The sun was shining when we boarded the bus to tour Dublin and Powerscourt Estate - something we do not take for granted in Ireland. Dublin, which is the capital, feels like a small town with some big city architecture. But if I looked at a photo of a building from Dublin, it would look as if it could have just as easily come from London. I wouldn’t say this out loud, since the Irish have strong feelings about their domination by the British, but since they didn’t gain their independence until 1921, probably many of the buildings we admired today were designed and built by the British.
I have a hard time getting a handle on Irish history. There were a bunch of clans running around clubbing one another and yet the Irish monasteries were the bastions of learning, as the monks copied and saved the learned writings of the day. Everything here is just so darned old.
The first building at Powerscourt Estate was a castle erected in the 1100’s and the castles and buildings that were knocked down and replaced one another were larger and grander than the ones they replaced. The setting was magnificent with the Wicklow Hills behind it. The man whom today’s estate was named after got grandiose ideas about what his gardens should look like after touring Versailles in Paris and Schonbrun in Vienna. He hired 150 local yokels to turn his hillside into terraces and they labored for fourteen years to do so. He suffered from gout and drank a bottle of port a day to ease his pain. He had a servant wheel him around the grounds in a wheelbarrow supervising the terrace construction and when he would pass out, the work day was over.
After the Industrial Revolution began, the servants who were necessary to maintain such great homes, all left to earn salaries in factories and Powerscourt fell into disrepair. The Slaezenger family, rich and famous because of their tennis racquets, bought the house and were almost done restoring it above and beyond its former grandeur, when an electrical fire pretty much gutted the whole place. It sat empty for twenty years until its current corporate owners put a roof on and repaired the walls, but the reason tourists come here today is to see the gardens and grounds, not the interior. The green houses behind the main building supply many of the flowers and shrubs that make this manicured garden a masterpiece. Statues and fountains add to the ambience. It’s all very beautiful, but felt a bit confining and controlled. I guess I like my vegetation a bit less planned out and more natural.
We had a short day in Dublin and had to sail out at 2pm. Although the harbor appeared spacious, we apparently needed all the high tide we could get to make it back out. The differential is only nine feet, but it definitely determined out schedule. We’re glad that we will return here again in about two weeks to see more.