(I’m going to start with my breakfast from Saturday, which was fantastic:)
Fried egg, baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomato, sausage, Irish bacon, black and white pudding.
Ireland truly is a magical place. This week has shown us unspeakable beauty and the most divine grace as we’ve traveled the length of the country. I’m sitting now in our house in Inch which has the most incredible view. Of everything we’ve seen so far, the best may have well been saved for last.
Before we made our way here, we settled into our flat in Dublin, which was very conveniently located two blocks from O’Connell Street, which is one of the main thoroughfares through the city. Most of what we wanted to see in Dublin was featured on one of those “hop-on, hop-off” buses, so we opted to join the mass of tourists to see Dublin.
Dublin itself was incredibly surprising to me. I’m not sure what I expected, but I absolutely fell in love with it. Mind you, it was peak tourist season and walking through the city was like walking through DisneyWorld in June, but I found the crowds to be manageable. I saw people from seemingly every culture vacationing there from fellow Americans to many Germans, Japanese, and French tourists. Everyone was also very pleasant and jovial, as I guess Dublin has that effect on people.
Our first stop on the bus was Trinity College, where the historic Book of Kells is on display. Since we were on Iona, where it is argued the Book of Kells was originated, it was fitting that we follow its path to Dublin. The history of the Book of Kells is amazing, and even more breathtaking is to see the book itself. The detail and artistry of this 1200-year-old Gospel book is exquisite. Unfortunately, you can’t take a picture of the book, so we took a picture in front of the sign (below).
Also at Trinity is the Long Room of the library, built in the 1700s and containing around 200,000 books. For Star Wars fans, this is the room that was used as inspiration for the Jedi library. There was an exhibit on the history of myths and legends in the library, which was really interesting to see. After Trinity College, we rode over to the Irish National Gallery. It was nothing near London’s gallery, but it did have a Picasso, which was neat to see. I was disappointed in that it advertised a Van Gogh, but we couldn’t find it.
We hopped on the bus again and headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was really beautiful. St. Patrick’s is the burial place of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and many other works, and dean of the cathedral in the early 18th Century. In his priesthood, he was a social activist as well as an artistic wordsmith. I found his history to be really inspiring as he is hailed as an Irish hero.
After the cathedral, we went over to the Guinness Storehouse. This was largely on my list, but I was surprised by how welcoming it was to families. Admission includes a pint of Guinness, or for non-drinkers, a soda. The storehouse tour explains how Guinness is made, and since it is such a unique kind of beer with such a unique history and look, it was especially fascinating. We especially loved the floor of the storehouse which had the history of Guinness advertising. Grey couldn’t understand how I got into that turtleneck and jacket so fast. After a long day of touring, we were beat, so we went back to our flat. After the kids went to bed, I walked back over to the Temple Bar area of Dublin. I went to another place called Buskers, which had a great trio of guitar, button squeezebox, and banjo. They played more obscure Irish folk music. I ended up going to Temple Bar every night in Dublin and heard many more musicians on the street and in the pubs. It was almost overwhelming. On the last night, I visited the historic Brazen Head and the Stag’s Head pubs. I ended up not staying late enough to hear the music there, but had a few pints.
The next day, we spent day at the Dublin Zoo. The kids really wanted to go and it was on the bus route. We saw the most beautiful tigers and apes there. Liam especially loved everything we saw.
On Thursday of our week in Dublin, we decided to do a little shopping around the city. Since we’ve been wearing the same clothes for over a month, the kids especially have needed more jeans and things. Molly especially needed to find some haircut scissors for the boys as they were getting pretty shaggy. We found a music shop in Temple Bar that had a lot of obscure instruments from around the world. After hearing Calum MacColl play that bowed psaltery at the Peggy Seeger concert, I knew I wanted one if I found one. Luckily, this place had one that is made for beginners, so I got it. It is really wonderful and pretty easy to play. The kids have especially enjoyed it. Bronwyn has taken to it and it appears she might have found her instrument. We’ve been playing Be Thou My Vision, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, and Amazing Grace. It has a hauntingly beautiful sound.
Friday we took our last train of the trip out of Dublin to the west coast. We ended up in a tiny place called Farranfore where the Kerry airport is located. We had to walk about a mile from the train station to the airport in order to pick up the car we rented. This is where things got really adventurous. I have never driven on the left side of the road, nor driven a car with the steering wheel on the right. I admit I was pretty nervous about it. They didn’t have any automatic transmissions, so not only was I driving on the opposite side, I had to manage the gear shift as well. But we got the car and headed out. The only major snafu was that I missed a turn and had to pull into someone’s driveway. The driveway had a big metal gate. I went to put the car in reverse, but it wouldn’t go. I kept lurched forward into the metal gate. I ended up calling the rental place to discover that the kind of car we have has a strange reverse mechanism where you have to pull a notch under the stick to go in reverse. I would have never figured it out. Poor Molly almost had a heart attack.
But thanks be to God, we arrived at our next stop. We had to stay one night in Kells Bay while our place on Dingle was being prepared. We’ve determined that Molly might have a gift in being a travel agent. She has discovered the absolute best places to stay, and Kells Bay proved to be no different. This small place included a tropical fern garden with dinosaur sculptures, a waterfall, a delicious Thai restaurant, and a perfect view of the beach. We got a cottage there which was perfectly sized for our family. Our only regret was that we couldn’t stay longer. What’s more was that hardly anyone was there, which seemed odd in peak season. If you’re going to the Ring of Kerry, I would highly recommend it.
On the day we left Kells Bay, we had breakfast in the cafe, then took a walk around the gardens. It was almost surreal to be there. We drove down to the beach itself and walked around a bit before we hopped back in the car and headed over to the Dingle peninsula.
Our house here is in Inch Beach, about 30km from Dingle. The house in on this secluded lane on a hill that has the most incredible view (see above). The house sits on the Dingle Way, a hiking trail that goes around the entire peninsula. The house itself feels like it was built as a retreat house for groups as it has 4 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and an extra handicapped bathroom. It has a large kitchen and living room as well. It’s definitely the most perfect place we’ve stayed. The kids can run around in the yard with no worry of disturbing anyone. As we were settling in, I looked up from the couch and saw the most brilliant rainbow I’ve ever seen. It was almost cliche, but it was simply wonderful.
On Sunday, we went over to Dingle for church. It appears that there is only one priest serving the Church of Ireland churches here, so they rotate services. We went to St. James in Dingle at 12noon for Morning Prayer (shouldn’t it be Noonday Prayer?). It was led by a lay person who gave the most spot-on homily for me. In fact, I believe God wanted me right there. Molly and I looked at each other with amazement as she spoke to us. The hymn choices were perfect, as we sang with pre-recorded music and just a few worshippers, most of whom were tourists as well since many locals leave for holiday during this season. St. James also has a weekly folk concert series during the summer which is world-renowned. Tonight, I’m planning to go there for one of the shows.
We ate lunch at a wonderful seafood restaurant called Out of the Blue, had ice cream at Murphy’s Ice Cream Parlor, and walked around Dingle. It was a gorgeous day. Last night, after we got back to the house, I went to the local pub Foley’s here in Inch, and listened to a great little trio who played American bluegrass. They were really good!
Today, we decided to have a quiet day here at the house. It’s a bit rainy, so we can’t walk down to the beach. The kids are watching movies, playing games, and playing music. We’re hoping to go over to Killarney for some shopping (the kids have some Euros of their own to spend!) some day. I’ll be going over to Dingle for the concert tonight. We are so happy here and we are so grateful for the time we can spend.