Ireland '99: Day Three

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Wicklow Mountains
Sally Gap
Heather Bogs
Glenmacnass waterfall

Day Three -- August 29th

As I took a shower the next day, I wondered how many of the amenities of this posh hotel were due to its poshness or to its Irishness. Does every hotel have such a uniquely positionable shower head? Are heated towel racks commonplace? Are down pillows and comforters an Irish norm?

We had breakfast in the hotel that morning, a “fry” consisting of bacon, bacon, a few eggs, sausage, and bacon. And the bacon was not the fat filled American type, but rather solid, beefy British style.

We then went and got the car and Jenn and I fought over navigation (long story). Needless to say, we were both in a bit of a tuft when I found myself waiting in the car while Jenn ran inside the hotel to get our bags. While I was waiting, I tried to turn the car around rather illegally, by flipping a U-turn in the middle of the street. At about half of the way into the turn, I abruptly realized that I was not going to make it. I then went to put it in reverse….. reverse…. remember how I said that I never could figure out how to put the car into reverse? Well, with traffic beginning to come from both directions, and my miniature car being placed just perfectly enough to block both directions, I quickly jumped out and pushed the car backwards enough to undo the U-turn. Unfortunately, this still left me in the middle of the street, leaving me no course but to put it in gear and move on. Thus, I soon found myself driving in Dublin, with all of the pressures of left sided motor coursing that I delineated in yesterday’s entry, going down a street in which I had brain threads left over to dedicate to navigation (part of that long story I avoided earlier). I allocated just enough thought to say to myself: just go around the block and everything will be fine… just go around the block. After skipping the first two left hand turns due to one-way streets (could have been very nasty sight), I choose the third left. As luck would have it, the street quickly narrowed and then turned ninety degrees onto a downward driveway into a parking garage. At the bottom of the slope, the garage had a door that was completely shut. Did I mention that the road had become quite narrow? I slammed on the brakes at the impending disaster and managed to avoid most of the slope, allowing me to put it in reverse… reverse… did I mention that I never could figure out how to put the car into reverse? So I pushed it up the slope (thank god the car only weighs a few pounds) to which I hear the voice of heaven: “Do you need some help there, lad?” I must have ruined many generations of earned respect for Americans when I replied “Oh god yes! Can you just tell me how to get this fangled (#$%#$!) car into reverse!?!?” Looking a bit baffled, this nice, older blue collar fellow jumped in my car and said, “Sure, you just need to.. hmmm… hmm…” Well he tried for well over a minute and then finally gave up, telling me that the bushings had failed and that it was much too dangerous for a lad (i.e. dumb American) to be driving around such a messed up vehicle in the jungle of downtown Dublin. “I’ll give you a push to be on your way, though” he offered. So he and his son pushed me all the way out of the narrow street and sent me on my way back to Jenn (remember her? she was getting the bags back at the hotel while I was just suppose to be waiting in the car.)  All this said and done, we finally headed out of Dublin.

All in all, I found the Irish people to be an interesting combination of quite pleasant and genuine politeness and a nearly dashing aggressiveness that borders rudeness. For instance, while driving within the streets of Dublin, I repeatedly would have cars barrel out in front of me causing me to swerve or break hastily to avoid contact. And yet, the Irish driver would genuinely raise their hand in thanks for allowing them in to the lane or maybe it is just to thank me for not hitting them – whichever it is, the appreciation seems quite genuine. Similarly, while on the country roads, folks would always wave their hands in passing – more than even in the back country roads of Virginia and Wyoming, and yet they pass by you at breakneck speed and fail to give the slightest room.

Back to the day, we stopped and got our first load of petrol and bummed the gas (er.. petrol) station for some local candy. I have come to realize that there are three ways to really get to know a culture: candy, urinals, and sports. Each culture seems to have their own variations, and it is this color that gives the greatest wealth of information on the culture. In my second day I would experience all three. (Did I mention the line of cars on the way out of Dublin that had huge yellow and black flags standing tall through the sun roofs and side windows? Was it just coincidence that every channel on the radio station seemed to be talking about some soccer game just about to start?)

White Horses, Green Fields, Rolling Hills: Heaven!
Jenn and I at the same spot
How is that for a dreamland picture?
Powerscourt Falls, complete with oscillating waters

Our first stop outside of Dublin was the Powerscourt waterfall. Unlike the lofty airbourne waterfalls of Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, this was a narrow, long waterfall cascading down a gently sloping edge of a large bluff. The long travel had several ever so slight pools along the way, causing water to build up and run over in rhythmic frequency. Thus at the bottom, you could see slight surges in the water as it dribbled over the final edge. Quite interesting! Also, the water was quite dark with tannin.

We headed off next towards Sally Gap via Glencree, electing to head in that general direction from the waterfall instead of back tracking to find a more well establish routed. We quickly came to an intersection that had signs pointing in all directions to Glencree, leading us to ask the obvious question: Do all roads lead to Glencree? After choosing one, we came across a pair of lost Americans (ahem) who stopped while I was taking a picture to ask us how to get to Glencree. Unfortunately, they were coming from the direction we were traveling, leading us to believe that it was not that all of the roads lead to Glencree, but rather, none of the roads lead to Glencree.

Lost, on the road to Glencree
A shot of the heather that permeated the landscape
The road to Sally Gap, heading into the mist
Our little Opel amidst the heather fields
I risked my life for this picture

We eventually found our way towards Sally Gap (we never made it to Glencree), with mountains filled with blooming purple heather. At one point I stopped to get my first picture of the beautiful granite and heather and was instantly swarmed by the foulest, meanest flies in creation that bit through my shirt with such evil vengeance. Picture me running all over the small deserted road with a swarm of these vicious creatures chasing me as I tried to get just a quick picture of the heather.

A small stream...
... and the phenomenal culvert built for it to go under the road
The disembodied shoe

As we approached Sally Gap, we stopped and rambled around a small stream by the roadside. Where the stream went beneath the country road was a beautiful, cobble stone lined culvert. The stream had a more attention in the design of its crossing than most American roads in which we simply blast our way through rock. Falling in love with the endless fields of blooming heather, I set out to walk to the ridgeline overlooking a more distant cliffside. Two steps in I found myself with a very wet sock: I looked back and saw that my boot did not carry forward with me to the second step! This indeed was the land of moors! Jenn joined me, and this time I walked more deliberately towards the ridgeline.

Standing amidst the heather
Jenn and I (didn't quite make it in time for the timer)

From the top of the fields, when they saw a beautiful small lake, quietly nestled into a glen beneath the green cliffside. And off of the lake was the most beautiful, secret hideaway of a house I have ever seen. It instantly became my dream home!

Heather, Glen, Lake and a Dream House: wow!
Close-up of the dream home

From the top of the fields, when they saw a beautiful small lake, quietly nestled into a glen beneath the green cliffside. And off of the lake was the most beautiful, secret hideaway of a house I have ever seen. It instantly became my dream home!

A'loft in Ireland!
Jenn in the same spot!

We returned to the car and continued on and past Sally Gap. We stopped occasionally for various viewpoints and to take pictures of the sheep poking their heads through the heather. (I should clarify, sheep roam all of Ireland. I am amazed we did not see more of them in downtown Dublin). After the pass at Sally Gap, the clouds moved in and we drove down the winding road amidst the fields of heather.

Sheep amidst the heather
Sitting on top of Glenmacnass waterfall

The clouds soon opened up as we came to the Glenmacnass waterfall. This was another lovely rambling waterfall into a pristine glen written directly from the pages of The Hobbit. I took a number of pictures, and incidentally, got to pretend to be a wee bit Irish (well, Scottish) by using Stuart’s “no worries” response in conversation for the first time with some fellow tourists.

Jenn and a pool of water also at the top of the falls.
Look at the fields of purple heather in the distance.
The road down from the top of Glenmacnass Falls
Glendalough's Round Tower and Graveyard

From the waterfall, we drove to Glendalough, a much more touristy spot. There, I took some pictures along the upper lake, where Jenn and I both thought it to be reminiscent of Banff’s lakes from our honeymoon. Across the lake, reachable only by water, was some ruins of St. Kevin (and incidentally, where he allegedly through a naked woman into the lake after trying to tempt him – if it was me, I likely would be throwing myself into the lake!). We then walked to the lower lake and strolled through the various ruins of St. Kevin’s monastery, including the large round tower amidst the monastery’s cemetery. The age of the site was quite ancient, but the touristy aspect seem to detract from its sense of importance and stateliness.

One of the green fields in Glendalough Prime
Another picture of the round tower
Jenn walking along the lower lake

After finding out that it was past due to get to the B&B, we booked back to the car and drove towards Avoca. We stopped briefly at the “Meeting of the Waters”, immortalized by a poem by Thomas Moore. We were slightly underwhelmed, staying not for Moore’s “eternity”, but rather for a mere few seconds.

Our first Irish B&B

We dropped our bags at the B&B and then went on a quest to fulfill my sudden strong urge to capture a photograph of a flock of sheep in a true Irish green pasture, with the backdrop of a setting sun. I only got one picture, a quite unsuccessful one (or as Jenn put it, unsucsheepful) -- so much so, that I did not even bother scanning it in. We had dinner at the Meetings Pub: corn on the cob, fried mushrooms, half a duck in orange sauce, and fried scampi. I had my first authentic Guinness, observing intently on the mechanism the young country bar maid took in pouring it. I topped it off with a Baily’s (which the bartender had to look up the price for). This was a true country pub, complete with a authentic dart board!

Back at the B&B, we crashed quickly for the night, as I wrote the summary for the first day beside a tiny fireplace with dying embers.



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