Breakfast - the most important meal of the day. Right?
Apparently. I’ve already written about the treats that were served to us in Amsterdam. The delicate, flaky croissants. The fluffy scrambled eggs. The fresh fruit.
But now I’m in Ireland. And if you’ve ever had a full Irish breakfast, you know it’s not that. Breakfast is hearty, built to provide a solid base for a hard day in the fields or working on the docks.
Irish bacon - taken from pork loin. Lean, full of flavor. A couple of fried eggs with luscious runny yolks. Sausages fully seasoned with sage, garlic, thyme. Two types of pork pudding - black and white, making sure that no part of the pig goes to waste. And my favorite - Irish soda bread. A dense brown bread - not a gram of yeast in sight - using baking soda as the rising agent.
Wash it all down with gallons of tea or coffee and you’re set for the day. Or, perhaps you fall into a food coma.
There’s no time for food comas, there are sites to see! Grainne and I get through as much of the breakfast as we can and then we set off for the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) station to catch the train to Dublin. We want to spend the day visiting one of our favorite places - the Chester Beatty Library. Chester Beatty spent his life collecting antiquities - especially religious texts.
Inside of the library - which is conveniently situated next to Dublin Castle - you’ll find some of the oldest Biblical fragments outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pieces of papyrus containing the words of the Apostle Paul and the Book of Revelation. There are also ancient Islamic and Buddhist texts - all presented in a reverent manner.
It’s an extraordinary exhibit. And it’s free - which is even more amazing. There’s not much of a crowd, so we spend a couple of good hours reading about the various texts and examining elaborately illustrated pages. The Chester Beatty Library is not to be missed if you’re visiting the Irish capital.
Outside the library is a lovely park, filled with Dubliners enjoying a sunny lunchtime. They munch on their sandwiches, sitting on benches around a green lawn. Flowers surround the park. Bees are working hard transferring little grains of pollen from one plant to another. Children run on the lawn chasing balls. It’s an idyllic scene.
We head out - and beyond belief - we’re actually hungry again. We’re clearly in the mood for experiencing some of our favorite places because we’ve decided to lunch at the legendary Bewley’s Cafe.
It’s one of the first places I had ever visited in Dublin some 35 years ago. Grainne’s mother took me, eager to share a tradition that’s been in place since 1840. Everybody who was anybody went to Bewley’s.
Indoor dining has been open only since Monday in Ireland, so restaurants are still figuring things out. They are short on staff. They are logging guests before seating them for contact tracing. We present our proof of COVID vaccinations and our picture IDs. It’s hardly a smooth process, but hats off to Bewley’s staff for being patient and pleasant.
Once seated, everything is as smooth as can be. Grainne orders sausage rolls. I go for the ham and cheese baguette. Both of us order a pot of Bewley’s famous tea, which comes with a piece of paper attached noting when the boiling water had been poured over the loose leaf tea. The recommendation is to let the tea steep for 3-5 minutes.
If you’re going to do it, do it right.
We finish our meal with a couple of treats. Grainne has a scone the size of a softball (she only manages half of it). Topping it with butter, jam and clotted cream. I go for one of Bewley’s famous sticky buns, the taste of which is similar to a really good hot cross bun.
It’s all wonderful and fills our desire for enveloping ourselves in tradition.
With that, we pay the bill and head back to our hotel in Booterstown.
After a short rest, Grainne’s brother Donal and sister-in-law Siobhan collect us from our hotel and drive us over to Dún Laoghaire, where we pick up fish and chips. We dine in splendor, sitting on a bench overlooking the sea. The unpredictable Irish weather holds, making for a lovely cool summer’s evening. We eye Dún Laoghaire’s long pier, jutting out into the sea. Scores of locals are walking along the sea wall. Once we finish our cod and chips, we join them, setting off for the mile and a half walk to burn a few calories and to justify an ice cream at Teddy’s.
Teddy’s has been a family favorite for more than 50 years, specializing in soft-serve ice cream with a Cadbury’s flake - a solid rectangular piece of flaky (of course) chocolate - inserted into it. It’s a British and Irish tradition. And a dang tasty one at that.
The four of us make quick work of the ice cream and chocolate. Even Donal, who claims not to like ice cream one little bit.
As night closes in, Donal and Siobhan drop us at our hotel where we watch a few highlights from the Olympics and round off day two in Ireland.