Republic of Ireland - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 180

Kingscourt

Monday 8th September

As has been the case for the past few nights, it was cold enough last night to warrant putting the gas heating on a couple of times during the night. The unit only has two settings, on or off, so when it gets too hot in the can, we have to switch the heating off until it gets too cold again. This cycle ends when the inconvenience of switching the heater on and off becomes greater than that of the cold.

The weather was much better in the morning. Not too warm but at least there was no rain and clearer sky’s approaching. We thought about getting the bus into the city but since that meant having to pay for an extra night at the camping on top of the bus fare in both directions, we decided we would chance our luck with finding somewhere to park the brick in the city centre. After all, we’ve always had luck in every other city we’ve been in so it seemed like a reasonable risk to take.

We arrived at the camp-site last night with the fuel gauge almost completely flat. Our first order of business, then, was to find a filling station as quickly as possible. Ironically, we drove past half a dozen or more on the opposite side of the dual carriageway for quite some distance before reaching one on our side of the road. I doubt that dredging the gunk from the bottom of the tank did much for the petrol filter.

As we were parked at the petrol station, I noticed that our map had a phone number listed for the tourist information office for Dublin so I called them in hopes of getting some advice on where to park. The nice lady on the other end of the line seemed to know exactly where we should go, given the length and height of the brick, and directed us to a place smack in the middle of town called St. Steven’s Square where there was parking for several hundred vehicles. When we got there, however, it turned out that there was not one big car park but lots of smaller ones. None of the car parks that we passed were adequate for our needs (height restrictions, narrow alleyway entrances, etc.) so I called back for further assistance. This time I was given the number of the city parking authority and they found us the one car park that would accommodate the brick. Luckily, it turned out to be the Trinity College car park, which put us within a few minutes walking distance of where we wanted to explore. It did take us a couple of further phone calls to the car park itself before we actually found it but at least we had a safe haven for the brick for the whole day – even if it was going to cost €2 per hour.

Having stashed the brick, loaded up the backpack with some snacks and the cameras, off we trundled to the tourist information office just around the corner from Trinity College. With just one day to tackle Dublin, we both wanted to make sure there was nothing important that we shouldn’t miss. We did toy with the idea of taking one of the hop-on hop-off bus tours but since Dublin is a relatively small city and quite walkable, we decided against it.

Fist up, then, was Trinity College itself and the famous Book of Kells. We entered the college grounds and were immediately snagged by a student in a small booth selling tickets to guided tours of the college grounds. The ticket price included entrance to the Book of Kells and it worked out to just €2.50 extra for the tour so we decided to give it a try. The tour itself only lasted about thirty minutes and although it was quite humorous, we probably could have just tagged along without anyone knowing it for free – as I’m sure several other perusing tourists did.

The tour terminated at the entrance to the Book of Kells exhibition where two originals along with several other similar religious and related scribed books were proudly displayed. We’ve heard about and read about various references to the Book of Kells all throughout our Irish tour. The exhibition is done very well, as could be expected from one of Ireland’s most prominent tourist attractions. The book itself is on display of course, but, obviously, only opened to reveal two facing pages. All the brilliantly scribed and decorated pages, however, can be clearly studied as huge posters of them are hung up on the walls and in various displays throughout the exhibition. Originally written back in 800AD (or thereabouts), it must have taken months if not years to complete the dozens of pages of the book. The intricacy of the illustrations carefully designed to symbolise so many facets of Christianity in brilliant colours is breath-taking and awe-inspiring. It is clear why this is one of Ireland’s foremost treasures.

Having spent a good hour or so studying all the aspects of the Book of Kells, we left the college and went in search of a place to grab some lunch. After a bit of a walk in and around Graften Street, we stumbled into a restaurant called Captain America. It looked very much like the sort of place we might go out to have lunch or dinner at whilst living in America. We both miss American cuisine, such that it is, and so it wasn’t a difficult decision to stop and eat there. With the exception of the rather disappointing chicken wing starters (BBQ sauce instead of Buffalo sauce), it was a nice meal and sufficed to top up our energy reserves. Walking around any city tends to drain the life right out of us.

For some time now, we’ve been on the lookout for a wide-angle lens for the Nikon. We don’t often get the chance to wander around a major city so we decided to spend some time continuing this hunt. As we went from one shop to the next, each time being directed to the next possibility, we stumbled into a murder/mystery bookshop and Sandy was in heaven; so much so, that I left her there for a while whilst I continued with my lens quest. Alas, after what seemed like several kilometres of trundling around the city, the elusive wide-angle lens was nowhere to be found. I finally met back up with Sandy who by now was toting a bag full of new books.

It was by mid-afternoon and we decided to make the last significant stop on our tour around the city to be a couple of the city’s finest museums. It took us almost an hour and again what seemed like several kilometres of walking only to be thwarted by the fact that the museums are all closed on Mondays. Oh well.

Back to the brick, then, and our sojourn out of the city began in earnest. We're going to be heading north out of the city towards an area of the country that looked like it had several promising sites of interest. With rush-hour traffic now in full swing and several major roadwork projects full under way, however, it was going to be a slow sojourn at that.

We did eventually make it out of the city but as we travelled along the motorway, the engine started to play up and became very sluggish. It kept backfiring and seemed to continue to get worse. It backfired with such a bang at one point that I think it must have ruptured the exhaust as it caused a distinct change in the pitch of the engine noise from that moment on. I’m not sure what the problem is but it may have something to do with the petrol filter getting a bit clogged after we drained the fuel tank yesterday. The problem is now somewhat intermittent but worrying enough to warrant a trip to a garage to have it checked out. This, however, would be easier said than done. We left the motorway and went in search of the nearest large town in the hope that we could find a Mercedes garage. After talking with a petrol station attendant, perusing the local yellow pages and calling directory inquiries, it seemed like we were going to be out of luck. Directory enquiries were able to give me a central number for Mercedes, however, and I called them to explain our predicament. They directed us to the nearest location of a garage capable of repairing commercial vehicles (regular garages usually can’t handle something the size of the brick), which happened to be Kingscourt. It was about thirty minutes' drive from where we were. We took the country lane route and have since found the garage. We are now parked at the rear of the facility and will try to arrange for someone to take a look at the engine tomorrow morning – assuming they can squeeze us in.

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