Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bachelor's Walk

Our last two nights in Dublin were spent at a rented apartment above Bachelor's Walk, on the north side of the Liffey just east of the Ha'Penny Bridge. The view of the river was great, but that meant the noise of the late night drinking crowds in Temple Bar, right across the river, was also pretty loud. It was an easy walk to just about everywhere.

We had dinner the first night at the Chameleon - multiple small plates of Irish-origin food served in an Indonesian restaurant by a Brazilian waiter (in case you had any misconceptions about the cosmopolitan nature of this city). It was great. The last night we ate at Terra Madre, in the basement of a building just down from where we were staying. Also very good. It probably would have been even better, and much more expensive, if we were more into wine.

On  our last full day we had gone to the Book of Kells and taken a tour of Trinity College. We also took the hop on - hop off bus - and hopped on and off until we found a narrator we liked. It was a good final review of Dublin - places we'd already seen and places we hadn't.

Dublin bus drivers were on strike the day we had to get to the airport, but fortunately we knew in advance, so we had long since booked a cab. Which worked out great. We spent a few hours in Toronto, picked up our car at Mark and Alison's in Vancouver, and were home by 10 (Seattle time).

I then spent almost five weeks posting stuff to the blogs.

Trinity College

Our last day in Ireland was back in Dublin. The lines had been too long for the Book of Kells when we were in Dublin earlier, but this time we booked our tickets online, which let us skip the queue. The Book of Kells was interesting, although I thought much of it would be better absorbed from an illustrated guide rather than a museum style exhibit. But the galleries are like the preamble to a Disney ride, it sort of stretches out the experience, since the actual viewing of the book is limited to a couple of pages and only takes a couple of minutes.

Not to diminish either the historical significance or the amazing art of these illustrated gospels, but we actually preferred the visit to the Long Room in the old Trinity College Library which comes with the Book of Kells admission. This would have been an amazing space, even if it hadn't been lined with books and busts of old dead white guys (but for the most part, fairly smart, pretty important, old dead white guys).

The old wood harp is featured on Ireland's Coat of Arms. They only get to show the back side, apparently a local brewer named Arthur Guinness got first dibs on trademarking the primary side. Or something like that.


It was probably less than an hour on the motorway from Powerscourt to the Dooley Rental Car office at the Dublin Airport, but we decided to go out to Howth before returning the car.
Howth is on a peninsula on the north side of Dublin Bay. To get there, you have to navigate a lot of suburban Dublin, but Howth itself still maintains some sense of being a small fishing town. We walked back along the quay, watching fishing boats and seals, and had a good seafood lunch at Octopussy.

We  looped around the peninsula, looking for views back toward Dublin (not a city with a spectacular skyline), then I let M and Siri navigate us back to DUB, where we returned the car and caught a bus into the city.

We put over 1700 miles on our Dacia Duster. No bruises, no dents (not to which we'd admit), no flat tires (but one slow leak). We only drove on the right side of the road a couple of times, which we corrected quickly, but it seemed like most of the roads we drove on were too narrow to have either a right side or a left side. But after two weeks of gritting our teeth and grabbing the strap, it was nice to be back on public transit.


The Powerscourt Gardens, along with Glendalough, are both on the one-day bus tour circuit out of Dublin, so I was a little concerned we would find Powerscourt packed with coaches and middle-aged couples with name tags (just like us, but we didn't have name tags). But it was fine.

I suppose mid-September isn't necessarily the best time for gardens, but it was really neat to wander around the grounds and see the variety of landscapes that had been created. Many of the plants were things we are pretty familiar with here in the Pacific Northwest. The Powerscourt House itself is a small tourist mall, emphasizing home accessories and interior decorating, catering to all the visitors who dream of living in their own castles.


When we left Cashel in the morning, we didn't know how far we'd get, let alone where we were going to stay. We came down out of the Wicklow Mountains very late in the afternoon and pulled over to start looking at options (we used our phones the entire trip with cellular turned off, but with a portable WiFi hotspot that kept us connected to the web).

I hadn't originally thought we had much chance of getting out to the coast, but when I realized that Bray was only 20 minutes farther down the road, the beach began calling me. The clouds were also looking like they might break for a minute or two before sunset, which seemed like it would be a nice change after two days of bleak inland skies and grey stone medieval architecture. I doubt M shared either the impulse or the concern, but together we found a hotel on the beach in Bray that looked like it might be okay.

While M went to ask about rooms at the Martello, I ran across the street to catch a brief moment of sun and beach, then we had dinner downstairs in front of the hotel. The room itself was too warm and muggy for our tastes and was above a noisy alley, so it wasn't a great night's sleep. Maybe it was a reminder of how good our luck had been with accommodations everywhere else on the trip.

I walked the beach in the morning and even thought about hiking up to the top of Bray Head (but didn't). Then I think we ended up grabbing coffee and a snack of some sort for breakfast at a cafe on the promenade.

Wicklow Mountains

The Wicklows rise south of Dublin - we could see them from the Guinness Storehouse two weeks earlier. They are not spectacular mountains, even by Irish standards. The modest range of ancient hills forms a high plateau surrounded by glacial valleys that I can easily imagine were once heavily forested (the mountains themselves were also once heavily forested). Glendalough is probably the best known of these valleys (previous post). But we also drove up the nearby Glenmacnass Valley and its waterfall, where tannin-colored water cascaded down several hundred feet of rock (granite, I think).

The high country (2000-3000') forms a landscape that could almost be mistaken for alpine areas in the Rockies or northern tundra - since the blanket bog is really not that different. There were plenty of sheep, of course. We did a loop up Glenmacnass and through Sally Gap, before heading back down another valley to Enniskerry and Bray, on the coast.


Back in the 6th century, a monk named Kevin built a small monastery in this scenic little valley in the Wicklow Mountains (for this and other reasons, he became a Saint). As with all of these monastic communities, much of it has been rebuilt or modified over the centuries. And as with all of them, or at least the ones we've seen, the older buildings sort of become more permanent monuments in haphazard graveyards. People are buried just about everywhere.


Kilkenny is another of those southern Ireland towns that ends up in all the tour books. It's got an old and bustling downtown and it's got a big castle. It would have been a good place to spend a day or two, but our visit was limited to a few hours in the middle of the day, half way between Cashel and the Wicklow Mountains.

Kilkenny Castle has very old Norman roots - which can still be seen in the basement foundations -- but much of what tourists see is more of an 19th century manor house. From the 14th century until the 20th, the castle was the home of the Butler family (the Dukes of Ormonde).

I have to admit, I'm more intrigued by the older, medieval part of the story and the military and religious history, than I am by the more recent interior decorating schemes and the genealogy of rich people distantly related to Anne Boleyn. Maybe if we'd watched more Downton Abbey?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Rock of Cashel

An old castle - or a fortress, or a church - built on a rocky hill that rises above town and overlooks a wide expanse of rolling green countryside. The dark gray stone went well with the light gray weather. The school girls in their purple uniforms offered about the only color there was.

There have been buildings of some sort on this site for millennia - and it was an important seat of power for much of that. The current buildings are much newer - the oldest part is the round tower which reportedly goes back to 1100AD or so and the central Cathedral dates to the 1200s. The scaffolding is much newer, although it seemed like some of the locals thought it had already been there far too long. It does detract from the overall setting.

Killarney National Park

We had left two somewhat unscripted days to get from Kerry back to Dublin. We knew a few spots we wanted to visit, but we didn't know where we were going to stay. And we hadn't scripted the weather, which was gray and wet and blustery, pretty much the whole way.

We didn't spend much time in Killarney National Park - enough to drive up through the hills and down past the lakes and to stop for a few pictures. We didn't do any of the normal tourist stuff, like visit castles or take horse and buggy rides, in Killarney itself. Mainly, we plotted the most direct course to Cashel, which involved the motorway by way of Cork. Not that we could see Cork through the rain.

This sign pretty much summed up our driving experience in Ireland!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


This entry is out of chronological order, but makes a little more sense geographically - not that that would mean much without a map. We had dinner here on Friday evening and that's when the pictures were taken. But then we passed through again on Sunday morning as we began our fairly quick two-day trip back towards Dublin.

We checked out the Waterville Craft Market, then had dinner at An Corcan. Of course, I took a lot of pictures of the beach (it was a really pretty beach in the late afternoon light and it had a whole bunch of cool geologic features, too). On Sunday, it was very gray, so I was glad we'd visited earlier.

Apparently, Charlie Chaplin adopted this place late in his life and is now featured in a statue and an annual comedy film festival.