Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Emerald Isle: Guinness and Glendalough

Our first stop of the morning was The Hugh Lane Gallery. I had read about the gallery and wanted to visit because of some of the fameous impressionist artist's paintings on display. We had tried the day before, but they were closed. Some of my favorites were Degas - Young Woman with a white headdress, Monet - Watercourt under snow, Walter Osborne - Tea in the Garden (this one was fascinating because it was never finished, but it was still stunning and left some of the scene to your imagination.), and JB Corot - The Punt. I loved slowly making my way through the gallery's and looking at breathtaking paintings painted by renound artists over 100 years ago.
Next we headed to tea. Mike was going a bit crosseyed after spending so much time in an art gallery with me, but considering how long we spent at the Guinness factory, I really have no sympathy :) Tea was fabulous. We ate at this little cafe around the corner and I had a pot of tea with my soup. We didn't stay very long though because we wanted to make it to the Guinness factory before we headed to Glendalough for the rest of the day.
I loved all of the languages of "Welcome" on the door.
The famous 9000 year lease.
Arthur Guinness was the founder of the Guinness brewery business. In 1759, Guinness got a 9,000 year lease on the four-acre brewery at St. James's Gate for an annual rent of £45, which was a lot back then, but is now the equivalent of about $65.21 per year! Crazy!!
In the 20th century the Guinness family continued to lead the business until the last member of the Guinness family resigned as chairman in 1986. From the 1940s to 1980s a major overhaul of brewing machinery took place, making the brewery one of the most technologically advanced in the world.
Today, 10 million glasses of GUINNESS are enjoyed daily around the world. (Wikipedia)
After about an hour of learning the ins and outs of making this stout beer I was bored out of my mind!!!! so I left Mike to enjoy the rest of the factory and went up to the top floor for my complimentary Guinness (ya, I opted for a soda) and enjoyed the views from the completely glass room and wrote in my travel journal until Mike showed up for his beer :)
On our way back to the car we saw this elderly gentleman with a horse and cart parked next to the sidewalk.
Apparently he used to work for the Guinness factory when he was a younger man, but now he is too old and makes his money by posing for pictures with his horse for tourists. He won't let you take a picture unless you pay him first. He was a really nice man. He spoke limited English, but with hand motions and broken English we were able to communicate. He was very interested in knowing how we were enjoying Ireland and what we thought about America's new President Obama. He told us that he was the last surviving member of his family and now survived by tourists paying for pictures. We had spent almost all of the last of our euros for admission to the ridiculously expensive Guinness Factory tour, but I gave him the last few euros I had and snapped a picture. His story made my heart ache and I remembered him in my prayers for a long time after meeting him.
After visiting a cash machine we were on our way to Glendalugh which my cousin told me was not to be missed! Our little rental car had to climb way up into the mountains to get there, but the views were worth it!
I love how the rock walls become overgrown with greenery and look more like rows of bushes than rock walls.
We pulled off to the side of the road to enjoy the views and take some pictures.
Stanly :)
Glendalough means glen or valley of two lakes
The round tower in the distance. Glendalough is a truly beautiful place!
The round tower through a graveyard.
The most visible monument at Glendalough is the fine round tower, rising about 30 meters high. In medieval Ireland, round towers served as landmarks, bell towers, storehouses and places of refuge in times of attack. The tower is about 30 meters high with the door is about 3.5 meters from the ground, which was common practice as a means of protection for the people and treasures inside.
The story of Glendalough begins with St Kevin who, as a young man, went to live at Glendalough “in the hollow of a tree.” He returned later with a small group of followers. After a life of sleeping on stones, wearing animal skins, barely eating and (according to legend) making friends with birds and animals, Kevin died in about 618. Glendalough flourished for the next 600 years. In its heyday, the settlement included not only churches and monastic cells but also workshops, guesthouses, an infirmary, farm buildings and houses. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the 10th through 12th centuries. (Sacred Destinations)
A close up of the door. It was up really high as a means of protection during raids. To get in there was a rope ladder lowered down from someone inside and then pulled back up.
It is such an old place some of the gravestones are worn smooth, The inscriptions having disappeared with the passage of time leaving behind only a wordless marker of a life once lived.
I loved the inscription on this headstone belonging to Luke Toole who passed away in 1775. Part of the inscription is "he was a friend to the unprotected, a father to the orphan and his door was always open to the poor." I don't think there is a better legacy to leave than that. It makes me wonder how old that other headstone is since this one is over 300 years old and the writing is still very clear. I know Glendalough was founded around 600AD.
Spray painted sheep.
After exploring the ruins we decided to go on a hike to the upper lake. It was a longer walk than I had anticipated.
It was a really warm day and I was glad when we finally got to the lake. I took my shoes off and waded in. It felt heavenly to cool off!! In the picture Mike is doing his favorite thing to do around any body of water. Skip rocks!
We decided to take the shorter way back (on the way to the upper lake we didn't know there was a long and a short way) and hiked to the lower part of the falls. It was getting late though and we wanted to have dinner before the hour long drive back to Dublin, so we didn't go up to the best view at the top.

After we left we went for a stroll in the little village nearby. I bought my Mom a beautiful hand spun and hand woven scarf (I had bought myself a similar one at a shop by the Cliffs of Moher and I love it!!) Then we went in search of food. We asked around about a nice restaurant to eat since this was our last night and we had mostly eaten at pubs and bistros. Everyone recommended the Wicklow Heather. We opted to eat outside on the stone patio. It was a gorgeous day. The patio was beautiful and the food was even better. It was soooo good. We sipped our drinks and shared our food and soaked in the last few rays of sunshine and talked about what a wonderful time we had had. We relaxed and enjoyed the atmosphere and finally, reluctantly got up to leave so we would not be driving back in the dark. Mike was unlocking the car when I suddenly realized we had not paid!!! I was sooo embarrassed! We hurried back to the restaurant and told the waiter we had completely forgotten to pay and he was so impressed that we came back he gave us each a glass of Irish Cream to enjoy at our table while he got our check. If you ever make it to Glendalough I would definitely recommend The Wicklow Heather!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Dublin, Ireland

A cute lion guarding the front of the castle we were staying at.
Mike driving on the "wrong" side of the car :)
We left for Dublin at 6am. Unfortunately we didn't fill up on gas the night before and NO gas stations were open. We decided to drive to the next town and fill up there, but we drove for a long time and didn't come upon any other towns, so we had to turn around and go back to where we knew there were gas stations almost running out of gas in the process. We waited in front of a gas station for over an hour for it to open up. Apparently all restaurants close by 9pm and gas stations don't open until 10am on weekends. So getting up early and starting our 3 hour drive was all for nothing. With the gas fiasco we did not get an early start after all :)
Driving into Dublin I spotted these doors. So very Irish!
Trinity College. Ireland's most famous college.
The Book of Kells is an intricate Latin copy of the four gospels is kept in the library here. It is thought to be produced in the 9th century by monks and moved to Dublin in 1653.
Inside the courtyard in Trinity College.
After we explored Trinity college we found this really great bistro. I got a really good enchilada and Mike got a salad and we took them and had a picnic at St. Stephen's Green.
A swan at St. Stephen's Green.
Us on a picnic at St. Stephen's Green.
A map of the park.
Pretty swan.
A Dublin double decker bus.
Pretty architecture.
Dublin Castle consists of many buildings. It was the seat of English power in Ireland for over 700 years.
Beautiful Dublin Castle.
The building across the courtyard which still houses government offices today.
Beautiful crown molding inside. I was surprised that they let us take pictures inside. All of the other castles we visited did not permit photography inside.
The view of the garden area out the window.
Arches down a hallway that go on forever!
The beautiful "blue room." During balls the women would hang out here unless they were asked to dance. You can only see half of it, but on the left side of the picture there is something that looks like an ornate music stand. When women stood in front of the fire to get warm they would position this fan in front of them. They wore makeup made of wax back then. Lots of it. If they got to close to the fire their "face" would melt off and that would be very embarrassing. That is where the term "losing face" came from.
Paintings on the wall in the throne room.
The throne room.
Ceiling in the throne room.
On the long walls of the grand dining room/portrait room there are gold gilded frames with portraits of English Lords of Ireland.
The portrait of Lord Cornwallis is hung lower than the others, and is hung beside the door to the kitchen, so that any time the door it is left open, which is often during a dinner party, General Cornwallis' painting is hidden from view as punishment for his surrender at Yorktown. They were still bitter with him for losing America.
Lord Cornwallis' painting hung next to the kitchen door.
The ceiling of the grand ballroom.
This statue of Lady Justice at Dublin Castle is interesting because her back is to the city insinuating that the royals were above the law. Also, she is not blindfolded and is admiring her sword. They had to drill holes in the bottom of the scales because rain water would fill them and set them off balance.
There was also a story behind this statue, but I forget what. I guess that is what I get for waiting six months to blog about our trip. The lion's face is really cute though :)
Next we went for a walk looking for the Guinness factory, which we didn't find this day because it was not in walking distance from where we were. We did get lost and find some interesting things though. First was Christ Church Cathedral.
Christ Church Cathedral with a double decker bus and scooter in front :)
Christ Church Cathedral.
I thought it was a little weird that people were lounging all over the grass out front and there was an ice cream vendor on the church grounds.
A Dublin door.
The door next door.
Stanly in Dublin.
Very cool carvings on the side of the building. I wish the picture didn't show up so small on the computer screen. They are really beautiful.
A close up of the carvings.
Temple Bar was once a very seedy area that was not a good place to visit. Recently though it has been cleaned up and is now full of ethnic bistros, neat shops, bakeries and coffee shops. The Temple Bar is located there and is the most famous bar in Ireland. I was standing in front of the bar for like 20 minutes trying to get a picture with my Polaroid camera to stick in my travel journal. The bouncer or server (I'm not sure which) guys in front of the bar started posing and showing off trying to get me to take pictures of them. It was pretty funny, but I don't think that they got the point that I didn't want any people in my picture and that is why I was waiting so long for my shot :)

Another cool looking pub.
A neat looking shop in the Temple Bar area.
"The pen is mightier that the sword" was engraved in the beam above our table at the pub we ate at in Temple Bar. I thought it was kinda cool. I ordered Irish potato leek soup and it was fantastic. I learned to make it when we got home. It is sooo good. After dinner we drove past the Custom House. It was beautiful and I wish we could have parked so I could have gotten at least one picture. We went back to our hotel to settle in. It was a really nice place. We went to the dining room to get mixed drinks and dessert, but, of course they had stopped serving food :) So we took and chance and walked down the street to another hotel. They had stopped serving dessert there took but the bartender took pity on us and got us a piece of cheesecake. We also got drinks. I tried a Long Island Iced Tea for the first time. It was really strong! It was a fun end to a really fun day!