Four Days in Kildare

15 October 2015 Thursday
The Galway hotel was inexpensive and roomy (and—dare I say it?—had the best bed so far) but the breakfast was only “OK.” (Barely OK. We’d been spoiled by three fine hotels.) And since we were heading east today, we decided to skip the hotel breakfast, get out of Galway, and stop in some small town for a cafe breakfast. So I just looked at the map, found the first town on the way (Athenry—still in County Galway), and used Google to locate some cafes.

Athenry (pronounced ATH-en-rye), as it turns out, is an ancient medieval town (thirteenth century) with narrow (narrow!) streets and several old structures. Who knew? (It’s also the title town in a sappy but popular folk tune called “The Fields of Athenry,” which you can hear sung at any Irish national soccer game.)

This is downtown Athenry, with its medieval-narrow streets. That’s St. Mary’s parish church in the background.

This is downtown Athenry, with its medieval-narrow streets. That’s St. Mary’s parish church in the background.

We ate at the Old Barracks Pantry & Bakery—and yes, it was at one time a barracks for the Royal Irish Constabulary.

The Old Barracks Pantry & Bakery in Athenry.

The Old Barracks Pantry & Bakery in Athenry.

We didn’t linger in town, so I don’t have photos, though I will definitely put Athenry on my list for “next time we’re in the area.” Why? Because when we stopped to get gas, this was in the field across the street:

What’s that?

What’s that, honey?

It’s the Athenry Dominican Priory. Construction started in 1241 and was completed in 1261 (although additions were made in two succeeding centuries). There’s some good history here, which makes me sorry we didn’t take the time to walk over and look around.

 I snagged this great photo from Wikipedia; attribution is to Andreas F. Borchert.

I snagged this great photo from Wikipedia; attribution is to Andreas F. Borchert.

There are thousands (really) of these sorts of things all over Ireland, and I never get tired of seeing a new one. Even from a distance. But we had things to do, so we hit the road.

We were on our way to Kildare Town (another place it would be nice to spend some time in, alas), which is just thirty-one miles west of Dublin. There’s lots to see here—the National Stud and Japanese Gardens, for example, as well as some holy wells, St. Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare Castle, and the ruins of the Grey Abbey, which we observed from—wait for it—Kildare Village (a designer outlet outdoor mall).

Why? You might well ask. There’s a Samsonite store there, and we’d decided we needed a carryon that would roll. We both always travel very light in terms of carryon, but we were sweating our luggage weight limits and thought we could shift some heavier things to something we might not have to check. So we went straight to the luggage store and didn’t linger after that.

From Kildare we went east on the M7 to the N7 to the L6001 to the R405, which, when you get close to Celbridge, is the Hazelhatch Road. It was a nice day, and I was just tootling along. I saw SLOW painted in the road, as one does in Ireland. I’ve seen plenty of those, but the road was visible, it looked like we were coming into town (the reason to slow down, right?), so I was comfortable. And then—boom!—we were at an arched bridge (arched enough that you can’t see what’s on the other side) that was only one lane wide.

That’s the Hazel Hatch Bar on the left. The bridge has a nice high curve. Pretty, actually. I screen-grabbed this from Google Maps.

That’s the Hazel Hatch Bar on the left. The bridge has a nice high curve. Pretty, actually. I screen-grabbed this from Google Maps.

Locals will know this is the bridge over the Grand Canal out of Dublin. It’s a dangerous little spot. I can say that because had we arrived about three seconds sooner, we might have been involved in a head-on collision on the bridge, which will only accommodate one vehicle at a time, both length and width, and you cannot see the approach on the other side. I’ve since gone back on Google Maps using street view and looked at the signage. There were three separate messages on the one sign: first an indication that the road would narrow; second, an icon I didn’t recognize (a half-circle lying atop a rectangle, which I now see meant, I think, “arched bridge ahead”); and third, the words Prepare to Stop. I missed the last part, clearly. (This is the emoji approach to signage, it seems; in the States, the sign would have said Narrow Bridge or Caution, Narrow Bridge. I didn’t know how to interpret the Irish sign in the brief moments it was visible as I drove past. And no, I was not speeding.)

Consider this your first lesson on Irish signage. I screen-grabbed this from Google Maps.

Consider this your first lesson on Irish signage. I screen-grabbed this from Google Maps. You can click on the photo to zoom in.

When I showed Gerry these photos, he said, “I recognize that wall.” That’s the wall I quickly pulled over next to rather than mount the bridge, when I saw a car cresting from the other side. 🙂

A view of the canal, the wall, and the curved bridge. I screen-grabbed this from Google Maps too.

A view of the canal, the wall, and the little curved bridge. I screen-grabbed this from Google Maps too.

All’s well that ends well, but that bridge—and the blind curves behind tall stone fences or hedges—is the sort of thing that I fear will get me someday, driving in Ireland, and I have experience, y’all. I’m not trying to make too much of it—the other driver stopped and as noted I pulled nearly off the road just before it and didn’t stall the engine either, ha—but it scared me. It scared me more later, really, and I’m still unnerved several weeks later. (I do wonder how often there is a wreck there.)

This is what the other driver would have seen on his approach—it’s completely blind. Google Maps street view again.

This is what the other driver would have seen on his approach—it’s completely blind. You just take your chances. Google Maps street view again.

And so … we continued the two miles on into Celbridge, which has a village feel to it in spite of the fact that the population is twenty-one thousand this year. (I suspect a lot of the Celbridge population commutes into Dublin.) Our GPS didn’t have the hotel loaded so we had to hunt around a little for it, even though it is on a main artery.

But then we found it! Celbridge Manor Hotel.

But then we found it! Celbridge Manor Hotel.

It’s a beautiful old house with a beautiful entrance gate.

The entrance gate to the Celbridge Manor Hotel, mid-October 2015.

The entrance gate to the Celbridge Manor Hotel, mid-October 2015.

We were delighted with our room, which was very large.

 A very large room!

A very large room!

Unfortunately, not a large bed. Gerry had ordered and was billed for a king-sized bed but this was clearly a double bed. We think perhaps they meant it was a king-sized room.

Looking backward at the little foyer. Behind the wall is a huge bathroom. The little “room” beyond is a closet/”office”—there’s a chair in front of a built-in desk with plenty of electricity, but the desk is so high I would have had to stand to type there.

Looking backward at the little foyer. Behind the wall is a huge bathroom. The little “room” beyond is a closet/”office”—there’s a chair in front of a built-in desk with plenty of electricity for electronic equipment, but the desk is so high I would have had to stand to type there.

The bathroom was also huge, with both shower and claw-foot tub, which I tried out at one point.

The bathroom was also huge, with both shower and claw-foot tub, which I eventually tried out.

A view from the bathroom window, taken with a zoom. The bedroom had a similar view.

A view from the bathroom window, taken with a zoom. The bedroom had a similar view.

The furniture was mostly antiques.

The furniture was mostly antiques.

It was nice … but cold. We couldn’t seem to make the radiator work. When we went down to dinner we mentioned it at the desk before we went in to have a light dinner in the bar. (Food was OK but not spectacular.) When we got back to the room it was still cold so we called the desk and the maintenance man came back a second time.

16 October 2015 Friday
Well, the room still wasn’t particularly warm, but we had things to do today.

A Celbridge sunrise.

A Celbridge sunrise.

Gerry had brought us back to the Dublin area for our last few days because there would be business to take care of. However, our schedule coincided with the arrival in town of One Direction—four sold-out shows in Dublin City—and we didn’t want to be in town for that, so we stayed outside the city limits.

Today Gerry needed to see the dentist and have some last conversations with his coworkers at the Archives, so in we went. His colleague Brian suggested he and I run out for a cup of coffee while Gerry walked down to the dentist, so we ended up at Noshington, which is really just around the block from the office. This ended up being one of those fortuitous things—Gerry and I had wondered when and where we’d eat, and here we were in a convenient spot. It was (late) lunchtime. Brian and I ordered, and Gerry got there just as the food arrived and ordered his own. Perfect timing. Great chat! Food was delish.

After that we went to Gerry’s place to visit with his mother and start sorting through what we were going to need to take back home in the luggage. It seemed a little overwhelming.

We’d also made arrangements to drop by to see Ashling and Damian’s new house in Kinsealy. Theirs was the wedding we’d attended in June (Ashling is Gerry’s niece), and now they were getting settled. Lovely place, and we really enjoyed our visit—we could have easily overstayed our welcome. When we got back to the hotel, it was dark.

The hotel was all lit up though.

The hotel was all lit up, though.

It was a nice day all around. 🙂

17 October 2015 Saturday
They’ve had the prettiest strawberries on the breakfast buffet, though they don’t taste quite as good as they look. Not like they’re not ripe (they are) but just a very mild flavor, and a little soft. But I’m eating ’em!

Could you resist?

Could you resist?

At this point in the vacation, we were both tired and not in the mood to do much except lie around. I had work I needed to do, which I tackled while Gerry watched a lot of rugby. At some point we went out and wandered around town a little.

Just walking out to the parking lot was a visual treat, though.

Just walking out to the parking lot was a visual treat, though.

It’s the last rose of S … October!

It’s the last rose of s … October!

We’d long been planning to have dinner with our friends the Yeateses, and we’d finally scheduled a time—this night.

Pat and Brenda Yeates.

Pat and Brenda Yeates.

Lorna and Patrick Yeates, two of Pat and Brenda’s three children.

Lorna and Patrick Yeates, two of Pat and Brenda’s three children.

I’d met Pat many times, and was Facebook friends with Brenda and Lorna, but hadn’t met them in person. It was lovely. 🙂

Gerry and Pat are longtime colleagues. Pat retired this spring and now Gerry is close to that too.

Hamming it up for the camera. :) Lorna took this photo.

Hamming it up for the camera. 🙂 Lorna took this photo.

We had a good time.

We had a good time.

We took a quick selfie just when we were leaving (Lorna’s camera). These are the best kind, I think.

We took a quick selfie just when we were leaving (Lorna’s camera). These are the best kind, I think.

And then we went back to rugby and editing!

18 October 2015 Sunday
We had a very lazy Sunday. I worked for a while, then decided to take the rest of the day to relax and read. I’d hoped to read a lot more on this trip, but between work and journaling the trip (if I didn’t take notes, I’d never remember it all), I’d made less progress than I’d hoped. Oh well—I had a good time instead. 🙂

We got out and ran to Tesco for bottled water and other odds and ends, drove through town just having a look around. We were discussing how interesting it must be to live among all these old stone structures—something I really don’t get in my daily life. Here in Celbridge, there is an old warehouse-ish building—just guessing I’d say it was two hundred years old—that now houses the “Color Store,” which is a paint, wallpaper, and home interiors store. The sign outside is very modern in technology and in design, but it’s on an antique building. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of past and present, at least from the outside. I’ve noticed that the repurposing of old buildings sometimes leads to awkward plumbing and other oddities, which you can see a lot of in Ireland. But at least the history is there!

But mostly we were layabouts on this day. Gerry was already checking the five-day forecast for Murfreesboro—high seventies!

Watched the Ireland/Argentina rugby, and the Scotland/Australia rugby. Scotland was robbed on a very bad call. Really, on a couple of bad calls. (A review committee later found South African referee Craig Joubert should not have awarded the last-minute penalty kick that gave Australia the win.)

When we came down for lunch, there was a Muslim group (Nigerians, Gerry believed) holding an all-day social event at the hotel, kids everywhere, a bouncy castle out in the grounds, lots of elaborate African clothing, loud voices, people standing in the doorway. It went on well into the evening hours. But once we got up to our rooms, we couldn’t hear a thing. You never know what you’re going to see at your hotel!

We’d been looking forward to the hotel’s “Sunday carvery” for late lunch (a carvery is basically a buffet, with cooked meat freshly sliced to order, for a fixed price)—but when we got there, found it was just served up out of the kitchen like lunch on any other day. We’d expected a buffet and were a little disappointed. There were a lot of things that ended up being “not as advertised” about the Celbridge Manor; it’s great for proximity to Dublin, though, and for a price that will suit your budget.

Looking out the gate at the Celbridge Manor Hotel.

Looking out the gate at the Celbridge Manor Hotel toward our next adventure.

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