Day 2. It was harder to get up that morning. To make matters worse, the skies looked gloomy and pregnant with rain. But we headed out anyway. Places to be. Sights to see.
First on our itinerary: St. Patricks’s cathedral. We had a small window before services started. It was Remembrance Sunday and special prayers were going to be held. Remembrance Sunday is the Sunday nearest Armistice Day, which original marked the end of WWI. Now, it’s used as a period of remembrance of those that were lost and wounded in the conflict. Initially, the occasion was used only to remember the Great War, but it has grown to encompass every war since. In England, people buy and wear poppies in the days leading up to Armistice Day to show their support for past and present soldiers.
Originally, WWI wasn’t marked as solemnly in Ireland because their fight for independence really revved up during the war, and both WWI and Armistice Day were seen as too English. So those that were lost during the conflict weren’t publically remembered for decades afterwards. Even now, the occasion is not nearly as big as it is in England. Even so, they were still selling poppies at St. Pat’s. We all bought one. It only seemed right.
We wandered around, gazing at the numerous memorials and religious statues in solemn silence. Unlike in the other cathedrals I’ve visited so far, there was no music, just the echoes of our footsteps. We took a moment to observe the poppy wreathes and read the informational banners temporarily put up to teach visitors about Ireland’s involvement in WWI. We didn’t stay long after that.
It was still cold and damp when we left, and so we decided to head to Trinity Bar for an Irish breakfast. But while we were in there, it began to pour, water falling down in sheets while pedestrians huddled farther into their raincoats and umbrellas. We lingered over out sausage and eggs and puddings, listening to the ubiquitous U2 and hoping that we could just wait out the rain.
But it continued, and the wind eventually joined in, viciously pulling back hoods and yanking umbrellas inside out. There came a point where we couldn’t wait any longer. We chose a moment where it looked like it was letting up and then charged outside and started to make our way to Trinity College. Stupidly, I had forgotten to bring my raincoat (unlike the others) so I only had my umbrella and waterproof shoes for protection. But luckily, I had lived in Boston so I knew how to handle an umbrella in the wind.
The weather calmed down a bit once we got to the college, and we gathered with the other soaked tourists in the atrium, waiting for the tour to start. It didn’t take long before we were led out into the main courtyard. The guided view of the college would’ve been much more interesting and fulfilling if the rain hadn’t picked up again, causing the 30 or so of us to take shelter under porches and gazebos and giving me a very limited view of the buildings. But that wasn’t really what we were here for. We mainly wanted to see the Book of Kells.
After an informative exhibit that explained the historical context and significance of the illuminated bible, we shuffled into a dimly lit room and peered down at the medieval book. It wasn’t turned to one of the famous pages but we could still witness the details and artistry involved in the illumination of the bible verses.
The exhibit then lead to the Old Library, a tall, cathedral-like room lined with shelves full of dusty, ancient volumes. After gaping and wandering around for a while, I can understand why this is one of the most famous libraries in Ireland.
It was pouring again by the time we left through the gift shop, so we hurried to a restaurant by the River Liffey that my friend had heard about and we remained there until we had to leave for the airport. Just before we left, the sun finally came out for one last hurrah before setting, sending the streets glistening. Rain always gives the best sunsets.