Grafton Street, one of Dublin’s shopping districts, was bustling with artistic displays and merchants selling colorful flowers. Its creative atmosphere made it a great spot for the statue honoring one of Ireland’s musicians, Philip Lynott of Thin Lizzy. I’ve always liked their song “The Boys Are Back in Town.” The statue is located along a side street just outside of Bruxelle’s Bar. An outdoor seating area was set up for the bar’s patrons behind Lynott’s likeness.
Food along Grafton Street included many tempting choices and to top off a main course, one gelato place drew quite a crowd. Gino’s Homemade Italian Gelato stood out with a sign decorated by a 3-scoop ice cream cone image in its name. A rainbow of round lights filled the ceiling from front to back. Piles of gelato in many flavors dripped with chocolate. Hazelnut, Oreo, cherry & white chocolate, pistachio. These were just a few of the flavors, shown on mini signs shaped to match the ice cream detail on the storefront’s name. With so many creative displays of gelato on waffles and a mix of toppings, it sure was difficult to decide on what to order!
A few hours in the shopping district was followed by touring Dublin on a red double-decker sightseeing bus. Myself and several others bought two-day passes and it was a great way to see the city. We could see the statue of literary figure, Oscar Wilde, while approaching one end of Merrion Square Park. Some passengers decided to get off of the bus at that stop. Later on in the week, I decided to explore the park on my own and get a close-up view of the writer’s statue. I hadn’t closely studied Wilde in literature classes to date. However, a stop at his statue made me feel more connected to Ireland’s past involving the written word. With my own interest in getting thoughts onto page and to publication, I wonder if my Irish heritage has passed that down to me. There’s no known distant relation between myself any of the country’s famous writers. It may just be the spirit of Ireland itself as a place of literary culture.
Heading out to Galway on another bus tour, I spotted the ruins of a castle tower in the distance off of M6. It was on the opposite side of the motorway, not far from some sculptures of moon phases on tall poles standing near the edge of a field. The ruins weren’t of any familiar castle and I wondered if I’d be able to find out anything about the mysterious overgrowth-covered structure later on. It wasn’t until returning home that I found the name and a bit of background on its past to fill in the blanks. What helped were those moon phases art sculptures, which I looked up and found their location. Noting that on Google Maps, I centered Ireland on my computer screen and did a search of “castles.” The nearest pinpoint to the sculptures featured a familiar site and was revealed to be Rattin Castle. Of course, I wanted to know more. What was its history? I found a lot of that information along with photos from an April 2013 post, “Rattin Castle Co Westmeath,” written by a blogger (username Castlehunter) on his site, “Ireland In Ruins.” If you love enchanting medieval ruins, such as those in Ireland, you will love that particular blog. The photos alone will make you want to explore them for yourself; I know I’d love to go back and see more of these crumbling, centuries-old sites! Rattin Castle is already on my list of those I hope to see close-up, as close as is allowed. When I spotted it, the tour bus was moving and my camera shutter seemed stuck. I thought I’d miss the shot, until finally, click! Just in time to at least capture the medieval ruins in one image.
It rained on and off during the ride to Galway and as we went through Connemara National Park. However, the weather let up long enough to allow for some wonderful moments. One of which was when the bus driver stopped and everyone got out to wander around on boggy ground and take in the dramatic scenery around us. The ground sank beneath my feet as I stepped along on a mix of flat and uneven surfaces.
In Connemara National Park, the bus passed by this pretty church and I snapped the photo after turning just in time to see it. I thought it was very striking for its white exterior and narrow, arching windows framed in blue to match the base and a cross above. Even after all this time, this beautiful church remains a mystery to me. Seeing it is just one of those moments I love about travel, the unexpected finds along the way. I’m looking into other sources for a name and from there, any of its history; hopefully, I’ll learn more about it soon and will be able to give an update.
Kylemore Abbey was among Ireland’s attractions that I hoped to see if I ever had the chance to visit the country. When that chance came along and I finally arrived in Dublin, I didn’t know if the historic Abbey would be among the sites I’d see. It was a nice surprise to do so. As the bus driver turned to enter the grounds, he told us that the very talented actress Angelica Huston once spent time there. I hadn’t expected to learn that tidbit of history related to a movie star. I love many facts from the world of Hollywood history, so this was another treat from visiting Ireland! It reminded me of her role in “Ever After: A Cinderella Story,” a fairytale-themed movie. Kylemore Abbey itself is an enchanting site to behold and looks as though it comes from classic storybooks. It’s a very serene place, with all the lush greenery and a pond, a small motorboat resting along one edge. I spotted a small, stony cottage, partially obscured by trees and just off of the parking lot. Nobody else seemed to notice it, which made it feel like a secret to wander up for a closer look. So although our bus tour didn’t include actually going inside and we only stopped for taking photos from a bridge, I just loved getting to see the Abbey! I hadn’t expected to do so even a few days beforehand. Back on the bus, several of us spotted a statue up on the vertigo-inducing mountainside rising up behind the enchanting structure. Impressive, indeed, that anything would be placed in such a precarious spot!
The rain began to fall again as we filled up the bus to continue on to a boat tour. I hoped it would stop in time, although it seemed to compliment the landscape of mountains as clouds moved over their peaks.
Luck was on our side as the rain let up again just as we boarded the Connemara Lady for a cruise of Killary Harbour. The crew dried off seats that were exposed to the weather and soon, we were on our way. Dark clouds continued to top a mountain and with the sun making an appearance, shadows glided over the rugged hills.
On the way back to Dublin from Ireland’s west coast, I caught a glimpse of more abandoned buildings. The lonely grey structure standing in a meadow, penny walls made of stone breaking its land into sections, made for a curious sight. I wondered what happened there, noticing its roof missing.
It wasn’t until we were heading back to Dublin Airport that I saw what looked like a giant beer mug decorating a bridge. I love catching sight of such unexpected things when traveling.