Glendalough: My First Love

Ireland just kept getting better.

I saw Dublin and I liked it there quite a bit.

I saw the Powerscourt Estate and loved it.

And then we found Glendalough, and I can honestly say that it changed my life. Up until that point, Ireland had been a wonderful adventure, and after Glendalough, Ireland was a glorious adventure. But in Glendalough I felt something I don’t fully know how to explain. I suddenly, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was were I was supposed to be— like my soul belonged there. I wrote about that a little bit in a blog I did last year. called “I found my soul’s home in Glendalough.”

That day when we found Glendalough, we crossed a little wooden footbridge into the ruins of a graveyard and a church.

Mom and me standing on the footbridge looking into Glendalough

At the time we were searching for the unknowns of our family lineage, and my parents scoured graveyards looking for headstones with our surname.

While they did that, I walked a little ways away and found a large rock next to one of the lakes (or loughs) that gave Glendalough its name. I sat and wrote in my journal until I couldn’t stay any longer.

In my journal I wrote, “I hope someday I can come back here and sit and write as long as I want. Perhaps I will never go back home and I will find a place here, in the mountains, that will be my new home.”

The place is positively beautiful. There are woods and trails, lakes and streams, and so much green, I could not believe there were that many shades of a color I thought I knew. There is nothing particularly “touristy” about Glendalough, other than its beauty and possibly St. Kevin’s cross.

 

In front of Saint Kevin’s cross

There is some fascinating history surrounding the place, but when we were there in 1997, I didn’t know any of that. I didn’t have a tour guide or a brochure to tell me of the historical beauty of that space on the globe that suddenly had captivated me in a way I couldn’t express at the time.

The picture I would stare at endlessly to remember that day

The mountains and the lough

In my travels both domestic and abroad I have enjoyed my time and relished in the opportunities that I’ve had to be able to travel to interesting places. However, I have never felt such a strong pull to any place like I felt in Glendalough. Intrigued by my pull to that place specifically, I did some digging in recent years, as much as I could, into the genealogy of my family try to find out if there was some rationale… if truly I felt pulled there because my family was from there. Alas, in all my research the only ties to Ireland I found were in the north of Ireland, nowhere near Glendalough.

However, over the next 19 years I would think about that place often and recognize it in movies – you can’t mistake the glorious slope of the Wicklow Mountains over the wide, reflective lake. And I did go back in 2016 (My Take-Back Year (and a half)), and though I didn’t get to spend the amount of time I’d wanted to on the banks of the lough, it was enough to fuel my spirit on. On my most recent trip back to Ireland, we did not get to Glendalough, but I did find solace for a wounded spirit in Blarney, where next week’s post will take us.

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

For the next few months I am writing about my first trip to Ireland in the summer of 1997. You can read the first post here where I talk about my first encounter with Dublin, the city that would claim my heart.

I found this ticket tucked in my journal from the trip.

We were on our way from Dublin and making our way, slowly, to Waterford (with many wonderful stops along the way). Our first stop was at a very innocuous looking tourist attraction, Powerscourt Estate. It doesn’t look like much from the entrance, a great, old house, but nothing fancy.

This is the entrance but is the back of the house

The entrance to Powerscourt Gardens is actually the back of the house.

But once you’re through to the front of the house, you can understand why National Geographic has called this beautiful place one of the top gardens in the entire world. The back view of the house is stunning!

Ireland's Magnificent Powerscourt Gardens and Waterfall

Not only is it beautiful, but it is often used in movies! The one that really took me off guard came out a few years after my trip, in 2002. I was watching the amazing movie The Count of Monte Cristo, and there was something about the Count’s castle that I knew I’d seen before but just couldn’t put my finger on. I was in the movie theater thinking to myself, I know that place. How do I know that place? 

Image result for count of monte cristo movie

But then, I saw this scene, and I knew instantly how I knew where I had seen this “castle.”

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Forgive the poor quality of this photo that I snapped using my phone while watching the movie tonight.

I know it seems like strange thing to trigger a memory. This is the scene when the count lands during his first party at his new house. The camera pans down to his feet, and the stones form a very memorable pattern for me. Immediately after watching the movie, I went home and grabbed the photo album from Ireland and searched until I found this photo of my mother I’d taken at Powerscourt Gardens.

And sure enough – years later when I became more familiar with all the internet had to offer, I looked it up, and sure enough, Powerscourt Estate was used for the outdoor scenes of the count’s castle in the movie. If you’ve never seen the movie before, I strongly recommend it even though it is INCREDIBLY inaccurate from the book. It’s well done, and inspired me to read the book.

But anyway… back to Powerscourt.

The gardens go on forever! I believe it is well over 70 acres of land that has been meticulously kept up over several hundreds of years. Though the house was built in the 13 century, it underwent several renovations, even enduring a fire in the 1970s.  The gardens were constructed in the 1800s by the 7th Viscount Powerscourt.

My mother kept several keepsakes from the trip and gave them to me when she found out I was writing this blog series. In there was a map of Powerscourt Gardens.

Here are several pictures of the garden in bloom.

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A keep on the far end of the property afford an excellent view of the gardens and house. However, my fear of heights kept me firmly on the ground.

Near the gardens is the Powerscourt Waterfall, which is the tallest waterfall in all of Ireland. My parents and I enjoyed spending time climbing the rocks and hiking around the waterfall that day. It was truly a wonderful find.

It is truly a hidden gem in Ireland, and I fear it is often overlooked. I hope that if you go to Ireland, you will make your way to Powerscourt to see its beauty for yourself!

For more information about Powerscourt Estate, click here.

Dublin: love at first sight

In June of 1997 I graduated from high school, and in July of 1997 I was on a plane bound for Dublin, Ireland.  While my friends back home were listening to Hansen, Verve, Oasis, and Chumbawamba, I was on the trip that would shoot my life on a distinct trajectory of wanderlust – specifically to Ireland. Last week I wrote briefly about the gift, and you can read about that here.

As a side note, please forgive the lack of decent photographs. It was 1997 after all, and all I have are the printed photographs that have faded and yellowed with age. Many of them are in a scrapbook that I started years ago, and you’ll see the edges of the things I wrote in the scrapbook along with my very terrible attempt at being crafty.

The first few days of our two week trip had us stationed just north of Dublin in a lovely bed and breakfast called Belcamp-Hutchinson. To the best of my knowledge, the B&B no longer operates. There weren’t any websites about it with updates since 2006 – so I think it’s safe to say that it is no longer operational. And that is truly unfortunate! The owner, Dorene, was a very kind woman who truly seemed to love her job as hostess, guide, and cook! While we were there (two nights) we had lovely breakfasts of fresh fruit, granola, and yogurt. She also served hot items, but my 18 year-old self was not particularly adventurous when it came to eating things I couldn’t easily identify.

Our first place to visit was Malahide Castle, and it was a lovely day, in the mid-sixties, and for the Irish, that was apparently a heatwave because people were out in droves. While back home we would have considered that a little on the chilly side, there where people on the beach and even swimming in the Irish Sea. The castle was quite beautiful, though I don’t remember much about it now. I don’t think we went inside, but the grounds were full of people walking around and lounging in the grass.

Next we took the bus into Dublin city where I got my first glimpse of the city I would come to love above all others. And there were probably two places that sealed the deal in my mind.

Trinity College

Situated right in the middle of Dublin is Trinity College, and it was postively the coolest thing I had ever seen before. Dublin was loud and crowded, but once we walked through the gate, the city vanished behind the great stone walls of the college. It was so beautiful and peaceful, I couldn’t believe we were still in the city.

I didn’t remember this, but when I looked back on the journal that I wrote while we were there, I learned that we were there during their graduation ceremonies. Because of this, we weren’t allowed everywhere, but because the college is such a tourist attraction for the city, they don’t close it down completely, even for commencement. We walked around the grounds for a while and saw some of the wonderfully iconic buildings.

And of course we went and saw the Book of Kells. As an adult I can appreciate the historical and religious significance, but I was surprised that when I read back through my journal that I was even impressed with its history back then. No photography is allowed, so I didn’t have any pictures to look back on, but I wrote extensively in my journal about the intricacies of the book.

For those who don’t know, the Book of Kells was compiled in the 9th century by Catholic monks, and is a hand penned copy of the four Gospels of the New Testament. However, they are so much more. Each book was copied down letter by letter (to avoid accidental alteration of the text), and it was also intricately illustrated by the monks as well.

Close by the Book of Kells is the Long Room Library, and of course I was in heaven there. The book nerd in me was fascinated by the floor to (very high) ceiling book cases that contained books that I was forbidden to touch. What is it about the forbidden that is so enticing?

St. Stephen’s Green

Cities are known for their parks, and though some cities may have grander parks that St. Stephen’s Green, I had not seen anything I loved quite so much as that beautiful bit of green and colorful flowers in the middle of Dublin. It truly isn’t much to speak of, but sometimes simplicity is all you need to enjoy something. Much like Trinity College, once you got within the walls of the park, the city seemed to fade away.

There were short trails over rocky terrain, creeks, ponds, ducks, and swans. There were fountains, sun, and shade. My heart felt full as we walked around enjoying the day along with native Dubliner’s, and I even caught a glimpse of the statue of the famous Oscar Wilde. Though I was surprisingly ignorant of who he was for someone who a few short months later would declare herself an English teaching major, I enjoyed his cocky smile and semi-recumbent statue that lounged on the outer edge of the park.

After leaving the oasis of St. Stephens, we did what most tourists do (and I advocate it for people in a new city), we got on a hop-on-hop-off bus that tours the city. We saw a huge section of the city that would have been impossible to traverse on foot in one day, and we had the expert knowledge of the bus’ tour guide to tell us all about the history of the city.

We passed through Phoenix Park and saw some of their legendary deer.

We also went by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

And we even passed by the statue of Molly Malone, “the tart with the cart” as our guide called her. Constructed as a tribute to the famous Irish ballad that goes, in part:

In Dublin’s fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through the streets broad and narrow
Crying “cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”

My dad got quite a kick out of that, as did several people on the bus trip.

We finished out our day touring the area around Grafton Street, which is shopping area where the streets are closed off to cars.  As a result, pedestrians, street performers, and flower girls all converge around some very high-end stores to make up a strange montage of elegance and commonplace.

 

Next week I will take you on the journey of the next few days of our trip: Powerscourt and Glendalough!


To read up on my trip to Italy and Greece, read these posts:

The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

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Photo by Aaditya Arora on Pexels.com

I am obsessed with traveling. I know this about myself, and people often point it out to me. I will see someone that I haven’t seen in a while, and often their first question is something like “So, where was your last adventure?” or “Where are you headed next?”

Sometimes people ask why I love to travel so much, and it makes me stop and think. I’d just kind of assumed that everyone had the same cravings to go and do and explore like I have. However, I’ve learned over the years that isn’t true. Some people hoard and save their money for things other than airplane tickets and Airbnb stays. Who knew!?

My family has traveled since I was a kid. I remember trips to Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, New England, and abroad as far back as the third grade (and maybe we traveled before then and I just don’t remember). And I look back on those trips with very fond memories.

However, the trip that really solidified my love of traveling was my high school graduation gift from my parents. They told me that I could pick anywhere in the world that I wanted to go, and we would all go there. To this day, I have no idea where they thought I would pick– maybe Australia (because I’d been obsessed with Australia since my childhood babysitter went there), or New Zealand (to visit a former foreign exchange student). But I do think they were shocked when I told them that of all of the places in the entire world, I wanted to go to Ireland– the land of my ancestors to see if we couldn’t hunt down a tombstone with our family name on it (this was before ancestry.com and the internet being useful for anything other than chat rooms).

So, for the next several weeks I am going to reminisce about the trip that launched a thousand trips (give or take)– my first trip to Ireland in the summer of 1997. I dug out my old journal from the trip, and I’ve plotted out the story of discovering where my soul resides to this day: Ireland.

The true challenge will be getting good pictures– so bear with me as I dig through 23 year old photos that were taken on actual film and probably printed out by a teenager at the one-hour photoshop.

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Glendalough, Ireland 2016