Thursday, September 04, 2014

Ireland, or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation, part 1"

I'm back from travels to the UK and Ireland, pleased with myself once again for keeping a travel journal (Moleskine with Rhodia paper, written with a fountain pen, of course.) This journal entry will be about the first part of the trip before Loncon3, the World Science Fiction Convention. I'll write about Worldcon as a separate entry.

Two things I've learned from travel over the years is to stay awake until normal bedtime hours, as much as possible, and the more I walk, the more I can eat without worrying about fitting into my clothes at the end. When we arrived in Dublin I went for a long walk around our hotel, orienting myself to the area. I was immediately struck by one of the hallmarks of Dublin, the colorful doors on the Georgian-era flats. One tour leader later said there were two theories about this: One was that when King George died in the 18th c., all the English painted their doors black in mourning and the Irish were told to to the same. Not surprisingly, the Irish didn't take this order well and responded by picking every color imaginable.

The other theory is that everyone made sure her/his door did not match the neighbor's door, so that someone rolling home under the influence wouldn't try to enter the wrong flat.

Whichever theory is correct, the doors are a delightful touch. The neighborhood where we stayed near St. Stephen's Green is full of Georgian architecture, most of it well maintained, some of it obviously at the high end of the real estate market.  I treated myself to my first (but not my last) tea and scones with clotted cream afternoon, then headed back to the hotel.

Next day was on/off bus touring, my favorite way to get the highlights of a city I'm visiting. I've never done it in the States, but I may consider it on my next trip to one of our large locales just for a change of pace. I made note of places to return to, like the Writers Museum, and we stopped for lunch in Temple Bar, the entertainment district. The previous evening's pub dinner had 60s rock, which was fun, but not what I came to Ireland to hear. This time the musician was playing more traditional Irish melodies, probably because Temple Bar caters so heavily to tourists.


We promised each other no driving in Ireland--I still have nightmares of the Scottish attempt--so we took a coach tour out to the country the next day. Collins Day Tours was recommended by our concierge and TripAdvisor, and it lived up the billing. Great tour guide with a snappy patter, and the sights were magnificent. We went to Wicklow, Glendalough and Kilkenny. My only regret was we didn't have enough time in Kilkenny to tour the castle grounds and the city. Also, there was some kind of festival going on and the streets were packed with tourists local and international. I especially enjoyed the nature walk through Glendalough (above), the Valley of the Two Lakes and the stop at Wicklow Gap, site of many movie scenes. I regretted we wouldn't get to see more of the country, but if you only have one day out of Dublin to tour, this was a good choice. 

The next day was sunny(!) so we went to some area parks to admire the lovely flowers in all their glory, then went to the National Gallery to view their fine collection of art. My husband was feeling tired and left after lunch, but I decided to explore more of Dublin. I ended up walking back a few miles to our hotel, but my route took me past the National Library of Ireland. I could easily have spent another afternoon there, but had to pass. I did manage to get a selfie in to add to my "Darlene Marshall in front of Libraries" collection.

I also got to do some sightseeing on my own, since my hubby arranged a golf date with some Irish buddies from the insurance industry. He'd really looked forward to this, and the weather more or less cooperated. I visited the Irish Writers Museum, mailed some postcards, and shopped for woolens at a wonderful store called Avoca. Since this was our last evening in Dublin, we wanted to finish with some traditional Irish music in a pub. On a Tuesday night, the pickings were pretty slim, but we had a great time at Oliver St. John Gogarty's Pub in Temple Bar. I even knew who he was since I'd been to the Writers Museum.

Our trip to Ireland was highlighted by friendly people, good food and good times. I'd love to go back some day and spend more time seeing the countryside and getting to know the land better. I will say this for Ireland--it lives up to its billing as offering you every shade of green you can imagine out in the countryside. It's truly a beautiful spot.

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