Saturday, July 8th: Studs - need I say more?
We woke up early for an early start, but discovered that breakfast wasn't served until 9am this morning. Oh well, we went back to the room to pack for the morning. It's not like the time was wasted!
We got into breakfast, and Hughey (one of the owners, evidently) asked how things were. We arranged to meet with him that evening to settle up, as we would be leaving much too early for humans the next day (4:30am for our 7:30am flight).
After some fun with more one way streets and crossing back and forth across the Liffey, we dropped T off at the Dublin Zoo for the day, and arranged to meet her at around 5pm in the same spot. Then K and I headed off to Kildare to the National Stud and the Japanese Gardens, as well as St. Fiachra's Garden, all of which are in the same complex. On the way in we saw a sign for St. Brigid's Well, which we resolved to visit on the way out.
The admission into the complex was E9, not included on the OPW, but well worth it, IMHO. The gardens were stunning, each area representing a different stage in life. There was the Easy Path vs. the Path of Life, there were sections marked Disappointment, (after Marriage, of course) and the Chair of Old Age, etc. The paths went in and out, around and through the gardens. I met Tim the Gardener, and we chatted of weather, Florida versus Ireland, house prices, and career paths. We both agreed that you have to find something you enjoy doing, and you won't mind the hours you put into your career. Otherwise you are just imprisoned by your job.
We traveled on to the Stud area, where there was a small tour. We managed to get through the Japanese gardens before the horde of, you guessed it, Italian school children came through. Were they following us???
The horses were interesting to me, but K is a horse nut so she was much more fascinated. When there was a choice of going out and greeting the horses in the fields or walking around St. Fiachra's Gardens, we split ways. St. Fiachra is the patron saint of Gardeners, and this area was set out as a natural garden, emphasizing random natural beauty. The place had a waterfall, swans and ducks, weeping willows, and some manufactured monastic huts in honor of the 7th century saint. Inside one of these huts was a rather disappointing 'crystal garden'.
When I read about the underground crystal garden, I imagined something grand, crystal all around, lit from underneath, in natural formations and shapes. Instead, there was a small 4'X4' box set in the ground, covered with glass, with some cut crystal from Waterford in it. Lit from below, yes, but thoroughly unimpressive.
Despite that, the gardens themselves were wonderful. A family was exploring near me, and I could hear the father trying to teach the 6-year-old daughter how to quack like a duck. I hooked back up with K near the end of the gardens, when it began to rain. This was only our second day of heavy rain on the trip, of which we were very glad!
We headed towards the restaurant for a late lunch, but it was crawling with those Italian school children. Most were done eating, but their bus was not yet there, so they took most of the tables. We ate inside, since most of them were outside. (most, not all!).
K and I both had the steak & Guinness pie. I tried a delicious salad with feta cheese and broccoli, while K had a cucumber salad. We made up for this relatively healthy side by sharing a slice of some meringue/fruit/cream dessert that was sweet and fluffy.
We shopped a bit, realizing that it was our last day in Ireland, and I got the last of my required gifts. The we went onto St. Brigid's Well. This is by far the most impressive holy well we saw, complete with a statue of St. Brigid holding up a flame, a wishing tree, and several alcoves for blessings and wishes along the area. The water tasted clear and sweet, and while we were there, a chatty man from Dublin and a Franciscan Friar greeted us. The Friar was very nice; though dressed in plain clothes he had a wooden pendant that evidently identified him as such. I asked him about his opinion on the bits of paganism still showing strong in Celtic Christianity, and he said that it was pretty much accepted as part of the belief system.
K and I both gave some gifts to the wishing tree, and as we were leaving, some of the Friar's friends were pouring some of the Holy Water into small labeled bottles. They gave us a couple, as well as directions to another Holy Well nearby to visit, called Father Moore's Well.
We got to this well by driving through the city of Kildare, and it was very different from St. Brigid's well. Hers was very solemn, but light and full of, well, presence. It was very reverent. Father Thomas' well felt much more… plastic, I guess. It certainly had a much more Catholic feel than pagan/Catholic (like Brigit's). There were offerings, shrines, tombstones, remembrances, and a dirty, muddy pit that must have been the well. We didn't like the place much at all, and left rather quickly. The fact that it was raining harder may have helped our decision!
We drove back through Naas, on a sudden urge to find a shopping area, but we searched in vain, finding nothing worth stopping for. We made it back into Dublin in short order, and picked up a soggy T from the zoo. We went in search of shopping in Dublin, convinced that we would find some. Indeed we did, on Grafton Street, a short walk from the Car Park we found (Setanta). We stopped in a couple of shops, but they were all starting to close as it was past 6pm. We were really frustrated with this early close thing! We knew about it, but that didn't make it easier to deal with. We had money to spend, darn it!
We smelled some really good cooking, and decided it came from Bocca Italian off Grafton Street. We had to wait about 10 minutes for a table, but once we were sat it was cozy. For starters we ordered the antipasti. The description said it had meats, cheeses, olives and artichoke hearts. They lied! There was one slice of one artichoke heart on the top. Since I can eat a whole jar of the things, I was quite disappointed! The olives were normal green and black ones, but the meats and cheeses were delicious.
I had the spaghetti mare, K had the pollo vesuvio and T had the pasta carbonara, despite her earlier encounter with this dish. Everything was delicious, and the service (once we were sat) was great. K had the amaretti ice cream for dessert and loved it. We were blown away by seeing the first real pepper mill of the trip!
We got back to the B&B at 8:45pm, which was, IMHO, plenty of time to walk down the block to meet a fellow Flyertalker and his family also traveling in Ireland. Alas, I looked at the sheet of paper that had the hotel name, and it was 8pm we were supposed to meet, not 9pm! I felt like such an idiot. That for all my planning!
We were exhausted after a long day, and had an early traveling day tomorrow, so we packed and went to sleep.