“My” Ireland

I’ve been four times in ten years now. I am trying to make it mine.

I know there are people who take “big” trips every year, but I’m not one of them; when I was a young married we didn’t have the money for such things, and then I was a single mom and really didn’t have the money for such things. So four visits to Eire in a decade seems miraculous to me, and I have wrung every possible thrill from them. 🙂

Already more trips are in the planning stages. And I’m thinking about what I want to see. Because things are always changing and evolving.

Recent changes were a bit of a surprise:

• At Brú na Bóinne, Dowth isn’t on the Knowth tour anymore. You can drive to it, if you desire (and can find it on your own; I always seem to get lost over in Meath). I don’t know what to make of this; is Dowth unimportant now?

• The National Gallery has been completely rearranged and modernized (since I saw it in 2006). Actually, the reburbishment is still ongoing, and as a result, there are certain key works that may not be available—like Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ. Missing it last September was a huge disappointment. Also, to be frank, I loved the old-fashioned creaky floors.

• The Rock of Cashel has a fancy brickwork sidewalk and a paved road now; in 2003 it was much more rustic. I didn’t mind the old rough path; it felt authentic. However, I also didn’t mind that nice new bench at the halfway mark. 🙂

• There is a little car park at the Drombeg stone circle now. It used to be that you simply drove to the end of the lane, parked, and slipped through a break in the hedgerow—and there they were, the stones. These days you park a hundred yards or so further out, and walk. It’s nice, I guess, but just more evidence of modernization where none is needed. I mean, it’s from the Bronze Age, y’all.

• The bayside cemetery just outside Bantry town has a memorial now, with that spooky sculpture of drowning people. I didn’t like it much, and that has nothing to do with my resistance to change.

• When I stepped outside the graveyard at the cathedral at Kilfenora—to see the West Cross out in the field—I was shocked to see that some farm buildings had been built to the south and the field itself bisected into several cattle pens. The farmer can do what he wants with his land, of course, but it was still a bit of a disappointment.

• I’ve seen the Cliffs of Moher go through three iterations. In 2003, we parked in a field on the same side of the highway as the cliffs and walked about fifty yards out to the edge and looked over. Seriously, there was barely a handrail. The gift shop was a tiny shack. In 2006, they’d started the renovations, including moving the car park to the other side of the road; it’s a bit of a hike now (though in 2006 and 2012 I had pneumonia, so it would feel like a hike, I guess). O’Brien’s Tower was closed in 2006. Now, good Lord, the whole complex is like Disneyland—all bricked and curbed and gift-shopped to death. Forgive my lack of enthusiasm; I know it makes me sound like an old fart. 🙂

Glendalough has been subjected to the same Disneyland treatment, I’m sorry to say. The entrance is completely different; you no longer walk through the sanctuary gates first. In fact, I felt like we were coming in through the back door and was very, very cranky about it.

All of this changing and renovation is inevitable, I guess. And it won’t deter me from revisiting places (or seeing new sights). For example:

• I’d love to go back to Cork when I don’t have pneumonia. There’s a lot there I haven’t seen. I particularly want to go to the English Market and, you know, eat my way through it. 🙂

• Glandore village is calling my name. I want to check in to one of these places during the off season when it’s nice and quiet, and take all my meals in the pub so I can watch the water while I eat.

• I’ve grown to love Kilkenny and the surrounding area. I’d love to visit the farm shops around Mileeven Honey in Pilltown, and I definitely want to stop in at Nicholas Mosse again, maybe take the tour this time.

• Farm shops in general are something I’d like to make a tour of. There’s the Red Stables farmer’s market, Saturdays in St. Anne’s Park in Dublin, for example. And Sonairte, on the Laytown Road in between Julianstown and Laytown. And of course there are specialty food shops all over Dublin. OMG, now I’m thinking about cheese.

• I’d like to have a quiet vacation on one of the eastern beaches. Portmarnock, maybe, or someplace in Wicklow.

• I’m also very fond of Lahinch. It’s both small enough and big enough and I love everybody at Kenny’s Bar. I prefer the off-season, frankly, when things are down to a low roar. Late fall, say.

• I want to go back to the National Botanic Garden in Glasnevin, Dublin. I only had sixty minutes to spend there, which means a lot went unseen. There are plenty of parks and gardens in Dublin I haven’t seen, in fact.

• There’s still a lot I’d like to do in Dublin. The Temple Bar Book Market, for example. Marsh’s Library. The James Joyce Centre and the Dublin Writers Museum. I’d like to revisit the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle.

• Finally, I have yet to see the Aran Islands, and I’d like to spend more time in Co. Donegal. Last time we sort of rushed through.

It’s a worthy list, don’t you think?

Happy Birthday! And Welcome to America!

30 May 2013, Thursday

We’ve learned it is much easier to turn in the car the day before—it is always likely there will be others turning in cars as the same time; the line can get long. If you are also trying to catch a plane, you could get nervous.

Or at least I could. 🙂 And I don’t like to be nervous or rushed. So when we turned the car in yesterday, we had nowhere to be but dinner and to bed.

This morning we were at the dining room when they opened for breakfast at 6:30, and by 7:00 we were getting on the shuttle bus to airport. For some reason the Dublin Airport has a shuttle bus lot; passengers are dumped here—nowhere near the actual departure gates—and must hump their luggage over to a terminal. In Nashville the shuttle buses pull up in front of departures (or arrivals) and let folks off right there. These are shuttle buses from hotels, shuttle buses from off-site parking lots, shuttle buses from car rental places (which are on-site). Doesn’t that make sense? They even do it that way in New York, for heaven’s sake. But … I guess it doesn’t have to make sense.

We had to go all the way over to Terminal 2 (fortunately there were trolleys). But by the time we checked the luggage, went through security and then through U.S. pre-customs (very handy, honestly), it was 9:00am. Good thing we didn’t want anything from the duty-free shops.

Wait, did I say pre-customs was handy? Maybe so, but it’s not pleasant. The customs agents are not friendly. Not nice. I mean, I’m a friendly, smiley, chubby middle-aged woman holding a United States passport; the customs agent was American. We were both Americans, not to put too fine a point on it, and I felt, at the very least, unwelcome and definitely under suspicion. Not a happy transaction.

To Gerry, a non–U.S. passport holder, they were even ruder. When the agent asked him how long he was staying and he said, “Returning on June 27,” this person gasped and said, “Four weeks!” (Why all the drama?) And then she asked him if he was employed and asked him to prove it. This sort of thing, frankly, pisses me off, as an American. Is this how we treat every humble person seeking to visit our country? No wonder others have a bad opinion of Yanks.

WELCOME TO AMERICA! (And you are, actually, considered to be in American territory once you’ve run that nasty little gauntlet.)

We had to show our passport five times from the time we entered the terminal to the time we got to the gate. And by the time we got there (again, 9:00), there was barely time for Gerry to buy us a couple water bottles and go to the loo, and then they were boarding us. I guess that’s a plus.

It’s so nice to travel home with someone. It’s particularly nice to travel home with the one you love—it makes an arduous journey merely long. And you can people-watch together.

I got quite a kick out of this young guy sitting across the aisle and one row up, already asleep, or trying to be. If I’d had to guess, I’d have placed him at nineteen or twenty, but you can see he has a bottle of wine (at 11:00am, which makes me tired just thinking about it), so he had to be at least twenty-one. He was traveling alone (we watched him come in, get settled) … with a bear. Yes, that is a very well-worn Winne-the-Pooh tucked under his arm. Gerry said, “Oh, he’s taking it back as a gift for someone,” but I say he’d have packed a gift. Or at the very least put it in the overhead bin or his carryon. But he held on to it for seven hours across the ocean. I’m just sayin’.

What do you make of this? Is that bear a gift for a younger sister he’ll be meeting in Chicago? Or a source of comfort? Hmmm.

What do you make of this? Is that bear a gift for a younger sister he’ll be meeting in Chicago? Or a source of comfort? Hmmm.

We lost him in Chicago, of course. And what was supposed to be a little one-hour layover turned out to be a two-hour layover, because, as it happened, President Obama was visiting the Windy City. It just about shuts down the entire city when a U.S. president comes to town.

However, we ended up having a fun conversation with a young Irishman sitting near us. (Anyone reading a book is fair game for me, you know!) He was twenty-four and a physical therapist. He’d been working as a freelancer in Ireland (you know: two weeks here, two weeks there) and had an opportunity for a two-year contract in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was very, very excited about it. Even more interesting, his girlfriend was following him. She is a schoolteacher, so she was trying to get all her paperwork in order to teach in North Carolina. Charlotte’s a lovely town (in spite of the fact North Carolina’s slowly becoming a red state), so I hope they have a good experience there.

I said, “Oh, your mother’s going to miss you.” My son is thirty and lives a four-hour plane ride away from me; an ocean of separation would be hard to take. But! He set his mom up with an iPad so she can Skype him. Good boy! He was truly delightful. From County Meath.

They finally loaded us but then the runways were backed up. Obama was long gone but O’Hare was still recovering from all the flights that had been held back. We had four flights in front of us, and we looked out the window and saw several behind us, so we were even later getting off the ground. However, they made it up in the air and we arrived in Nashville on time. A birthday miracle!

If you’ve been keeping score, you may have relized that Gerry hadn’t been to his Tennessee home in a year—since April 2012—and I’d had to leave my foxgloves before they were in full bloom, because spring was so late. So as soon as we got home, we had a walk around the yard.

The roses were in full swing.

The roses were in full swing.

The cats were a little bewildered at first, but they warmed up fast. The Feeders! The Feeders were back!

And since we’d put up the fence in March, we’d planned an ambitious landscaping overhaul, which involved killing some grass. We were anxious to see how it was all going.

Looking good! And Spot is … well, who knows. (Actually, a raised, flaglike tail is a sign of greeting.)

Looking good! And Spot is … well, who knows. (Actually, a raised, flaglike tail is a sign of greeting.)

My foxgloves had bloomed and were a bit blowsy, now, but still beautiful to me.

Foxglove, 30 May 2013.

Foxglove, 30 May 2013.

We unloaded the car, had a cup of tea, ate a little supper, and fell into bed, exhausted. And that, my friends, is how I spent my (mumble mumbleth) birthday. 🙂

NOTE: If you’re just joining me and would like to read about this trip from the beginning, you can start here. If you would like to read about other trips in chronological order 🙂 just click on “Where to Start” above.

My Wild Irish Roses (Part 2)

29 May 2013, Wednesday

When I’d contacted Orla about spending a day together—I’d barely seen her last fall, as she’d been very involved in a wedding, and then I and my traveling companions had set off down the country for a couple weeks—I also mentioned that I wanted to see St. Anne’s Park. Gerry had taken us there on our last full day last fall and mentioned the beautiful rose garden. That was definitely something I wanted to see.

“Brilliant!” Orla wrote. “It’s one of my favourite places on earth! Mam’s been taking us there since we were little children.”

Interestingly, Gerry’s memories of the park were of riding his bike down there (a little over a mile) with his brothers and rooting around in the spooky backside of the park. So here I was visiting a Hampson family childhood fave on our penultimate day in Dublin … again. I like the symmetry of that. 🙂

Gwen had given Orla directions to get to the rose garden so we could park close to them (the park is huge; there’s a lot more than roses). It was a beautiful May day to be in a rose garden.

See those dark red leaves?

See those dark red leaves? That’s new growth. On rose bushes.

St. Anne’s Park, Dublin, late May 2013. And Clare.

St. Anne’s Park, Dublin, late May 2013. And Clare.

Climbing roses … not yet blooming.

Climbing roses … not yet blooming.

Alas, there were no roses to be seen. The dark red foliage you see in the photos above is what new growth on a rose bush looks like, sure enough. But spring had been very, very late arriving. It had been cold. So the roses were late.

If you look closely here you can see some hot pink roses of the shrub variety. Those had just started to bloom.

If you look closely here you can see some hot pink roses of the shrub variety. Those had just started to bloom.

Yes! Roses!

Yes! Roses!

And there were, of course, my beautiful Irish Roses, Clare and Orla.

And there were, of course, my beautiful Irish Roses, Clare and Orla.

There was still plenty to see. The wide vistas are a result of this having been a country estate at one time:

The brothers Arthur and Benjamin Lee Guinness built up an estate of nearly 123.75 hectares from 1835 onwards in the Clontarf/Raheny area and called the estate St. Anne’s after the Holy Well of the same name on the lands. Sir Arthur Edward Guinness (Lord Ardilaun) was the person most responsible for expanding and developing the estate and gardens and planted evergreen (Holm) oaks and pines along the main avenue and estate boundaries. Lord and Lady Ardilaun had no children and the estate passed to their nephew Bishop Plunkett in the 1920s. In 1937, he decided he could no longer maintain such a large estate and [it was sold to] the Corporation.

The main residence was abandoned, and ultimately burned to the ground in 1943, though the ruins weren’t demolished until 1968. I feel certain that young boys found an old burned mansion an irresistible draw to ride a bike a mile from home. 🙂

I believe this was once the main drive to the mansion.

I believe this was once the main drive to the mansion.

St. Anne’s is the second largest municipal park in Dublin (the first is Bull Island). It has a playground, parkland walks, a small golf course, tennis courts, thirty-five soccer fields, many species of trees (some historic), and all sorts of features that are almost—but not quite—botanical garden-ish.

The trees are just magnificent.

The trees are just magnificent.

This is one of the parkland walks.

This is one of the parkland walks.

Another walk through the old trees.

Another walk through the old trees.

Oh, the imagination just goes wild.

Oh, the imagination just goes wild.

There are also smaller gardens within the larger one. One of the oldest is the walled garden, with its lovely clock tower, dating from the eighteenth century.

The walled garden.

The walled garden.

It was closed to us when we were there, obviously for maintenance. Gorgeous. The little tower at the end has a clock on the other side.

It was closed to us when we were there, obviously for maintenance. Gorgeous. The little tower at the end has a clock on the other side.

We also saw a Victorian-era walled and sunken garden.

Kinda spooky! But that’s the way those Victorians liked it.

Kinda spooky! But that’s the way those Victorians liked it.

This is a raised pond in the summer months. Or perhaps it had been drained for maintenance.

This is a raised pond in the summer months. Or perhaps it had been drained for maintenance.

The sunken garden was a little shaggy; again, that late spring.

The sunken garden was a little shaggy; again, that late spring.

Lots of herbs in the sunken garden.

Lots of herbs in the sunken garden.

We enjoyed a very pleasant hour, strolling around St. Anne’s, chatting. The ladies said they’d come back and take some photos of the roses when they finally bloomed. And then it was time to go; Gerry and I had an early flight scheduled, and we still had to turn in our rental car and get checked in at the airport hotel.

Gerry was already in from work, scurrying around taking care of the sorts of things—mowing the lawn—that need to be done if you’re leaving for a month.

Cleo needed some loving, for one thing.

Cleo needed some loving, for one thing. Just look at that tail. 🙂

We put off the good-byes as long as possible, lingering, chatting. Orla and her grandmother, Bridie.

We put off the good-byes as long as possible, lingering, chatting. Orla and her grandmother, Bridie.

And then it was time, really. How I love these young women!

And then it was time, really. How I love these young women!

Gerry got showered and packed, then he and I went to turn in the car. First, though, we went to Bewley’s and dropped our luggage and got checked in.

I love this view from the front of Bewley’s—a horse field with the Aer Lingus hanger in the background.

I love this view from the front of Bewley’s—a horse field with the Aer Lingus hanger in the background. Don’t forget, you can zoom in on any photo just by clicking on it.

Returning the car was completely painless. We didn’t get lost (as we had last September); the signage was excellent. That pretty much sealed the deal for Budget (as if our treatment by their staff wasn’t enough). We’ll go Hertz from now on. Took the shuttle, then, to the airport (the only place it goes), and from there caught the Bewley’s bus back to the hotel.

I hadn’t been too happy when our return flights were scheduled on my birthday. I can think of better things to do on such a day than spend fourteen hours in airports and squeezed into airplanes. However, Gerry took great care to make it special, starting this evening, when I found a sweet card and a present (a beautiful gold cross, to replace one that mysteriously disappeared from my bedroom a couple months ago) on the bedside table. And then we went to dinner.

After dinner, we got everything packed and weighed. We’d been carrying around books and honey in a Tesco bag, but now all this had to be packed. And it was! And no one went over the weight limit!

As a final note I must say this: we stayed in three hotels and one B&B on this trip, and of all those, Bewley’s has the best beds. However, between the two Dublin hotels, Camden Court’s breakfast food was better, and their staff is superior.

But wait—you didn’t think I’d close this out without some pictures of roses, did you? Heavens, no!

Orla and her gentleman friend visited St. Anne’s in August and took some photos.

Orla and her gentleman friend visited St. Anne’s in August and took some photos.

Oh, this is much better.

Oh, this is much better.

I love the pink ones. (And Orla too!)

I love the pink ones. (And Orla too!)

And for good measure, the beautiful Orla and her gentleman friend, Conor.

And for good measure, the beautiful Orla and her gentleman friend, Conor.

Counting My Blessings (Part 1)

29 May 2013, Wednesday

One of the biggest blessings I have received from my relationship with Gerry is my entrée into his family. I just adore them all. In particular I have a relationship with Gerry’s youngest niece, Orla, and her slightly older sister, Clare. And on this day—my last full day in Ireland—I was going to indulge myself with a little Clare and Orla fix. 🙂

I got up at 5:30 to finish packing and help carry everything down to the car before Gerry left for work (because we were going to turn in the rental car and move back into Bewley’s Dublin Airport for our last night). Then we went to breakfast, and he left for work … and I went back upstairs and got back into bed for a little while. I’m just not used to getting up immediately and eating. That’s my excuse, anyway. 🙂

When I was ready to check out, I had one more thing I wanted to do. You see, I travel with a CPAP machine (for sleep apnea), which requires distilled water. In the States, you’d pick up a gallon of distilled water at the grocery store for 89¢ … but in Ireland you have to buy it from a pharmacy. It has to be special ordered. And it costs !!!7 euro!!!, which I find absolutely shocking. However, water’s heavy, so I can’t exactly bring it with me from home, even though I would probably only use 50 ounces of this huge, expensive bottle. So … I took it to the front desk. I explained why I had it and that I hated to throw it away (which is what would have happened had I just left it in the room). As it turns out, they were thrilled to have it and put it away in their locked area.

And then I drove out of Dublin, all by myself.

When I was planning this trip, I’d hoped to find a day to spend with “my girls,” and I wanted also to use it to do a little more sightseeing. So I suggested Castletown House, which I’d visited last fall. I’d been sick with pneumonia that day; I’d failed to ask questions about the property, I’d failed to look closely at some things. I wanted to go back. “It’s a part of your Irish heritage,” I’d written to Orla by way of a sales pitch. It’s only thirty minutes from their neighborhood, and, though they are Dublin born and bred, they’d never been. So it was a date.

On my way out of the city center I think I drove past every historic monument in Dublin (St. Patrick’s, the Customs House, Marsh’s Library, Ha’penny Bridge—I was stopped at a traffic light right by that, along the quays) but of course I was driving so I had to focus. It took me forty minutes to get out to Gerry’s—there was lots of traffic, lots of buses. So I was about ten minutes late to meet Clare and Orla, who called me just as I was turning onto the Malahide Road. But once I reached that spot I actually knew where I was and didn’t need Ms. Emily GpS. 🙂

I kinda dig that I’m learning to drive around Dublin. Especially when Orla told me she hadn’t gotten up the courage to drive in downtown Dublin yet. (I should add that the driving culture is completely different in Ireland than it is in the States. Cars are expensive, insurance is prohibitively expensive. Most young people are in their twenties before they learn to drive and get a license.) Me, I had my license at thirteen (long story), so no amount of city driving on the wrong side of the road is gonna scare me off, by God! Ha!

So the girls got into my car and we set out for Celbridge, with Orla navigating to get me to the M50. It was a short trip, but—even though I thought I’d remember the little trick to getting up close to the house (you can park in Celbridge and hike a half-mile across the grounds, but I wasn’t feeling that fit)—we still got momentarily turned around. But only briefly.

It was a gorgeous day, and when we arrived there were quit a few people there. I’d been told last September that people love the café at Castletown House, and they come out for lunch and just to use the grounds as a park, a place to walk kids or dogs or lay in the sun. All of that was going on in County Kildare this day. Glorious!

It was a magnificent day in Celbridge, Co. Kildare.

It was a magnificent day in Celbridge, Co. Kildare.

And yes, the sap was rising. :) It had been a very long winter and a very late spring.

And yes, the sap was rising. 🙂 It had been a very long winter and a very late spring.

And that house! Oh! It’s Ireland’s largest and finest Palladian-style country house; it was built (between 1722 and 1729) for William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. It escaped burning by the IRA in 1922 during the Irish Civil War (though Conollys were Protestant, they were Irish, and Irish money had built the house). The house remained in the hands of William Conolly’s descendants until 1965; ownership of the estate is now divided between the government and private concerns.

It’s huge, y’all. Four floors if you count the basement. It’s interesting to me that they shave off the tops of the yew bushes like that, but perhaps it keeps them greener or fuller.

It’s huge, y’all. Four floors if you count the basement. It’s interesting to me that they shave off the tops of the yew bushes like that, but perhaps it keeps them greener or fuller.

And this is just the main building. The pavilion to the left (out of the photo) housed the kitchen; the one to the right housed the stables. Both were connected to the house via the colonnade walkway.

Here’s a look at the colonnaded portico.

Here’s a look at the colonnaded portico.

I wrote about the house last fall, so I’m using some of that text here. The pictures are all new, though. For a look at different things, do check the older post.

We went into the café to eat (first things first, after all!). Service was very slow for some reason (understaffed, I think), but the food was good and honestly the conversation never lagged. We spent a leisurely hour at that table, and I enjoyed every minute.

It was interesting to note that several things had changed just since my visit eight months previously. To start, they’d moved the ticket office from the kitchen wing to the stables wing, so we had to walk back outside and across the massive yard.

But it was a good excuse to take a few more photos. :) This is Clare and me. Stables wing in the background.

But it was a good excuse to take a few more photos. 🙂 This is Clare and me. Stables wing in the background.

Oh! We had such a good time! I love these beautiful women! Orla and Clare.

Oh! We had such a good time! I love these beautiful women! Orla and Clare.

Here we learned the guided tours only happen every couple of hours—but it was 1pm and the next one wasn’t until 3pm. Hmm … however, we could self-guide (that is, walk through the house) at no cost. Free! So that’s what we did. Another totally delightful hour with me trying to be a pretend-guide with the material I remembered from last fall.

Something else that was different during this visit was an art exhibit scattered throughout the house. Called “Prelude Speaker: Contemporary Castletown,” the exhibition “investigates the Palladian mansion that serves as its site through the work of sixteen contemporary artists,” according to a review at Artforum. The guidebook for the exhibit says,

By exhibiting historical artefacts nd contemporary art works together, the exhibition is an attempt to provoke dialogues which challenge traditional exhibition boundaries and to nurture relationships with history. [The Artforum piece notes “Ireland has a troubled relationship with its great houses of colonial rule. Some were burned out in the 1920s, while others sank into neglect.”] The elaborately decorated rooms in Castletown provide an irresistible contrast to the more commonplace white cube galleries where contemporary art often resides. Prelude Speaker: Contemporary Castletown also ponders upon the question as to whether we should let properties like Castletown House speak for themselves or whether we should interact with them and allow them to perpetuate the culturally dynamic role they had in the past.

So with this in our hearts and minds, we entered the house.

Oh dear: our first piece of modern art.

Oh dear: our first piece of modern art.

We’d had an interesting conversation last fall about the difference between conservation and restoration. It’s easily seen in the red and green drawing rooms, where the former has been conserved while the latter has been restored (that is, replaced with new, though historically accurate, of course). The green drawing room was where the Conollys formally received visitors to the house.

The red drawing room at Castletown House. The walls are covered in damask probably dating from the late nineteenth century.

The red drawing room at Castletown House. The walls are covered in damask probably dating from the late nineteenth century.

The green drawing room at Castletown House. The portrait on the right is Speaker Conolly; the one on the left is his wife, Katherine, and her niece.

The green drawing room at Castletown House. The portrait on the right is Speaker Conolly; the one on the left is his wife, Katherine, and her niece.

Castletown House was built on a 550-acre demesne, or estate, and the windows along the back of the house look out on what might seem like a grassy wilderness to untrained eyes—but this is a formally laid out landscape; every tree, every blade of grass was planned. (This was a popular pursuit in the eighteenth century: man’s intervention with nature in order to “improve” it.) Vistas were created so that no matter from which window you looked, there was something to see. The woodlands beyond the lawn have meandering paths. Everything orchestrated for a bracing walk. Windows in the green drawing room become doors, which allow guests to step directly onto the lawn.

This looks out from the green drawing room at a point two miles away—you can just see the top of the Conolly Folly (sometimes the Conolly Obelisk) in the distance. It is no longer a part of the property, though it was once.

This looks out from the green drawing room at a point two miles away—you can just see the top of the Conolly Folly (sometimes the Conolly Obelisk) in the distance. It is no longer a part of the property, though it was once.

We wandered from room to room with me dredging up as much information as I could remember from the paid tour I’d had the previous fall. For example—the print room. The guidebook says,

The 18th century saw the rise of print media that was prompted in part by a greater degree of literacy and press freedom in Britain. Prints were stuck on walls from the grandest houses to the humblest hovels; illustrations from stories, vignettes from the Bible or cartoons which savaged the government of the day. … It became popular for ladies to assemble and paste prints on to painted wallpaper, surrounding them with elaborate bows and swags cut from printed sheets.

Today women are scrapbooking; in the 1700s, they had print rooms. They’d purchase books of prints and borders, or individual prints, cut them out carefully, and a servant would paste them up. Basically—découpage. On the walls. Of course, tastes and fashion change over decades. Just as we might paint a room or paper it to have a change, so were print rooms lost to history. The one at Castletown is the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in Ireland. I’m so glad it was left alone.

The print room at Castletown House. The screen in the lower left is one of the modern works of art on exhibition. The prints are nineteenth-century engravings of Irish eviction and famine paintings, printed on low-grade cotton cloth to subtly juxtapose the relationship between rich and poor.

The print room at Castletown House. The screen in the lower left is one of the modern works of art on exhibition. The prints are nineteenth-century engravings of Irish eviction and famine paintings, printed on low-grade cotton cloth to subtly juxtapose the relationship between rich and poor.

The Conolly bedroom, where the Speaker received morning guests in the manner of the French court. I guess when you had a fancy wig you didn’t need to worry about bed head. :)

The Conolly bedroom, where the Speaker received morning guests in the manner of the French court. I guess when you had a fancy wig you didn’t need to worry about bed head. 🙂

This is the long gallery.

This is the long gallery.

This type of room—a long gallery of paintings, prints, and other art—was in vogue when the house was first designed and built, but by the time the interiors were completely finished in the 1760s and ’70s was considered old-fashioned. Thus it became a space for informal entertaining. The guidebook calls it Pompeian-style—Pompeii was being excavated during the 1770s so this sort of thing was all the rage. What we saw is unchanged (although refurbished) from that time. There are a few more documentary-style photos in my post from last fall; I was enjoying the house in a different way on this trip.

Then we came downstairs to the massive receiving halls.

This is one of my favorite photos from that day … the stairwell.

This is one of my favorite photos from that day … the stairwell.

The plasterwork! Oh, my! The walls down the stairwell and into the downstairs rooms are a testament to the rococo-style ornamental plasterwork for which Ireland is famous. In this case, all created by Philip Lafranchini, who, with his brother, Paul, was renowned, then and now, for his artistry. No, it’s not exactly my personal style—but it’s quite impressive.

Here is a Green Man.

Here is a Green Man. Magnificent, isn’t it!

I’m standing on the stairs, looking through the doorway into the foyer or entry hall. Just look at that plasterwork.

I’m standing on the stairs, looking through the doorway into the foyer or entry hall. Just look at that plasterwork.

Now I’m in the entry hall, looking back through the doorway at the stairs I’ve just descended.

Now I’m in the entry hall, looking back through the doorway at the stairs I’ve just descended.

Another modern art installation, ornate—but very tall—tables that seem to mimic the eighteenth-century furniture we see throughout the house.

Another modern art installation, ornate—but very tall—tables that seem to mimic the eighteenth-century furniture we see throughout the house.

I love the windows in my house—I love observing the light at different times of day, I love watching the changing seasons as marked by the trees and plants outside—so I always take a few photos of windows. Here is the same scene taken looking out from the front of the house, one upstairs, one down.

The front driveway and the Wicklow Mountains in the distance (upstairs).

The front driveway and the Wicklow Mountains in the distance (upstairs).

The front steps. I’m endlessly fascinated by the chopped-off yews.

The front steps. I’m endlessly fascinated by the flat-topped yews.

Oh, we had a good time! It was a completely different experience than the one I had with Margaret last fall (which was also wonderful!). Last fall I’d failed to ask—at the appropriate time—about Conolly’s Folly and an unusual barn called the Wonderful Barn. Both were conceived and built as ways to put a little money in the pockets of the local farmers during bad economic times—and while these structures were once on the estate, now they are not.

So this time we inquired about seeing the Wonderful Barn and the folly (you can see some photos here) but both were being restored, we were told, and we couldn’t really get close. So they discouraged us a little, and it was somewhat complicated to get there (although I have a map now!) so we blew it off and came back to Dublin. (Next time!)

First, though, we had to exit through the stables. The acoustics were marvelous, which Clare and Orla quickly picked up on. 🙂

The stables at Castletown House.

The stables at Castletown House.

Irish Girl’s Choir.

Irish Girl’s Choir.

Don’t forget, you can review my Castletown House visit from last fall here. And don’t forget you can click on a photo to zoom in. Next, a visit to St. Anne’s Park. Stick around!

A Trip Around the World: Dublin, Damascus, and Hakuna-Matata

28 May 2013, Tuesday

From St. Kevin’s Park on Camden Row I walked back out to Camden Street (which actually becomes Wexford Street right there) and walked north about four blocks. At some point Wexford becomes Aungier Street, and at the corner of Aungier and York Streets I found the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, which I’d wanted to see on this Dublin drill-down trip. (Dublin is, of course, filled with churches. And they say the South has a church on every corner. Ha!)

The Carmelites are a Roman Catholic religious order founded in the twelfth century (present in Ireland since the latter half of the thirteenth). It is a contemplative order; the original Carmelites were hermits. The current building here dates from 1825, but is located on the site of a pre-Reformation Carmelite priory built in 1539. Still, you must remember the Catholic community in Ireland spent long centuries (that is, from the first decade of the 1600s) under the rule of the Penal Laws; Catholic Emancipation only came in 1829. Thus this church would have been outwardly unassuming; careful.

It’s not much to look at outside, but inside—that’s another story.

It’s not much to look at outside, but inside—that’s another story.

The stained glass is beautiful.

The stained glass is beautiful.

There are more than a dozen shrines inside too. One of the most visually impressive is the Our Lady of Dublin shrine, in which is ensconced a twelfth-century Madonna and child—a life-sized statue carved from black oak. This places the statue, historically, in the same school of art as some of the statuary in Westminister Abbey. Think about it!

Our Lady of Dublin. The shine itself was completed in 1915. (Don’t forget you can click on this photo and click again to see it up close.)

Our Lady of Dublin. The shine itself was completed in 1915. (Don’t forget you can click on any photo and click again to see it up close.)

Another important shrine is St. Valentine’s (who knew?). Not a lot is known about Valentinus, a third-century Roman saint commemorated on 14 February, the day of his death as a Roman Christian martyr. A church was built at the site of his death (in Rome), and during one of the many restorations and reconstructions, this one in the 1830s, the remains of of the saint were discovered. Some of them were given to an Irish Carmelite priest, and now they reside here. (Valentine’s skull resides in Rome, still, and there are other relics at a church in Prague. I’m not sure what to think of this sort of thing, honestly, but feel I should report it.)

This was as close as I got to Valentine. This gentleman was there for a very long time, and I didn’t want to disturb him.

This was as close as I got to Valentine. This gentleman was there for a very long time, and I didn’t want to disturb him.

I also photographed the shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, popularly known as the Little Flower. Born sickly to petit-bourgeoisie—and very, very devout—parents in France, Thérèse became a nun at fifteen, was dead of tuberculosis at twenty-four (in 1897), and became famous after her death, though I’m not entirely sure why. Who can explain these things? I suspect it had to do with the times—the highly sentimental times—and the tragedy of her youth.

The shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, built in the mid-1950s, also includes a beautiful mosaic of “Our Lady of the Smile” (that is, the Virgin Mary, whose smile Thérèse is said to have seen).

The shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, built in the mid-1950s, also includes a beautiful mosaic of “Our Lady of the Smile” (that is, the Virgin Mary, whose smile Thérèse is said to have seen).

The front door is flanked by two statues—the Beloved Disciple and Mary. Inside there is a large anteroom, off which there is a small coffee shop and a bookstore. There’s no hint of the huge church beyond—probably for caution’s sake, again.

“This is the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

“This is the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

“Refuge of sinners, pray for us.”

“Refuge of sinners, pray for us.”

I began the walk back, then, to the hotel.

The chimneys of Dublin always fascinate me—especially when there are trees growing from them!

The chimneys of Dublin always fascinate me—especially when there are trees growing from them!

The festival was over, but the posters were still up. One of these days, though, I plan to be a part of the story!

The festival was over, but the posters were still up. One of these days, though, I plan to be a part of the story!

The day before, I’d mentioned the Damascus Gate restaurant on Facebook, thanking Patrick Comerford—a Church of Ireland priest I’d met through a mutual friend—for the recommendation. Patrick sent me a quick message (“You’re here?”) and suggested we meet for coffee, so that was my next stop. We had a delightful conversation about writing and editing (certainly two of my favorite subjects, and Patrick, a former journalist, has also published several books); I am so glad he had time to hang out with me!

At the Damascus Gate again: me and Patrick Comerford.

At the Damascus Gate again: me and Patrick Comerford.

As is his wont (you really should check out his wonderful blog), Patrick took the long way back to his office, and blogged about it later. So I’m famous! 🙂

By this time Gerry was back from work, and we still had a big evening planned—earlier in the year he had purchased tickets to see the Lion King stage production (a birthday present for me). But first, we walked around the corner to the Bleeding Horse—a historically and literarily significant pub that dates back to at least the mid seventeenth century.

It’s been remodeled since the 1600s, of course, but is still authentic, still very popular. (We were beating the crowds—we had a 7pm show to get to across town!

It’s been remodeled since the 1600s, of course, but is still authentic, still very popular. (We were beating the crowds—we had a 7pm show to get to across town!)

The show was at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre (pronounce this like board-GOSH)—the largest theater in Ireland, designed to present those large theatrical productions that were previously unable to be shown here. Gerry referred to it simply as the Bord Gáis; we took a cab.

The Bord Gáis (with a 2,100-person capacity) opened in March 2010 in an area of Dublin called the Docklands—an area right in the center of the city on either side of the River Liffey that is experiencing a large amount of development including shopping, offices, hotels, you name it. The Bord Gáis is one of two entertainment venues; the other is the O2 concert venue. You can read more about the Docklands area here; it’s a great neighborhood website and there are some fantastic photographs.

Speaking of which, I am kicking myself because when I dressed up I took a smaller purse … and did not take my camera. Once we arrived, I was just ready to scream from the missed opportunities! Sure, you can look at this photo I downloaded from Wikipedia …

This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication; it was taken by a user who calls himself “DubhEire.”

This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication; it was taken by a user who calls himself “DubhEire.”

… It was taken from the other side of the Grand Canal, which, in the daylight, is an absolutely accurate photograph. In particular, you can see the fabulous red art installation in the courtyard. But it’s nearly impossible to judge the scale unless you zoom in and look closely for the one human walking among the red poles (just to the left of the little bit of blue you can see here).

But now look at this one!

A little more impressive, yes? This building is STUNNING.

A little more impressive, yes? This building is STUNNING . (Photographer: Ros Kavanaugh for the Dublin Docklands Development Authority)

I borrowed this small photo (photographer: Ros Kavanaugh) from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority website. Now you can see more of what I saw. There are four floors above the ground floor; Gerry and I stood on the third and looked out over the courtyard (notice that art installation I mentioned is actually a collection of streetlamps when the sun goes down), across the water, to the skyline. The view was magnificent.

Google’s street view for the Docklands was made in 2009, it seems, when the Bord Gáis was still under construction, but this will give you an idea of location.

 

So … we were somewhat overdressed for The Lion King. But who cares! You may have seen this show—it’s been around since 1997, it seems—but I had not, and holy cow, was it good! I loved all those animals moving slowly down the aisle in the opening number! The reviews said the production requires twenty-three giant trucks to haul it (which makes me wonder how many ferries had to be scheduled, since it had just come from Manchester, UK). Eighty-five thousand people (more casually dressed than we were, probably) came to see the show the eight weeks it was in town; the company we saw was fifty performers from seventeen different countries. (Read more here.)

It was great. Our seats were fantastic. And we were back snug in the hotel by 10:30. 🙂

A Churchyard Turned Into a City Park

28 May 2013, Tuesday

The great thing about staying in a tour-group hotel is you never know who’s going to be in the dining room. Yesterday it was an Asian group. Today: Germans. People-watching is always something I enjoy.

And I don’t have to stay in the hotel to do it, either. This neighborhood, called Portobello, is very interesting. When we arrived on Sunday, there were a lot of Muslims out and about. (I’m making an assumption here, but there were a lot of women wearing the hijab. And I’ve noticed there are a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants, which are a favorite of mine.) But during the week I’ve come to realize it’s also a college neighborhood (the Dublin Institute of Technology is just a couple blocks up the street and Portobello College—a law school recently incorporated into Dublin Business School—is a couple blocks in the other direction), so there are burger joints, lots of Asian places, and coffee shops. Also hostels. And the normal college-y things like a paper shop (wedding invitations for those college girls), paint store (for painting your dorm room), computer store, clothing, pubs (of course).

After breakfast, then, I got out and walked up Camden Street Lower to St. Kevin’s Church Park on Camden Row.

 

On this map, by the way, our hotel is just along the smaller “square” formed by the orange streets. That “St. Kevin’s” marked on the map to the right of it is … I’m not sure. If you zoom in, it’s gone.

This ground has had a church dating back to the early thirteenth century, although the building here now, crumbling, dates from around 1750 (and use discontinued in 1912). When the medieval St. Kevin’s church was built, it was outside the Dublin city walls (which were further north) but near a monastic settlement. Nonetheless, it was an important church in the Irish community (remember, Dublin was a Viking city, so the Danes would have been inside the walls, the Irish outside), and there are many important people buried in the churchyard, including Archbishop Dermot Hurley, who had the misfortune of being Catholic during a time when English Protestants ruled Ireland. He is revered as a Catholic martyr (and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1992). His grave—inside the church—became a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years.

This is what’s left of St. Kevin’s. Don’t forget you can click (and click again) to zoom in. That’s the Keogh gravesite in the center-right.

This is what’s left of St. Kevin’s. Don’t forget you can click (and click again) to zoom in. That’s the Keogh gravesite in the center-right.

After the Reformation, of course, the church switched hands, so to speak, to the Church of Ireland. Catholics and Protestants have a long and tangled history in Ireland, as you know; the Penal Laws of the eighteenth century meant Catholics had no cemeteries of their own and were prohibited from the public practice of their faith. So it became normal practice for Catholics to be buried with little public ceremony. (There are many other notables buried at St. Kevin’s, which you can read about here.)

I’ve talked a little about this in my post about Glasnevin Cemetery; in fact, it was an incident at a Catholic funeral at this very church in 1823 that led to the establishment of Glasnevin. Wikipedia tells us “a Protestant sexton reprimanded a Catholic priest for proceeding to perform a limited version of a funeral mass. The outcry prompted Daniel O’Connell, champion of Catholic rights, to launch a campaign and prepare a legal opinion proving that there was actually no law passed forbidding praying for a dead Catholic in a graveyard. O’Connell pushed for the opening of a burial ground in which both Irish Catholics and Protestants could give their dead dignified burial.” Glasnevin opened in 1832.

In 1962 (“after long negotiations,” the information plaque just inside the park tells us, and I have a little chuckle, because discussions and negotiations in Ireland do tend to be long) the ruins of the church and the graveyard were transferred to the city of Dublin, which developed the land into a park. Most of the headstones were placed along the perimeter; there are a very few still in situ.

I walked leisurely around the park and took loads of photographs. Let me show you …

2-Map

The dotted red lines here indicate where all the gravestones have been stacked—mostly along the back wall, around the ESB substation, and around the church.

You are here. :)

You are here. 🙂

It’s a lovely little park, though it hasn’t been taken care of. The pigeons were right there at the entrance, as if they were expecting me. I think someone feeds them. 🙂

A late morning kaffeeklatsch. That’s what it looks like to me, anyway. :)

A late morning kaffeeklatsch. That’s what it looks like to me, anyway. 🙂

It is believed this graveyard was a favorite of bodysnatchers in the eighteenth century. With the expansion of medical knowledge in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the establishment of formal training for doctors—that is, medical schools—cadavers were constantly needed for dissection. And there was good money for those who could supply them. Body snatching was so prevalent that cemeteries built watchtowers along the walls, which were manned at night. (The Anatomy Act of 1832, which allowed unclaimed bodies and those donates by relatives to be used for the study of anatomy, pretty much put an end to the body snatching trade.)

The memorial of Father John Austin (1717–1784), who was a pioneer of Catholic education in Ireland.

The memorial of Father John Austin (1717–1784), who was a pioneer of Catholic education in Ireland.

That’s the little bit of the church on the right. The large building on the left is a part of UCD. The graves are all under the pretty lawn.

That’s the little bit of the church on the right. The large building on the left is a part of DIT. The graves are all under the pretty lawn.

It was very quiet, in spite of my being in the middle of a large city. There was one person on a bench at the back when I came in, then a little old lady arrived, just to sit on a bench and contemplate. Later a woman brought her dog to play. These were all locals—no tourists.

Here’s a closer look at the church. Still pretty.

Here’s a closer look at the church. Still pretty.

Stepping around to the side of the church building.

Stepping around to the side of the church building.

Looking up.

Looking up.

Inside the bars; it was very small, wasn’t it? The wall on the right is the one I’ve been photographing.

Looking in. It was very small, wasn’t it? The wall on the right is the one I’ve been photographing.

There are at least three types of ivy in this shot.

There are at least three types of ivy in this shot.

This is the Moore family memorial, of the poet and singer-songwriter Thomas Moore (1779–1852).

This is the Moore family memorial, of the poet and singer-songwriter Thomas Moore (1779–1852).

Everything was so lush and green. What the word verdant was made for. 🙂

This is one of my favorite photos I took on the entire trip. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I do love it.

This is one of my favorite photos I took on the entire trip. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I do love it.

More of the forgotten gravestones.

More of the forgotten gravestones.

Now I’ve walked all along the back of the church and am headed back toward the entrance to the park.

Now I’ve walked all along the back of the church and am headed back toward the entrance to the park.

Another in situ grave.

Another in situ grave.

This goes straight out to the main gate.

This goes straight out to the main gate.

And another in situ grave.

Or you can walk along the outer wall. And see another in situ grave.

I really love the gravestone art. This is the D’Arcy gravesite.

I really love the gravestone art. This is the D’Arcy gravesite.

I was also fascinated by trees and rooftops. :)

I was also fascinated by trees and rooftops. 🙂 Don’t forget you can zoom in.

I’m not done with my parks-and-churches walkabout, and this day is far from over, but I’ll stop here and  finish the rest in the next post.

More Gardening, More Books … My Kinda Day! (Part 2)

27 May 2013, Monday

Now duly fortified with my new (though much less lovely) rain hat, I walked up Nassau Street to Kilkenny Design to buy some things—I wanted to get a Nicholas Mosse mug for a friend, for one thing. I first visited the Nicholas Mosse shop out in Co. Kilkenny in 2006, and just fell in love with a particular design on a particular mug, which I have used every single day of my life since then. Gosh, I love that mug. It’s the “Old Rose” pattern. Naturally, on this day, I saw a new pattern, and even though I was sure I’d never love any mug as much as my Old Rose, I had to have it.

This pattern is called “Clover.”

This pattern is called “Clover.”

When I was done here, I went back to Dawson Street and headed south, stopping at Hodges Figgis, a venerable old Dublin bookstore (founded in 1768, the bookmarks say, although now it’s owned by Waterstone’s, the British equivalent of, say, Waldenbooks, or B. Dalton’s). I did pick up a couple more books on my list.

But this really wasn’t intended to be a shopping tour—I shopped last fall, you’ll remember. No, this was intended to be a sightseeing tour. The parks and churches tour! I’d seen both already on this trip. And my next destination was St. Stephen’s Green—Ireland’s best-known public park.

The visitor’s guide tells us the name, St. Stephen’s Green, dates back to the thirteenth century, when it was adjacent to a a church called St. Stephen’s. The land was marshy and used by locals to graze livestock. In 1635 these twenty-seven acres became, officially, a park, and by the early 1700s—with the advent of Grafton and Dawson Streets—Stephen’s Green was a fashionable location of several promenades. But, as things do, the park deteriorated over a hundred years or so. In 1814 local homeowners took it over—and locked it, which was a source of some contention, until Arthur E. Guinness, a scion of the Guinness brewing family, made it possible for the park to return to public use (in 1877). Guinness also paid for the renovations that made the park what you can see today.

And it is still, after all these years, Stephen’s Green—no name change to honor Arthur Guinness’s generosity and none for Queen Vicky’s husband either. My fave story from the Wikipedia article is this one:

After the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria suggested that St Stephen’s Green be renamed Albert Green and have a statue of Albert at its center—a suggestion rejected with indignation by the Dublin Corporation and the people of the city, to the Queen’s chagrin.

Outside Stephen’s Green, having just crossed the street called Stephen’s Green North.

Outside Stephen’s Green, having just crossed the street called Stephen’s Green North.

So. I entered, really, from a side entrance, if you consider the Fusiliers’ Arch the entrance; I am a goof for having missed that. (However, here is a Flickr walking tour of the park if you’d like—and it starts at the Arch. The Fusiliers’ Arch, at the Grafton Street corner, commemorates the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the Second Boer War—1899–1902. They were fighting in the British Army, of course, and in its early days—it was added in 1907—this monument was called “Traitors’ Gate” by Irish nationalists.)

It was a lovely lush day for a walk in the park.

The duck pond at Stephen’s Green.

The duck pond at Stephen’s Green. Don’t forget, you can click to zoom in.

There were swans. And baby swans! I took quite a few shots of this and it was very difficult to decide which to use. :)

There were swans. And baby swans! I took quite a few shots of this and it was very difficult to decide which to use. 🙂

The park was redesigned to a Victorian-era design in 1880, and this knot-work pattern is a reflection of that. I’ve just crossed O’Connell Bridge; the pond is behind me now.

The park was redesigned to a Victorian-era design in 1880, and this knot-work pattern is a reflection of that. I’ve just crossed O’Connell Bridge; the pond is behind me now.

I was also doing some people- and dog-watching. I loved these two in their little sweaters, tho’ I was never able to get a shot when they were facing me. Be sure to zoom in by clicking on the photos.

I was also doing some people- and dog-watching. I loved these two in their little sweaters, tho’ I was never able to get a shot when they were facing me. Be sure to zoom in by clicking on the photos.

This really was the end of the line for the tulips, but I was pleased to see a few still in bloom. The lawn is truly manicured!

This really was the end of the line for the tulips, but I was pleased to see a few still in bloom. The lawn is truly manicured!

There are a variety of statues in the park, including this one of poet James Clarence Mangan, born James Mangan (1 May 1803, Dublin–20 June 1849). This bust was sculpted by Oliver Sheppard and erected in 1909.

I thought I had a map with information about who this woman is … but I do not. She’s lovely though.

I thought I had a map with information about who this woman is … but I do not. She’s lovely though.

I was cold and wet, so I kept moving through the outer circle of the park. I didn’t have the energy to see every single statue, and haven’t posted all the photos I took of the ones I did see.

I was really most interested in the nature scenes. Look at these trees!

I was really most interested in the nature scenes. Look at these trees!

And these! There are more than 750 species of trees in Stephen’s Green.

And these! There are more than 750 species of trees in Stephen’s Green.

And here’s the exit on to the southern edge of the park. I’ll admit this gentleman gave me pause.

And here’s the exit on to the southern edge of the park. I’ll admit this gentleman gave me pause.

Back at the hotel (which was still a few blocks’ hike), I read a little until Gerry got back from work. We’d planned an early supper at a Middle Eastern restaurant—one of our favorite ethnic meals—we’d both discovered independently. Gerry’s office isn’t far from this neighborhood, and walking through one day he’d seen the Damascus Gate restaurant. Meanwhile, I’d heard of it on the blog of my friend Patrick Comerford. You can imagine my delight when we began to compare notes. 🙂 There are many fantastic (yummy-looking from the outside, and also well-reviewed) restaurants within just steps of the Camden Court Hotel, though. It was hard to choose.

I’m not kidding when I say “across the street.” At the Damascus Gate Restaurant on Camden Street, Dublin.

I’m not kidding when I say “across the street.” At the Damascus Gate Restaurant on Camden Street, Dublin.

This starter—Hummus bel lahmeh—was delicious. As was the rest of our meal.

This starter—Hummus bel lahmeh—was delicious. As was the rest of our meal.

After supper we strolled around the neighborhood.

On a quiet side street, some Dublin townhomes with those lovely old Georgian doors Dublin is so famous for.

On a quiet side street, some Dublin townhomes with those lovely old Georgian doors Dublin is so famous for.

Tiniest bank in the world! And it had an ATM!

Tiniest bank in the world! And it had an ATM!

Before we’d even gotten to the canal, we could see what Gerry called, simply, Rathmines Church, but whose official name is the Church of Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners. It has a very distinctive copper dome. The first church was built here and consecrated in 1830; it was enlarged in 1856 and the portico added in 1881. Sadly, much of the church burned in an electrical fire in 1920; the original dome collapsed with a sound that was heard for miles. Reconstruction began immediately, and the dome was replaced with one (constructed in Galsgow) that had been intended for a Russian orthodox church in St. Petersburg, until the revolutions of 1917. So here it landed.

I think this dome must have been intended for a larger church—because even from this distance (three or four blocks) it seems huge. I love the mural on the side of the black building, which is a pub and venue—The Bernard Shaw.

I think this dome must have been intended for a larger church—because even from this distance (three or four blocks) it seems huge. I love the mural on the side of the black building, which is a pub and venue—The Bernard Shaw.

It was a lovely day altogether! Back at the hotel we relaxed, worked, and later watched a movie on the iPad … which was quite convenient! (Also, it was Seven Psychopaths—which was hilarious. Particularly Christopher Walken. OMG.)