Day Three: Malahide and the Dangers of the Irish Pub
Today, we headed north of Dublin to one of the suburban seaside towns, Malahide. In my preparatory reading, I had learned that Malahide was once a small village that became one of the more popular Irish vacation destinations, a fact that would later be confirmed in a conversation on a train with two residents of Malahide, who both lamented the loss of their "sleepy little town." It rather reminded me of a much scaled-down version of our Ocean City in Maryland.
We took the DART out to Malahide, and I think our day's greatest adventure was finding the Connell Station. Bobby and I have learned that Dublin is rather like certain states in the US: labeled, yes, but not well and certainly not consistently. Marie ended up asking for (vague) directions at an Eireanne bus station and, eventually, we ended up in the right place.
After disembarking from the train, we headed out to Malahide Castle, which was truly the reason for our visit. It's one of the smaller castles that Bobby and I have seen, but certainly spectacular. The grounds alone were worth the visit: It was a good ten-minute walk off the main road through a wooded stretch, then lush lawns and gorgeous gardens. (Pardon the alliteration. All these Vikings must be wearing off on me.) It was certainly one of the odder tours, though: a cross between guided and self-guided, as we moved through the rooms at the command of a recording. Not one of the high points of the visit, since the top floor with the bedrooms played the recording in the hall, where it could not be heard as one actually entered the bedrooms under discussion. Alas.
As with most of the medieval castles Bobby and I have visited, Malahide had consistently been an actual residence until the 1970s, so most of the medieval structure had been covered over and refurbished multiple times. I'm afraid that we get something of a "yeah, whatever" attitude to post-Renaissance decor; we're usually mouths agape and drooling over what fragments of the medieval castle can be discerned. At Malahide, that was the feast hall. Malahide is a Norman castle. (Ancient structures in Ireland seem pretty well divided into three periods: Celtic, Viking, or Norman.) And the feast hall is considered perhaps the best surviving example of a Norman feast hall. It was splendid. Unfortunately, photos weren't permitted inside the castle, so you'll have to trust me on that.
After the castle, the three of us wandered down to the shore. The traffic was certainly reminiscent of Ocean City. The weather having been unusually warm, the beach was swathed in fog and was utterly deserted. We stayed a bit anyway, poking amid the kelp for shells and treasures and remarking on how completely still was the sea. Just offshore, a row of boats were anchored, and they drifted in and out of existence and the fog alternatingly thickened and dissipated. It was impossible to tell the bounds of the sky and the sea.
After wandering the beach for a bit, we found a pizzeria for a late lunch and then caught the DART home. We relaxed in the room for a bit and then decided on a late supper at a pub and microbrewery that Marie knew from a prior visit. Since the next day would be Marie's last--and we had an ambitious agenda--we decided to have dinner and a couple of drinks and turn in early. Marie and I were lost in conversation, and Bobby started chatting with two Irish guys at the table next to us. Next that I knew, we were being invited to join them, and conversation leaped from travel to sports to politics, all lubricated by a good amount of porter and cider, of course. A third guy joined them. I'm not sure exactly how, but Bobby ended up trying absinthe (without knowing it was absinthe till after he'd had it, without even the benefit of the quintessential sugar cube and slotted spoon a la Hemingway) and we all ended the night with a round of what were termed "baby Guinnesses" (actually Kahlua with a dash of Bailey's on top), which looked enough like big-sized Guinnesses to make me go, "Awww ..." upon seeing them huddled together on a tray. They were delicious too.
Well, so much for turning in early.
And I have officially been intoxicated on this trip twice as many times as I had been upon arriving on Irish soil.
Spouse of the 'gund.