Day Two: Wicklow and Glendalough
Today, we had schedules a tour of the Wicklow Mountains and of Glendalough. The Wicklow Mountains are just south of Dublin. We woke up, had breakfast downstairs, and went to meet the bus on O'Connell Street. We ended up in the wrong queue and were delighted to find that, instead of the sleek silver year-3000 tour bus, we were actually scheduled to go in the smaller red minibus. Our driver was great, introducing us to such gems such as calling Dublin's millenial monument--a tall silver spire that resembles a nice-looking cell-phone tower--the Stiffy by the Liffey rather than its proper name of the Spire of Light.
The weather in Dublin so far has been more like summer in Maryland than what we were led to believe of summer in Ireland. It has been quite sunny and very warm as a result. After spending the bulk of England and Scotland last September cocooned inside a heavy sweater and, generally, soaked to the skin by all the rain, I am not protesting our change in fortunes.
Thus, we had a gorgeous day for Wicklow, but the minibus was also very hot, and I fell asleep, still somewhat tired from the traveling on Thursday. When I woke, we were outside of Dublin and in view of Sugarloaf Mountain. We stopped several times along the high, winding road to trek off the road a bit to see lakes and take photos. It was beautiful. We stopped for tea and coffee served in styrofoam cups from the back of the minibus and got to mingle a bit with the other passengers, and some of the xenophobia that always accompanies groupings created via happenstance fell away. This is, also, why I was glad we weren't in the space-age tour bus, besides that those tiny mountain roads would have just felt wrong if not taken at reckless speeds while feeling every dip and pothole.
It actually reminded me quite a bit of the mountains in Puerto Rico--sans palm trees, naturally--with the tree-cloaked mountains that fell away, in places, to expose bare rock, and the tiny road threaded upon them that was barely wide enough (and sometimes not wide enough) for two cars. I am now in debate about whether the most beautiful place I've been is the Wicklow Mountains or the stretch of coast in southern Puerto Rico near Guanica. I don't know that I can choose, and being able to consider such a choice does not seem to be a situation worth complaining about.
We stopped in the town of Laragh for lunch before heading on to Glendalough. Glendalough is a monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by Saint Kevin, where it remained important until Roman-influenced Christianity began to dominate and the relatively less ascetic lives of the so-called "Celtic" monks began to be discouraged in favor of the stricter orders.
Some of the structures of Glendalough remain even to this day. It remains awe-inspiring to me to walk into buildings that, at the flourishing of the Rennaissance in Britain, were already 100 years old. There are also two lakes and a trail that circumvents them called the Green Road which, of course, having more than adequate time, we walked.
Then it was back into the minibus to return to Dublin. We also had a reservation that night for a music-and-dance show and dinner at the Merry Ploughboy's pub just outside of Dublin. That is all that I am permitted to say about that.
We went to the regular Merry Ploughboy's pub downstairs after the show. I had been drunk, at this point, just once in my life. Make that twice now. I felt that I could not come to Ireland and go to an Irish pub without crossing my usual two-Guinesses-and-a-happy-buzz line. At least I didn't do anything embarrassing, aside from getting the brilliant idea (along with Marie) while Bobby was in the bathroom, of taking pictures of ourselves with our digital cameras. I cannot say the same for others at the Merry Ploughboy, which was--if nothing else--quite merry. It was good people-watching, to be sure.
A taxi ride home, and we were pooped. Despite the long day and the fact that all three of us were considerably pickled, to say the least, we managed to carry on a conversation with our taxi driver about the deregulation of the Dublin taxi industry and how it was affecting individual drivers and long-term forecasts for how it would possibly stabilize itself in the future.
That did it. Fifteen minutes later, I think we were all asleep.
Dublin Castle from the roof of the Chester Beatty Museum.
Dublin Castle garden from the roof of the Beatty museum. Back when the Vikings landed in Dublin in the tenth century, this part was underwater and earned Dublin its name: Dubh Linn, which is Irish for "black pool."
Marie and I found this much funnier when we thought it was a home for the sick and indecent. Oops. Oh well, we were all travel-wearied!
The Wicklow Mountains
Sugarloaf Mountain is the pointy one just visible behind the rest.
A lake in the Wicklow Mountains. (Bad me, I do not remember the name! :( )
This building was once a teahouse frequented by Oscar Wilde.
The little black bricks are formed by digging peat from the embankments and leaving them to dry in the sun. Rural homes often use this for a heat source, although it has been discouraged in recent years because of the toll it takes on the land. Some of the hillsides are visibly scarred from such digging.
I remember the name of this lake! This is Guinness Lake. No, it is not filled with Guinness, else you would see a wee Dawn swimming in the middle of it. I believe that one of the Guinness family owned the land, once upon a time, hence the name.
The double archway was the entrance into the monastic settlement.
The cross carved onto this stone signified entrance onto sacred ground.
The church with the round tower in the background.
Crossing the bridge to the Green Road, I think this stream captured all of our imaginations.
The lower lake at Glendalough.
The (enchanted?) forest between the upper and lower lakes.
I don't know who are these people who keep appearing in our photos ...
The upper lake.
These flowers were everywhere in Wicklow.
The large Celtic cross is called St. Kevin's cross although what (if any) connection exists to St. Kevin is unknown.
Our tour guide informed us that hugging St. Kevin's cross is thought to be lucky, kind of like kissing the Blarney Stone. He warned us, though, only to do so away from the site staff, as they discourage hugging the cross for fear that, over time, it will become unsettled. It has already had to be reset once. Of course, Bobby and I--ourselves public servants as well as concerned with the preservation of historical monuments, not to mention not being superstitious--took a pass on hugging a carved piece of rock.
The oldest Celtic cross on the site.