Carnets de voyage

Trip Information

Sea of Celtic Crosses
Sea of Celtic Crosses (11)
Trip Date:2002-04-21 - 2002-04-23
# Photos:1 [View]
Countries visited:Irlande
Vue: 4115
April 22nd

When I woke up, I wasn't sure what time it was, but I knew I wasn't going to get back to sleep. The birds were chirping outside, and it was light, so I figured it was morning, and decided to take a shower and get ready for the day. Once Jason was up and about, I tried to phone my parents cabin to see if they were up, but our phone wasn't 'cleared' for use by the downstairs office (they had to switch it on), so we went downstairs to their cabin.

Dad didn't get much sleep, only about three hours, but he's a bit of an insomniac, so I guess that's enough for him to function on, and we were off to breakfast. Full Irish Breakfast at Carol's again, at least it's consistent.

Back at the cabin, we gave Anne's house a call, and she said today would be a great time to visit, so we said we'd be there midafternoon, after we went to Glendalough and Powerscourt. Her daughter Ginnie gave us directions from Powerscourt, and we gathered our books (for her to sign) and went on our way.

We stopped in the first town, Thomastown, to get some caffeine for Jason and some batteries for my camera. I had not taken any pictures yet, as I discovered yesterday my battery was dead. Dad went into the news store to get one for me, and they were out. However, the clerk just went over to a new camera, took the battery out, and sold it to us -- what service!

We drove through Carlow and on towards Glendalough, with mom navigating, and me driving. Jason slept a bit in the back seat, and perhaps Dad did as well. The road wound through the Wicklow Mountains towards the east coast, and we discovered our first sheep in the road; evidently they are less wary of traffic up there then in the lower hills. It was a wonderfully stark landscape, peat mountains, rocks and sheep. We felt our ears pop as we climbed in altitude, and kept looking for something new around each bend (and there were many!).

We stopped at a spot where there were some old stoneworks done near a mountain stream, stretching and taking some pictures. The rocky streambed was lovely for climbing on, and the view down the valley was breathtaking. You could see the mountains framing the valley in a dramatic view. There was a stone bridge made over the stream, and perhaps an old farmhouse on the other side, falling down.

Jason decided to regale us with a set of puns regarding sheep, branches and trees.... even after we begged him to stop! Of course, dad joined in and added some of his own, but he had to eventually admit defeat at the hands of a master punster.

Our next stop in the mountains you could just see the Irish sea over the horizon. There was a large white object in the water, but we couldn't make out what it was. The horizon line tended to fade into the water, probably due to mists or rain. Another breathtaking spot!

When we arrived in Glendalough, we went first to the little giftshop outside, as I was searching for a small notebook to jot down all my impressions, in order to write this cute little travelogue. We didn't find one, but we did find more film (I had left all but two rolls at the suite, and I realized I would need more than that today!) That was followed by several bad puns based on the little stuffed sheep that were on sale (including spelling something with a long 'ewe').

We went into the visitor's center, and decided against the tour, and just wanted to wander the grounds. There is a quiet little road from the visitor's center to the monastery grounds, although today it seemed to be teeming with French students on holiday.

Along that road is a massive rock that comes up from the ground, and is covered with undergrowth; to me it looks like a huge muppet with its mouth open, what do you think?

On to the monastery... we discovered many modern headstones in among the ancient ones, especially a lot of Byrnes. There was a round tower, built long ago to serve as both defense for the monks during invasion, and as a signal of location to the local population. The first window was about two stories up, and the monks would climb up a rope ladder and pull it up after them if the Vikings came to raid. They would keep all their treasures, such as the illuminated manuscripts and gold ecclesiastical items in the tower during raids. Jason mentioned that this just sounded like a brick oven for the vikings to cook their monks in, just add fire.

There was a very friendly black cat on the grounds, who looked as if she was ready to give birth to her kittens. She delighted in rolling around on the gravel at each person's feet.

We got into a baaaaing contest with the sheep in the enclosure next to the graveyard. There was one ram who won, I believe...he out baaaaed us by quite a bit.

There were many beautifully carved Celtic crosses, with intricate intertwining lacing and symbols on them. Some of the less legible headstones dated back to the 1700s, but we couldn't read anything much before them. Many were very recent, and there were definitely common family names that had had plots there for hundreds of years. We even found the headstone for John Lyons, which is the name of our roommate!

We wandered around to the hotel and restaurant, and decided to have lunch there. They had a delicious, thick lamb stew, and Jason had his first pint of Guinness in Ireland. Mom bought an Irish wool shawl in the gift shop outside, and we went on to our next stop.

Since it was already about 2pm, we decided to skip Powerscourt and go directly to Anne's. Of course, this meant we had to reconfigure the directions since they were given from Powerscourt, which is farther north than we were. We drove through Newton, and then through Newcastle (Caisel Nùa in Gaelic) and past Anne's house to Ashford. We discovered our error, and turned around to take the N11 back up to Dragonhold.

There was a great deal of construction and road work being done around the area, and we almost missed the sign for Dragonhold Stables. Anne's house, Dragonhold Underhill, was the next stop. There were iron dragons in the gates of the house, how perfect!

As we drove into the gates, we saw her house sitting quite pretty on the hill. Very nervous, we got out, and went to knock on the door. Then Anne herself let us in, shook all our hands, and we went into THE kitchen table for some tea and a chat. We met her dog, Maya, who was very friendly and wanted to meet each one of us several times. We met her enormous Maine Coone cat, Pumpkin, and took some pictures with Anne, the cat, and us. Echo, Pumpkin's son, was being shy and hiding.

We chatted about all sorts of stuff, including other fiction writers, such as McMaster, Llewellyn (a friend of hers) and Heinlein. We discovered that not only was Anne the first female science fiction author on the best seller list, but the first science fiction author, male or female, on the best seller list! She told us about her first story, one that developed into the Ship who Sang, and how she had her husband look it over for her. Her husband wanted her to change it all around, and she didn't... it is still in print today! He had also said that he didn't 'mind' if she wrote, as long as she wrote 'real' books. She never showed him anything again.

We talked about the original Robinton, an opera teacher in Delaware. We talked about Crystal Singer becoming a movie someday, and how Sigourney Weaver would make a perfect Killashandra. We talked about different languages, such as Russian and Gaelic(she thought I was wasting my time learning it if I wanted it for anything useful), and Klingon. We talked about Babylon 5 (all of us are fans), L. Ron Hubbard, book tours (she had one that was 22 cities in 32 days!). She told us about a gift she received, a big stuffed white sequined dragon, that she had to stuff into the overhead bin in the airplane to get it home, and ended up as a gift to a child in the hospital. She told us she no longer rode horses, as the ground got harder the older she got. She told us as she was growing up she used to have puzzle parties, where everyone got together to put together jigsaw puzzles.

Anne then gave us a tour of her wonderful house. Jason was impressed not only that she was so down to earth, but that her house wasn't overly ostentatious. He tried to impress upon her that it might be dangerous to accept strangers into her house like she does, but she poo-pooed his suggestions. We saw all sorts of dragons (she said she doesn't collect them, that they collect HER), some wonderful iron sculptures of horses done by an Ukranian friend of hers. We saw a room with pictures from the Littlest Dragonboy (K'van), and many pieces of original art from Michael Whelan, who did her book covers for Pern for many years.
Her work room was comfortable and cluttered, and had a lovely view of the hill and countryside. Echo was still hiding from us.

We finally bid her adieu after about 2 hours, after a couple of book signings, and I felt quite elated as we left. My mom reflected this elation, by repeating several times "I can't believe we just spent the afternoon with Anne McCaffrey!"
We drove down to Arklow for dinner. Since we were on the southeast coast of Ireland, we thought to find a seafood restaurant. Inquiring at the first place we found (a hotel), they recommended a place called Birthistle's, and gave us directions. We went off in search of the place, which was near the center of town.

Birthistle's was a pleasant enough place, but for a place that 'specialized' in seafood (so said the sign) it had very few marine selections. I had the salmon with hollandaise sauce, which was quite tasty, but there were only a few other choices that were seafood. Most were steak or chicken items. Everyone else had cod, and we had mandarin cheesecake and crème brulet for desserts.

We drove out of Arklow and towards New Ross, and discovered we were going the wrong way, so we turned around to Mullinavat. It was a long, tiring drive home, as most of the roads were Rs or small Ns, and as it got dark it was more difficult to see to drive. However, arrive we did around 10:30, and dropped off to a good night's rest.

A short explanation of Irish road designations seems in order. Starting from the largest, there are the M roads - motorways - roughly equivalent to our freeways or major highways. I think there are two or three of these -- all centered around Dublin. Perhaps I'm just being cynical? Then there are the N roads (national?). They can vary from four-lane highways down to country lanes. Third are the R roads (regional?) They are much like our one lane country lanes. Finally, there comes the L roads (local?) Fit for tractors, livestock, and hay balers. We made up some pretty unflattering synonyms for them.

April 23rd

We slept in a bit this morning, waking up around 10, and having cereal for breakfast rather than the "heart attack special" up at Caroll's. We asked Dad to drive, as my ankle was killing me from yesterday's drive, but we made him drive slowly. We decided to do Cashel today, and started off on the wrong road south. We seem to be doing a lot of that!

We got to a town on the right route (Piltown) and turned the right direction. Unfortunately, the detour meant lots of R roads and even some Ls, but we eventually made it on to Clonmel in time for some lunch. The day was bright and warm, and beautifully sunny.

We had lunch at Clonmel Arms, which was a hotel we picked by virtue of it being the first place down the street from the carpark we found. It was a cafeteria-style lunch, and quite tasty, with decorations that were very regency. I had a pint of cider, and mom tried it; she said she liked it, but didn't want any herself. Jason observed that there were a lot of eggs served with meals here, but he had yet to see any chicken farms.

We drove onto the N24 through Cahir and on to Cashel. As we approached the Rock, we got stopped by some construction going on at an old church on the side of the hill. A huge truck was backing up into the construction area, and came real close to hitting our car. However, the driver was more talented than I could ever be, and fit in where he needed to go, and we went on up to the Rock of Cashel. On the way up we saw a small chicken farm, and I told Jason that ALL the eggs in Ireland must come from this one chicken farm. Very busy chickens!

A truly impressive sight! The Rock of Cashel had originally been built somewhere around 600AD, and had been the seat of power in the south for centuries, before being handed over to the church around 1100AD. Even in ruins it was awesome to behold. A chunk of the third story curtain wall had fallen down to the ground, and it was humbling to see just how thick the construction was that high up. And then you realize that it must be even thicker on the ground floors to hold up that weight!

Mom and I went in to see a short video on the history of the castle, but it mostly concentrated on the church's occupation of the place. I was more interested in its original purpose, as a royal residence. I know that Brian Boru ruled from here around 1000AD, as did his sons.

After wandering around the Rock and taking a slew of pictures, we went down to the Brian Boru Centre, which has a gift shop and a cultural exhibition of music, dancing and history of the area. It was nicely done, but a bit difficult to hear. The acoustics of the place meant that the recording in one area, which was talking about dancing throughout history, competed with the one across the room, talking about the historical memories of the bards. Nice, but confusing!

After the Rock of Cashel, we headed back towards Kilkenny, and saw several towers, castles and churches in ruins along the sides of the road as we drove. It seems that this area of the country is practically littered with ruins!

We got to Kilkenny around 5pm, and parked near the castle. We wandered down the main street, looking for a decent place to eat. The first place we stopped in, Lanston's, was a very 1970's looking 'mod' bar, and smelled of cigar smoke, so we decided to move on. The next place was one I had seen on the internet as recommended, so we tried it. It was called Breathnach's, and the restaurant was upstairs. It looked like a fairly new place, and you could still smell the wood of the exposed beams in the place. Very clean and nicely decorated, we sat and had a wonderful meal. Jason had a sizzling steak, mom and dad had chicken, while I had a regular steak, and a sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

During dinner, we decided to cast a production of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with modern actors. We decided on the following cast:
Alice : Whoopi Goldberg
White Rabbit : Chris Tucker
Mad Hatter : Christopher Walken
Cheshire Cat : Robin Williams
Red Queen : Rosie O'Donnell
Red King : Danny Devito
Walrus : John Goodman
Carpenter : Woody Harrelson
Humpty Dumpty : Nathan Lane
Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum : Jay and Silent Bob
March Hare : George Carlin
Dormouse : Dudley Moore
Caterpillar : Steven Wright
Duchess : Penny Marshall

We figured that constituted a full days work, and went back to the Abbey to sleep it off. We had an early day tomorrow, as we were headed for Dublin.