April 13, 2002: We've done the tour and now, after a week of getting up early, we slept in just because we could! We lingered over breakfast, enjoying our pot of tea. It’s a sunny day and we decided to have a walk then take the DART out to Howth at the north end of the line.
We walked to the little bridge across the Grand Canal and turned into Fitzwilliam Square where the house with the most elaborate door "lives". We admired it and walked on, looking for Merrion Square a few streets away. The attraction here is mainly the Oscar Wilde connection. We saw a few lovely old buildings turned into hotels and the American College on the corner. That’s the house where Wilde lived before moving to London.
On that intersection, is Greene’s Bookstore, an establishment of some 200 years standing. There are display bins of books and postcards outside to browse through and inside the shop has several floors lined with old wooden shelves and display tables scattered around. The shop had the kind of atmosphere where you could almost imagine men in stovepipe hats and Victorian whiskers and women in shirtwaist dresses with floor length skirts browsing and climbing the staircase, a leather bound book or two under their arms. We browsed a bit and picked up some bookmarks and postcards then walked across the road to the square.
Just inside the wrought iron fence is a statue of Wilde, dressed in bright colours, languidly lying back and holding his trademark flower against a face twisted in a sardonic smirk. The bright colours are all different kinds of marble. The statue was only erected and dedicated about 5 years ago.
The park was nice but the sun kept dipping behind a cloud and we lost patience waiting for it to beam down through the trees. It just seemed like that photo *needed* sunshine and shadows.
Along the outside of the fence on the North side of the square were works displayed by artists. It’s a good place to set up on the weekends with lots of pedestrians walking past. We walked along the little gallery and then set off to find the DART station. We joined the queue for a return ticket and made our way to the platform. The trains go fairly frequently so we didn’t have long to wait.
Howth is at the last stop. You arrive in an old small train station with a pub called the Bloody Stream underneath! We walked down the block towards the waterfront, consulted a large "you are here" map and walked along the busy road looking for a place for lunch. We did find a little place takeaway but it had a light lunch menu in a little room to one side. It was a bit noisy but we found a table and ordered a sandwich.
Howth is a fishing town and there weren’t a lot of touristy type shops at all. A few postcards outside a newsagent was the extent of it that we saw. It’s a working seaside town with a large marina filled with pleasure craft. It’s a good place for hiking around the outskirts and has a nice sea wall where you can walk out around the harbour. There’s a rocky little island just off the coast here called Ireland’s Eye.
We walked around the seafront and then headed up into the village to find the ruins of Howth Abbey. There was a little cemetery filled with flower covered graves, and the roofless ruins. There’s a great view over the harbour from here. We poked around the grounds for a little while taking pictures and then descended back through the village to the main road again.
The map seemed to indicate that Howth Castle was a bit out of town on the main road so we started walking. There were no signs to which road we should turn in but a sign indicating aTransport Museum so we headed up that way, remembering from the map that they were close to each other. There was a pretty church that we passed and then we saw a stone tower. There was the castle! There were quite old parts, that I believe date from Norman times and some newer parts. However when we were walking around one side, I spied a propane barbeque in a courtyard which seemed to indicate perhaps that someone lived there and that it was private property.
We were getting tired by now so decided to walk back to the train station and go back into the City to find some place to eat. We got off the train at Tara street station and walked down to the river and across the wide O’Connell Street bridge where we stopped to look at some jewelry and leather that a vendor had on display. Up O’Connell Street, where there are many statues of Irish Independence leaders, and lots of shops and a large department store, Clery's.
The General Post Office building is there as well, with its tall pillars, some of which still bear the bullet holes from the 1916 Easter uprising. This is a good shopping district for tourists but we really didn’t spend a lot of time here. By this time we had been out walking all day and were footsore and ready for a rest. You lose your enthusiasm for experiencing the ambience of a place when you can hardly put one foot in front of the other!
We found a fish and chip shop that wasn’t filled up after trying a few larger restaurants first. We sat and had our dinner and a restorative cup of tea. The taxi rank on O’Connell street had a long queue so we ended up near Trinity College, thinking we could get the bus but we waited for about 15 minutes and none of the route numbers that we needed passed by so we walked a little further to the other end of Grafton street. We knew there was a taxi rank at St. Stephen’s Green so we went through Grafton street. We got a taxi and arrived back at the hotel We arranged with the concierge for a taxi to the airport tomorrow morning. After consulting his expertise, we realized the airport shuttle bus wouldn’t be practical and he’s going to get a taxi to come for us about 5:30. URGH!
Back to our room for an early night. It’s odd that some of the nicest hotels we’ve been in had no tea and coffee making things in the rooms! We repacked out suitcases to distribute our clothes and souvenirs.
Carole is flying back to Halifax to day via Heathrow and she has an early flight. It means she’s got to be at the airport by 6! My flight is at 9:00 so since I’d have to be there by 8 latest anyway I figured it was just as easy to go with her when she went and then we could share a taxi.
We had set the clock for something unGodly and you might know, a few of the conventioneers seemed intent on having a party in the hall outside our room. Finally Carole called down to the desk and they sent someone up to ask them to at least keep their doors shut.
The taxi we ordered from the concierge yesterday was even a little early. We dragged ourselves out of bed, checked out and slumped in the back of the taxi. It was still dark out but the cab driver was pleasant and we ended up having a laugh by the time we got to the airport.
There weren’t any restaurants open that early for breakfast but there was a Butler’s chocolate café where we could at least get a cup of tea and a croissant. She went off to her gate and I went looking for the general area mine would be. The flight back to Manchester was lovely. I had made my plans before Carole had decided to join me in Ireland so that's why we had separate arrival and departure flights. I was staying at the Hilton at the airport. I caught the bus into the city Centre, met a couple of my friends for a drink and a meal along Canal Street in the Gay Village called Taurus which is a club at night. It had couches around low tables, a little alcove that could seat about 6 and a few other tables and chairs around. The décor was modern with some interesting sculpture framed on the walls and cool blues and reds and greens covering surfaces. The food was reasonably priced and it was really tasty.
We walked the short distance from there to Manchester Piccadilly train station so i could catch a bus back to the airport and hotel. The end of a trip once again.