<<< More 'Opinionated Traveller' stories
Wednesday, 24 Nov 1999 18:43:42 PST
I had a couple of weeks before I whizz home for Christmas in Oz and I thought I'd just see the year out quietly in London. Then I woke up, slapped myself around a bit and booked a flight to Dublin.
Last weekend Mark and I flew out of Gatwick into Dublin for a long weekend with ex-flatmates. We picked up a car at the airport, followed some very sketchy instructions and got completely lost. After stopping for instructions from a local that included useful directives like, "ya turn right a the Guinness sign at the top o'the road" we got lost again.
Eventually we found some local Garda (police) who radioed into the station to find out how to get us to our hotel. Following their instructions we promptly got lost again but were saved when they chased us down and pulled us over in the middle of a set of traffic lights. Yelling at us to "follow them" they pulled a U-turn in the middle of the lights and bombed off down the road at about 60mph. I managed to thrash our little rental Nissan into a frenzy and, red-lining in second gear, kept up with them.
After delivering us to our hotel they whizzed off in pursuit of more misguided tourists and we turned in for the night. We got up the next morning contacted our friends and organised a trip out to county Wicklow, about an hour south of Dublin.
Wicklow is beautiful green rolling county, reminiscent of the west coast of Scotland. We brought with us a local guide in the form of Bernice, a friend with a Dublin accent that could cut glass and a habit of calling everything cool, exciting or interesting "deadly".
Bernice took us to Glendalough, literally "valley of two lakes" (Glen-da-lough). Glendalough is post card perfect Irish valley featuring two clear-as-glass lakes and a ruined monastic settlement dating from the 1600's. We spent an hour wandering the monastery and examining the tombstones of people who had died several hundred years before Australia was discovered.
After the monastery we took a stroll along the Green Road, a circular walk through the forest. At the south end of the Green Road we detoured onto a side walk which lead up the hills alongside Glendalough itself. This turned out to be an energetic but breath taking climb along a path laid with railway sleepers.
We climbed about 600m up the hills to the crest where we could see stunning views along the glen to the North, Dublin and the sea. Fleeing the cold we turned back at the top and headed back to the car. We were passed on the way by two particularly active individuals, jockeying their mountain bikes down the nearly 1:1 gradient. One of them remarked at the bottom that it had "seemed like a good idea at the time".
That evening we returned to Dublin and had a couple of beers in a couple of quiet Irish pubs. Food was more difficult to acquire since the restaurants were packed to capacity and we had to settle for bar food. We caught up with a bunch of friends in nearby Rathmines (pronounced "Rat Mines", although why anyone would want to mine rats is beyond me) who were enjoying a Guinness in their local living room, a pub called Slattery's.
A quick word about Guinness too. It's all true. Guinness in Australia or even Britain is a thick treacle brown drink which is particularly heavy and puts me under the table after a glass and a half. Guinness in Ireland is this strange, fluffy-brown nectar which seems to slide down easily in batches of three or four pints and has apparently no side effects. Even when you drink it for breakfast.
The next morning we arose at a leisurely hour for a full Irish breakfast at our guest house (full Irish breakfast being different from full English because it includes both Black and *White* puddings, yuk!). We headed into Dublin and spent a couple of hours wandering the centre of town including Temple Bar.
We also visited Trinity college and saw the Book of Kells, one of the more treasured ancient Celtic manuscripts. The work put into such manuscripts is mind-boggling.
Trinity also has a most impressive library of ancient volumes which is sadly, not open to public access. You can wander down the central isle of the library but the dusty tomes are roped off out of reach of the grasping fingers of the public.
We then spent the last couple of hours having coffee and trawling around Dublin some more before heading back to the airport to drop off the car and head home.
The flight from London to Dublin takes 45 minutes and we were back in our own living room by half-past nine.