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Published: April 1st 2015
Arrived at dusk into Dublin and made our way to the apartment. The first surprise of the stay was finding out we’d been upgraded to a 2bd apartment. Given Dale didn’t have to stay on the sofa bed and we had room for our luggage, this was most appreciated. The second surprise was that whilst we’d had 13C in the Alps and shed thermals because they were not needed, it was 9C on the coast and the thermals were getting active use. Oh the irony!
The Irish are very accommodating. We went out for dinner to The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Ireland, established in the mid 1100’s. I asked Dwayne to order me a sparkling apple juice and the waiter brought out a 750ml bottle of apple cider instead. I commented that I’d really wanted the non-alcoholic sparkling apple and when the waiter heard that, he promptly removed the opened bottle and brought me the sparkling instead, not charging us for our incorrect choice. I had a delicious traditional Irish Stew and decided to make it my mission to eat Irish stew every day (since we were only there for 4 days).
Day 1 in Dublin saw us do a free walking tour, which took 3.5hrs but was very informative and lots of fun. We had 28 people in our group with Germans, British, Canadians, Brazilians, Portuguese, Spanish, Chilean, Hong Kong nationals and us 3 Aussies. We covered some of the main sights including Trinity College, Temple Bar and Dublin Castle. Trinity College was very cool and if money was no object, I’d quit my job and study there. We also had 4 seasons in a day - being pummelled with rain at one point, and then having to remove our coats an hour later because the sun was quite hot. At the end of the tour a small number of the group joined the guide for lunch at his favourite pub. I had Irish stew.
Day 2 we covered the areas that we had not seen the day before – St Stephen’s Green, Grafton St, O’Connell St and the National Museum of Archaeology (Ireland was settled by the Vikings). Again, we had 4 seasons in a day and the weirdest one was being hailed on whilst it was sunny. The hail bounced off rather than wetting us, so we kept sightseeing but it was very weird to have hail seemingly out of nowhere. We skipped seeing Christchurch Cathedral, Kilmainham Gaol, Guinness Storehouse, Old Jameson Distillery, Phoenix Park, Book of Kells and Chester Beatty Library.
First impressions of Dublin is that it’s more of a big town rather than a small city. There are no high rise buildings, it has a great uni student vibe and is nice and compact to get around. We were surprised at the lack of Irish though. Nearly every accent we heard was non-Irish and even in the pubs, the waiters are Eastern European. We didn’t hear any Aussie accents during our time in Ireland. The Irish have obviously moved out of Dublin - the touristy parts at least! Starbucks is everywhere. The portion sizes of food are comparable to US plates. Irish businesses are also a bit more generous than Australia – for example, Airport souvenir shops charge the same prices as their retail counterparts in the city, our serviced apartment sold 500ml bottles of water for €1, we had hot chocolates at a chocolate café and a free piece of handmade chocolate came with every drink. We never felt ripped off in Dublin as they offered value for money at every turn.
Day 3 we picked up a hire car, left Dublin and headed south to Wicklow NP. I was quite excited to get out and see country Ireland at its greenest, like NZ in early spring. First stop was 30mins out of Dublin - Powerscourt Estate, an old estate built in the 1500’s with very pretty gardens modelled on Versailles. You have to pay to go into the gardens and we decided against it because it was very chilly and they were not in bloom. We opted to see the house for free instead but didn’t realise that the house is actually being restored, damaged by fire on 4 November 1974 (4 days before I was born). So you can see a small exhibition of photos from before the fire, but nothing more, which was really disappointing. The guide books do not tell you the house is inaccessible. We then went to the Powerscourt Waterfall.
Found the cutest little village of Enniskerry on the way out of Powerscourt and had lunch at a delightful café. I could live there as it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields and yet you are only 10mins from shopping centres and city life.
The drive through the mountains to Wicklow was very rugged and at times charming, at times anxious, driving the Audi A4 on tiny roads built for 1 car and never more than 10m visibility from all the hedges and corners. And it was not green at all! The landscape was windswept and bare. All different shades of brown with dead bracken, low shrubs and peat bogs. From a distance at times it looked like something you’d expect to see in a science fiction movie set on a distant desert world, other times it seemed almost like driving the Scottish Highlands. Not at all like the images we’d seen and were expecting. However, it was a lovely drive and I’d like to do it again in summer or autumn.
Arrived at Glendalough and walked around the monastic sight, set up in the 600’s by Kevin, a monk who wanted to get away from it all, and then we walked to both upper and lower lakes (lochs). The location of Glendalough is very scenic, being nestled in an old glacial valley sandwiched between mountains and lakes, yet only 30mins from the coast. It can be overrun with tourists in high season but when they all go home at 5pm, it’s a beautifully quiet setting to explore. We even saw a wedding in the ruins the next day. I don’t know what they were thinking as it was 9C and there was enough of an arctic blast that we were wearing thermals and ski jackets. The bride was wearing a strapless gown. The ceremony and photo shoot in the cathedral ruin was rather funky though, so I can see the attraction of marrying there. I’d choose a warmer season though.
When we checked into our hotel we were pleasantly surprised on being upgraded to renovated rooms. That night we enjoyed a (very slightly early) 15th
wedding anniversary dinner at Wicklow Heather Restaurant. Dishes included stuffed mushrooms, crumbed goats cheese croquettes, Haddock and chips, French onion soup, Bailey’s Cheesecake and Chocolate Fondant (which was overcooked unfortunately). Of course I had Irish stew!!
On our last morning, we woke up late after a whisper quiet sleep and enjoyed a full cooked breakfast before checking out and heading off to do more walking around Glendalough before driving to the airport for our 8pm flight home.
We’ll go back to Ireland one day for a longer look.
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