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Dublin with children-Day 2

Dublin with children-Day 2

Dublin is a very family friendly city with lots of ways to see the sights.  Both the Dublin Bus Tour and City Sightseeing offer hop-on-hop-off bus services that narrate the sights and let you get on and off at 24 locations throughout the city.  You can buy the tickets on the bus, online, or at a tourist office and don’t need to start at any particular point.  The Dublin Bus Tour is free for two children for each adult and City Sightseeing offers a family package for the price of two adult tickets.  Officially, the tours are an hour and a half in length, but that assumes you don’t stop at all. The tickets are generally good for 48 hours, so don’t feel as if you have to cram everything in on one day.  Our first hop off was at Dublina, the viking and medieval history center.  Dublina is included in the Dublin pass, but you can also buy tickets individually and you receive a discount if you’re on the hop-on-hop-off tour.   Located in the synod hall of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublina is a hands on multi-media museum starting off on the ground floor with the viking exhibit, working its way through medieval Dublin and ending on the third floor with an archaeology exhibit. During the summer there were re-enactors including Olaf, the Viking coin minter, Peter Higley, the Medieval Merchant, Asa, the Viking housewife, Maggie, the Medieval woman and Walter the sea sick sailor.  There were also plenty of opportunities to dress up, including as a knight.  The Medieval section included a medieval fair, with games to play and the archaeology section includes actual artifacts that have been found in and around Dublin.  The self-guided tours take approximately 55 minutes, but my kids could have spent a lot longer playing some of the games. At the top of Dublina, a bridge connects the Synod Hall to Christ Church cathedral proper, the oldest medieval church in Dublin.  It was established around 1030 and parts of the existing structure still date back to the 1180s.  Entrance fees can be paid separately, in combination with the entrance fees for Dublina or as part of the Dublin Pass. The welcome to Christ Church Cathedral includes a map of the highlights...

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Dublin with Children

Dublin with Children

Dublin is a very walkable city and well sign posted for city attractions.  There are many options for seeing the city, from boat tours to walking or bus tours.  If you have the time, or are planning on seeing a lot of attractions in the city, it’s worth investing in the Dublin Pass. We were staying outside of Dublin, so the first task was to get into town.  The Dart, which runs from Howth on the northern side of Dublin Bay, to Greystones, on the southern side, makes it very easy to get into town.  There are family passes available which allows unlimited travel for the day for up to two adults and four children and makes getting to and from Dublin very affordable. The Dart itself is an enjoyable ride, as you can see from the picture on the right, my son would have been happy just riding the train all day. When we stepped off the Dart, we were treated to the sight of the 92th annual Liffey Swim, the penultimate event in a season of 26 open water races.  The race starts at the Custom House shown in the background on the left and finishes beside the Point Depot at the East Link Bridge, a distance of 1500m (1640yd).  We had a lot of fun watching the swimmers start the race before we set off. The first day, we were still feeling jet lagged, and didn’t know how long the children would be up for sightseeing so we opted to walk around ourselves.  My older son had just seen the The Secret of Kells, which was a very odd movie, but he was definitely interested in seeing the real thing so we walked over to Trinity College. The bell tower shown here on the right was erected in 1853 and stands where the bell tower stood for the monastery of All Hallows in the Middle Ages.  We took a tour of the campus which while interesting for grownups, was not very entertaining for children.  They nonetheless had fun exploring the grounds and seeing the Book of Kells Exhibit. The line for the Book of Kells can be long, so it is worth trying to go early in the morning, or at least looking to see how...

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Review: Small Beauties:  The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara-Ireland with children

Review: Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara-Ireland with children

More than a million Irish emigrated during the Great Famine and Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara written by Elvira Woodrum and illustrated by Adam Rex captures part of their story, the courage that allowed them to emigrate, and the memories and traditions that followed them abroad. In this fictional account, Darcy Heart O’Hara is one of those children who sees the beauty in everything around her.  She is a “noticer” and much to her family’s frustration, she is always stopping to see things around her leaving her chores undone as she admires a spider web, the clouds, and the contrasting beauty between a magpie and the fields of buttercups.  Her older brother chides her to be more firmly rooted in the realities of planting a second crop of potatoes to replace the ones stricken by the blight.  But even amidst the hardships they face she continues to notice the small beauties, tucking mementos into the hem of her dress and watching the world around her. After the second crop fails, the family is faced with eviction.  They’re told that they will receive free passage to America if they leave, otherwise their house will be torn down around them.  The family puts off leaving for as long as they can, but at the end of the month, the Crown’s agent returns and destroys their house.  Her grandparents decide they are too old to leave Ireland and so the family is faced with being separated and probably never seeing each other again. In the wreckage of their house, Darcy finds a small chip from the hearthstone, and tucks it too into the hem of her dress. When they get to America, Darcy sees that everything is different and new.  “Instead of tiny cottages, Darcy saw tall buildings stretched to the sky.  Instead of fields of rotting potatoes, she noticed shops and carts overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables…And best of all was the hope that the family could one day buy land of their own.”  But she hasn’t forgotten the old, and as the tired family gathers in a cramped city cellar, she starts pulling what seems like an endless stream of objects out of her hem.  A little round pebble,...

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Review: The Wishing of Biddy Malone-Ireland with children

Review: The Wishing of Biddy Malone-Ireland with children

The lilting cadence of The Wishing of Biddy Malone makes it a great book to read aloud and the illustrations do a good job of capturing the feel of the Irish countryside and contrasting the faerie kingdom. As the story opens, we learn that Biddy Malone loves to sing and dance, “[b]ut her singing was like a rusty gate in a wild west wind, and when she danced, her great dundering feet fell over each other.”  She also has a terrible temper.  One day, in a fit of pique, she throws a pan of milk at her teasing brothers and storms out the door, running through the village and down to the river.  When she finally stops, she sees a faerie village, “the kind that children were warned about.” Enchanted, she walks in to hear the music better, but as soon as she enters, everything stops.  It is there she sees the most beautiful boy she has ever seen, one who offers her three wishes.  She asks to “sing as sweetly as a thrush and dance as lightly as a deer…and for a loving heart.”  When she gets home, she discovers that two months have passed, and she still “sang like a squeaking gate and danced with feet like bricks.”  But she has been inspired by the visit to the faerie village and every day she dances for hours, slowly improving and despite her mother’s worries about what the little people did to Biddy, she is happier and her temper starts to improve as well.  By the time she is fully grown, she is the best singer and dancer in the country, but much to her sorrow she is unable to fall in love.  In a temper again, she hears the music from the faerie village and storms past her schoolteacher suitor to confront the faerie who gave her the wishes.  His response: “I didn’t offer to grant you your wishes.  I just asked you to name them.  Then I told you they would be yours.”  As she stops to consider what he’s said, he continues that the reason she has been unable to accept anyone’s proposal is that she loves him and he knew he could come back for her.  While the wishes...

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The Táin: The Great Celtic Epic

The Táin: The Great Celtic Epic

The Táin: The Great Celtic Epic, written by Liam Mac Uistin and illustrated by Donald Teskey, is the retelling of an epic Irish legend.  It is one of the tales of the Ulster Cycle, a group of eighty interrelated stories which recount the exploits of the Ulaid, a prehistoric people in the north of Ireland.  The Táin tells the story of a war started by Queen Maeve, the queen of Connacht, over a fight with her husband and a bull. Queen Maeve wants the Brown Bull of Cooley, the finest bull in Ireland, to prove to her husband that she is wealthier than he is. In comparing their holdings, Queen Maeve and her husband discover they are evenly matched except for Finnbeannach, her husband’s prize bull.  Queen Maeve is determined to find a bull the match of Finnbeannach and sets out to borrow or steal the Brown Bull of Cooley, the only bull in all of Ireland that can compete with Finnbeannach. In her efforts, Queen Maeve is opposed by Cuchulainn (Cú Chulainn), the only member of the Ulster army who is immune to a curse that puts the army to sleep.  What starts out as a simple cattle raid quickly turns into a monumental series of battles involving gods, goddesses, kings, queens, druids, and heroes.  The locations mentioned in the Táin are easy to identify and explore.  You can visit the remains of Queen Maeve’s castle in Rathcroghan; the Navan Fort, Eman Macha, where Culchulain and the boy army trained; the ford at Tarmonbarry where Maeve’s army crossed; the ford Áth Fhirdia in Ardee where Cuchulain slew his foster brother Ferdia; and even the hill at Emmoo near Roscommon where Finnbeannach and the Brown Bull of Cooley have their final confrontation. You can also follow the Táin Trail, a 315 mile route that traces the path taken by Queen Maeve’s army, and visit the resting places and battle sites mentioned in the story.  The trail starts off at the end of the story at the site where the two bulls do battle and continues on to the site where Queen Maeve’s castle is believed to have been located. The second segment of the trail passes thorough the town of Navan where the army crossed the River Boyne.  Navan is only a few...

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The Barefoot Book of Pirates

The Barefoot Book of Pirates

 The Barefoot Book of Pirates by Richard Walker and illustrated by Olwyn Whelan is a retelling of seven pirate stories from Scandinavia, England, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Scotland and Morocco.  The stories are well illustrated and entertaining while being refreshingly free from gore. The hardcover edition of the book is accompanied by a CD with Richard Hope narrating the seven stories, perfect for long trips! England Everyone associates Robin Hood with Sherwood Forest and Nottingham, but with references dating back to the 13th century and the earliest recorded ballads dating from the 13th and 14th century, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction and whether he was a real person or a conglomeration of many.  The origins of “Robin Hood and the Pirates” date back to 1858 at least and possibly earlier.  In the story, Robin decides to go on vacation and leave Sherwood Forest and Little John suggests a trip to Scarborough.  Today, Scarborough is the largest holiday resort on the Yorkshire Coast.  In keeping with the pirate theme, there is a treasure hunt in Scarborough which lets you explore the coast, castle and surrounding environs.   After a few days in Scarborough, Robin decides he’s bored and wants to go out on a fishing boat.  You too can go out on a fishing trip with Queensferry Cruises and Skylark Fishing Trips.  While you probably won’t run into pirates on the coast of England on your trip, in this story Robin manages to save the fisherman from the pirates and in true Robin Hood fashion, he shares the plunder with the fishing crew and the good woman who had rented him a room. Ireland Grace O’Malley (Granuaile) or “The Sea Queen of Connaught” is one of the few female pirates in history.  In “Pirate Grace,” she arrives at Howth Castle in Ireland and asks for dinner according to custom.  Lord Howth refuses as he is too busy eating his own dinner and doesn’t want to be disturbed.  In retaliation, Grace kidnaps his heir and holds him hostage on Clare Island.  Her demand for his son’s freedom?  An apology and that the Lord always lay a spare place at the dining table in case anyone should need it. Howth, now a suburb of Dublin, was originally...

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