Kells at Trinity College. We booked tickets online for the exhibit right when they opened at 9:30AM and got ready for the day.
Our hotel (the O’Callahan Davenport Hotel) was right around the corner so we walked the 10 minutes to Trinity College. Of course it was pouring out but we had near perfect weather for the majority of our trip so we didn’t mind.
We arrived at 9:20AM and had to wait for the Trinity College Library to open to go inside. Thankfully they had huge umbrellas set up outside where we waited (I imagine they are permanently out there since the climate in Ireland is so rainy).
The experience was really cool. Before getting to The Book of Kells you first walk through an exhibition called “Turning Darkness Into Light,” which introduces The Book of Kells and other ancient religious manuscripts such as the Book of Mulling and the Book of Armagh. The exhibit describes how these books were produced, the importance of the scribes and illustrators who wrote them, and their significance and symbolism.
The Book of Kells is located in the Treasury Room of the Trinity College Library, at the very end of the exhibit. The room is dark and no photographs are allowed. The Book of Kells is exquisite – ornate and so beautiful, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The library has two sections on display, of the four total of The Book of Kells (the other two are in secure storage), and they turn pages every few months or so (there is a myth out there that they turn the pages every day but they confirmed that they don’t do that because the Book is too delicate). The Book’s website lists which manuscripts are currently on display.
The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript (which means it is text accompanied by ornate borders, illustrations, and lettering) written in Latin, containing the four gospels of the New Testament. It was thought to have been created in a monastery on Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland, around 800AD.
It is a masterwork of calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination artwork, a style of art specific to the British Isles beginning around 600AD. This style is famous for its use of dense, intricate, and imaginative flair. Celtic designs brought additional style elements to Insular art, such as spirals, circles, and other geometric patterns.
The ornamentation of The Book of Kells is certainly its claim to fame. The illustrations combine traditional Christian iconography with classic Insular Celtic patterns, in vibrant, stunning colors. The pages are calf vellum, the lettering is in iron gall ink, and the colors used were made from various substances from all over the world (eg. orpiment, ochre, lead, copper, indigo, berries, lichen, lapis).
Here is a photograph of the first page of the Gospel of John (not taken by me obviously but I couldn’t describe all of this without including a picture). Click for a closer look.
It’s an exquisite treasure and I’m so glad we got to see it.
After viewing The Book of Kells we walked through the rest of Trinity College Library, including the Old Library which was breathtaking! The room is 200+ feet long and houses around 200,000 of the library’s oldest books (all of which Trinity College students can check out).
There are 38 marble busts of classic philosophers and writers (eg. Shakespeare, Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc). It is also the home to Brian Boru’s Harp, dating back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest harps existing in Ireland.
Visiting the Trinity College Library was a very special treat. There are so many treasures under one roof! We didn’t visit any museums on this trip so this really scratched that itch.
After buying a few souvenirs in the gift shop, we left Trinity College around 10AM. The rain had let up so we took the long way back to our hotel and enjoyed the Monday morning bustle in Dublin.
We got back to the hotel at 10:45AM and proceeded to pack up, grabbed a taxi, and headed to the airport at 11AM. The ride was quick, about 30 minutes, and we got to the airport at 11:30 AM.
We checked in quickly and were through security in about 10 minutes. Dublin Airport includes a customs checkpoint before you go to your gate if you’re flying to the US which was great – so much more convenient than having to do it after you arrive at your destination and it went super smooth. We got to the gate around 12:15 PM and hung out until we boarded at 2PM. We took off around 2:30PM and headed home to Boston.
We were served another yummy meal on our Aer Lingus flight home – a full lunch at what was 12PM EST and then tea at 4PM (with tea sandwiches and all!).
We arrived at home in Boston at Logan Airport at around 5PM. I was sad vacation was over but I was ready to be home, see my Reggie boy, and get back into my routine.
This was such an excellent vacation. I felt so soul-rested and energized from our trip. I have wanted to go to Ireland for so long, to see the place where my ancestors come from and to connect with my heritage. There are so many joyful things about traveling; seeing the world’s treasures and going someplace new is such a gift. I am so grateful for our guide, Tony – he made this trip for me. I cannot imagine truly experiencing Ireland for the first time in any other way. I am so thankful for the gorgeous weather we got, I didn’t expect it at all and I was thrilled. And I just feel really blessed to travel with my hubs and best friend, we always have so much fun together.
Two weeks later…
Our goodies from Blarney Woolen Mills arrived!
John bought two gorgeous sweaters; I got a sweater too, a scarf, and some yarn. I’m so glad we took advantage of the free US shipping because this stuff would have taken up so much space in our luggage! Finally, because I have to share, my sister is pregnant with twins so I bought her these precious bibs and socks in Dublin. They were so cute, I couldn’t help myself!
That’s a wrap on our Ireland trip! I’ll leave you with my new favorite Gaelic expression: An té a bhíónn siúlach, bíonn scéalach. (He who travels has stories to tell.)