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Dead zoo

Started: 2019-09-10 19:39:37

Submitted: 2019-09-10 22:51:26

Visibility: World-readable

21st August 2019: In which the intrepid narrator visits a Victorian natural history museum, takes an amphibious boat tour, and spends a great deal of time observing a playground

One of Kiesa's conditions for our trip to Dublin for Worldcon was to trade days with our kids. So on Wednesday, 21st August she slept in while I marshaled the kids out of bed, fed them breakfast, and herded them out of the apartment.

We crossed the river Liffey to catch a bus that took us back across the river to the Irish National Museum of Natural History. This turned out to be a compact museum packed with display cases showing taxidermied animals -- the sorts of imperial big game hunting one would expect to see in any natural history museum -- presented in its original context in the Victorian building built in 1856. (One of my guidebooks called it the "dead zoo".)

Julian walks through the International Animals Collection at the Irish National Museum of Natural History
Julian walks through the International Animals Collection at the Irish National Museum of Natural History

We started upstairs in the International Animals Collection, featuring African big game: gorilla, rhinoceros, zebra, giraffe; and also a couple of American bison, a mountain lion, and numerous other land animals, all mounted under a giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.

Calvin and Julian look at a display case filled with primate skulls and brains
Calvin and Julian look at a display case filled with primate skulls and brains

One display case contained primate skulls and brains; but I couldn't get a very good look at most of the museum because Julian was hurrying through the exhibits, probably not entirely sure what to make of the vast collection of taxidermied animals.

Julian is not sure what to make of the primate skulls in the display case
Julian is not sure what to make of the primate skulls in the display case

The ground floor of the museum held animals from around the island of Ireland. These animals were smaller than the big game upstairs, and were generally displayed in more-lifelike dioramas.

Julian looks at a seagull diaorama
Julian looks at a seagull diaorama

I had somewhat more luck getting Julian to look around the exhibits on the ground floor; but the museum had the misfortune (for me) of placing its gift shop at the main entrance on the ground floor, laid out next to the display cases, snagging my children before they could go further. My children refused to abandon the gift shop until I indulged them with small trinkets in exchange for a promise to look around the museum more once I bought the trinkets (never mind that the museum didn't actually have in its collection or on display any dinosaurs corresponding to the dinosaur trinkets in the gift shop).

Julian looks at seagull chicks in a diaorama
Julian looks at seagull chicks in a diaorama

When Julian grew tired of the museum we went down the street, along an endless row of perfect Georgian townhomes, and Julian ran ahead on the sidewalk, making me run to catch up with him and then go back to the coffee shop we passed, where we ate a lunchtime snack.

Julian and Calvin at coffee in Dublin
Julian and Calvin at coffee in Dublin

We walked down the street to St Stephen's Green and found the playground in the middle of the park. (It occurred to me that a good strategy for finding the playground, through the maze of paths leading in arbitrary directions that may or may not lead to my destination, was to follow the woman pushing a stroller with two small children. She was, it turned out, heading to the playground.) We only had a short time, though, before our next scheduled event: a Viking Splash Tour, which I thought Calvin in particular ought to find amusing.

Calvin ready for a Viking Splash Tour
Calvin ready for a Viking Splash Tour

Dublin's Viking Splash Tours use the same amphibious landing craft as the Duck Boat tours I've seen in various American cities, adding a nod to Dublin's Viking history by giving passengers Viking hats, dressing their tour guides up in vaguely-Viking clothing, and naming all of their vehicles after Norse mythology. Julian was not interested in wearing his (not historically accurate) hat; Calvin and I wore ours.

Jaeger, Calvin, and Julian on a Viking Splash Tour
Jaeger, Calvin, and Julian on a Viking Splash Tour

The tour departed from St. Stephen's Green and wound its way through Dublin, pointing out landmarks and their history, ranging from the Viking settlements that became Dublin to the General Post Office and other important sites in Irish independence. At various points during the tour the guide encouraged us to roar (like Vikings, presumably) at historical landmarks and the people around them.

Crossing the River Liffey inside a Viking Splash Tour
Crossing the River Liffey inside a Viking Splash Tour

The tour wound its way through the rows of Georgian townhomes near St. Stephen's Green, spared from World War II by Ireland's neutrality. We saw so many things go by so quickly that I couldn't remember it all (or get a decent picture as we sped by).

Viking Splash Tours boat Loki on the Grand Canal Dock
Viking Splash Tours boat Loki on the Grand Canal Dock

We turned onto a boat ramp on the Grand Canal Dock where we were issued life jackets while the tour vehicle was equipped with extra flotation. We drove into the water and cruised across the dock, past paddleboarders on the water under gray skies threatening rain -- built for sailing ships, now being redeveloped with waterfront condos, a theater, and offices (including, our guide pointed out, Google's new 11-story building rising like a monolith at the edge of the dock).

Construction on the Grand Canal Dock
Construction on the Grand Canal Dock

Calvin, basically, thought the entire tour was pretty much the best thing ever.

Calvin on the Grand Canal Docks
Calvin on the Grand Canal Docks

Julian was somewhat less enthralled by the whole thing but did at least seem to appreciate it.

Inside a Viking Splash Tour boat on the Grand Canal Dock
Inside a Viking Splash Tour boat on the Grand Canal Dock

We cruised back to the boat ramp and the amphibious vehicle returned to the land to take us back to St. Stephen's Green, our tour complete.

By this point the gray skies had come through with their threat of rain, but my children wanted to go back to the playground, so I tried to find a less-rainy place to stand under the hedges on the side of the nearly-empty playground while my children played. (It was, I noticed, easier to get pictures of the playground without including other children when the playground was nearly empty because of the rain.)

Calvin in a nearly-empty playground in St. Stephen's Green in the rain
Calvin in a nearly-empty playground in St. Stephen's Green in the rain

My children were far more interested in playing in the playground -- even in the rain -- than in doing anything else, so we spent a good chunk of the remainder of the afternoon there. We eventually left the playground for a bathroom break, then dropped by the nearby Insomnia Coffee Company for a late-afternoon snack.

We met Kiesa for supper but discovered (to our dismay) that the pub we visited was stocked out of quinoa burgers (the only vegetarian thing on the menu most of us wanted to eat), so we ended up at Cornucopia again before heading back to the apartment, having managed to see a bit more of Dublin with my children.

Rain on Hanbury Lane, Dublin
Rain on Hanbury Lane, Dublin
like a lot of geeks, I can run risky meatspace things
through my head until a faulty value comes out that
suggests there's no need to actually do them.
- Caleb John Clark, "Linux and the Lady", Salon.com 27 September 2000