From the City Centre to an Elegant Estate

Tuesday, 23 June 2015
I was awake at 4:20 and it was already light. Guess I was caught up on my sleep. 🙂 Or maybe I was just ready and excited about a change of venue!

We went down to breakfast and reviewed our stay at the Doubletree as we ate.

Things we liked:
• Quiet neighborhood; no traffic, train, or aiplane noise at all.
• Quiet hotel; we never heard loud talking or hijinks in the hall or in the next room.
• Nice location, though it’s not right in the city centre, so you should be prepared to walk a lot.

Things we didn’t like:
• It was a hotbox in June; but this probably isn’t a problem at all from September to May.
• Fridge smelled like someone pooped in it.
• Height of bathroom counter! It was clearly built for giants, as it hit me in mid-torso; to brush my teeth, to reach the sink with my mouth, I had to lay across the counter, and even so, my chin barely reached the sink.
• Bed was hard as a rock; we might as well have slept on the floor.
• Bathroom amenities were in tubes only 5/8-inch wide (yes, I measured) and made of stiff plastic; you couldn’t squeeze them, so you left about half the contents in every tube.

After breakfast we got packed up and then walked to the Hertz location on Baggot Street. The clerk had upgraded us slightly to a Volkswagen Polo. Oh, I had so much fun driving this car! But the boot (the trunk) is small—ours was a hatchback—so this fall we think we’ll get something bigger.

On the way back to the hotel I thought I’d drive by Farm (the restaurant we’d eaten at with Orla and Conor) to take a photo of the façade … I tried to take a little “exit” turn onto a one-way street but the exit itself was a one-way. Ooops! So if you’re going to drive the wrong way down a one-way street, I learned, rush hour is the time to do it. Because you can’t get very far before someone stops you. 🙂 This has nothing to do with driving on the left, in case you were thinking that. Our neighborhood had several one-way streets, and there was no visible signage.

Then the challenge was getting from Ranelagh in south Dublin to Artane in north Dublin with a driver who mostly doesn’t know where she’s going and a nondriving copilot—and no GPS. (We thought we’d switched maps, but really we’d just turned both maps ON, so Ms. Emily Gp.S. was confused and couldn’t locate the satellite for either.) But Gerry got us there with no problem. Dublin can be a confusing city to drive in, at times. Choosing which lane to be in, mostly. But no pressure, so we just meandered and everything was fine.

First item on the agenda—I wanted to catch up with William and Gwen (Gerry’s brother and his wife). I hadn’t seen them (except for the odd Skype call here and there) since they’d visited us in Tennessee in 2010. Eoin (their son) and his wife Tracy were coming with. We had an appointment at the bank later, so there was a lot of discussion about where to go for lunch: decisions made and discarded, and round and round—the usual thing when you have six people who can’t agree on where to have lunch. Finally as we were loading up to go one place, Eoin came back to the car and said “Let’s just go to the Yacht in Clontarf; it’s close and we won’t have to rush.”

And it was perfect and we had a good time. 🙂

Eoin, Tracy, Gwen, William, and me. In Clontarf. On a beautiful day.

Eoin, Tracy, Gwen, William, and me. In Clontarf. On a beautiful day.

After that we went to the bank, ran an errand for Bridie (Gerry’s mother), and then we were off to Portmarnock.

Oh! I just love everything about this route. You’re still in Co. Dublin and only twenty minutes from the city centre … but you’re right on the beach in a little village. Five minutes north and you’re in Malahide; Howth is to the south. It’s an upscale community for sure, but without pretension.

And it’s got a very nice hotel/golf club. We stayed at the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links back in 2012—Eoin and Tracy had their wedding reception here—and frankly, I just fell in love with it.

This is an old mansion (once belonging to the Jameson family) repurposed as a hotel, so the entrance is a modern add-on.

This is an old mansion (once belonging to the Jameson family) repurposed as a hotel, so the entrance is a modern add-on.

And the lobby is lovely. It’s been remodeled since we were here last (you can see a couple photos of the difference here).

And the lobby is lovely. It’s been remodeled since we were here last (you can see a couple photos of the difference here).

Those windows at the back of the lobby look out over the garden and patio. The “new wing” is seen at back, and beyond that, the golf course.

Those windows at the back of the lobby look out over the garden and patio. The “new wing” is seen at back, and beyond that, the golf course.

Tucked behind the reception desk is the Seaview Lounge, which looks out on the beach.

Tucked behind the reception desk is the Seaview Lounge, which looks out on the beach.

The Portmarnock website tells us a bit of history of the estate:

The land on which the hotel now stands was originally part of the Jameson family estate (of Irish whiskey fame) and the house itself was called St. Marnock’s House. King Edward VII often visited the Jamesons and on his last official visit in 1907 he unveiled a plaque which was designed specially for the occasion of the marriage between members of two great distilling families, Jameson and Haig. The plaque is still to be seen in what was the secret south garden. The Jameson family had a nine-hole golf course on the site over 100 years ago; this golf course is now part of both the Portmarnock Golf Club and the Bernhard Langer designed Dublin Golf Links course.

Which is to say none of the course directly adjacent to the hotel is the historic course; those are further away. What we see is a newer—but still a true “links”—course.

A view of the golf course from our room (and tiny balcony).

A view of the golf course from our room (and tiny balcony).

Looking the other direction. Aren’t those trees interesting? It looks like a Dr. Seuss garden. :)

Looking the other direction. Aren’t those trees interesting? It looks like a Dr. Seuss garden. 🙂

I was curious about that word links, and the use of the phrase “a true links course.” What do I know about golf? Not much, I’ll tell you. But this article—“What makes a links golf course?”—from The Majors magazine offers an answer for you golf fans:

But what exactly is a links? There is no easy answer. In the Shell International Encyclopaedia of Golf, the Wikipedia of its day even if that was four decades ago, the entry for “Links” begins: “A term surrounded by some doubt and controversy.” Nothing is more certain to start golfing pedants sounding their klaxons than the use of the word “links” to mean any golf course. [But] … “in modern usage the term tends to mean sand-dune country of little use except for golf between the sea and more fertile areas; ‘links’ type golf is generally thought of as that found only on traditional seaside courses.” …

For the true cognoscenti, a links should be alongside a river estuary; offer at least partial or occasional views of the sea; have few if any trees; have numerous bunkers; and its two nines should be routed out and back, the front heading to a far point and the back returning to the clubhouse, in the general manner of the Old Course.

There you have it.

It’s a beautiful site. You’ll love it.The original home faced the sea, and you can see it here in this photo taken from the hotel’s website. You can also see those links.

And OMG, the Portmarnock! Air conditioning! The room was air conditioned! (We were in the new addition that faces the golf course on one side and the garden on the other. The rooms facing the beach are in the old Jameson mansion and do not have air conditioning, though I doubt you’d need it with a window open to the sea.) So the room wasn’t a hot box—we could have just opened the door and window and that would have been enough. I started a new list:

Things I already like about our room at the P:
• Balcony—so we can open window and door
• Larger room—it’s deluxe, and cheaper than the Doubletree

The door and window are open! And it is good. :)

The door and window are open! And it is good. 🙂

We went out immediately to have a walk on the beach, but that wasn’t so easy. The hotel has its own entrance path, but that was easiest to find from the beach, rather than from the hotel. So we walked around to the public entrance for the Fingal County Council public beach. We didn’t stay long—my feet were in agony. (It’s not from walking; this pain is on top of my feet, and they’re puffy, full of fluid. By the end of the day even the thought of walking down the hall to the elevator makes me wince.)

Looking north, and yes, that is a Martello tower, built in 1805.

Looking north, and yes, that is a Martello tower, built in 1805. You can click on this photo and then click again to enlarge the image.

Martello towers are, as you can see above, small forts that were scattered across the the coastline of the (then) British Empire, mostly during the nineteenth century. You see them everywhere; often they’ve been turned into living spaces, as this one has.

Looking south along the Velvet Strand.

Looking south along the Velvet Strand.

The beach at Portmarnock is nicknamed the Velvet Strand, and has some interesting historical notes having to do with pioneering aviators. James “Jim” Mollison took off from Portmarnock Beach on 18 August 1932 for what was acknowledged as the first solo east to west crossing of the Atlantic; two years earlier, Australian aviator Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew had taken off on a westbound transatlantic flight (to Newfoundland, then they continued on to Oakland, California, completing a circumnavigation of the world). Their plane was called the Southern Cross, and there’s a monument to it on the beach (though we didn’t find it).

To be frank, it being June and warm weather, the beach had a lot of visitors, many of them teenagers who were drinking and playing loud music. Not my idea of a walk on the beach, so we didn’t stay. But I must add that I watched a fiftyish woman rise up out of the ocean—she had been swimming, for God’s sake, swimming in the ocean, on a windy day with the temps no higher than 65°F. And she wasn’t the only one! Brrr.

Still, we were far enough down the beach that we could clearly see the path to the hotel. It led us on a circuitous route around the backside of the hotel, through a prettily manicured lawn …

The back of the hotel (our room is probably just overhead).

The back of the hotel (our room is probably just overhead).

… and remember the garden plaque presented to the Jameson family by King Edward VII? There it was: Lux Amor Pax (light, love, peace).

I imagine brides might have photographs made here. As always, you can click on any photo to enlarge it, then click again to zoom in.

I imagine brides might have photographs made here. As always, you can click on any photo to enlarge it, then click again to zoom in.

By the time we got done oohing and aahing over every little thing—we were quite pleased with the room and the beautiful day—and settling in, it was after 7pm. Too late for afternoon tea so we just stayed in, relaxing and working and snapping more photographs from the window.

When I started using the zoom, I noticed this little graveyard (at least that’s what it looks like). I hope when we’re back this fall I can walk out on the golf course and have a look. And that’s not all. Look further, just to the left of the large trees on the right: three modern windmills!

When I started using the zoom, I noticed this little graveyard (at least that’s what it looks like). I hope when we’re back this fall I can walk out on the golf course and have a look. And that’s not all. Look further, just to the left of the large trees on the right: three modern windmills!

 

The Second Breeze

20 May 2013, Monday

In spite of a late start—about half an hour—from Chicago, my flight still landed right on time in Dublin: eight o’clock in the morning. Early! My bags came off the plane very quickly—more good fortune—and I hustled through customs and out to meet Gerry.

From there we went to the car rental desk, but this time we didn’t have to ride the shutttle to their off-site location; the car was right at the airport. Somehow it’s mellower when you get the paperwork done in the terminal. “You got a very good rate on this,” the clerk said. The hits just kept coming.

We ran right home to Gerry’s place for my first official Irish fry-up. Gerry gets his white and black pudding from a butcher who has his own recipe; the sausages were from a grocery chain called Superquinn. (And when you say “Superquinn” around any of Gerry’s family, you immediately get this rejoinder: “Best sausages in Ireland!” I’m a brand-loyal shopper myself, so I can relate.)

There wasn’t much on the agenda for this day, and that’s a good thing. I’ve never thought I slept particularly well on that Atlantic flight, but there is a big difference between uncomfortable, crick-in-the-neck plane sleep (which is, after all, some sleep) and a screaming baby in your aisle (which is, not to put too fine a point on it, no sleep). I was already exhausted. Normally I get a second wind after my first Irish breakfast … but I couldn’t even locate a second breeze.

So we piddled around. Gerry had gotten me a new camera, and he taught me how to use it. (A little Canon EOS-M—I love it!) Then we went out looking for a few grocery items I wanted to pick up. On my last trip to Ireland, I’d purchased a jar of Sarah’s Wonderful Honey at a farm shop—and loved it. Wanted more. We found three varieties at Tesco. We ran over to Superquinn (“best sausages in Ireland”) to have a look, just in case. Then we went to our hotel.

Hotels are not inexpensive in Ireland (you’ll get a better rate at a B&B), but Americans will find the bathrooms (rooms in general) a bit more spacious in a hotel. Elevators are a nice touch too. And if you’re willing to pay in full in advance, you can find very good rates indeed. I did this and was not disappointed. This trip was to be primarily a Dublin tour, with places to be visited both inside the city centre and a little further out—so I split the time between a city centre hotel and one near Gerry’s place.

That was the airport Bewley’s. It’s a weird parking situation, because they’re in the park-and-fly business too. So the lot (the carpark!) is always active; lots of business travelers. (There’s three places to park—outside, or in the basement, floor A or floor B. You should opt for floor B: fewer cars.) In fact, the lobby is always active too. It’s a busy hotel, and the desk staff tends to be a little terse. It’s not a touchy-feely friendly place, but it’s quiet upstairs, and comfortable enough. (Be sure you take the airport shuttle at least once, as you’ll get a little country tour on the way … a sight you might not otherwise see.)

After we got settled, we went for an early dinner at a place just up the coastal road in Clontarf. As in any large city, there are neighborhoods that were once villages in their own right, and that’s the case here. Clontarf used to be an isolated, sleepy little fishing village right on the sea just north of Dublin Port. It’s grown to be a nice, upscale Dublin suburb but it is still quiet and has that village atmosphere.

Margaret and I had looked in at the Sandbar Trattoria last September when we were here, and everything looked fresh and good. The restaurant sits right at the intersection of the Clontarf Road and Vernon Avenue, in the heart of the village.

The Sandbar Trattoria, Clontarf Village, Ireland

The Sandbar Trattoria, Clontarf Village, Ireland

Gerry had pizza. It was lovely. I ordered a calzone that could have fed both of us.

Gerry had pizza. It was lovely. I ordered a calzone that could have fed both of us.

After dinner we walked a couple doors down to have a look at the church, which is St. John the Baptist’s Catholic church. In his wonderful blog, my friend Patrick Comerford offers this bit of history on the church—

The church dates to the appointment of the Revd James Callanan as Parish Priest of Clontarf in 1829. He bought a house that is now home the Holy Faith Convent, and approached Colonel Vernon of Clontarf Castle for a site for a new church. Archbishop Murray laid foundation stone on 16 June 1835, and it opened in 1838. The church was designed by the prominent Dublin architect, Patrick Byrne. The church was enlarged in 1895, with the addition of 17 ft at the chancel end, a new high altar, pulpit, altar rails, sacristy, bell and belfry.

—and a nice photo taken when the gates were open. (They were not when we were there.)

St. John’s Church, Clontarf

St. John’s Church, Clontarf

I’m thinking that must be John on the left of the photo, but who is the other fellow? I don’t know. St. John’s Church, Clontarf

I’m thinking that must be John on the left of the photo (looking a bit like a Georgian street person), but who is the other fellow? I don’t know. St. John’s Church, Clontarf

Then we walked across the street … to the sea.

St. John’s Church, Clontarf, from across the street. It’s lovely, really.

St. John’s Church, Clontarf, from across the street. It’s lovely, really.

There’s a beautiful walk along the beach: paved, well-lit, and scenic.

Looking east along the beach at Clontarf.

Looking east along the beach at Clontarf.

And then I recognized a landmark that Gerry had told me about long ago: the Poolbeg Chimneys, Dubliners call them. They are part of the ESB’s Poolbeg Generating Station at Ringsend, on the south bank of Dublin Port. The thermal station chimneys—number 1 is 680 feet 9 inches tall, number 2 is 681 feet 9 inches—are some of the tallest structures in Ireland, and you can see them from all over Dublin city. There’s been a power station on this spot since 1903, but construction for the Poolbeg station began in the 1960s. Tower number 1 was completed in 1971, number 2 in 1978.

A new, more efficient station was built on the site in the 1990s, so the towers are no longer used or maintained; the ESB wants to tear them down. But for folks born in the last fifty or so years, they are a powerful symbol of home. (Look here if you want to see more.) So … they remain, for now. And there they were, right there!

The Poolbeg Chimneys. Number 1 is on the far right. (Remember, you can click on the image—and click again—to zoom in.)

The Poolbeg Chimneys. Number 1 is on the far right. (Remember, you can click on the image—and click again—to zoom in.)

After that I was pretty much done. I’d been up more than twenty-four hours. So we went back to the hotel and crashed.

Penultimate Day!

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.

The Casino at Marino, Dublin. The little decorative barrier that Gerry is standing in front of hides stairs that go down to the basement, which is where the kitchen and other servants’ rooms were. (Margaret’s photo.)

The Casino at Marino, Dublin. The little decorative barrier that Gerry is standing in front of hides stairs that go down to the basement, which is where the kitchen and other rooms important to the running of the house were. Take a good look at the scale here; compare Gerry to the size of that window, for example. (Margaret’s photo.)

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.

This is the southern view, with the Wicklow Mountains (see the Great Sugar Loaf?) in the very dim distance. The coast, then would be to the left in this photo, probably about a mile away. (Margaret’s photo.)

This is the southern view, with the Wicklow Mountains (see the Great Sugar Loaf?) in the very dim distance. The coast, then would be to the left in this photo, probably about a mile away. (Margaret’s photo.)

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.

Oh, it’s just lovely, the Casino at Marino. (Margaret’s photo.)

Oh, it’s just lovely, the Casino at Marino. (Margaret’s photo.)

The underside of the overhang. Yes, that’s an ox skull in the frieze. (Margaret’s photo.)

The underside of the overhang. Yes, that’s an ox skull in the frieze. (Margaret’s photo.)

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.

This window appears to serve three rooms, one on the upper floor. You can see the curved panes. (Margaret’s photo.)

This window appears to serve three rooms, one on the upper floor. You can see the curved panes. (Margaret’s photo.)

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 two tall panels in the center bottom of this door open—about sixty inches. (Margaret’s photo.)

The two tall panels in the center bottom of this door open—about sixty inches. (Margaret’s photo.)

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.

Looking north from the beautiful Casino at Marino. (Margaret’s photo.)

Looking north from the beautiful Casino at Marino. (Margaret’s photo.)

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.

This is the duck pond (obviously!). See the little classical pavilion? (Margaret’s photo.)

This is the duck pond (obviously!). See the little classical pavilion? (Margaret’s photo.) Don’t forget, you can zoom in closer by clicking on the photo.

Another look at the pavilion. (Margaret’s photo.)

Another look at the pavilion. (Margaret’s photo.)

Walking around the duck pond. (Margaret’s photo.)

Walking around the duck pond. (Margaret’s photo.)

Inside the pavilion. Beyond the duck pond is the Coast Road, and on the other side of that, the beach and the sea. (Margaret’s photo.)

Inside the pavilion. Beyond the duck pond is the Coast Road, and on the other side of that, the beach and the sea. (Margaret’s photo.)

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!

Another folly tucked off in the trees, this one sort of like a bell tower. (Margaret’s photo.)

Another folly tucked off in the trees, this one sort of like a bell tower. In fact, I think it may be an observation tower. (Margaret’s photo.)

The sound of running water was ever present, but I’m certain this little brook was manmade. (Margaret’s photo.)

The sound of running water was ever present, but I’m certain this little brook was manmade. (Margaret’s photo.)

A little bridge across the brook in St. Anne’s Park. (Margaret’s photo.)

A little bridge across the brook in St. Anne’s Park. (Margaret’s photo.)

Yet another folly. We also saw follies meant to look like ruins. Fake ruins! (Margaret’s photo.)

Yet another folly. We also saw follies meant to look like ruins. Fake ruins! (Margaret’s photo.)

You can see why it could be the source of a little boy’s nightmares. (Margaret’s photo.)

You can see why it could be the source of a little boy’s nightmares. (Margaret’s photo.)

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.

Today’s Image

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.”

In Dublin’s Fair City …

Day 22, Tuesday, 2 October 12

Today was—we hoped—museum day. We picked up Gerry and went back to the Nassau Street area (good shopping; we revisited a couple places too).

We stopped at Trinity College hoping to get in to see the Book of Kells, but there was a huge line waiting to get in—all school kids. Perhaps it was a specially scheduled day with every stinkin’ high school in the city (yes, there were that many teenagers and the line was that long), but we decided to check back later. (As a side note, Trinity does have a nice gift shop. I know this from previous experience; we weren’t brave enough to try it that day.)

So on we went to the National Museum of Ireland. The museum has four locations (one in County Mayo on the other side of the country, which features country life): in Dublin City there’s decorative arts in Collins Barracks on Benburb Street, natural history on Merrion Street, and archealogy on Kildare Street.

Entrance to the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street.

Entrance to the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street.

It was to the latter we were headed. The museum’s website tells us:

The archaeological collection is the primary repository of ancient Irish artefacts … The period covered by the exhibitions extends from the Mesolithic through to the end of the medieval period, and includes internationally known treasures such as the Ardagh Chalice, Tara Brooch and Derrynaflan Hoard.

Based on core collections assembled in the late 18th and 19th Centuries by the Royal Dublin Society and the Royal Irish Academy, the archaeological collections have been added to considerably over the last 100 years and now number in excess of two million objects. The collection is significant in extent, diversity and quality and three areas are of acknowledged international standing. These are the prehistoric gold collections; ecclesiastical metalwork and personal ornaments of the early medieval period; and the Viking Dublin assemblage.

Oh, yeah, that gold is something else. Those prehistoric folks had some very fine jewelry. 🙂 And other gold baubles: I love the little Broighter boat, for example, which you can see here.

There are many important pieces in the collection besides the boat. The Tara Brooch, the Ardagh Chalice, and the Cross of Cong, just to name a few. We wandered slowly—and even so, when we’d made our way through the gold room, we realized we’d missed the brooch.

So we went back and asked a docent, a lovely older gentleman who smiled and led us to the display case with the brooch. Then he proceeded to give us a personal history lecture, and it was just wonderful. He used both the piece itself and some of the written displays about it on the wall—which had blow-up images to show the fine detail that was hard to see with your own eye—to tell us about it. How many animal images in this one square inch? The craftsmanship was just spectacular. Then we talked about the horse imagery and how the Christians used pagan images and stories to help convert the locals.

Then he walked us to the Lismore Crozier (it looks like a horse’s head) and then the Cross of Cong and gave us a similar talk. From there we went to the Ardagh Chalice (here are two views of it, front and side). Again he took us to a large wall display and showed us how the names of the eleven apostles (Judas was left off) are inscribed around the edge, under the fancy gold work. You might miss it unless you knew it was there, but … wow.

My tendency is to look more at the thing and less at the media on the wall describing the thing, but in this case, there really was a lot of interesting information to be had. Lesson learned! This gentleman really knew his stuff and was enthusiastic about it. We really got quite a nice lecture. He might have kept us there all day except then his wife called on his cell phone. (We had a little giggle about this man who was eighty if he was a day, chatting on his iPhone.)

We took a few moments in the gift shop, then walked back to Trinity to see about the Book of Kells. But the line was even longer than before, so we decided to blow it off. That was a shame, but the National Museum had also been packed with bored teenagers and we already knew they were no fun to be around. We figured we probably wouldn’t even get close to the Book.

Oh well—next time!

It was lunchtime, so we walked over to Powerscourt, approaching from Johnson’s Court. Gerry looked for Magill’s Delicatessen, which had been there forty years earlier when he worked in this neighborhood—he used to get sandwiches for lunch at Magill’s (look at this little video). They didn’t appear to be making sandwiches the way they once had, though, so we didn’t linger—although the smell was divine. There’s nothing quite like a dry-cured salami. Oh!

We walked through the shopping center but as we did we realized we all were ready for a break. We’d come back to the shopping center, but first—lunch. Gerry took us to lunch at the Old Stand, a pub on the corner of Exchequer and St. Andrews Streets.

The Old Stand. A very unassuming façade for a very nice pub! (Margaret’s photo.)

The Old Stand. A very unassuming façade for a very nice pub! (Margaret’s photo.)

It was packed with locals eating lunch; not a single American in the place save us. The Old Stand is a classy place and we got superior service from the smiling barman (he appeared to be serving, bartending, and overseeing everything, very neat in black trousers and tie with crisp white shirt). Always smiling.

When you eat at a pub, it’s a different experience than eating at a restaurant—mostly due to the seating arrangements. It’s a bar, after all. The tables are small and low. So are the lights. 🙂 It can be quite cozy.

Refreshed, we went back up the half block to Powerscourt Centre. This shopping center was cobbled together from a restored Georgian townhouse: the website tells us “59 South William Street was home to Richard Wingfield 3rd Viscount Powerscourt (1730–1788) and his wife Lady Amelia, who bought the townhouse to entertain guests during Parliament season”—and apparently you can still have parties at the house. The Powerscourts moved in in 1774; it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of a house this big. (Take a look here for some great photos.) There are more than sixty merchants here now, from boutiques to craft shops to art galleries to antiques to restaurants. And I’ve just read you can book a tour to learn more about the house.

Margaret shopped along antique row—she found some great bargains—while Gerry and I sat and talked and admired the view. (Really: I was worn out—it would be another month at home before I got my lungs back—and Gerry kept me company.)

Houses in those days often had wings and separate buildings that enclosed a private yard. Here on the second floor (there are four altogether) you can see we are in a courtyard. That’s a restaurant below.

Houses in those days often had wings and separate buildings that enclosed a private yard. Here on the second floor (there are four altogether) you can see we are in a courtyard. That’s a restaurant below.

The courtyard is lit from a skylight. I imagine these decorations are quite a sight at night! (Oooo, such a poet!)

The courtyard is lit from a skylight. I imagine these decorations are quite a sight at night! (Oooo, such a poet!) I loved the little red fox strolling through the air.

A different angle. I didn’t walk too far; I was pneumonia-winded.

A different angle. I didn’t walk too far; I was pneumonia-winded.

By then we were done. We took a taxi back to Gerry’s house, where we admired our purchases while Gerry was changing (and the kettle was boiling). He and I are both the sort of people who want to get into sweats as quickly as the front door is shut, and that’s what he was doing: getting comfortable.

When he came back downstairs, I remarked that it suuuure would be nice to have something from that fancy French bakery up in Clontarf (where our B&B was) to go with the tea, and that I’d be willing to run up there to get it. Gerry replied that I needn’t go that far (Clontarf’s only ten minutes from the house, but still); there was a bakery much closer and he’d ride in the car with me (to give directions) if he didn’t have to change into street clothes again (that is, not get out of the car).

“Done!” I said, and picked up my purse. Margaret just sat there and laughed, astonished. It was like a complicated negotiation, but Gerry and I are so tuned to what the other would like and is willing to contribute to the acquisition effort that it was just textbook—1, 2, 3, decided and done! The place was called Cinnamon, and I bought a selection of sweets, including the last pieces of apple tart, which is what I really wanted. Ducked in to the shop next door for vanilla ice cream, then back to Gerry’s for tea. (Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m talking about apple pie. It’s an apple tart in Ireland. There’s very little sugar in either the filling, which is all apples, or the crust, which is thick and shortbread-like. Here’s an authentic recipe with beautiful pictures.)

We lingered a couple hours, sipping tea, using the wi-fi, then Margaret and I drove back to Clontarf. We stopped in the village at an Italian place (called Picasso! oh, the irony) which was in the middle of its early-bird special (two courses, your choice, for twenty euro). Back at the B&B we took some time to pack up and get ready to move to the airport hotel tomorrow. Just one more day in beautiful, green Ireland …

Today’s Image

During lunch at the Old Stand, there was a group of older gentlemen, casually dressed, crowded around the table next to us. At one point I zeroed in on the conversation of one white-haired member of the group, who was saying, “And then I took my laptop and showed him—” The man sitting across from him said, “Google this, google that” and laughed. It just wasn’t the conversation I expected, you know?

Bright Lights, Big City

Day 19, Saturday, 29 September 12

Anyone who knows me will tell you I can get turned around (that’s Southern for lost) quicker than anyone. I can get lost in my own town, for heavens’ sake. So when Gerry helped us get settled at our B&B in Clontarf yesterday, I paid special attention to how to get from his place to ours, the GPS having returned to the States this very morning with Jill and Alli. I was about to be on my own. (Thank goodness I also had a navigator with me! She was very good with detail.)

Clontarf used to be an isolated, sleepy little fishing village. It’s grown to be a nice, upscale Dublin suburb but it is still quiet and has that village atmosphere. We were just about four blocks from the heart of Clontarf, where there is a cluster of restaurants, pubs, and shops (including a bookmaker, patisserie, dress shop, grocery, and more)—at the corner of Vernon Avenue and Clontarf Road, which runs along the sea. The Ferryview is on the Clontarf Road.

We had breakfast in the dining room (with the irrepressible Dominic), then drove in to Gerry’s place, where we parked for the day. Then we caught a cab the rest of the way into the city.

The cab driver was an old man (he told us he was sixty-eight, but he looked older; looked worn out, honestly) who spoke slowly, as if, perhaps, he’d had a stroke. But his mind wasn’t slow at all. The conversation was lively, and we learned he is planning to emigrate to Melbourne, Australia, next year (well, this year, as I write) to live out his days with one of his four sons (he also has a daughter). All of his children except this one son (who has four children of his own) live in Ireland, and the old man himself has lived in Dublin his whole life. I’m thinking this will be a huge adjustment for him at his age, to leave everything he knows (including lifelong friends) and go to a different country. I hope he is happy. I hope they take good care of him, this son and his family.

Our destination was Francis Street, and Dublin’s antiques district; the old man knew right where to take us. Back when the trip was still a gleam in our eyes, Margaret, a retired antiques dealer herself, had done her research and we’d put this stop on the itinerary. It’s nice that so many of the antiques dealers are on this one street—really, in this two or so blocks—because we simply browsed back and forth across the narrow street (since it was headed downhill).

And boy, was I impressed. Margaret knows her stuff. (Me, I’m a hick. I know a little about Depression glass, and that’s the extent of what I know about old things.) I had rarely seen her in action—just knowing what she was looking at and articulating it to me, the interested bystander, in a concise way, as well as holding her own in conversations with experienced dealers who were, to a man, charmed by her. But then, she is charming. 🙂

Our first stop was O’Sullivan Antiques, with a an articulate, nice-looking young man (an architect by trade) behind the desk. We talked a lot. The whole shop is Georgian antiques; “and nothing after 1830,” the young man said. “Except,” Margaret said, “that one piece.” She pointed, with a twinkle in her eye, to a little framed piece on the wall that was a portrait of Queen Victoria as a very young woman. Who would even know to recognize Vicky as a teenager? Not me. The guy was really impressed. Turns out the portrait belongs to the owner and is not for sale. (The website, by the way, advertises items after the Georgian period, but Margaret confirmed the shop on that day was nothing but Georgian antiques.)

We went to many shops, specializing in a variety of things (some more like junk shops! Ha!). One specialized in mid-century modern and I loved everything in it, from a large wall tapestry to a pair of gorgeous cobalt blue table lamps with brick-red shades. This guy, the owner, was so, so Dublin: a generous head of silver hair, casual but cosmopolitan. He also had a twelve-panel Coromandel screen in the shop; while he was on the phone, Margaret was pointing out the really nice features of it to me. (It dominated the tiny space.) Like, you rarely see them intact, all twelve panels; six is more common (they get taken apart for one reason or another). The owner struck up a conversation with us when he got off the phone. Margaret was struck by how chatty everyone was, up and down the street.

At the bottom of the hill we turned left and walked back up Patrick Street to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s the largest church in Ireland, and quite the tourist attraction, as it was built beside a sacred well where St. Patrick is said to have baptized his converts around 450 AD (the building here now was built in 1254–1270). Imagine: a place of pilgrimage since 450. Nonetheless, don’t assume this is a Catholic church, because it is not (England’s Elizabeth I ordered it converted in 1592, around the same time she had Trinity College built).

Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 2012.

Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 2012.

Great floor, right? Margaret says it’s Victorian. She is a very useful person to have along on a trip like this—she notices things. (Margaret’s photo.)

Great floor, right? Margaret says it’s Victorian. She is a very useful person to have along on a trip like this—she notices things. (Margaret’s photo.)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 2012. What you see in the distance is, I believe, the Lady Chapel. (Margaret’s photo.)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 2012. What you see in the distance is, I believe, the Lady Chapel. (Margaret’s photo.)

Looking at the altar at St. Patrick’s, and beyond it (under the arch), the Lady Chapel. Note all the flags.

Looking at the altar at St. Patrick’s, and beyond it (under the arch), the Lady Chapel. Note all the flags. And don’t forget you can click on any photo to see it enlarged, then click again to zoom in. There’s lots of detail here.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s hard to convey the massiveness of it in a photograph.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s hard to convey the massiveness of it in a photograph.

Flags up closer. The cathedral guidebook says England’s “King George III founded the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick in 1783. … Each knight had his banner, symbolic sword, helmet, and crest placed over his stall in the choir.” You can see some of the helmets in the lower part of the photo.

Flags up closer. The cathedral guidebook says England’s “King George III founded the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick in 1783. … Each knight had his banner, symbolic sword, helmet, and crest placed over his stall in the choir.” You can see some of the helmets in the lower part of the photo.

Lots of statuary here at St. Patrick’s. I think this is the south wall.

Lots of statuary here at St. Patrick’s. I think this is the south wall.

I just thought this was pretty. :)

I just thought this was pretty. 🙂

Again, you have to look up or you’ll miss some interesting details. Like disembodied heads at the corner of every arch. I liked the shamrocks on this capital.

Again, you have to look up or you’ll miss some interesting details. Like disembodied heads at the corner of every arch. I liked the shamrocks on this capital.

Back outside, we walked up the street into the park beside the church.

This is clearly art, just outside the gate to St. Patrick’s Park. We didn’t find any plaques, so I can’t tell you more right now. Maybe later. They’re cool, though.

This is clearly art, just outside the gate to St. Patrick’s Park. We didn’t find any plaques, so I can’t tell you more right now. Maybe later. They’re cool, though.

Beautiful late September day! The cathedral is on the right here.

Beautiful late September day! The cathedral is on the right here.

I’m guessing this is the north transept. You can see, a little, how huge this thing is.

I’m guessing this is the north transept. You can see, a little, how huge this thing is.

x

Again, the church is so large—and the sun was at such an angle—it was impossible to photograph the whole building while standing in the shadow of the building. So I found some shade to stand in farther back. I kinda like it. 🙂

x

Minot’s Tower, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

From St. Patrick’s we walked up Patrick Street, working our way toward Christ Church Cathedral. Along the way we stopped in a couple little arts shops (modern young Irish artists) and a place that specialized in old b/w prints (antiques) beautifully framed in a modern style. (It was a great temptation. Really lovely prints!) This was a fun walk. Everywhere we went, the whole morning, every shop we stopped in, people heard our accents (well, I suspect we looked pretty American too) and wanted to talk, wanted to know where we were from, and so on.

Christ Church Cathedral sits at a major intersection (and about two blocks from the River Liffey); the route north out of the city center to Gerry’s place passes between Christ Church and its Synod Hall (seen below). The pedestrian bridge between the two was built during the cathedral’s restoration in the 1870s. Now the Synod Hall houses the Dublinia museum (which would be great for kids—but we had a quick look and decided to decline).

We all know of landmarks or sights in our hometowns that become icons for us. This is one of Gerry’s iconic images of Dublin (it’s associated, also, with “almost home.”) :) That’s Christ Church on the right. On the left is the Synod Hall (now the Dublinia museum).

We all know of landmarks or sights in our hometowns that become icons for us. This is one of Gerry’s iconic images of Dublin (it’s associated, also, with “almost home.”) 🙂 That’s Christ Church on the right. On the left is the Synod Hall (now the Dublinia museum).

Here’s a better look at it.

Here’s a better look at it.

Almost impossible to get a good shot of the cathedral; it’s a very busy corner.

Almost impossible to get a good shot of the cathedral; it’s a very busy corner.

So we crossed the busy street.

This fellow was on the low wall surrounding the cathedral, on the very busy Lord Edward Street, not concerned about the roar of the traffic (or the many tourists). I think it’s a first-year (that is, juvenile) herring gull.

This fellow was on the low wall surrounding the cathedral, on the very busy Lord Edward Street, not concerned about the roar of the traffic (or the many tourists). I think it’s a first-year (that is, juvenile) herring gull.

There were a lot of tourists milling around outside, but it wasn’t immediately evident how to get inside. So we walked all the way around the building. It’s quite large.

This is more interesting. The south transept of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

This is more interesting. The south transept of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

The Romanesque doorway leading to the south transept, a fine example of twelfth-century Irish stonework. (Margaret’s photo.)

The Romanesque doorway leading to the south transept, a fine example of twelfth-century Irish stonework. (Margaret’s photo.)

There’s a narrow alley on the far side (north). This little exhibits is embedded in the cobblestones. No plaque. Interesting, old … important enough to preserve (sort of!) but maybe not historically important. (Margaret’s photo.)

There’s a narrow alley on the far side (north). This little exhibits is embedded in the cobblestones. No plaque. Interesting, old … important enough to preserve (sort of!) but maybe not historically important. (Margaret’s photo.)

The alley (hidden on the far left here) spit us back out on Winetavern Street, where we had a fine view of the front of the church, although I’m not sure these doors are used any more. (Note the pedestrian bridge on the right.)

The alley (hidden on the far left here) spit us back out on Winetavern Street, where we had a fine view of the front of the church, although I’m not sure these doors are used any more. (Note the pedestrian bridge on the right.)

The Christ Church we see today replaced a wooden church that had been built by the Vikings in 1038; this massive stone building was commissioned by Strongbow—Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, notable for his leading role in the Norman invasion of Ireland (1169)—in 1172. Strongbow is actually buried in the cathedral. Like St. Patrick’s, Christ Church passed to the Protestant Church of Ireland during the Reformation.

We did finally figure out how to get inside. 🙂 The nave has many fine gothic arches; these walls are from the original thirteenth-century structure (the north side leans out by as much as a foot and a half due to settling). By the nineteenth century the cathedral was in a pretty bad state, and was completely remodeled in the 1870s. The floor is mostly Victorian tile but at least one of the chapels near the altar still retains the medieval floor. (Neither of us took a photo but here’s one!)

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, 2012. Not as much light here as at St. Patrick’s.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, 2012. Not as much light here as at St. Patrick’s.

Lovely capitals from that Victorian-era restoration.

Lovely capitals from that Victorian-era restoration.

There are a few monuments in Christ Church too. This one is for Robert FitzGerald, the 19th Earl of Kildare, who died at age 68 and was apparently outlived by his wife. One wonders how idealized these stone portraits are. The man’s bio is presented on etched stone underneath this black marble pedestal. (Margaret’s photo.)

There are a few monuments in Christ Church too. This one is for Robert FitzGerald, the 19th Earl of Kildare, who died at age 68 and was apparently outlived by his wife. One wonders how idealized these stone portraits are. The man’s bio is presented on etched stone underneath this black marble pedestal. (Margaret’s photo.)

Interestingly, the crypt is open to the public (there’s even a small café and gift shop down there) and we did go down; it’s the most that’s left of the medieval church. But it’s a bit creepy, as you might imagine, and we didn’t linger. Not even at the gift shop—a first for us. The air was heavy and humid and … just unpleasant. Maybe I am reading too much into it. (Clearly I am: I’ve just read they offer the crypt for wedding receptions and parties. No, thank you!)

The crypt at Christ Church. I believe these are statues of Charles I and Charles II, the oldest known secular carvings in Ireland. Not original to the church, obviously. Interesting how things end up one place or another. These originally stood at Dublin’s medieval city hall, which was demolished in 1806. (Margaret’s photo.)

The crypt at Christ Church. I believe these are statues of Charles I and Charles II, the oldest known secular carvings in Ireland. Not original to the church, obviously. Interesting how things end up one place or another. These originally stood at Dublin’s medieval city hall, which was demolished in 1806. (Margaret’s photo.)

By this point we were exhausted and ready for lunch, the time for that meal having come and gone. We caught a cab and met Gerry at the Goblet, a pub in his neighborhood, for some chow.

It’s a comfortable place, the Goblet. We both put our feet up.

It’s a comfortable place, the Goblet. We both put our feet up.

After that I took Margaret back to the B&B, as she’d decided she wasn’t up to meeting a bunch of the Hampsons back at the Goblet for drinks that evening. So I drove back to Gerry’s and worked a little before we went down to the pub. Let’s see … Clare, Orla, and their mam, Gwen, were there, as were Eoin and Tracy and Neil and Maureen. I’m so blessed to call them family! I got home close to midnight, ducked into the lounge downstairs (the only room in the inn that had wi-fi), and updated Facebook before bed.

Today’s Image

As our cab inched past the Hapenny Bridge in midmorning traffic, a gull alighted on one of the ornaments. It settled its wings repeatedly until they were just right, folded them tight, and then became a bird statue.

A Day of Rest (Work) and a Travel Day

Day 17, Thursday, 27 September 12

As usual we all met in the dining room for breakfast. We were in the capable hands of Marie—Edel’s friend who also works for her—who treated us to homemade banana bread, in addition to all the regular breakfast goodies.

Edel and her daughter, Emerald, had left before any of us were up that morning, to go to the National Ploughing Championships in County Wexford. No, I’m serious. This falls into the Only-in-Ireland category, I think (although it’s really more like a festival). The Irish Times was predicting more than 180,000 in attendance over the three-day event.

Edel has an interesting story (don’t we all?). She’s a nurse, and spent some time employed at a hospital in Arkansas, where she met the man who would be Emerald’s father. He is of Vietnamese descent, and Emerald was born with dual citizenship (Irish, U.S.). Edel later returned home to Lahinch, bought the B&B, and continues to work as a nurse. Emerald’s dad has visited Ireland four times to see her; she is sixteen, a music student, and, apparently, a fan of the National Ploughing Championships.

Jill and Alli had volunteered to walk Draco, the house dog (named by Emerald!), so shortly after breakfast, off they went.

Off they go! See the town on the other side of the bay? Liscannor. They ended up walking all the way over there.

Off they go! See the town on the other side of the bay? Liscannor. They ended up walking halfway  there.

They did stop to wave. (Crazy situation with all the wires, no?)

They did stop to wave. (Crazy situation with all the wires, no?)

Alli and Draco. (Jill took this photo.)

Alli and Draco. (Jill took this photo.)

Tide was on its way out, and it looks like the sun was trying to come out too. (Jill’s photo.)

Tide was on its way out, and the sun was trying to come out too. (Jill’s photo.)

I’m not sure where they were at this point, but this is a nice photo! (Jill’s photo.)

I’m not sure where they were at this point, but this is a nice shot! (Jill’s photo.)

They stopped here, near the 12th and 13th holes of the Old Course at the Lahinch Golf Club. That’s the Inagh River, and the bridge supports the R478 (the route to the Cliffs of Moher). (Jill’s photo.)

They stopped here, near the 12th and 13th holes of the Old Course at the Lahinch Golf Club. That’s the Inagh River, and the bridge supports the R478 (the route to the Cliffs of Moher). (Jill’s photo.)

In the meantime, I had declared this a day of rest. Frankly, I was exhausted, between doing the driving and just trying to keep up (I was still taking antibiotics for the pneumonia)—and I was desperate to finish the editorial notes that were due on 30 September. So while Jill and Alli went off for that long walk (several hours), Margaret and I went downtown. I settled in at Kenny’s Bar, where I’d have wi-fi, and Margaret shopped around a little. Later she checked in to Facebook while I wandered around and shopped a little.

One of my favorite places in Lahinch is the Celtic T-Shirt Shop. It’s classic, y’all: tiny and stuffed to the rafters with the most beautiful T-shirts (and tank tops and dresses too)—and one of the screen printers will probably be working as you’re shopping. Most importantly, the designs are unique and gorgeous and sold nowhere else. You can buy a T-shirt with Ireland printed on it anywhere, even in the States. These are the real deal. (I did some Christmas shopping.)

The Celtic T-Shirt Shop, Lahinch, 2012. (Margaret’s photo.)

The Celtic T-Shirt Shop, Lahinch, 2012. (Margaret’s photo.)

It’s not exactly a boardwalk any more, but there are several shops along the ocean in Lahinch. The Celtic T-Shirt Shop is just out of the shot on the left. (Jill’s photo.)

It’s not exactly a boardwalk any more, but there are several shops along the ocean in Lahinch. The Celtic T-Shirt Shop is just out of the shot on the left. (Jill’s photo.)

Lahinch is a popular surf spot. If you look closely you can see Jill and Alli near the top of the photo; they’re the ones with the dog.

Lahinch is a popular surf spot. If you look closely you can see Jill and Alli near the top of the photo; they’re the ones with the dog.

I also stopped in at the studio of Phillip Morrison and had a lovely chat with him. Love his work! I know it’s not for everyone but I was quite taken with his cityscapes. One of these days, perhaps …

It was very cozy in the bar, sitting at the back near the stage so I could plug in. I went through a couple pots of tea. We had soup (mine was roasted carrot) and a shared garlic cheese pizza for lunch. And I got a lot done!

We were anticipating Eoin and Tracy for dinner. Yes, we hadn’t gotten to visit much—what with the wedding and all—so after they returned from their honeymoon, Eoin insisted on driving down from Dublin—about a three-hour drive. They arrived in Lahinch around 5:30.

It was Arthur’s Day, and we got a free pint each, which is always a plus. (Arthur’s Day was started by the Guinness Company in 2009 to celebrate 250 years of the company’s history. It is controversial in some circles—it’s a marketing ploy, after all—but I assure you, in a snug pub in the late afternoon, it’s all about the black stuff.) We ate dinner and drank and visited—and a good time was had by all!

Tracy, Eoin, and Alli at Kenny’s Bar in Lahinch. (Jill’s photo.)

Tracy, Eoin, and Alli at Kenny’s Bar in Lahinch. (Jill’s photo.)

Today’s Image

No matter if the tide was low or high, up near the sea wall there was always an assortment of birds rooting furiously, quickly, in the piles of seaweed. No arguments among them, but every bird (of all sizes) intent upon his own little patch.

There’s a meal to be had here!

There’s a meal to be had here!

There’s a meal to be had here!

Herring gull: most common in Ireland.

Day 18, Friday, 28 September 12

One thing decided at the pub last night was that Jill and Alli would ride back to Dublin with Eoin and Tracy, so by ten o’clock, Margaret and I were packed and loaded and in the car headed back to Dublin with a few slices of Marie’s wonderful banana bread to sustain us.

It was a gorgeous, rainbowed day! Jill and Alli had a slightly less electric cable–obstructed view from their room. (Jill's photo.)

It was a gorgeous, rainbowed day! Jill and Alli had a slightly less electric cable–obstructed view from their room. (Jill’s photo.)

We thought we’d stop at Clonmacnoise on the way back, but when all was said and done, we missed a turnoff, and with the rain we thought we’d push on to Dublin and go to Glendalough later.

So we checked in at the Ferryview Guest House in Clontarf (pop. 31,063—but who’s counting? It’s Greater Dublin, for all intents and purposes), which is an upscale community right on the sea just north of Dublin Port.

You can’t tell from this photo but the Ferryview sits right on the Clontarf Road and overlooks Dublin Port. (Margaret's photo.)

You can’t tell from this photo but the Ferryview sits right on the Clontarf Road and overlooks Dublin Port. (Margaret’s photo.)

We met Jill and Alli at Gerry’s, said our good-byes (they were flying out early the next morning) and then Gerry, Margaret, and I went out to dinner with Neil and Maureen. I think I am feeling better—although it will turn out that I still have no energy or stamina—and am looking forward to the next five days in Dublin.

Today’s Image

We pulled up to the Ferryview after dark and met Dominic, the “night porter.” He had a very specific idea of where we would park (parking is always an issue in Ireland), and by the time I’d managed to get out of the car—which involved, no joke, my falling into a hedge—I was well and truly annoyed with Dominic. He had an unusual way of speaking; he seemed like he was not quite there … but he was. Didn’t miss a trick, in fact. On the other hand, he could be annoying; he circulated in the dining room at breakfast and chatted up everyone, even when they didn’t really feel like chatting or were put off by his strange manner. As the days wore on, however, I began to appreciate Dominic’s usefulness, and I was disappointed the day I learned he’d gone home for the season.