Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dublin in a Wheelchair

Not surprisingly, Ryanair tickets are very cheap from Edinburgh to Dublin:  £20/person. AJ and I jumped at that deal and made our way over to the Edinburgh Airport on the Airlink bus, which was super wheelchair accessible the whole way through. Let me tell you a little bit about my airport routine of checking in at the ticket counter: even though we've already checked in online, we always have to notify the assistant who will get us through the security, around the airport elevators, onto the crazy getaway truck that floats up to the aircraft doors, into an aisle chair, onto the plane, through the tiny aisles, and finally into my seat. All of which requires so much more time and planning in advance. It's a hassle, but it's worth it to do this every single time in order to travel and explore, especially since British assistants are some of the funniest guys alive. We arrived shortly in Dublin (2 hours) and went straight into exploring. You wouldn't believe this, but we had one single Dakine backpack for the two of us. Record packing, I think. Only essentials: medical supplies, medicine, clothes for two, and journals, cameras, money, passports, tickets, and some snacks. 

The city is extremely wheelchair accessible, as I was able to wheel almost the entire city by myself, with little hills, solid cement sidewalks, and even curb cuts (dream come true). They have something really good goin' on here. However, as buildings in Dublin are as old as the rest of Europe, it was still kind of difficult to get into some historical buildings, shops and pubs, let alone get around in them. There are always these possibilities of disappointment in terms of accessibility, but I have prepared myself ahead of time so I don't get too flustered. I was pleased to find that many places had wheelchair lifts (although not always the most modern).

One of my favorite places to visit was Trinity College, situated in the heart of Dublin City.  It is the oldest and most prestigious college in Ireland.  It was just so beautiful to walk through the entrance and around the courtyard. Our Sandeman tour guide, Aeiofe (pronounced ee-fa) told us traditions of the college like how the person who scores the highest on the entrance exam gets a full scholarship and has rights like walking on the grass (big no, no) and climbing the clock tower, and from that tower, they can challenge the dean to a bow and arrow duel in which the student may become dean if they hit the dean. But of course the dean has his right to shoot back as well. Pretty unique in Ireland!

One of the biggest tourist attractions is the Book of Kells, which is housed in the Trinity College Library. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript and is widely recognized as one of Ireland's most valuable historical artifacts. But the page is not frequently turned, so you don't get to see a whole ton. Also, George Lucas and an accomplice secretly took a bazillion pictures there and replicated it in the library scenes of one of his Star Wars movies, after they were denied permission by the dean.  The dean later figured it out, a law suit went on, and they settled. The college had to sell Star Wars memorabilia for an entire year after. As so they say...

Trinity College
Christchurch Cathedral, a few steps up, no access to tower for wheelchair, and many steps down to crypt. Will need expert help.

Guinness corn beef soup at Oliver St. John Gogarty pub, wheelchair accessible with lift entrance
Saint Patrick's Cathedral
Dublin Castle
Because it was a quick trip, we wanted to maximize our time there with highlights of the city, so we did a "free" walking tour by a group called, Sandeman, which has been so much fun the past few times. The guide has so many interesting facts, is super nice, takes us to a mixture of historically significant locations as well as some non-touristy locations. There are also many native guides so you get to listen to their cool Irish accents and slang for a few hours. It wasn't too long until we heard the sentiments Irish people have towards the British, which is a funny love hate relationship as they share a lot of the same heritage, but detest the unfair British reign for so many years. Also, walking (or wheeling) is one of the best ways to explore the city and get a feel of what it is like for locals.  It allows us to see lots of details and jump right into random places whenever we want. However, you do run into some interesting people along the way...

Travel Note: Write down interesting locations to visit on a piece of paper and/or mark it on your map, so you don't have to lug a book or memorize things to do and see.

Warning: Attractions close early in Dublin and are closed on specific days, plan accordingly.  People mainly plan on pub crawls at night... we just had fish and chips :)

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