So many venues; so little time!

FEG delegates already in Ireland are no doubt wondering where to go and what to see in their free time.

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Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife, c.1854

Photo © National Gallery of Ireland

FEG delegates already in Ireland are no doubt wondering where to go and what to see in their free time. Despite the packed programme, you will get to choose what to do on Saturday afternoon, the 25th November. Now that sunshine has returned to our lovely green island, do take advantage of it to visit some top notch museums and galleries.

With so much to see, it is difficult to choose where to go. The great news is, that all National Museums in Ireland are free to visit, and most of them are in Dublin; The Museum of Decorative Arts, The Museum of Archaeology, The  Natural History Museum, & The Museum of Modern Art.

 

Dublin Gallery Weekend1

Photo courtesy of the Dublin Gallery Map website

 

Luckily, this weekend happens to coincide with the Dublin Gallery Weekend. Almost 40 art galleries, private and public, large and small, have collaborated to provide you with talks, concerts, tours and workshops. Hop over to the IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), for example, where you can  catch an exhibition of   one of the greatest realist painters of the 20th century, Lucian Freud (1922-2011), or the retrospective of the Scottish-born, Irish artist William Crozier  To burrow into some IMMA collections, click here for a virtual tour.

 

FEG-Rabbit at Kilmainham

                                                                            The Drummer, by Barry Flanagan, at IMMA

 

Visitors to the National Gallery this Saturday can look forward to exploring more of the national collection of Irish and European art, including highlights such as Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Picasso, Monet, Paul Henry, William Orpen and Jack B. Yeats. Why not catch a free guided tour of the permanent collection on display in the Gallery, at 12.30 on Saturday, 25th? Admission is free to the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. (Admission charge may apply to some temporary exhibitions.)

At 2.30p.m. Saturday, 25th, 2017 you can catch a play at the National Gallery of Ireland, based on the life and work of Frederick William Burton.  Burton is the painter of Ireland’s most popular painting, “The Meeting on the Turret Stairs”, inspired by Danish and Swedish ballads.  Note the detail in the painting, for example,  the knight’s nose-guard, based on an animal head at the base of the famous Cross of Cong. Tickets for the play are  available at Eventbrite.

Burton, Meeting on the Turret Stairs, NGI.2358, Photo ©NGI

 

Frederic William Burton (1816-1900)    Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs, 1864
Photo © National Gallery of Ireland

 

 

The  Merrion Square Christmas market kicks off on November 25th with Irish artisans on the square. Christmas markets are  relatively new to Ireland, but immensely popular due to both the atmosphere, and the vast selection of Irish crafts & Design on display. We might even get some sub-zero temperatures to contrast the near summer temperatures of the earlier part of the week.

Lost Fashion

Photo: Eventbrite.ie website

 

Alternatively,  at 3p.m. on Saturday, 25th November,you could attend a free tour with a difference; a Lost Fashion Tour , where you can  discover the characters of Merrion Square, from  Oscar Wilde to our modern Irish Couturiers and their influence on fashion in Dublin Do register, however. The Tour starts from No. 45, The Irish Architectural Archive.

 

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© The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

 

One of Dublin’s treasures,   The Chester Beatty Library was awarded that most prestigious of awards, the European Museum of the Year Award, in 2002. Rated consistently in Trip advisor’s top 5  of its “list of things to do in Dublin”, it must surely warrant a visit by FEG delegates. Once again, amazingly, admission is free, despite hosting unique collections from across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Plenty of diversity, then,  to tickle your fancy, from the most sacred to the most profane. You have been warned! Naturally, (it being an amazing museum), you can  download a brochure in 10 languages, including Mandarin and Japanese, and, being Dublin, you can even catch a Qi Gong session on the roof from time to time!

I haven’t even begun to tell you of the treasures that await you in the National Museum of Archaeology; my favorite, but that is for another days blogging and you will just have to be patient. I leave you, with a quote from Ireland’s best known wit, Oscar Wilde:

“The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.” Oscar Wilde

 

Written by Jessie Mc Donald, ATGI Guide

 

 

 

Food for Thought: where the locals like to drink.

 

While enjoying their Irish breakfast tomorrow, FEG delegates might like to ponder where to go for a drink, while exploring Dublin. From living abroad, I know that sitting down in a bar or restaurant at a table which is already occupied, can sometimes provoke strange glances, or furrowed eye-brows. Not so in Ireland, where not only is striking up a conversation with a complete stranger in a pub not frowned upon, it is positively welcomed. I would go so far as to say that your keeping to yourself and not stating “who your people are”, pouring forth your gems of wisdom on the state of the nation,  and perhaps singing a tune to complete strangers, ( your new best friends),  to be  poor form, or worse, just downright bad mannered!

Pub scene

@Photo by Jessie Mc Donald 2017

Tourists are going to be attracted to that tourist Mecca, Temple Bar, as well they might, with its bustling medieval streets, plethora of traditional pubs, many with live Irish music, buskers, souvenir shops and general mayhem.  My fellow tourist guides, however, might like to follow suggestions regarding a few of my favourite haunts in Dublin, beginning with one which was awarded “Best Pub in Ireland” by National Hospitality 2016, The Stag’s Head.

The Stags Head

Photo courtesy of the Stag’s Head website

I’ve just come across a newspaper clipping from 40 years ago, telling of its being bought for a then incredible sum of £177,000, by Peter Shaffrey. [Disclosure: My sister was flower-girl at his wedding!] It was sold in 2005 for €5.8 million euro and is going from strength to strength. With its Victorian mahogany fittings, mosaic floors and snugs (small, private area behind the bar), it oozes charm. A tavern has existed here from the 1780’s and it was reincarnated in its present form in the 1830’s, when it was at the heart of theatre goers’ Dublin. Cinema buffs might recall the scene from Educating Rita, starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, which was filmed there.

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Robert Grogan & Anne Tyrrell of Strolling through Ulyssess

Should you be free on Sunday at 1.30 or 5.30, you could even catch the very last performance for 2017,  of “Strolling through Ulysses”, written by fellow guide, Robert Gogan .  Surprisingly accessible, even to the uninitiated to Joyce, it is as bawdy as it is entertaining. Going to see a play in the intimate surroundings of  a Victorian pub, all the while sipping a pint of the black stuff (a local brew called Guinness), is just one of the things to enjoy in Dublin City.

Guinness

Mystery at Guinness Storehouse  © 2016 Jessie Mc Donald

 

 

Another gem, a 5 minute walk away, is the Library Bar, Central Hotel, Exchequer Street, “a haven of peaceful luxury, tucked away on the first floor”  Here, you can relax in an armchair and  converse or, better still, eavesdrop on the neighbour’s  erudite conversation ; it’s that sort of establishment. If it’s a gastro pub you’re after, and then pop into The Exchequer, a few doors up.

Library Bar

Photo courtesy of The Library Bar Website

On the same street, you have Fallon & Bryne, where you can browse  the best of Irish artisan food products. From award winning cheeses to award winning trout “caviar” , Ireland is enjoying a golden era of quality food products.

Long Hall

Photo courtesy of The Long Hall website

 

The Long Hall, at 51, South Great Georges street, is yet another Victorian original, with gold leaf enhancements, and ornate glass.  Playing Cupid one night, I struck up a conversation with a lady there, in order to give two friends of mine a chance to get to know each other better. After an hour, I discovered that she was actually on a first date!  Being Dublin, nobody seemed to mind, as the banter was flowing and the “craic”  (Irish word for fun or amusement) was mighty!

The International Bar , another of Dublin’s Victorian bars to have retained their furniture from the 19th century. In fact, here you can see some hand-carved mahogany reredos (an ornamental carving) representing the River Gods of Ireland. Admire the brass taps and pink granite bar-tops, all while listening to live music, seven nights a week. This is the pub which not only features in James Joyce’s Ulysses, but is also where two of The Dubliners (one of Ireland’s most loved folk groups ever) met.

AvocaAvoca logo

Photo courtesy of the Avoca website

The Avoca Food hall, on Suffolk Street, near the Molly Malone statue, is another example of where you can source not only freshly made soups, breads, salads and tarts, but a whole range of local and exotic artisan foods.  Their food section started off with the sale of a few jams and chutneys in the corner of the Avoca Fashion Shop. Today, there are 12 locations all around Ireland, all selling high quality fabrics, fashion, ceramics, candles and soaps and all  famous for their award-winning cafes and restaurants. Why not pop in for a quality coffee or a tasty treat?  Listed by Vogue UK as one of the Best 100 Shops outside London, you might get some retail therapy done, while you are at it. Now there’s food for thought! Sláinte!

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Written by ATGI member, Jessie Mc Donald
Photos, unless stated otherwise, by Jessie Mc Donald.

Reception at Christchurch Cathedral Crypt

Crypt Christchurch

Photo courtesy of Christchurch Cathedral Website

On Tuesday evening, November 21st, a candlelit  reception  awaits FEG guides in a medieval crypt dating back to 1188 (cue  The Adams family theme music..) Dublin’s oldest surviving structure, and dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, it is situated under Christchurch Cathedral, the Church of Ireland Cathedral for the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough, in the heart of Medieval Dublin. Before packing  your thermals, however, note that today’s crypt boasts both underfloor heating and air conditioning, so dress for all weathers! The crypt’s most famous residents are “Tom & Jerry”, or a mummified cat and rat, (cue more Adams Family music..) . The mystified mummies were trapped in an organ pipe, little knowing they would be the overture to the FEG delegates first impressions of Dublin!

Reception in Crypt

Photo courtesy of Christchurch Cathedral website

On a more cultural note, the crypt also houses an exhibition of the Liber Negra or Black Book of Christchurch. It is, in fact, a 14th century copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, sealed by “bad” King John. The Magna Carta is the cornerstone to rule of law and trial by jury. John was considered a bad boy, even by tyrants’ standards, and repudiated the charter as soon as he possibly could. Fortunately, his death the following year meant that the new regent, “The greatest knight in Christendom”, William Marshall,  Lord of Leinster, was able to re-enact it in 1216, and this version was sent to Ireland in 1217 . Many versions of the charter exist, including one creatively altered by a clerk in Dublin Castle, to suit Ireland, and in particular, to serve the free, male English landowners against the native Irish population. Be that as it may, the Magna Carta was the first , effective check on  unjust rule and tyranny , which was written down and  sealed into law.

Magna Carta- History Ireland Website
 

Photo courtesy of the Historyireland.com website

 

 

Just a stone’s throw away from Christchurch is Fishamble Street, where, for the first time ever, Handel’s Messiah, his most famous work , was performed at the Charitable Musical Society’s Hall on Good Friday, 13 April, 1742. People have been selling their wares on this street for over a thousand years, but it was in the then new music hall, halfway down the street, that 5 men and 26 boys, the combined choirs of Christchurch and St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s choirs sang, in order to raise funds for charities. The audience included “ladies of distinction and other people of the greatest quality”, much like our own FEG gathering! Unlike that occasion, we won’t be requesting that the men remove their swords, or the ladies the hoops underneath their dresses. The music Hall is, alas, no more, but the “noteworthy” event lives on in the name of the adjacent Handel’s Hotel, half way down Fishamble Street. Beethoven described Handel as “the greatest composer that ever lived, and his friend, Jonathan Swift described  him as “A German, and a genius, a prodigy ”!

Handel
Photo courtesy of Handel & Hendrix in London website

 

Christchurch,  from it’s beginnings as a wooden church, erected by the Christianised  Danish Viking, Sitric (Sigtryggr) Silkenbeard, in 1038, has always been at the centre of Dublin.

Walls_of_Dublin_with_Bridge,_R_Poddle_and_other_waterways
The Walls of Dublin by Richard Strangways 1904

 

Later rebuilt in stone in the Romanesque style in 1172  by  Archbishop   Laurence O’Toole and the Anglo-Norman knight, Strongbow or Richard Gilbert de Clare, it later adopted  the  Early English Gothic style of architecture, under Archbishop Comyn, and many extensions, rebuilds and changes followed. It was , however, its restoration in the Victorian era with funds from a whiskey distiller,  Henry Roe, that is responsible for the largely Neo-Gothic  style of architecture you see now. It was at that point, in the  1870’s, that the covered bridge, running from the cathedral to the Old Synod Hall, (Now housing Dublinia, the Viking  multimedia exhibition centre) was erected. Their excellent interactive site showing the progression of the formation of Dublin and life in Viking and Medieval times and is well worth checking out.

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It was then, too, that the old stocks, dating from  1670, were transferred  to the crypt, along with many of the statues from the old Tholsel (Tax house or City Hall). The Tholsel  had stood opposite a medieval cross marking the centre of the town,  and was demolished.

One of the largest medieval crypts  in Britain and Ireland, it is full of atmosphere but no longer, thankfully, the rats and mice of former years.

Our sincere thanks  to Dublin Bus for their kindness towards us in donating many of the tickets necessary for getting delegates into town from the airport. Interestingly, the origins of bus services in Dublin go back to the first horse tram, the Terenure route, in 1872, the same year Christchurch was renovated by George Edmund Street, architect, in Neo-Gothic style. You can download a Dublin Bus App for your phone, here to access real time information on when your next bus is due, as, like most Dubliners, they just love modern technology.

Logo Christchurch Cathedral

 

We hope you will enjoy the good food, company and surroundings of  Christchurch Cathedral and thank them  for providing this magnificent venue and facilitating this reception.

Welcome, FEG Tourist Guides!

 

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All roads lead to Dublin for the 19th Annual Tourist Guides’  meeting and FEG AGM, due to take place  from November 21st-26th, 2017. The crowds are gathering, the  queues are forming  and excitement is building as people as  are making their way to Dublin. Participants are coming from far and near to what promises to be  a very enjoyable week. To  prepare you for the event, ATGI, the Association of Tourist Guides of Ireland, is providing this blog on the upcoming events.

Atgi Guide at Cashel

With 190 participants  registered , this will be one of the best attended FEG AGMs ever ! Indeed,  due to the rapid take-up of places,  instead of extending deadlines to encourage more people to come, we were sold out in less than four weeks. Unfortunately, this meant we had to turn away many disappointed guides.  Had we the  capacity, we probably could have had another 100 guides coming. We will, nonetheless, have a total of 190 participants at the six-day main event with 90 of them attending the four-day pre-tour and about 80 of them attending the four day post-tour.  We will be filling almost 1,100 bed nights in total, contributing almost €250,000 to our economy.

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If you are one of the lucky ones, then you are in for a real treat. We are as excited as you are about the events and are looking forward to giving you a warm Irish welcome, or a Ceád míle fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes!)

With over 80 volunteers from ATGI helping with the planning and organisation, there is a buzz around ATGI,  and, with our  upcoming 40th Anniversary as a Tourist Guide Association this year, we are also preparing to celebrate with a very special AGM on November 30th . We hope this blog will entertain and inform you in giving you a taste of things to come. Failte!

 

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