Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ireland Day Twelve -- Glendalough, Avoca, and Dublin

We slept in a little this morning, being so close to Dublin, we didn't feel a great need to rush off first thing.

After our customary breakfast, we headed out to see the Glendalough monastic cemetery and ruins just behind the hotel. Despite the driving rain, we saw many religious buildings and gravestones. Many of the stones were new, but some dated back as far as 1750. St. Kevin's cross is the most prominent stone, and it dates back to the sixth century and is one of the earliest Christian artifacts we've seen.

A short drive south of Glendalough lies Avoca, home to the Avoca Handweavers, where they weave fine woolen cloth using both traditional and modern methods. You can still see hand-powered looms weaving together very beautifully colored fabrics from strands of wool. The factory also had several modern German weaving machines, which produce a much finer weave with surged edges, probably at a much faster speed than the hand looms.

Factory tours always please us, and this one was no different. There was no tour guide; we were allowed to roam the factory freely as long as we stayed behind the rope barriers.

We were going to head to Powerscourt, but the rain was relentless, and it's no fun seeing manicured gardens in the pouring rain. So we skipped Powerscourt and headed on in to Dublin.

Arriving at the very nice Mespil Hotel in Ballsbridge, we checked in and procured a cherry of a parking spot (no small feat in Dublin). That being the case, I don't think we'll be going to see Powercourt tomorrow. I don't want to move the car again until we leave!

We walked into town, just enjoying the sights of the big city: St. Stephen's Green, Christchurch, Grafton Street. The hustle and bustle of Dublin was a big change from the rural lifestyle of the rest of Ireland we've seen this trip. I had to remind the kids to be careful crossing the busy (and dangerous) city streets.

We eventually made our way to the Guinness Storehouse--a good ways from the hotel, but a must see location in Dublin. Though the tour was WAY over-produced, WAY commercial, and TOTALLY no good for the purist wanting to see actual brewing operations, there WERE free samples all along the way. So I can't complain too much. I'll take a free Guinness anytime. I didn't learn a thing about Guinness or beer making, but I did enjoy some very fine beer!

After the tour, we ate dinner off Grafton Street at an Italian restaurant called Pasta Fresca. We had Pizzas Carlito (pepperoni, mushrooms and garlic) and Frutti de Mare (mussels, prawns, and calamari). Guess which one Eddie and I ate? (Both were delicious!)

After dinner, the sun finally poked its head out of the clouds and the rain stopped. It was glorious sunshine! So we strolled back to the hotel through St. Stephen's Green, enjoying the late evening light in the big city.

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