I didn’t know a vacation could be this good. During our two weeks in Ireland, we explored exciting places, experienced stunning beauty, and met charming family. And Margaret and I found rest for our spirits and shared an experience that would serve as a touchstone for our new marriage.
Our last day in Ireland came. As evening fell, we decided to stroll Dublin’s streets one more time.
The light was delicious, golden. I got out my camera.
We followed streets that had become familiar to us even in our few days in this city.
But cast in this delicious light, we saw them anew.
As we walked and talked, we reflected on how fortunate we had been to have been gifted this trip, and to have been able to unplug from our lives for two solid weeks. We talked of our best memories and our favorite adventures. We wished we could have just one more day.
But wrapping our trip on this note, in this light, was pretty terrific.
Expensive tourist-trappy attractions, criminally slow restaurant service, large crowds and lots of noise everywhere — Dublin had been everything the rest of Ireland had not been. After a disappointing experience trying to see the Book of Kells, we knew we needed a break, a quiet place to walk and talk and hold hands. We were still on our honeymoon, after all! Google Maps told us this park was just a few blocks away, so we walked over.
What a quiet respite it was! Like everyplace else in Dublin, it was loaded with people. But unlike everyplace else in Dublin, it was clear we were all there for a little peace. We found quiet, even a little solitude, in St Stephen’s Green.
This 22-acre park has existed in some form since around 1664, but was private until the Guinness family led an initiative to convert it for public use. Sir Arthur Guinness paid to have the park redesigned to its current layout, which opened in 1880.
As Margaret and I strolled through, the tree-rimmed area around the pond seemed the most remote. We forgot for a moment that this was in the heart of Dublin. All we could hear was the rustling breeze and the chirping of birds.
I think this part of the park did more to restore our spirits than any other.
Upon reading the little plaque describing this statue of the Three Fates, I was deeply moved. In German, Gaelic, and English, it expresses gratitude to the Irish people for help they gave to German children after World War II. The Irish provided foster homes for hundreds of German children whose families had died and whose homes had been destroyed during the war. While most of the children later returned to Germany, some remained, and were even adopted by their Irish families.
When we came upon this cute little house in the park’s southwest corner, Margaret declared, “There it is, our dream house!” Except that our morning commute to our jobs in Indiana would be challenging. Apparently at one time the park’s caretaker lived here.
We lingered for a couple hours, walking and talking and taking photographs. Soon our stomachs grew insistent that we seek sustenance, and so reluctantly we left.
But St. Stephen’s Green was a turning point of our time in Dublin. Reset and refreshed, we enjoyed our experience from here on out.
You might think we’d start there. After all, our flight in did land at the Dublin airport. Yet we immediately boarded a train and hightailed it to Galway. It’s how Margaret wanted it, as after all that’s where her family is from! And as we looked over all the places we could visit across Ireland, places within driving distance of Galway kept edging out places in Dublin.
But we knew that at the end of our trip we knew we wouldn’t want to rush back to Dublin just to board a plane. We would want to regroup for a day or two first. So we booked a hotel in Dublin.
We had been having a truly amazing trip, with outstanding experience after outstanding experience. Our astounding luck had to run out sometime, and it did in Dublin. Nothing truly bad happened. It was merely an average time. After the fabulous experiences we’d been having, average was quite a comedown.
What’s a trip to Dublin without visiting the Guinness mother ship at St James’s Gate? It was the first thing we did. For 20 euros you can take a tour. But they don’t actually brew Guinness here anymore; the place is more like a museum now. A very noisy and crowded museum, from which you can exit only through an enormous gift shop. At least we got to pour our own Guinness as part of the tour, though it was nearly impossible to find a quiet corner to sit down and drink it. If you’re going to Dublin, pass on this.
On our way back to the hotel we had dinner at the oldest pub in all of Ireland (or so it promoted itself). The food was great but the service was criminally slow. After 45 minutes of waiting to pay our bill, both of us seriously considering simply stiffing the joint, our waiter finally passed by. He obviously and deliberately ignored me. I had to block his way and almost force him to take my credit card.
The next morning we thought we’d go see the Book of Kells at nearby Trinity College. It cost 20 euros to get in — and the mile-long line moved glacially. Worse, photography was prohibited inside. Unwilling to spend our whole morning in a queue to see something we couldn’t photograph, we walked around campus for a minute to process our disappointment and then moved on.
Unsure what to do with our day, we looked at Google Maps on our phones and saw that a large park wasn’t too far away. We decided to walk over and rest for a while. We passed through a shopping district on our way.
The park is called St. Stephen’s Green, and it is lovely and quiet, a sharp contrast to how we’d experienced Dublin so far. We spent hours here, walking and holding hands, talking and taking photographs. We left feeling refreshed. I’ll share some color photos I took here in an upcoming post.
It was midafternoon and our stomachs were insistently reminding us it had been too long since our last meal. We reluctantly left the park and found a pub. It had a long row of Guinness taps, and Margaret asked the bartender if she could photograph them. “Sure,” he said, “but would you rather I photographed you pouring a pint at one?” Whaaaat? Absolutely! Unfortunately, those photos are in Margaret’s camera. But it was another highlight of our Dublin stay.
So Dublin wasn’t a washout. We have some good memories. I’ll share a couple more in upcoming posts.
Dublin street scene Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor Kodak T-Max 400 2016
I will probably never become a skilled street photographer. I’m okay with that, as I’m choosing to build my skills photographing other things. But sometimes I feel the urge to shoot on a crowded street, as I did here in Dublin. This shot draws me in. I can’t tell whether it’s because it’s good, or whether it’s bad enough that I just can’t look away.