Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tyler Tackles the Emerald Isle

I'm sitting in our living room on a rare summer day in Aachen (around 100 F), suffering the combined effects of heat, not enough to eat, and jet lag following our trip around the US to visit family. Our return to Aachen is brief--tomorrow we leave for a two-week tour of Germany sponsored by the foundation that supports us here. With that in mind, I need to catch up on blogging so we don't fall irrecoverably behind. That take me to early July and Dublin where I attended the Euromar conference on magnetic resonance.

First things first--the conference was okay. I'm beginning to feel like I know what's going on in the field pretty well and most of the NMR big shots go to all the same conferences and, with the exception of minor tweaks or data improvements, give the same talks. There is the rare surprise, but this conference wasn't one. I did get to spend the week with Franz, a former colleague in Berkeley and now dear friend who lives in Munich, who was my roommate and travel buddy for as much time as we felt comfortable not attending the conference during the week. Aside of hanging out with Franz, the only thing I really wanted to see there was Trinity College and its famous library. On Tuesday we went out and walked around the campus a little bit.



Trinity College, formerly the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, is stunning. Established in 1592 with a current student enrollment of nearly 17,000, it's a landmark for Dublin. The facades of the buildings are a uniform stone color, appropriate for the generally dreary Ireland weather, and the campus is right in the middle of downtown. I'd heard from a friend that the library is worth a visit, so we paid the 9 EUR entrance to get in.

The library at Trinity College in Dublin is amazing.

It is a two-story building, the bottom of which houses a museum-like exhibit (when I was there it was on the Book of Kells, an illustrated text containing, among other religious works, the four gospels. It was written by monks around 800 AD. It was cool. However, the top floor is "the long room," a 64-meter long (210 feet), double high room filled with shelves and shelves of gorgeous books. The library has probably 40 or 50 window nooks, each with two walls of books. I couldn't help but feel emotional seeing such a remarkably beautiful collection of human knowledge. Sadly, no pictures were allowed, so you'll have to make do with this one I found online:

Other highlights around Dublin:

Saint Patrick's Cathedral



I love this spiral staircase leading to the organ loft.


(By the way, right as I entered the Cathedral someone started practicing the organ; a pleasant treat for me.)

A relief of the last Irish bard


A statue that wouldn't look out of place in Aachen


(It was given as a gift to Ireland, perhaps by Germany, following WWII.)

And, lastly, the random pole of Ireland.


When I asked the taxi driver what this pole was about, he replied (in a nearly unintelligible, heavy Irish accent), "You know, Paris has that tower, New York has the Statue of Liberty. Dublin? We've got that pole." I think that sums it up well.

I don't know where in the city I took these photos, but I like them and they seem to represent downtown Dublin fairly well.



I was walking around the town for a bit on Thursday and I stumbled upon a barbershop that offered beard trims for 5 EUR. I've always wanted a real barbershop shave, but as I wasn't ready to part with my beard I went in to have a trim. (Never mind that I trimmed it that morning.) I explained to the lady that I just wanted to try it out. She looked at me a little incredulously, but consented. Is it that weird to want someone else to trim one's beard? She did a nice job. Later, continuing my walk, I found a perhaps more violent approach to a beard trim:


(Third from the bottom: beard trim, shaped with cut throat.) Glad I went to the first place.

Dublin was a nice city to visit, replete with surprisingly good and diverse food options, interesting architecture, my favorite library in the world, and a relief of a bard. I'm not anxious to go back to the city--I think rural Ireland could be fantastic--but I'm glad I got to go. Even if only for the three burritos I ate while there, I'm glad I got to go.


The Little Ass Burrito Bar, the only one of three burrito places I didn't eat at, but the one with the best name. The others were Tolteca and California Burrito Shack. And yes, as I live in a state of burrito deprivation the names of my burrito havens stick with me.

One bonus about Dublin that's probably not for the kids to see (I'll give you a wide scrolling berth here just in case)
they seem serious about books, as manifest both by this decorated street-level junction box


and this bookstore front.


God bless Ireland.

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