We docked in Dublin early on Tuesday morning. The city sits along the river Liffey which we followed up after crossing the Irish Sea last night. The name comes from the Gaelic 'dubh linn' which means 'black river'. We opted for a tour to Powerscourt Estate and gardens in the morning and then were dropped off in Dublin to explore on our own for the afternoon before returning by bus to the ship.
Dublin and Powerscourt Estate Details
This is a combination of information from today and what I remember from our tour in Cork since that entry got deleted when my email spazzed out.
We had another wonderful tour guide today who provided lots of information about the land and the economy of Ireland.The unemployment rate last year was 14% but they are coming out of the recession strong. Prices of housing bubbled during the Celtic Tiger boom at the end of the 20th century then plummeted during the recession. 30% of the population in Dublin is under age 25. So many 5 year olds this year that they had to build new schools to accommodate them! 80% of the land in Ireland is farmland which is incredibly high. Last year they exported €8 billion in goods, a majority of that from beef and butter. They only import €4 billion annually, mostly flour and fuel since those are not resources available on the island.
We drove about 45 minutes up into the Wicklow Mountains. Johnny Cash once visited Ireland and wrote a song called '40 Shades of Green'. You can really see how true it is in the Republic of Ireland. Completely different from what we saw in the Lake District, Scotland, or even Northern Ireland.
The Wicklow Mountains are known as the Garden of Ireland because they hold some of the most beautiful gardens on the whole island. Powerscourt Estate where we visited was recently voted the third most beautiful gardens in the world after Versailles and Kew, respectively. The estate was fully operational in the late 19th century but fell into disrepair and disuse. In the 1960s the family started a refurbishment effort that took nearly 10 years. The weekend before it was to reopen for visitors, there was a devastating fire that left the estate as a roofless shell. Ever since then, the estate has never been fully restored but the 47 acres of gardens are lovingly maintained by 6 full time gardeners. We had two hours to visit so we wandered the garden path for about an hour. I most enjoyed the hydrangeas in various shades of pale to deep pinks. The Engineer liked the Japanese garden which has a stream that ran downhill and lots of moss covered rock and water features. We looked for some ideas for plants and ground cover to eventually redo our backyard.
After touring the grounds, we went inside to check out the cafe and shops. We each picked a mission at the beginning of the trip - the Engineer chose beer and I chose scones so we have been trying those everywhere we go to see what the local variety is and find our favorite. The scones here were huge and could easily be shared, but they offered really interesting flavors which I had not seen elsewhere. Most scones are either plain or with currents/raisins mixed in. This tea shop had blueberry scones with cinnamon as well as the standard fruit scone (which means raisins). They were lighter compared to some of the dense plain scones we had in the Lake District and southern Ireland. So far my favorite has been the ones from Fortnum and Mason in London - slightly sweet with currants and sized about the palm of your hand.
After tea we wandered the shops. I found some wool sweaters I quite liked but they were too lumpy on my frame when I tried them on. Will have to keep looking. I took note of the names and websites for some manufacturers in case anyone is interested in looking them up. They were all of quality material and made in Ireland:
- Avoca Ireland brand makes sweaters and other clothing, didn't see a website but you can google it
- Arancrafts Ireland, www.arancrafts.com
- Fisherman Out of Ireland which comes from County Donnegal, www.fishermanoutofireland.com
- Carraigdonn which comes from County Mayo and the Aran Islands, www.irishknitwearonline.com
After leaving the estate, we drove back to Dublin and were dropped off for 3 hours of touring in the city center. We started at Trinity College where we had a student led tour of the grounds. On the tour, we heard about the only campus ghost. Apparently a dean used to cane the boys when they were out of line. One night some boys had too much to drink and starting throwing stones at the dean's window. The dean woke up and ended up shooting at them to get them to leave. The boys turned out to be the head of the school riflery team so they fetched their guns and started to return fire and ended up killing the dean, who now haunts the campus. None of the boys ended up being charged because it was deemed "a prank that for out of hand". Quite the prank indeed!
The campus tour ended at the library where we saw the book of Kells, which is an elaborately decorated copy of the Gospel done by monks in Ireland and Scotland. The exhibit was informative and there was thankfully no line for entry. We then left campus and walked along Grafton Street to St. Stephen's Green (akin to Central Park). We stopped at the national archeology museum which had good reviews from Rick Steves, but we found the displays and audio guide too dry for our taste. We then headed back to the meeting point, stopping for some browsing in the shops and a pint of Guinness along the way. Made it back to the ship in time to get a nap before headed on deck to watch the Irish dancers on the dock during the sail away.
We have been playing trivia every night with two older couples from England. They are in their 60s and cruise many times a year and plan their whole days around what time trivia will be offered. We have a good team of six with a mix of generations and interests so we usually do well but have not won anything yet.
Wednesday is our first at sea day so we look forward to sleeping in, lounging on the deck, and enjoying the activities offered on board.