May 092011

Day 14 (May 4, 2011)

Itinerary: Depart Wicklow, Powerscourt Estate, Dublin, Traditional Irish Music pub crawl

The morning started out sunny again and we looked forward to the return of the nice weather. Today we would drive out of the Wicklow Mountains and in to Dublin.

I stayed up too late last night typing up the journal and starting to catch up to real time. So this morning we slept in before packing up to head out. This bed and breakfast was different from others because the house was separate from the breakfast. Instead the breakfast was down the hill at the family restaurant. All worked out fine, though and we got our full Irish breakfast at the restaurant before heading on our way.

Both Rick Steves and the Lonely Planet tour books described the Sally Gap as the best scenery in Wicklow. So of course we had to go check it out. We climbed up to the gap and drove the tops of the mountains to find the only brown landscape in all of Ireland. I dont know if usually this area is green like the rest of the country, but there wasn’t very much to this scenic drive.

We had planned to find a place to hike, but not here. So we ended up driving towards Powerscourt Waterfall. Well, Powerscourt Waterfall charges 5 Euro per person to view it. Hmmm, we’ll just look up some photos online. So, on with the driving. At this rate we’ll be in Dublin before we know it.

Luckily the next stop at Powerscourt Estate was a worthwhile stop. In order to access the popular gardens, there is first a one mile drive through the estate passing through the gorgeous Wicklow scenery we’ve been reading about. We spent a little over an hour wandering through the gardens. There were several separate gardens including a very picturesque Japanese Gardens. It is a little nerdly of me to say that one of our favorite parts of the visit was watching a machine essentially mow the bottom of the lake on the estate. Literally this machine motored around the top of the water with an arm extending down into the lake mowing the bottom. We stayed for several minutes watching and figuring out how the machine worked. Another popular attraction was the Pet Cemetery holding several of the Powerscourt loving companions. This included some horses, dogs, and even a cow. Many of the gravestones had very touching memoriums on them. The whole area was full of various beautiful flowers as expected.

The drive to Dublin at this point was just a matter of catching the motorway in. For the first time on this trip, we found an actual multi-lane highway! It is a little sad entering a large city after spending several weeks in the country-side. But Dublin is a good start to the hustle and bustle we will see when we visit London. Of course we arrived during rush hour. The motorway did not have enough traffic on it to slow it down, but accessing our B&B was complicated due to restricted turns and lots of cars making right turns difficult.

This B&B (ABC Guesthouse) had more of a hostel feel to it with lots of rooms and a community breakfast area. We are located several miles north of the city center, but an easy bus ride from both the airport and the city center. It was easy to drop our car off at the airport and take the bus back to the B&B. Wow, it feels so strange to be car-less again. We were used to it by the end of the day, but for now it is strange to consider carrying our duffel bag and backpacks any long distance. I’m happy to not have to worry about driving on the left anymore. I did pretty good overall. Only on 2 occasions did I find myself in the wrong (right) lane, but they were in remote areas of Ireland when it was easy to correct my mistake. I’m glad to be a pedestrian again for sure.

Tonight we took the bus to the city center and Temple Bar district to find dinner. As it turns out, we were just in time for a Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl that started at 7:30 out of the Gogarty’s pub. The night consisted of following 2 musicians around to 3 pubs and listening to a history and introduction to various aspects of the traditional music. Of course they played tunes along the way as well. At Gogarty’s we ate dinner and met our two friendly musicians. One played the fiddle and the other the guitar and voice. Our guitar player for the evening has been on tour all over the world playing Irish music for various audiences. Both worked well together mixing music with information. We learned the chorus’s to the typical crowd pleaser songs as well as where and when to clap. We also got information on the instruments and the history behind some ballads. My favorite part of the evening was when our fiddle player told us that the Irish aren’t friendly, they are just nosy. They want to know who you are, where you are from, why you are here, where you are headed, how long you are staying, your social security number….etc. =) You know what….this is very true. All through the country that’s what we are asked everywhere we go. (Well, sans the SSN of course, that was just a joke.) Now Mark and I joke that the Irish aren’t friendly, they are just nosy.

The other great part of the evening was when the fiddle player asked what the difference was between a fiddle and a violin. Mark answered: the person playing it. Both musicians thought this was a most excellent answer as there is no difference between the two other than it is called a violin when played in a classical orchestra, and a fiddle when played in a small group like this. At the end of the evening we asked for recommendations as to where to go to find more trad music and we were told to head to the Palace Bar. Of course it was raining out and the Palace Bar was not playing any music. We wandered around in the rain a bit, but finally just decided to head back and call it an evening.

Tomorrow we will tour more of Dublin and visit a pub featuring Irish Dancing in the evening.

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