The second stop was a small tea and scones place, which our tour guide, Barbara, said had the best scones around Dublin. We drove across a 17th century stone bridge, which was a little freaky: the engineers back then built a bridge that was strong enough to handle a tour bus full of Americans! The scones, incidentally, we're quite good. If you bought a plate with a scone, you got your choice of coffee and tea with it for free. (Not really for free; the scone and coffee was €4, or around $5.) The gift shop attached to the cafe was quite extensive and had good prices on wool sweaters and other stuff. I found a sweater that I liked, but I couldn't quite justify spending €80 on it.
Next was the Glendalough Cathedral. This is currently the site of a bed & breakfast, built right next to one of the first Christian settlements in Ireland. St. Kevin apparently built a monastery and cathedral here. We poked around a bunch of headstones, mostly from the 18th and 19th century; many of them were likely older, but they were too faded and worn to read. There is a Celtic cross thought to be the first in Ireland, from somewhere between the 9th and 12th centuries.
The highlight of the trip was singing in St. Kevin's Kitchen, which is a small stone church built somewhere around 1150 or so. It was still standing with a complete roof made of stone; I want that guy, or his decendants, to do my roof! One roof in a lifetime doesn't quite cut it; more like one roof for a thousand years or so. Much of the chorus was gathered in this room, and we sang "The Lord Bless You and Keep You," which was really quite an emotional moment. Several of our ladies burst into tears after we finished!
Isn't it amazing, the power of our music? We brought beautiful song and harmonies into a room that might not have had it in hundreds of years. The stone walls, with nothing to stop it, allowed the sound to echo and amplify. It was a magical, moving moment.
Now we are headed to Dublin Castle.
It truly amazes me to watch the big, big tour bus navigate in these cities. The roads are barely large enough for two compact cars to pass side by side, much less a tour bus or two. Somehow, however, the busses manage to get from one place to another in safety. These busses head over bridges that are hundreds of years old and roads that are, likely, built on top of horse paths that are thousands of years old.
These things, obviously, tend not to exist in the United States. Older cities, like Boston and some parts of New York, have similar sorts of narrow, winding streets, but we tend to have larger streets designed for more modern traffic.
The castle, itself, is not a "real" castle anymore. It does have one surviving tower from the original castle, and the foundation from another tower, but the structure as it exists is much more modern and used for government functions. As with Kilkenny, Blarney Castle, and Bunreddy, it is a staggering display of wealth and opulence. (Boy, this is bringing out the proletariat in me, for sure.)
You can tell that I've just purchased my home and become very sensitive to certain things. The trim around the ceilings was incredibly well designed and seamless. In my house, if I tried to put that trim up, it would go from the ceiling to, roughly, two inches from the floor! The parque floors were relatively new, from a fire in the 1940's.
Tonight, we're headed to the Merry Ploughboy for dinner and a show. Tomorrow, we're performing in Temple Bar and then wandering Dublin.
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