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Ireland 1996: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

KILDARE AND DUBLIN CITY

In a little more than a week, we drove in a circle around Southern Ireland. After Birr, we headed east through thinly populated country toward Dublin, passing a caravan of "travellers" who were living in cars and leaving a wake of litter behind them.

Ireland

At Kildare, lunch was not a complete success, but we ended up staying the night. We didn't expect to make this stop, but it was pretty there, and I was reading out of the guidebook about the nearby Japanese garden and, surprise, the Irish National Stud. We both like horses.

Ireland
Mares were foaling at the Irish National Stud.

The Irish National Stud is a horse farm where the best Irish mares are sent to be bred to the finest stock and to have their foals in the most advanced kind of facilities. This being March, three foals had been born the night before. We saw them lying in the hay with their dams in the foaling area. Curious stallions looked out from their boxes. We saw mares and older (by days or at most weeks) foals in the many green pastures that lined a well kept drive.

Ireland
A Different Kind of Horse

I was surprised to see some spotted, heavily built horses mixed in with the sleeker show, race, and steeplechasing stock.

Ireland

We heard much of Arkle, the racehorse-hero of Ireland. Later we saw his picture in all the pubs and restaurants. Dinner was non-existent: soup for me, sulks for craig. This was after inspecting and rejecting quite a few menus (which is how we know that Arkle's picture is everywhere). We went to bed very early, thinking there was not much to do in Kildare.

Hah. What to do in Kildare was, go to the room directly below our bed and listen to MUSIC! Live top-40-type music. The Beatles. The Police. I recognized every song, each so loud it was startling when they struck it up. One set lasted from 9:30 to 10:30, another from 11 to 12.

So although we went to bed early, we just did get up in time for the 8:00 breakfast (we were wanting to eat and be on our way), but none of the staff were up except the old man-night watchman Albert, who complained that no one on the staff, including management, was ever on time. So there was a rush when they did arrive to make the standard "fries" (bacon, potato, eggs and sausage). We overheard the only other guests, who were Australians, saying they were hunting pubs. At 8:00 a.m.

We headed for Dublin, not a great distance, and immediately got lost in beautiful country - absolutely - until we found ourselves at Sally's Gap, a crossroads on as barren a plain as you could ever hope to see. We saw snow in the distance and then the weather got dark again. Did I mention that it was raining? Then it got colder and there was snow on the road.

Ireland
Beautiful drive en route to Sally's Gap

After Sally's Gap, the hills soon become what qualify in your mind, when you are there on a snowy road in a little rent-car, as mountains. It kept getting worse, until there was an absolute white-out, scary as hell. Couldn't turn around. We kept passing scenic overlooks, but there was nothing to see in any direction but white.

Finally, finally, we plummeted to Bray in heavy rain. That was a discouraging moment. But the tourist office was open. What a help! Maps, highlighting on the maps, lists, good advice, phone calls. We found a hotel on the esplanade and headed for Dublin City by noon. Also compliments of the Failte, we knew to get a family pass on the DART.

Ireland
Dublin City

We trained into Tara Street, and walked through the McConnell street shops and markets. We found curtains and solved a riddle: Why does every little house have sweet lace curtains on every little window when they cost the Dublin marketearth in all the shops? Answer: You buy the lace curtains by the yard in a store that reminded me of an old five-and-dime. Cheap! Maybe three pounds a yard.

We went up and down the streets of Dublin's center, where the buildings were festooned with green in anticipation of St. Pat's. We had delicious fish and chips (hake). We enjoyed the Powerscourt Townhouse Market. The streets were crowded at the end of the day, and after the time we'd spent in the quiet countryside, this was a big, European-style city, exciting and stylish.

The rain had stopped before we got to Dublin, so although we were threatened, we never got wet. By the time we reached St. Steven's green on Trinity University campus, for a while the sun came out, and the grass was an astonishing glowy green. The Emerald Isle!

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