|On Friday, the heavy rain and wind continued. My 6-year-old raincoat was soaking wet in minutes, despite my Scotchguarding efforts last week. We headed for a store, where I found a jacket on sale for 30 Euro, or about $38. It's been well worth it.
We rode the train into Dublin from Dun Laoghaire. Our first stop was Trinity College, which is home to the Book of Kells. This copy of the four Gospels, prepared by monks in the Dark Ages, is beautifully illustrated and written. We waited in a long line to get a short look at a few pages, but they were impressive. A fourth-year theater student led the tour of the college, keeping the boys entertained.
We found a bagel shop for a light lunch, then headed to the National Museum of Archaeology. It features treasures from Stone Age to modern times. Its superstar is the gold enamel and amber Tara Brooch, a circular pin meant to hold cloaks closed.
We walked down the shopping district of Grafton Street. It was a little too touristy, with several Starbucks and too many Americans to feel like Ireland.
We took a quick peek at Dublin Castle, but opted not to do a tour. There were plenty of better ones ahead in this trip.
Our nose for beer led us to one of the few craft brewpubs around: Porterhouse. It didn't disappoint. The deal with pubs in Ireland is that there's usually very limited selections: usually Guinness, Smithwicks, Budweiser, Carlsberg and Heineken. There's often Bulmer's hard apple cider as well. Not much selection for hop heads like us. Ireland is slowly hopping on the craft beer bandwagon, but you have to hunt them down.
After dinner at the brewpub, we walked along the river Ha'penny Bridge across River Liffey, then took the train home. We were in bed by 9.
On Saturday morning, after a full night's rest, we headed down to the Dun Laoghaire ferry terminal to pick up our rental car. Little did we know we were meeting a single agent parked in front of the terminal. None of the buildings were open, so we were starting to worry. Twenty minutes later, we found a woman sitting in a Ford Focus with an attached rental company sticker, and that was our car. She said she was about to leave because we stood her up.
Driving has been our biggest challenge so far. Not only do you drive on the left with the driver's seat on the right, Scott is shifting with his left hand. (The upgrade to an automatic was a huge price increase). The roads are extremely narrow with no shoulders (why Scott insisted on such a small car!). In fact, the brush on each side of the road is usually so high it often blocks the view of the countryside. This is why I don't have any photos yet of grazing sheep. While I see them often, I haven't found a turnout to stop and take a photo.
From our Dublin suburb, we headed south through the beautiful Wicklow Mountains. Our first stop was The Gardens of Powerscourt in Enniskerry. Created during the Victorian Era, it is considered "the grand finale of Europe's formal gardening tradition," according to our "Rick Steves' Ireland" guidebook. The only problem? It was pouring rain! It finally let up long enough for our picnic lunch.
Next was the Glendalough monastic ruins. Founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century, it flourished as a monastery until the English destroyed it in 1398. The round tower is the highlight, being the tallest of its kind in Ireland, at 110 feet tall. The graveyard is filled with beautiful Celtic crosses, which you can distinguish from traditional crosses by their circle around the center. The circles symbolize the sun, in an effort to convert Pagans.
Our destination was Kilkenny, which I will discuss in our next post.