Leicester and Richard III

Saturday began our last full day in England, and we caught the train to Leicester on the way back to London so I could see my favorite monarch of English/British history: Richard III. If you follow my Instagram you may have seen my epic r3 Halloween costume, and if you’re on Twitter, you’ll know fake r3chard has retweeted me like 3 times now. We’re basically best internet friends.

Mom and I got into Leicester and decided to try to find a place to leave our luggage. If anyone is looking for a lucrative business to open: start a found luggage in Leicester. We carried our giant bags all over the town with no luck. The Visitors Center couldn’t help us; the museum couldn’t store bags for insurance reasons (fair). We had already bought our tickets, I was tired and hangry, and nothing was going our way. My mom, saint that she is, decided to hole up in a café with tea and cake and babysit our bags while I went to the museum. Not ideal, but at least I got to see what there was to see.

The Richard III Visitor Center is built around the archaeological site where in 2012, archaeologists found the remains of the last Plantagenet. The archaeological story itself is fascinating, because it is not at all usual for an archaeological investigation to find exactly what it is looking for on the first try; but that’s just what happened in this case. There is a Smithsonian documentary all about the discovery available on YouTube here.

The visitor begins in a display about the history of the War of the Roses, family lines, and the reasons for the turmoil that surrounded Richard III’s reign. From there, you travel through the War of the Roses, RIII’s short reign, and his burial at Grey Friar’s Priory. Heading upstairs, visitors encounter a display that discusses the portrayals of Richard as a villain throughout popular culture, from Shakespeare to the recent Benedict Cumberbatch portrayal.

Next, the display walks the visitor through the entire story of the dig from its beginning through to the discovery and analysis of the Richard’s remains. This was great! The timeline included artifacts from the dig, video interviews with the archaeologists and others involved in the venture, and diagrams. The exhibit then represents scientists’ analysis of Richard’s bones through medical testing and forensic recreations. One controversy was that of Richard’s scoliosis; many proponents of R3 have relegated the story of the hunchback king to a tale made up by Shakespeare and other detractors to vilify and lessen the monarch in some way.  When the skeleton was uncovered, it was obvious that the scoliosis was a fact after all.

The visitor center experience ends with a visit to the site where the bones were found in the parking lot that used to house the church. The websitedescribes it as, “the site of King Richard’s burial, preserved in a quiet, respectful setting and with a contemplative atmosphere, fitting for the last resting place of a slain warrior and anointed monarch.” The room is quiet and simple, and a hologram shows where the bones were found within the unit. The volunteer in the room when I visited was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, pointing out features in the dig that helped to date the remains.

Across the courtyard from the visitor center stand Leicester Cathedral, where the remains of Richard are interred. The church also has a display about Richard and his discovery and subsequent reburial (and a giftshop, too!).

Behind the church another gem is hidden: The Guildhouse. This is a medieval timbered building dating back to 1390 in its oldest part. The architecture and features throughout are gorgeous, from the soaring timbered ceiling to the mantels to the upstairs library. The site is also supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Britain, as the helpful museum employee told me as I walked through the building on my own. I managed to scare myself nearly to death when I looked into an old jail cell and saw a mannequin in the darkness.

Through hordes of football fans on their way to a match, we made our way back to the train station and headed back to London, content with our few days in Yorkshire and our day in Leciester. We were back to London for one more night, a classy McDonald’s dinner, and a trip to the Sainsbury for a literal duffel bag full of candies and presents (yet I still managed to forget a can of treacle). Mom and I made it back to South Carolina with no issues, and are already planning our next trip together!

York, UK: Harry Potter, Chocolate, and Richard III

sdfg.jpgYork and our journey there was a study in all of my favorite things: Harry Potter, train travel, that famous glorious son of York, chocolate, tea, and gorgeous architecture. We started our day with time to spare at Kings Cross so we could visit Platform 9 ¾, the start of one’s journey to Hogwarts. My mom and I started reading the Harry Potter books when I was a sophomore in high school, and we loved them and shared them throughout my time in college. Mom is a textbook Hufflepuff, while I am a stalwart Syltherin. How the two biggest hufflepuffs to ever hufflepuff created a Slytherin is anyone’s guess.  Anyway. Platform 9 ¾ was everything we hoped it would be, and the photographers in the line that day were superb and so fun. Even though they made me hold Voldy’s wand since I’m a Slytherin. Obviously we bought all 4 photos, and I got my mom some Hedwig souvenirs, because it was her birthday!

20180905_141107-01Then we hopped on the train and headed north to Yorkshire, home of my boy Richard III. Once we got to York, we dropped off our bags and headed into the ancient town. We started with tea at Earl Grey’s in the Shambles, which was delicious and perfect. I couldn’t finish my caramel cake, but the treats were superb. We wandered around the Shambles and downtown, then headed into York’s Chocolate Story to purchase our tickets.

20180905_141728York has a great history of chocolate and candy making, which automatically puts it high up on my list of favorite places. York’s Chocolate Story is a great example of the interactive, technological, and innovative types of exhibits that money can buy. All tours are fully guided and seem to be heavily scripted, but our guide was a delight. The tour starts with a ride in the elevator to the top floor where you enter a recreated street scene from York’s past.  We had an opportunity to taste chocolate made from one of York’s earliest recipes, and it wasn’t half bad. From there, we headed into a multimedia experience to tell the story of the discovery of cacao beans in the South American rainforests (without glossing over colonialism and the horrors the invaders brought with them). Then we learned about the families of York who founded candy and chocolate making empires in Yorkshire through a multimedia presentation. The next part was the best, though…

20180905_152047On the first floor there is a recreated chocolate factory, where visitors learn the entire process of creating consumable chocolates from processing to wrapping. We tried our hand at tasting the many flavors in chocolate and learned about the science of chocolate as well. Next, we got to decorate our own chocolate lollies! Chocolatiers were also on hand to show the process of making candies and truffles from the chocolate, and of course we got to taste, as well. I’m only sad that we had just had a large tea before our tour. We exited through the gift shop, as per usual, and brought home many treats for our friends and families (and ourselves). This museum really did have it all from multimedia displays, to sensory experiences, to the best possible interactives. I highly recommend it, even though it is totally touristy. We decided to walk off our chocolate and tea for the rest of the afternoon, and we saw all the major sites such as the York Minster church, the York walls, the Norman Clifford’s Tower, and even a pub named for r3.

20180905_161838We headed to our guesthouse and I got mom settled in, and I headed back out for a pub game night with the Death and Culture Net folks at the Eagle and Child. I knew I was in the right place when I walked in and heard people asking, “Are you here for death??” I didn’t end up playing any games, but I met all kinds of people from all over the world working broadly with death; Maggie, a doula and activist from the Bay area, Ruth from York who studies sociological aspects of death and criminology, Janieke from the Netherlands who studies funereal music… and so many more. My next will be all about DacNet, so tune in next time for more!

Café In the Crypt and The Roman Dead @ Museum of London: Docklands

IMG_20180904_133032_729From the British Museum, mom and I headed back to Trafalgar Square to finally visit the Café in the Crypt at St. Martin’s in the Field. I previously visited the café on my New Years trip to London and loved it. The café is located, as the name implies, in the old crypt of the church. The space and all of its associations truly deserve a blog all their own on death tourism and dark histories. Tables are located on top of grave stones and the crypt is surrounded by memento mori and memorial stones. Income from the café helps fund preservation and outreach programs at the church. When I told my students about this café, they were horrified at the thought of eating on graves and saw it as disrespectful, yet they were all about some ghost tours… as I said, lots more for another blog. All in all, the cafe made a mean scone and pot of tea, and the cakes looked to die for (lol see what I did there?).20180904_151621

We ubered on over to the East Side of London, which I was visiting for the first time, to the Museum of London: Docklands to see the Roman Dead exhibit that I had been looking forward to for months. The museum is located in the industrialized docks of the East End on Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. The landscape is an interesting mix of industrial, commercial, and new sleek business buildings along the high-tech docks.  As a huge fan of Call the Midwife, set in this area of London, it was a bit shocking to see modern Poplar compared to 1950s and 1960s Poplar of the TV show.

DSC03390~2Our welcome at the museum was superb, and the FOH staff member we spoke with was a graduate of UNC, just a few hours from home; small world! We first went to see the Roman Dead exhibit before exploring the rest of this excellent museum. According to their website,  “Last year, a Roman sarcophagus was found near to Harper Road in Southwark. What does this unique find tells us about the ancient city that 8 million people now call home? We’ve displayed the sarcophagus alongside the skeletons and cremated remains of 28 Roman Londoners found during archaeological excavations of ancient cemeteries. The exhibition also features over 200 objects from burials in Roman London, exploring how people dealt with death in Londinium. Many items were brought here from across the Empire, showing the extent of London’s international connections, even at this early time in its history.”DSC03401~2

The exhibit also, “uses these grave goods and the results of scientific analysis of ancient Londoners’ skeletons to explore who Roman Londoners were, and show the surprising diversity of the ancient city.”One of the coolest aspects is an online interactive display available here: “Take a closer look at the exhibition’s most fascinating objects by exploring our interactive display.”

DSC03405~2I loved this exhibit. From the warning at the beginning about he display of human remains, to the treatment and interpretation of remains and funerary objects including cremated remains, full skeletons, childrens’ remains, and even animal and pet remains.

One of the best parts was the diversity (sex , age, and race/ethnicity) of these skeletons, all found in London from the Roman periods of history.   The museum did a great job of connecting the diverse history of London to its current status as one of the most diverse cities in Europe. Additionally, the connection between people 2000 years ago to modern people was presented with ease; people cared about their pets as family members, were sometimes buried with treasured belongings, and worried about the afterlife and what comes next, in many of the same ways that people do today.

DSC03393~2Soft lighting, quiet space, and layout of the exhibit seemed respectful and somber as was fitting for a room full of human remains. The interpretation of these people and their funerary objects, as well as the context of Roman Britain was explained well through text panels and multimedia displays. While I was in the exhibit, several families with children came through, and the children all seemed very engaged by the video, and also the remains themselves.

There were interactives, multimedia, opportunities to find more information, and all the things that make a modern museum exhibit great. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I’m only sad to report that it closed in October of 2018.

DSC03411After some time spent with the dead Romans, I had some time to visit the rest of the Docklands museum to learn the history of the area and people of the East End. This museum is awesome. Not only is it housed in a historic building that shows the connection of the location to industry and the local communities, but they have some very progressive interpretation (especially on colonialism and a surprisingly critical view of the UK’s role in the slave trade) and great interactive opportunities.

20180904_155650One of my favorite parts was the hamster-wheel like recreation of a pulley system from ye olde dockland days (see the photo my mom captured here), and the recreation of a London dock street, “Sailortown” was way too much fun. There were also myriad opportunities for children to play and learn throughout the museum from dress-up corners, to a mining set-up, and interactive recreated living spaces from throughout the decades. I started to get museum fatigue towards the end of our visit, but I really plan to make it back here for another visit on my next trip to London (and the regular Museum of London, too!). From the museum, mom and I headed back to Covent Garden where we ended the night with the traditional cheeky Nandos chicken and British television.

Next: Platform 9 ¾, York, York’s Chocolate Story, and more!

British Museum 2.0

DSC03355~2I’ve often said since my first trip that I didn’t love the British Museum, much to the surprise of everyone who knows me and loves museums. I said in a previous post from 2014 that: “I’ve recently come to realize that I just don’t love huge museums.  I didn’t really like the Met, I really didn’t like the Tate, and the Natural History Museum in NYC was just ok for me.  Why is this?  I’m a museum person! I’m still thinking it all out, but I think it might have to do with the exhaustion of vacation, the sheer size of the places, my feeling that I NEED to see everything, and the amount of people there.  Also, they seem like spaces for rich, old, white people most of the time.  It’s kind of like that feeling I get sometimes at big parties, where I’d rather talk to the wait staff.  Maybe I’ve just built them up so big for so many years that they couldn’t possibly live up to the hype in my mind.”

20180904_101406

Me with my girl Sekhmet; best of the Egyptian pantheon

My second trip in September 2018 was much better. I went in this time with a goal to see the Egyptian and Greek sections, the Sutton Hoo, all the bodies I could, and enough to give my mom a good sense of the museum. My mom was an excellent sport, playing along every time I started in with, “Did you know…” as we traveled through ancient world history. We saw the Assyrian reliefs, including what we decided is probably the first recorded dog blep (good catch, mom!), Rosetta stone, a bevy of Sekhmets, a small bit of the Parthenon Marbles, one of the best papyri representing the Egyptian afterlife, and the Paulos/Saulos spoons of the Sutton Hoo. So many amazing things.

DSC03312~2My main goal in this visit was to examine the display of human remains in the museum. Throughout the Egyptian section, the human remains of mummies and Predynastic skeletal burials abound. One section explored diet and daily life through human remains from dentition to bone structure. The typical wrapped Egyptian mummies were on full display, mummified remains out of wrappings, and skeletal remains from children and adults serve to show changes over time and by class or age or diet or a myriad of other things. Since only about 1% of the British Museum’s collection is on display, I wonder about the variety of individuals not on display. Their catalog lists the various human remains on their website: from cremated remains to hair to mummies and skeletons the variety is endless.

DSC03332~2One of the most interesting interactives that was new to me on this visit was the “autopsy table” for 5,500 year old “Gebelein Man A.” This was an interesting look inside the mummy, and the exhibit gives visitors a chance to investigate the scientific information gleaned from research on the mummy over the past few years. Signage throughout the area explained the scientific value of researching this body, and new evidence shows that Gebelein Man A has some of the oldest tattoos ever found preserved on human skin.

DSC03342~2Moving on from the Egyptian section, I found other remains in the Neolithic Britain area of the museum. A recreation of a burial from Stonehenge was on full display in the room, and around a corner I found “Lindow Man”, one of the famous bog bodies found throughout Northwest Europe. The contrast between the display of local remains in the National Museum of Ireland and those of England offer an interesting contrast. In Ireland, the bodies are displayed in small, private, quiet, and softly lift areas for each body. In England, Lindow Man was tucked around a corner, not in full view, but seemingly stuck amongst the rest of the detritus of the Neolithic and early Bronze Age. I have more thoughts on this that I am still fully fleshing (lol) out.

20180904_115155

my “well actually” historian face

After a few hours of jetting through to see as much as possible, and buying all of the tea towels in the shop, my general thoughts on the British Museum remain, “…thrilling to see, and … a testament to colonial conquests,” but I am happy I got to revisit, and I hope to be back again soon!

Next up: more human remains at the Museum of London: Docklands Roman Dead exhibit and some death tourism at the Café in the Crypt in St. Martin’s-in-the-Field in Trafalgar.

England 2018: Trip 2 – September 2018

Prologue: If you follow my twitter or Instagram or this blog, you already know this has been a busy year. I’m fully taking advantage of #AcWriMo2018 this year, and with the support of colleagues and friends, I have a goal to write at least 12 blogs that have been sitting here in the draft list pile, along with many other goals for my Academic Writing this year. This is great news for my blog, but it means that my blogs are about to start a time wrap of slowly working their way back to the past. Therefore, you are first going to hear all about my SECOND trip to England this year, and then I will work towards my summer work and travel, then the Spring semester of 2018, etc. My dream goal is to get all caught up so I can begin again to post with some regularity and timeliness as an ongoing goal. Apology/not apology: My new work takes this Anglophile to England a lot, so be prepared for all things mushy peas and tea in the coming months. Ok, enough housekeeping: On to England!

Ok, so where were we…

You’ve already read my quick Fall 2018 update and that I was fortunate to present at the DaCNet II Conference at University of York last week. So what about the rest of the trip to England? I couldn’t very well fly all the way across the Atlantic JUST for a conference; I had to get in some research and planning there, as well.

IMG_20180901_050415_252Because of timing and a twist of good luck, my mom was able to join me on this trip as a research assistant extraordinaire and travel buddy! This was her first trip out of the country, and our first time traveling just the two of us, and turns out that we travel absolutely swimmingly together (unless one of us is slurping a hot drink or smacking gum and then things can get tense for a hot second). My mom was an absolute trooper on this trip; walking miles and miles across London, going to all of the museums and actually enjoying them, taking selfies without complaint, listening with actual interest every time I started off on a “DID YOU KNOW….“ tangent at a museum or historic place. So yeah, all of that to say, my mom is the best and I can’t wait to travel with her again.

DSC03072

So mom and I headed out from the Myrt early on the first Saturday in September to head for The Big Smoke. After a few delays and a smooth flight, we landed at Heathrow and made our way towards Convent Garden. This trip we stated at the Hilton Double Tree West End, and I highly recommend it for location, but mostly because our room was ready at 11am when we got there to drop off bags.

We napped then made our way out to take a quick open top bus tour of the city before grabbing a pub dinner. I can’t recommend Golden Tours hop of and off bus at all because their routes and times were terrible and an absolute waste of money and time, but at least for our first day it was nice to sit back and see the sites with ease. Same goes for the London Pass: everything is free that we wanted to see anyway, so don’t waste your money.

20180902_155037That said, we got to see Trafalgar, Tower Bridge, the Thames, and St. Paul’s Cathedral while still in a jetlag fog. Then back to rest so we could have a full day of museums and sites the following day… coming up: death tourism in London, Tower of London, Victoria and Albert, Natural History Museum, British Museum (redux), and Museum of London: Docklands!

Side note: my friend Casey made all the arrangements for this trip through her business She’s All Booked, and I can’t recommend her enough!!

Highlands and History Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

After the great vacation injury of 2016, I was convinced we had to return to the Highlands of Scotland to finish the Great Glen Way.  We had some great adventures in Edinburgh at various museums and cemeteries, and then it was time to get on the train to the north.

IMG_20170515_132244868_HDR-01.jpgWe started the Great Glen Way in Fort Augustus this time, about halfway through the walk. Last year, the section between Fort Augustus and Invermoriston was our favorite, so I was happy to start the trail with some of the best views in the Highlands. Fort Augustus is home to the mouth of Loch Ness, a fascinating set of locks in the Caledonian Canal, and some great pub food. Up, up, up from Fort Augustus, we set out for Invermoriston, my favorite town in the Highlands. Views of Loch Ness and the surrounding hills were just as lovely this time.

IMG_20170515_165611314_HDR-01.jpg

Avoiding Injury

Into Invermoriston, Charles managed to avoid injury and I was a nervous wreck our whole time exploring the trails and paths around town. We made it down to the shores of Loch Ness after seeing it from up high all day. A wonderful dinner at the Glenmoriston Arms closed out our first day back on the trail.

IMG_20170516_123922534_HDR-01.jpgThe following day we started a new (to us) section of the trail and headed towards Drumandrochit. What a day of hiking. We did some of the steepest sections of the trail, reached the highest point of the GGW, traveled through dense forest, trekked across a bleak moor, and finally made it into town. I believe my fitbit counted around 16 miles in this day and the most steps I’ve ever done in a single day (over 40,000). It was worth it! In Drum, we ate more great food, walked along some nice bluebell paths down to the river, and enjoyed the Fiddler’s Restaurant .

received_10155744611693465-01.jpg

Attempting a trip through the stones

Our GGW booking with Macs Adventure included a transfer for the last section of the trail, which is over 20 miles. We were taken to the top of the hills between Drum and Inverness, and we walked down the hills towards town. What a relief! The people going towards Inverness spent their day walking uphill while we went down the hill happily past them. After the previous grueling day, this hardly felt like cheating.

Our last day on the trail saw us back in the cab to head back down the hill towards Inverness. This was another easy day of walking mainly downhill towards the capital of the Highlands. We passed an old asylum being turned into apartments, a set of standing stones, and the last of the River Ness before it empties into the sea. We wandered Inverness, checked into our lovely hotel along the river, and rested up so we could be ready for an early flight back to Ireland the next morning.

We did it! We finished the Great Glen Way! It only took us 2 years. Next up: West Highland Way, England’s Lake District, Japan’s Kumano Kodo,  Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Speyside Whiskey Trail… and plenty to do in the US as well.

 

 

Egypt in Edinburgh

I was so, so, so excited to visit Edinburgh while the new The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial exhibit was on. Egypt, mummies, museum, and death customs; what’s not to love?

IMG_20170513_141345816.jpgAt the time of writing this, the exhibit has closed, but luckily the National Museums of Scotland have an excellent web presence, with information, interactive, videos, and even games and learning materials.

The exhibit is described on their website as such:

The Tomb was constructed in the great city of Thebes shortly after the reign of Tutankhamun for the Chief of Police and his wife. It was looted and reused several times, leaving behind a collection of beautiful objects from various eras. These are displayed alongside objects found in nearby tombs, giving a sense of how burial in ancient Egypt changed over time.

The Tomb’s final use occurred shortly after the Roman conquest of Egypt, when it was sealed intact with the remarkable burials of an entire family. The exhibition comes ahead of the new Ancient Egypt gallery, opening at the National Museum of Scotland in 2018/19.

Interactives in use!

When I visited in May 2017, the gallery was a bit crowded, especially with children.  This limited my ability to try out the interactive elements of the exhibits (get off my lawn – adults like play, too), but it was nice to see kids excited about history.

Like Jameson Distillery, the exhibit used multi-sensory engagement and technologies so visitors can learn more and connect with the past.

IMG_20170513_141506789.jpg

Touch, see, and smell table

I also really liked the exhibit text and content, which isn’t praise I give out lightly. I’m generally easily bored or uninterested in text, but the detail and translation of ancient funerary texts was fascinating! They also include a youtube video explaining the text on their website:

Next time I visit the museum, hopefully the new Egypt gallery will be open.  I can’t wait!

Auld Reekie: Murder, Cemeteries, & Plague… again.

IMG_20170512_163426_918

View of the Royal Mile from our AirBnB Flat

The death theme continued once we got to Scotland, which was perfect for kicking off my new research agenda.

We arrived in Auld Reekie, known as Edinburgh in the modern age, and checked in to our 17th Century AirBnB rental off the Royal Mile. Once we got settled in, I read in the guestbook about the history of this close and the courtyard behind our flat.

Tweedale Court, it turns out, is the site of one of the most notorious and infamous murders in Edinburgh’s history (and there have been a LOT of murders there). The close was home to the British Linen bank, and according the the stories, “on the evening of 13th November a girl went out to a well to get the evening’s water. On her way stumbled across something lying in the entrance to the court. It was the body of bank messenger William Begbie, lying in a pool of blood and with a knife stuck in his chest. Earlier that evening he had set out to deliver a package of £4,000 in banknotes to a branch in Leith. Despite a major search for the culprit no one was ever arrested for the crime, although months later most of the money was discovered hidden in an old wall, roughly where Drummond Place is today.”

Dun dun dun! We never saw anything spooky in our time in the close, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the beautiful flat if you’re ever in Edinburgh! Just be aware of the spiral staircase to the top of the building…

IMG_20170513_144419515_HDR-01

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard

While in Edinburgh, we had to visit a few of our favorite spots: Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and the Frankenstein Pub (in an adaptive reuse church, of course!) nearby! After the last Scotland trip, while listening to the Lore podcast (seriously listen to this if you love spooky and history), we learned all kinds of folklore about the Greyfriar’s cemetery, so we had to revisit it. I love a good cemetery, and Greyfriar’s is one of the best. Supposedly, it’s one of the most haunted in the world, with “Body snatchers, violent ghosts, a loyal dog, and Harry Potter characters.” Don’t forget all the plague bodies, too.

 

IMG_20170513_145541566

In front of the Mackenzie Mausoleum

One of the best stories about Greyfriar’s was told in the Lore podcast mentioned above. According to the tales, the Mackenzie tomb is the most haunted. The “Bluidy Mackenzie,” a real jerk while alive, is supposedly still seen wandering near his mausoleum, knocking people over, making them faint, and generally wreaking havoc. Things get really gruesome in 1998, when (supposedly, apocryphally, i.e.: I can’t find many sources on this) a homeless man broke into the mausoleum seeking shelter from the elements. As he sheltered from the storm, the floor beneath him gave way, dumping him into a plague pit below of the mausoleum. Regardless of the truth of this tale, we still had to see the famous tomb. It was gorgeous, and we did not suffer any ill effects.

Oh and the beautiful, sloping landscape in the cemetery? It’s not a natural slope. It’s the thousands of bodies (possibly up to half a million) underfoot, buried on top of each other than create the terrain.

Later in the day, we ventured to see some corpses that were even older – Egyptian mummies at the National Museum….

 

Ireland 3.0

IMG_20170511_010528_197

In the hills south of Dublin

Our third visit to Ireland… the first whirlwind wasn’t enough, and apparently neither was the second. If you’re going to do something, do it thoroughly. This whole 2017 adventure abroad to Ireland and Scotland was basically Honeymoon Part II: Electric Boogaloo, thanks to the infamous hiking injury; we set out to complete the Great Glen Way, and we couldn’t pass up a stop in Ireland along the way.

IMG_20170511_010528_213

Hiking to Fairy Castle on Three Rock Hill with Dublin and Howth behind us

After exploring Jameson and the Museum of Modern Art, we set out south of Dublin for a beautiful hike to Three Rock Hill and the Fairy Castle. Our good friends at Extreme Ireland hooked us up with a moonlit full-moon walk up the hills, and it was fantastic! The hill walk was just a short ride away on the Luas (public transportation tram), and we will definitely return for another walk there on our next trip.

IMG_20170511_181638_390

Trinity College Courtyard

In Dublin, we still had a few places we hadn’t been yet and a couple places we wanted to revisit. At the top of the list was Trinity College and the Book of Kells. On our previous visits to Ireland, the college was on a winter break, so this was our first opportunity to tour the campus and see the most beautiful library. Our tour of the college was a lot of fun, even if our guide was an American studying abroad. I was especially interested to learn that professors at the college are provided (unheated) lodging in a historic building. We also heard a colorful tale of a shoot out between a professor and his surly students at this historic building.

Image result for book of kells illustration

A page from the Book of Kells

We were finally ushered into the library, beautiful in its own right, to see the famous Book of Kells. According to the library website, “The Book of Kells (Trinity College Dublin MS 58) contains the four Gospels in Latin based on the Vulgate text which St Jerome completed in 384AD.” It was probably created in a monastery in Iona off the coast of Western Scotland. While it is an important historical text, the Book of Kells is most famous for its beautiful illuminations. It is described as such: “the impact of its lavish decoration, the extent and artistry of which is incomparable. Abstract decoration and images of plant, animal and human ornament punctuate the text with the aim of glorifying Jesus’ life and message, and keeping his attributes and symbols constantly in the eye of the reader.” If you can’t make it to Dublin, you can view the Book of Kells online at this link.

IMG_20170511_153705_873

The Book of Kells was impressive, but the real star at the Library at Trinity College is the Long Room. The architecture and gravitas of the space are breathtaking. In the long room antique books are displayed alongside the busts of famous men related to the college, and an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic which was read outside the General Post Office by Patrick Pearse at the start of the Easter Rising.

All in all, a successful day in Dublin! Next, we were off to Scotland again to finish the Great Glen Way (spoiler: we did it!).

Multi-Sensory Exhibit Design: Jameson Does It Up Right

In May I visited Ireland (again..they can’t keep me away…). On one of our first days in Dublin, my husband and I decided to visit the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.

We started our visit with a trip to the bar housed in the historic building to try a signature drink while we waited on our tour to start. As we took in our surroundings, we noticed the floors were open to show the historic structure and storage areas below the floor. As a fan of all things old, I really appreciated this touch! 

Soon our tour began, and we were taken with our group to a small exhibit of the history of the building and the story of the Jameson family, their endeavors in whiskey production, and the history of the brand. Though this is definitely a corporate tour, the information was still very interesting and the exhibit design is top notch.

Next we visited a room that incorporated primary sources, technology, historic artifacts, and second person interpretation from our guide. The technology used was very similar to what we saw at the Tenement Museum in March, and though we did not each have our own station to choose the artifacts we wanted to learn about, it was still interactive and informative.

From there we entered my favorite part of the tour; a multi sensory journey through the production of whiskey. Now, I am not generally a fan of whiskey, but this aspect of our experience was by far the coolest. In groups of 6, visitors surrounded a table that engaged all of our senses. The guide told us what to do taste or smell and when, and the flow of the interpretation, technology, and engagement was perfect. As you can see in this image, we had the opportunity to smell different types of aging casks (sherry, wine, etc), taste and feel malted grains, watch the process on the screens at the front of the room, and hear our guide talk us through the process.

The last part of the tour was teachable tasting. We compared various whiskeys to the Jameson brand and our guide helped us understand the composition of the whiskeys and the complex tastes. We exited through the gift shop, and got our daily grog!

If you find yourself in Dublin, I recommend a trip to the Jameson Distillery for a specific history of their brand, or the Irish Whiskey Museum for a more comprehensive look at whiskey and its history over time in the Emerald Isle.