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Ireland98

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Sunday, September 6 , 1998

After breakfast and paying a ridiculous 16 ($25 USD) for the en suite rooms for the two nights, we loaded the car and headed for Powerscourt. After getting lost once or twice we finally arrived. Powerscourt is one of Europe's finest formal gardens. It is said it took 100 men toiling for 12 years to create the sculpted slopes of the gardens. The Powerscourt House was completely renovated in 1974 and was to be open to the public. The night the renovations were completed the home was destroyed by fire leaving only the walls. Today the building has been renovated again and now houses several stores and a small museum of the history of Powerscourt. I wasn't impressed with the museum. Instead of spending the money for the museum spend more time outside.

It had been raining steadily all morning but that didn't stop us. With umbrellas in hand we started out. Beware, the map they give out as you enter the gardens only shows the paths. Many of the plants have numbers on them and I assume there is a guidebook you can purchase that will give more information. So if you are interested in this sort of thing check at the desk before you enter the gardens.

We made our way down the east side of the garden to the tower in the woods. There is a spiral staircase to the top from which is a nice but limited view. Going down the path I found why so many of the trees were so familiar, most had been imported from North America. The climate has done them well as all the trees are of a gargantuan size.

At the bottom of the hill is a Japanese Garden. Even in September it was lovely with many moss covered passages that led into the cliff walls. We then went by the Dolphin Pool. The pool's name comes from a fountain of four dolphins. Heading back up hill on towards the house and Wall Gardens we came across the Pet Sematary (for you SK fans). This was too morbid for me so I continued on towards the Wall Gardens only to find that the lower gate was padlocked.

So we made our way back to the top of the hill and the upper gate. It was pad locked. I went in to ask the desk clerks why only to find that they had forgotten to open them. So while they tried to find a key we decided to visit the museum. The museum contains a video presentation on the history of the house. There are also many pictures showing what the house had looked like before the fire.

One interesting story was when one of England's many Kings came to visit. Near Powerscourt is Ireland's highest waterfall. For a more dramatic scene a bridge was built over the stream at the bottom of the waterfall and a dam was built at the top to hold back the water. Then, when the King was standing on the bridge the water could be let go and those below could enjoy the increased flow of the waterfall. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view), the King was late and was standing way off when the waters were let go. The force of the water washed away the bridge and would have drowned anyone who was nearby.

After the museum we went to go visit the Walled Garden. We soon found that the rain had increased in intensity till it was literally raining sideways. Being bold adventurers, we promptly waited. Jody and Sallie headed to the Cafe to eat while Mom and I did some shopping. After waiting for 20-30 minutes with no slack in the rain, we decided to go for it. Walking out the door we promptly found ourselves soaked. In spite of that the walled gardens were beautiful. We also found the gates to the nursery unlocked (these should have been locked) so we walked around in the greenhouses as well. Along the walls were apple trees filled with apples. I soon had my pockets filled as well. Enough rain already. We headed back to the house. The wind was blowing so strongly that Mom was not able to open the door to get back inside.

If you go to Ireland, Powerscourt is a must. I just hope your day is more sunny. The trees, landscape, and flowers are all beautiful. The most interesting tree is located to the right of the Dolphin Pond from the direction of the house. It is a huge tree that must have fifty trunks emerging from the base.

From Powerscourt we continued south to Glendalough. With Jody driving and me navigating, we were quickly lost again. I could blame the fog. I will blame the fog. It was so foggy that you could barely see 100 feet beyond the car. Eventually we saw a sign that stated "Glendalough 28 Km" with a picture of a hiker. The "road" that this sign pointed down was wide enough for a single car. What followed was a lengthy argument whether we could drive down this road or if this was simply a trail. Eventually we decided not to go this way. I still do not know if this was the way we should have gone or not. After seeing many roads around the rest of the country, I would have gone down it without any hesitation.

We found ourselves winding through Sallygap. Of course this became a source of unending amusement. We also found a Sallynoggin, Kilsally, Sallyforth, and Sallyport. All of these were used individually and combined to harass my sister.

The guidebooks say that Sallygap provides lovely views of the Wicklow mountains. I am sure that is true when there is no fog. What we did find was the first of the seemingly unending supply of sheep. Sheep here, sheep there, sheep everywhere. I don't know why there are so many walls in Ireland when all the sheep seem to wander anywhere they want. Sheep are identified by their owner by a painted spot on their wool. So in one place you would see sheep with big blue dots on their butts and in other places they would have a big pink dots on their shoulders. Mom insisted that we stop to take pictures of the sheep on the road. After all, we might not see anymore on the trip. Yea, right!

Through shear persistence we finally reached Glendalough. By now it was around 2 p.m. and the rain continued. Glendalough is an ancient monastic site located between two mountains. The name means "Valley of the two lakes." Glendalough is beautiful and should be visited even by those not interested in historic sites. For those who are be sure to take one of the guided tours to get a full explanation of the area.

We were fortunate to arrive on an Irish Heritage Day and only had to pay 1 Pound ($1.50 USD) to get in. This was half-off the normal price (I think). The welcome center has a short video that gives you a background of monastic sites in Ireland. The highlights of Glendalough include a round tower, several ancient Celtic Crosses, several church ruins, and one church with a stone roof! Combined with the lakes and the mountains, Glendalough is well worth a visit.

From the hotel located next to the site, I was able to obtain reservations at a B&B just outside of Wexford in Ferrycarrig. Leaving Glendalough we made our way to Avoca and stopped at "The Meeting Of The Waters." It was this location that Ireland's National Poet Laureate Thomas Moore memorialized in poem.

There is a restaurant overlooking the waters that must be very popular based upon the number of cars parked outside. We were unable to stop as we still had a ways to go to get to Ferrycarrig. The road down the coast is very modern and we were soon speeding along. Arriving in Ferrycarrig Sallie spotted the sign pointing to our B&B just as we passed. This happened nearly every place we went.

Tara Country Home B&B was very nice. The family lived upstairs with the rooms being on the ground floor. The house had more of a "hotel" feel but that did not detract in anyway from the charm of the place. I would readily stay there again. It is also in a very convenient location. Just off the main road and less than a mile from the Irish National Heritage Center.

We dropped our bags off and headed into Wexford. For those who want to know, it is in Wexford where the beach scenes of "Saving Private Ryan" was filmed using the Irish Army as extras. Wexford is a charming town with the narrowest of streets. Fortunately most of them are one way which actually made driving easier than on many of the wider streets. Being that it was Sunday night the city wasn't very crowded. We parked in a church parking lot and started looking for a restaurant that was opened. We made our way down to the coast road and then back-up without finding anything open.

Eventually we found Robertino's. Yes, come to Ireland for Italian food. Actually the food was very good and our table had a view of the ocean. On the menu was "Baked Potatoes" (plural). We discussed what this might be. We assumed it would be several small potatoes. It was just what is said, three large baked potatoes. After supper we walked around and window shopped as we listening to the seemingly unceasing bells tolling from the church tower. No one asked for whom the bells tolled. Then it was time to head back to the B&B.

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ireland98@johnpmartin.com