Monday, July 04, 2016

Ireland and Scotland - Days 3 & 4

Day 3 - Serendipity rules!

We slept in this morning, getting rid of the last of the jet lag. As a result, no morning walk for Steven. Breakfast in the hotel – a pretty good spread, actually. I tried blood pudding and liked it, although its very dense.

Our initial plan was to walk over to the Guinness Storehouse and stop in a small art store I’d found online so Steven could pick up some additional tubes of paint. Then we’d have lunch, perhaps go to the National Art Museum, walk around and head back for the hotel. That was the plan.

So we head out in 60 degree weather, mostly cloudy, but a good day for a walk. We head up the street, remarking on the variety of storefronts, pointing out various restaurants (if you can’t find food you like in Dublin, you ain’t looking), just being touristy. Partway up the road (literally, up – as in we were climbing a hill), there was a sign for Dublin Castle. What the heck, we’d visit it. Squirrel!

Turns out to be the equivalent of the White House. I really don’t know my Irish history as well as I should. We opted for the guided tour and saw the State Rooms used for major functions as well as going underground to see the medieval underpinnings of the current buildings.

Hard to see the Celtic knot unless you're in the air :(
Because we had twenty minutes before the tour began, we wandered over to the gardens, which is really one big oval with a Celtic knotwork design worked in brick through the center. The knotwork is designed to be seen by the helicopters as they fly in dignitaries for state visits. In the four corners of the walled-in rectangle in which this oval resides, are four smaller gardens. The first is dedicated to the Irish policemen who have fallen in the line of duty, the second wasn’t dedicated to anyone, but has a beautiful peacock sculpture made of stone and glass in the center. The third one is more modern and is dedicated to the participants of the 2003 World Special Olympics. It was the first time the event had been held outside the US and the Irish people wanted to mark it as an historic event. The names of every participant line the outside of the small plaza.

The fourth garden is under reconstruction and wasn’t open to the public. L

So now we know more about the original layout of Dublin, how it got started as a Viking settlement, and some of the important buildings that are still standing today. We leave and pick up our trek to the Guinness Storehouse.

And then the street curves (as all Dublin streets seem to do) and there, right in front of us, is Christ Church, the oldest building in Dublin. We walk around it, take some pictures, and venture inside. My favorite part was standing in the Nave and looking back – the left wall is perfectly fine, the right wall curves backward at the top. It’s off by 18 inches! Oops.

A very nice priest spoke to me in Irish, which, of course, I don’t speak. We chatted for a bit and he later invited us to the service at 12:45 (it was now 12:30). We went out and got a bottle of water from the vendor right outside and then went back in for the service. It wasn’t long and only 7 people attended (including the priest).

By then we were hungry and running out of time. We were still only halfway to the Storehouse and we wanted to get to the National Art Museum by 3:00. It was back in the direction of the hotel, so down the street we went. Again, tons of restaurants to choose from; we went to Trinity Bar on Dame Street. Good lunch, although I don’t think any of these places have air conditioning. It’s okay. Sat next to two open windows on the second floor and had a good breeze.

We got close to the hotel and knew we needed to make a turn, but weren’t sure where, exactly. So we stepped to the side of the walk on Clare Street and checked the map. Got it. Just around the corner. Off we went.

Except that entrance is closed at the moment for renovation. Where is the temporary entrance? On Clare Street. EXACTLY where we’d stepped to the side to check the map. Sigh.

My idea of my perfect drawing. Isn't it beautiful? It is, right up
until I put my pastel on it and ruin the picture in
my mind!
It’s 2:30, so we’re in good shape. Inside and up the stairs, find the spot and sign up. For what? An art class, of course! Yep, yours truly, who draws pictures with words, signed up to take an art class for 55+ year olds.

Thank goodness it ended up being more a conceptual art class rather than an “here’s how you draw a wing” art class. They currently have ten pages from Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks on display and the class centered around his inventions for flight. We studied DaVinci’s ideas, copied down ones that made sense to us, and then designed our own, making notes in the margins as he did. I had more notes than pictures, but did come out with an idea for a story!

Steven did better than I did at the drawing (big surprise!). We will bring them all home and people can giggle at mine and admire his. Oh! And we did look at a number of masterpieces (Titian, Caravaggio, Van Gogh) while we were there.

We’d thought to visit the Storehouse afterward, but they closed at 5:00 and it was 4:30. Out of time. No Guinness and no art store. And no loss. We had fun being spontaneous…and I took an art class in Dublin!

What a couple of tourists!
This evening we went back to Temple Bar for dinner. The man standing is James Joyce (or rather, a statue of him); the seated man is Oliver St. John Gogarty, the original owner of the bar. Much to my chagrin, Steven insisted on sitting at their table, encouraged by the waiter to do so. LOTS of stares and giggles from tourists passing by.

Wandered through some side streets on the way back to the hotel and found the “American” Dublin. A street blocked to traffic so the whole thing is a mall – in the American sense of the word. Coach, Bath and Body Works, Tommy Hilfiger…all I can say is, I’m sorry, Dublin. We didn’t stay long and got back to the real world as quickly as we could.

As we left the restaurant a fog was descending on the city. Hard to see the tops of many buildings…and they aren’t that high. No skyscrapers here – at least in the part of the city we’ve walked over the past two days (17,500 steps just today, btw. Steven has over 20K) – most buildings aren’t more than 4-6 floors high. But definitely walking through an Irish mist!

Day 4 - On the road -- eek!

Today is a travel day. Our first mode of travel we were intimately acquainted with: foot power. After breakfast, we left the hotel shortly after 9:00 AM and headed for the Hertz Car rental, which was—according to Google—a half-hour walk away. Because we were hauling our suitcases, we expected to take about three-quarters of an hour. It took 50 minutes, but I enjoyed seeing parts of Dublin that tourists generally don’t venture into. We made it to the car rental without incident. And that was where it got interesting.

Left side of the road. That’s my job as passenger. To watch the left side of the road and make sure Steven’s not too close to anything on my side. He’s busy lining the car up on the right side and while we were on the motorway (we’d call it an expressway or highway), everything went fine. Getting out of Dublin wasn’t as much of a hassle as we expected and, within a half an hour of driving, he felt comfortable enough to pass some slower moving trucks (slow traffic keeps to the left, btw).

And then we left the motorway.

Two roundabouts, in quick succession, successfully navigated.

Oh. Dear. Lord.

My father had warned me the roads were narrow. I’d gone on Google Maps and “driven” down some before we left. Neither prepared me for the reality.

There are no shoulders. Six inches from the line to the end of the pavement – on roads that have lines, that is. In the US, the road would be worth about a lane and a half on any given street. Here you have not only two –way traffic, you’re traveling the winds and curves at 100 kilometers an hour. That’s right. Imagine two-way traffic along your driveway at 62 miles per hour!

Okay, the Irish are traveling 62 miles an hour. We’re going about 45 and I’m still white-knuckling every corner. But Steven did amazingly well, even if he was stressed and nervous. I know he was ‘cause he wasn’t talking. At all. He was focused on the road and, at one point, said he was looking forward to getting used to this because he wasn’t seeing any scenery. I told him that was okay, I wasn’t either. I was too busy being his left side warning system.

But he did well. We only ran over one orange cone and only drove on the sidewalk once. And that was going around a curve with a truck going the other way, so it doesn’t count.

We made it to Killmallock with only one stop to ask directions. Again, it was more to confirm we were headed in the right direction rather than because we were lost. Road signs are few and far between and, at that point, Steven didn’t really want to do more driving than he had to.

Of course, we drove right past the Deebert House Bed andBreakfast. The entrance, although well-marked, came up too fast and we couldn’t stop fast enough. So around the block we went. Not. One way streets, so we had to go somewhere else first. Like to a gas station to ask directions.

The tree was behind the B&B;
his painting of it
Steven’s out painting now. Found a great tree behind the place and has set up. Anne, our hostess (and owner of the B&B) is charming. She got him a pan of water for his paints, brought me tea and a scone and, in general, is the stereotypical tiny Irishwoman. We’re currently the only residents in the house – which is huge. I’ll upload pictures when I can. There is no wireless here Will go elsewhere later and try.

By the way, we’re driving a VW Golf – manual transmission. Gears are in the same place, but he has to shift with his left hand. And remember that it’s a standard. Hasn’t stalled it yet, but come close once or twice. J He asked at Hertz about changing to an automatic and it would be significantly more expensive. The clerk there told us nearly everyone in Ireland drives stick because it’s more economical. And the Golf takes diesel. Before you ask, no, I do not intend to drive here. Or in Scotland. Maybe if I were here six months, I could begin to think about it. But this trip? No, thank you. I’ll continue to be Steven’s left side.

Dinner in downtown Killmallock at a place called Flaherty’s. A pub open early (5:15) for dinner, although there were only a few tables and several stools at the bar. We opted for a table; there was only one other diner and he sat at one of the others. Plain food; I had pork roast with mash and veg and Steven had the roast beef, also with mash and veg. The “veg” was a HUGE helping of sliced carrots and a mountain of squash with three ice cream scoop size dollops of mashed potatoes. I ate one mountain and all of my carrots and squash (Steven ate only two carrots and none of his squash and all of his potatoes). We both polished off our respective meats, of course.

By the time we’d finished eating a few other patrons had come in -  all male. I was the only woman in the place. Fish out of water – and American to boot! But a very Irish establishment.

Back to the B&B, an easy night planned. Reading and watching TV, I expect, since the streets are all rolled up and everyone’s gone home (it’s now 6:00). 

Addendum: I later found out it wasn't squash, it was "neeps" - in the States we call it Rutabaga - and I liked it!

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