Dublin, Day 3 (6/27/09)
It was another beautiful (if warm!) day here in Ireland. One gent at the hotel mentioned that they are on record for the hottest summer since the 1960s. This is after having two years without summers at all, and really lousy grain and hay harvests, so there is some rejoicing in the fields according to the city and tourism people. We’ll see if this is true when we are out in the countryside.
This morning we started with a stroll to the north of Trinity College to catch the train at Tara Station. Unfortunately, the map has a blob of a station between two streets, with no clear entrance marked. We found that entrance by circling around two blocks underneath the station, pointing up at it and making various amusing comments about holding hands and jumping really hard. We eventually found the ticket office, where a very helpful gent sold us a “family ticket” package that was good for unlimited arrivals and departures for all three of us for the whole day. He explained which platform and which train to take, and advised us to go to Skerries Mill first – which was our plan anyway – because then when we were coming back, any train departing from Malahide would take us to Tara Station.
Off we went to Skerrie. It’s a picturesque little town to the north of Dublin, sitting about 20 miles as the train wanders. The train trip was relatively short, so in about 35 minutes we hopped off of the train into an edge of a little suburban street that dropped us off at the bottom of the hill for the mill. Skerrie’s Mill sat on a little hill overlooking the town and the sea (which was fogged over). We were in double luck coming on a Saturday, since there was a nice little farmer’s market right at the entrance to the mill, featuring fresh fruits, candies (baklava in all flavors!), breads, meats, etc. We discussed the possibility of making purchases on our way out, and managed to use that future idea to keep from filling our backpacks on our way into the mill.
While the parking lot had a steady stream of traffic for the farmer’s market, the mill itself was not terribly crowded. We were the only three people on our little personalized tour. The mill has been around forever, so a lot of the pieces that we would expect from our Gold Rush days to be metal were still done in wood, including the gears for the main turnstile. (I’ll put in photos eventually) The tour guide was friendly without being sickeningly enthusiastic, and he ended up being quite good to me when my interest was grabbed in a choke hold by … a spinning wheel. Tucked into some odds and ends was a double-wheel, castle-style wheel that was attributed to Connecticut. The guide couldn’t tell me anything more than what was on the sign. I took tons of photographs, and went so far as to ask the tour guide to turn the wheel around so that I could take pictures of the back of the wheel as well. I expect that I will post it to the spinning groups online and ask for some references to find out more about it when I get home. I also took some photos for tammarinne of a lot of interesting-looking scales and balances in case she wants to send them on to her parents.
Lunch at the Skerries Mill café was its own adventure… in cold salads. CK and I had fried chicken thingies, and FE had a chicken panini with peppers and garlic sauce. All of us got various cold salads with our plates, so we ended up sharing among us: pasta-n-sausage, couscous, asian noodles, apples in “fresh” yogurt, and miscellaneous bell peppers and cucumbers (which FE described as peppers in pickle juice). None of the salads were anything more than tolerable, so we blew them off in favor of dessert and the farmers market outside. Back out at the farmer’s market, we picked up two jars of jam, three triangles of baklava, and a HUGE container of amazingly sweet strawberries. Only about half of the strawberries made it back to Dublin.
We snacked on strawberries while we trotted back to the train station to head south to Malahide. Malahide is another picturesque town on the coast, but it was much busier where we got off from the train. We had some trouble crossing the street to get to the castle due to so much traffic on the two-lane road and no crosswalk in sight. The walk up the gentle slope of grounds to Malahide Castle was lovely, as was the wander through the trees past a children’s playground and the garden walls. The castle was interesting both outside and in, but the tour itself was quite a disappointment. The tour was absolutely packed with people (thankfully mostly polite ones) and singularly devoid of docents. The speech was a recording that was piped in through speakers, so there was no one to make eye contact, provide the human touch, or otherwise make him/herself available on hand for questions in the various rooms. You would think that a castle with 800 years of history would merit a real live tour guide, but hey, what do I know? Anyway, the castle was in beautiful shape, with incredible furnishings and paintings, so if you like that sort of thing, go anyway and ignore the lack of eye contact.
The return to Dublin was swift and uneventful. Because we had some time and were down by the Quay, we wandered along the river a bit before turning back south to the hotel. We got some pictures of the city center, the statues, the people, the buildings, the river, etc. and enjoyed a lot of people-watching as well. The people-watching has been quite good here, I do say.
After a cool-down at the hotel, we went off to Arlington House for their dinner and show. We ate from their fixed menu and listened to some traditional musicians (did you know banjo is traditional here now?) then saw some Irish step dancing. None of the evening was amazing, and all of it was fun. I snagged a placemat/menu to tell you all about the food, but I don’t feel like it now. Maybe I’ll go back and edit this in the morning. Anyway, the music was good but loud. The gents played a lot of stuff we knew, including an incredibly up-tempo version of “Leaving of Liverpool,” “The Wild Rover,” and the old Makem standard “Go, Lassie, Go.” The dancing was incredible to view up close. I saw Riverdance last year (two years ago?) from the middle of the Wolf Trap Filene Center seating. This time I was 25 feet from the stage. These people are frightening. One of CK’s comments during our applause at the end was “I can’t even clap for as long as they can dance.” That’s an amazingly athletic art form, to be sure. One of the girls was even en pointe for part of her dance. Eeek. It was jaw dropping to see their feet move that fast. Yeah, I think it was worth the time out tonight.
Did I mention that this is Gay Pride week here in Dublin? Well, it is, so of course Saturday night is prime time for people watching. I got a couple of photos of some fabulous drag queens on our way to dinner, and some nice photos of the rainbow flags flying over various buildings. As I type, CK and FE are leaning all the way out of the hotel windows (OSHA does not rule here) watching the passers-by below. The general consensus among the three of us is that most everyone – women included – need WAY more practice before wearing those kinds of high heels on cobble stone streets. Or they need more sense and should go for platform boots instead. Whoo-eeee.
There’s a lot that I’ve left out, but at least here’s a taste of a very full day that we had today. Tomorrow we have brunch planned with our host from last February’s Dublin visit, then hopefully we’ll go off to Dublinia and Viking World for some history, humor, and shopping! If there is any time left, we plan to hit the National Museum of Natural History, which supposedly is still set up in Victorian Style, complete with mis-labelings and odd presentations of nature.
Also, in case you wanted to know, why some people drive right or left is explained here, and is a reasonable enough description of it. http://www.amphicars.com/acleft.htm