Garden of Erin
Wicklow is called the Garden of Ireland. By colonists, who usurped the land from its Irish inhabitants and refused to give it back for centuries, or ever.
(The Irish make light of their subjugated past now, but even this good-naturedness helps me to sympathise with fomenting dissent. There’s this quintessentially British air of authority and superiority that you can’t help but resent when you witness it. To hear the Irish say ‘We didn’t do so well under Cromwell,’ or ‘Most are proud to be Irish, but I’m not proud to say I’m an Irishman,’ or ‘Where was all the food that wasn’t potatoes?’* You can’t help but wonder how this verdant and fruitful little island would have fared were it not subjected to the harsh penalties of foreign British colonial rule. But I digress.)
Situatued just south of Dublin, County Wicklow is home to the summer estates of many of the English nobility who owned land in Ireland. Today we took the scenic route to Powerscourt Estate, a large Palladian-style house with world-renowned gardens. Today I also realised that visiting Versailles will ruin your opinion of any other gardens anywhere.
We started by heading to Glendalough, a a tiny village that appears to comprise a visitor’s centre, hotel, river with accompanying bridge, and a lovely little site of ruins and one of the Round Towers. I found it lovely, if a bit creepy. The cemetery itself wasn’t creepy, but the thought of so many oblivious tourists walking over graves was. Couldn’t find and Sullivan or Feely (Feeney, Keely, or Keeny graves…) graves, Mary Beth, though I looked.
We headed up the hill towards Wicklow Gap. Daddy suggested renting bikes, but I told him I didn’t think I was up for biking through a gap in a dress and flats. At the top, we pulled over to take pictures. As we did, I noticed a hitch-hiker, and couldn’t help but give him a lift.
We dropped our new Belgian friend Adam off in Hollywood. Who’da thunk.
We headed through the Wicklow Mountains (let’s be honest: they’re impressively steep hills) and Sallygap towards Powerscourt, hitting some traffic along the way.
Favourite quote of the day:
‘This road isn’t wide enough for passing,’ Daddy tells me as I edge right to look for oncoming traffic around the small white Fiat Cinquecento that’s driving at half the speed limit, ruining everything.
I eye the dashed white lines in the middle of the road, figuring that if it’s wide enough for two-way traffic, then it must needs be wide enough for passing. I shift into third and press my right foot to the floor, flipping the indicator over to the right as I do. ‘It is…’ I say softly, passing the Cinquecento as proof.
One of us was decidedly more amused than the other.
Powerscourt was built at the site of mediaeval castle, using that fort as the base of the floor plan for the viscount of Something-or-other’s summer estate. The interior of the house was sadly destroyed by fire in 1974, multiple guides and audio presentations told us in curious British accents. We walked around the gardens and I took a bunch of awfully framed pictures that I won’t display here as inspiration for the grounds that I will build at my own house, whenever that is.
To get home, we drover east towards the coast, where we stopped at the well reviewed Happy Pear for a bite and some groceries. Breakfasts for Dublin, secured! Happy Wicklow eggs included.
Now we’re enjoying an evening in. Phoebe the cat is purring and proofreading as I write this. I’m fairly certain that we’re still on track to average two pints a day, so I’m not concerned that we won’t be gracing The Bridge Tavern with our presence tonight. Tomorrow to Dublin, where the pints are decidedly more expensive than in Dingle. It’s been an interesting economic study.
* The quotes are:
- We didn’t do so well under Cromwell: Our tour guide at the Rock of Cashel’s tongue-in-cheek comment before he described the slaughter of the Sack of Cashel, as we looked up at the belfry from which civilians were tossed by Cromwellian troops
- Most are proud to be Irish, but I’m not proud to say I’m an Irishman: Our horseback riding guide Paddy, as he described the life of a local lad (Quill) who went on to lead a strike that brought New York City to a halt. Paddy was resentful because Quill’s siblings and parents still starved in a dirt-floored, turf-heated home in the hills beyond Killarney, and he didn’t think that the unproductive power displayed by striking was anything to be proud of—yes, if you’re wondering, he’s one of my favourite people who have ever made me endure an awkward answer to the question, ‘What do you think of Obama?’; I cheerfully assented as he went on various anti-labor and other interesting historical-political rants during our ride
- Where was all the food that wasn’t potatoes?: Our host John in Galway, wondering how so much widespread famine could come from the failing of just one crop