Day 23, Wednesday, 3 October 12
This had been such a big trip! We went a lot of places, shopped a lot (I did almost all of my Christmas shopping on this trip) and on the morning of our last full day, we had to get everything organized. That is, we got started packing and hoped like crazy our bags would stay under weight. I arrived with two suitcases, remember, but Margaret left with an extra one provided by Gerry. (He and I both have extra pieces on both sides of the Atlantic, accumulated since he comes back and forth a lot.) My sis had traveled back home with a Hampson bag too. 🙂
When we were as ready as we could be—we were going to spend our last night in a hotel at the airport, to facilitate turning in the rental car—I picked up Gerry and brought him back to the B&B to help us carry down our suitcases. (Help, ha. He carried them down.)
But we still had a little more sightseeing to do! One of my favorite places in Dublin is the Casino at Marino—which is right in Gerry’s neighborhood. No, no, it’s not a gambling establishment. Casino, in this case, is Italian for little house. And it’s a gem. I was very excited for Margaret to see it.
The Casino was intended as a pleasure house on the estate of James Caulfeild, the first Earl of Charlemont. Born in Dublin in 1728 to parents descended from English nobility who’d been awarded land in Ireland 150 years earlier, young Charlemont spent his youth in Dublin. And then at age eighteen he set off from Dublin on his Grand Tour; it lasted nine long years. The Grand Tour—of Europe—was what upper-class young men of means, primarily British, did for a couple hundred years, from the mid 1600s to mid 1800s. Considered a rite of passage, the tour allowed these boys to study art and culture while they mingled with polite society in the countries they visited and learned languages through immersion. Nice!
Charlemont fell in love with Italy and the classical architecture he saw there; he stayed in Rome an extra four years after his tour. Upon his return, Charlemont’s stepfather offered him a house on a large estate in suburban Dublin, which he promptly christened Marino. (The neighborhood here is still known as Marino.) In 1755 Charlemont began making plans for his casino. He ultimately hired Scottish architect William Chambers; it took about twenty years to finish. (Can you imagine?) It is considered one of the finest eighteenth-century neo-classical buildings in Europe.
Only fifty feet square—from the outer columns—the house looks small from the outside but is actually much larger than it looks. There are three floors—the basement, the entry-level floor, and a second floor—and on nice days one could hang out on the roof too. That was quite a view. The main house (long gone now) was quite a hike away, and the property stretched unimpeded all the way to the beach.
From a distance the house looks simple (and, as noted, small). But draw close and the rich decoration is apparent. The sculptural ornament—the lions, the urns on the roof, the pedestals, and so on—are works of art in their own right. The decorative carving is exquisite.
Still, you might think think there is only one room inside. It’s an illusion, cleverly constructed to fool the eye. The house actually contains sixteen rooms on those three floors, whose plan is a Greek cross (that is, a cross formed by two bars of equal length crossing in the middle at right angles). The panes of the windows are curved; this disguises the fact that one window (on the outside) serves several rooms on the inside.
There are other tricks: four of the outside columns are hollow and allow rainwater to drain down to be collected in the basement; the Roman funerary urns on the roof are actually chimneys. And the door is the ultimate surprise. It looks massive, but only two panels open at the bottom—a normal-sized pair of doors, actually. Closed, and from a distance, the door fools the eye.
The floors on the middle level are all elaborate parquet. I saw them in toto when I visited in 2003, but they’ve since been covered with carpet runnerss and are only partially visible now. There are few furnishings. Charlemont was deeply in debt at his death and much was sold and disbursed. More’s the pity.
Next we’d planned to get together with Eoin and Tracy—remember the wedding couple? They’d been doing some work on their home and I’d never seen it. A call was put through—they were expecting us—and we learned we needed to give them a few more minutes. So we drove out the Coast Road, north, toward Howth, which is always a lovely drive. But as we passed by what is now St. Anne’s Park, Gerry said, “Pull in here!” and we did.
Again, this is all in Gerry’s neighborhood. As a kid, he and his brothers rode their bikes out here. Back then the demesne—assembled by members of the Guinness family—was still a lot like an estate, even though the mansion had been gutted by fire in the ’40s. The ruins were still there, and the part of the park we visited was, basically, its backyard. It was untrimmed and wild then, and it still is today.
Back in the day, it was fashionable to create a garden to look like a wilderness. That is, the backyard was carefully styled and constructed by the gardener, who brought in interesting bushes and trees. It became an idealized natural landscape. Sometimes follies—a gazebo or pavilion or other edifice—were dotted about, as they are here on the former Guinness estate.
Gerry hadn’t been to the park since he was a kid; he said back then it was a creepy, dark, scary wonderland for the boys. He says’s it’s cleaned up now—the famous rose garden has been added in what would have been the front yard—but it was still dark in there and I could see why he’d called it creepy. It still kinda was!
We didn’t get around to the more public part of St. Anne’s Park—the park that is one of the most popular recreational facilities in Dublin. Gerry says the rose garden is magnificent. There are also thirty-five soccer fields (not that the Irish call them that!), eighteen tennis courts, a par-3 golf course, and an art center, housed in the original Victorian stables. But there’s always next time. (In fact, I’m already planning an outing to St. Anne’s with Orla—on my next trip!)
Then we went to Tracy and Eoin’s place. They have a lovely house! Had tea and biscuits (cookies) and a nice chat—they’re great fun.
Then we were off to check into the Radisson for our last night in Dublin. By this time it was pouring rain and we had a ton of luggage, which we unloaded in the rain. Oh, it was cold and wet! We shlepped it up to the room, then Gerry and I went off to return the car. There was lots of construction around the airport and the Irish aren’t always good with signage so we missed it the first time (and we had a map!). The Budget car rental shuttle takes you from their place to the airport, so we walked back to the hotel from there. I am a pampered American and wasn’t happy about that, but as you can see, I lived to tell the tale.
The three of us had a meal in the hotel restaurant (just OK, slightly overpriced), and with an Irishman present, we finally figured out the dilemma of service in an Irish restaurant: ask for the check, don’t expect it to be brought.
And then Gerry was off. He had to work in the morning and would not be seeing us off. (So we’d have to wrangle those bags ourselves.) I tried not to cry.
The tables in the restaurant were very close together, thus facilitating conversation with strangers. There was a gentleman dining alone next to us; he told us he was in the restaurant business (I’m guessing for a large corporation) and traveled quite a bit. He was friendly but a little odd, and though he told us he was Irish, he had the weirdest accent I’ve ever heard. After he left, Gerry identified it as “Irish with American influence.”