Day 5 |
May 14, 2010

Dublin, Ireland

By Rich Pagen, Ornithologist

Coordinates: 53° 20'N and 6° 15’W

Weather: Mostly sunny in the morning, partly cloudy in the afternoon

Under a surprisingly cloudless sky, Captain Luigi Rutigliano maneuvered the Prince Albert II alongside the pier in Dublin. After breakfast, we carefully packed our backpacks with raingear, knowing full well that blue skies rarely last all day in this part of the world. We then disembarked the ship for one of the offered outings, or to explore the capital of the Irish Republic on our own.

Dublin is particularly rich in 18th-century architecture, and those of us who joined the tour of the city had the opportunity to see a lot of it. We visited the Old Parliament House, which is now Ireland’s oldest college, Trinity College. Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity College hosts the world famous Book of Kells, a hand illuminated manuscript of the Gospels. We then wandered through the squares and city streets en route to the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1190.

Those of us who opted for a full-day excursion out into the countryside quickly realized that the song that American singer Johnny Cash wrote about Ireland, “Forty Shades of Green”, was spot on. The hillsides and valleys were decorated with every variation of the color one could imagine. Our guides provided us with some background on the area as we drove south along the coast and then up into the Wicklow Mountains.

We arrived at Glendalough and, after tea, explored this ancient monastic site on foot. St. Kevin and a dozen or so of his companions founded Glendalough in the 5th century. Over the next few centuries, this isolated outpost of spirituality grew to several thousand people. We wandered among the stone ruins and beneath the intact tower, attempting to understand what it would have been like to be a monk living in this scenic valley over a thousand years ago.

After a hearty lunch in the village of Ashford, and a Guinness (which tastes so much smoother here in Ireland), we proceeded to Powerscourt Garden, with its spectacular views across the valley to Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance. The garden was designed in the 1840s by Daniel Robertson. It is said that Robertson loved his sherry, and that he would direct the construction of the garden from a wheelbarrow, in which he sat drinking his sherry all day long. Once he had finished two bottles of sherry, the work for the day was done. In November 1974, a fire destroyed the interior of the Georgian mansion on the property, which has been redesigned with shops and a café. A coffee was the perfect way to relax after wandering through this magnificent garden.

Rain began to fall as we arrived back at the ship, an appropriate way to finish up our visit to Ireland. We joined friends old and new in the Panorama Lounge for a cocktail, and then shared stories of our day over an excellent dinner.