Monastery Ruins at Glendalough, Ireland

We drove south to the Glendalough Monastery ruins, which lie in a glacial valley in County Wicklow, only about 35 minutes from “home”.  It is a lovely peaceful valley with two rivers and two lakes.  Just about the perfect place to worship God and build a monastic community.  It was founded by St. Kevin in the  sixth century.  It flourished as a place of learning and prayer until the English destroyed it in 1398. After that it still hung on as a place of local importance until Henry VIII pretty much knocked it down in 1539.

It is so thrilling for me to be here where people have worked , prayed and died for so many years . The round tower, a staple of Irish monastic building, is still intact.  It was in about the 12th century of mica-slate  and granite rock.  It is 30 meters high with a doorway that is 3.5 meters from the base.  It was used as a beacon, bell tower and place of refuge in case of attack.  The wooden ladders were pulled up into the tower.glendalough round tower 5x7 net Here is part of the cathedral walls still standing with a square stone over the doorway.glendalough cathedral door 5x7 netThere is another smaller church next to this called St. Kevin’s kitchen because of the smaller round tower that is incorporated into the building.glendalough st Kevins kitchen netThere is a graveyard around the ruins that is still in use today.  It was considered good luck to be buried by the bones of a saint.  This was a particularly touching stone that states that these two people ( I have removed their last names) were betrothed in 1923 by this stone of their ancestors . betrothal gravestone 5x7 netThis is an artist’s model of what the monastery might have looked like in its heyday.  You can see the round tower.glendalough monastery model 5x7 netBut the best part was meeting Daphne the great Dane and her kind owners.  She is so beautiful and friendly.great dane netAnd of course, coming home to our sweet Panndy 5x7 net

Powerscourt Gardens, Ireland

We rented a car!  This greatly expands our choice of adventures during this last week in Greystones.   We no longer need to try to fit into the bus system out here in the country.  So on Sat. we went to the local beach and just walked and took photos of a fun dog who loves to fetch the ball in the water.  dog ball ocean 5x7 net The next day we drove over to Powerscourt country house and gardens.  This is a large  country estate which is noted for its stunning landscaped gardens, which today consists of 47 acres.  This is a photograph of the house.  powerscourt house 5x7 net_edited-1There is an Italian garden that is spectacular. Here is the fountain in the lake.  It is located just behind the back of the house.powerscourt fountain 5x7netHere are the terraced grass areas leading down to the lake.  What a lot of grass to cut. powerscourt lawn netThe Japanese gardens are very picturesque. powerscourt japanese gardens 5x7 netHere is a young couple enjoying the view. young couple 5x7 net But it was flowers everywhere that were the main attraction. white many petals 5x7 netpink flower flames 5x7 netpink peony hybrid 5x7 netfull pink rose 5x7 netWell you can see what a stunning place it is to visit.  If you are ever down this way south from Dublin be sure to add it to your itinerary.

Dublin’s cemeteries: Mount Jerome and Glasnevin

I am fascinated by old cemeteries.  Some of the monuments that people choose to memorialize their loved ones tell a story about who those people were when they were living.  In Dublin we have visited two cemeteries,  Mount Jerome and Glasnevin. They both have different but fascinating stories that helped me to understand the sometimes sad and valiant  stories of the Irish nation.

Since its foundation in 1836, Mount Jerome has witnessed over 300,000 burials. Originally an exclusively Protestant cemetery, Roman Catholics  have also been buried there since the 1920s.  It is an older monument type of cemetery.  There are many angels pointing the deceased to heaven,mt jerome angel 5x7 netmt jerome pointing angel 5x7 bw netin case the loved one might have lost their way to their heavenly reward.  There are many praying angels (perhaps for those who the living are afraid they have lost their way). mt jerome praying angel closer 5x7_netBut the one I liked the most was this giant dog on top of a monumental grave howling to the sky.  Whether he is missing his master or protecting him it is hard to jerome dog full 5x7 bw net

The Glasnevin Cemetery has a more national pride vibe.  This is a description from Wikipedia of the desperate circumstances that the Roman Catholics (who were the majority of the people living in Ireland) were reduced to when trying to bury their dead. “Prior to the establishment of Glasnevin Cemetery, Irish Catholics had no cemeteries of their own in which to bury their dead and, as the repressive Penal Laws of the eighteenth century placed heavy restrictions on the public performance of Catholic services, it had become normal practice for Catholics to conduct a limited version of their own funeral services in Protestant churchyards or graveyards. This situation continued until an incident at a funeral held at St. Kevin’s Churchyard in 1823 provoked public outcry when a Protestant sexton reprimanded a Catholic priest for proceeding to perform a limited version of a funeral mass.[2] The outcry prompted Daniel O’Connell, champion of Catholic rights, to launch a campaign and prepare a legal opinion proving that there was actually no law passed forbidding praying for a dead Catholic in a graveyard. O’Connell pushed for the opening of a burial ground in which both Irish Catholics and Protestants could give their dead dignified burial.”  This was not that long ago.  Daniel O’Connell is buried in this graveyard underneath a very tall round tower.O Connells grave 5x7 net We paid for a tour (€10 each) and got to go into his crypt under the tower.  We had an excellent tour guide Niall who told us all the stories of the National heroes who are buried in this cemetery.Glasnevin cemetary guide Niall net  This photo was taken in the O’Connell crypt.  One of the creepier things was that in a room adjacent to O’Connell’s tomb, there is a pile of caskets stacked up.Glasnevin cemetery Oconnell coffins netThese caskets belong to direct decedents of the great man who want to be buried with him.  There is only one caveat,  only their bodies can be stored here.  No wife, child, husband or auntie allowed to be with them.  I believe there are only 9 decedents who have decided to take the cemetery up on their offer. So far. And there is not much room left.

The most famous Irish hero buried here is Michael Collins ( yes, that man in the movie Michael Collins).Michael Collins grave 5x7 netThere are always fresh flowers on his grave and there is a mysterious French woman who comes every year to say a prayer and put flowers on his grave.  This is what the site IrishCentral has to say about her.” A mysterious French lady will visit Michael Collins’ grave once again this year (2016) , continuing a 15-year tradition since she fell in love with the Irish revolutionary after watching the movie “Michael Collins”. She is known as the “Mysterious French Lady” and she appears like clockwork at his grave and lays them down gently before saying a prayer. The woman has been identified as Veronique Crombie, a lecturer at the French National Museum who admits to a passionate love for the Irish revolutionary.”

Here are some other photographs of the graves in this giant cemetery.Glasnevin cemetery celtic cross 5x7 netgrave angel old 5x7 netThe Irish are very good at honoring their recent political heroes who fought so hard to secure their rights and to make their homeland a free Republic.

Pet sitting in Greystones, Ireland

Now we are on the other side of Ireland in a place called Greystones, County Wicklow.  We are taking care of two sweet kitties and two hens. pandy facenetpearly face netchickens netI love kitty cats and these two are very sweet and want to spend time in your lap purring.

We are also about an hour by public transportation from Dublin. Greystones dart bw netWe have been mostly hanging out at home, using the bus to get our food to cook.  But we did go to Dublin one day.  We took a student tour of Trinity College which was very good. Afterwards we went to see the Book of Kells exhibit.  It is a 9th-century book of the four Gospels, with almost every page highly of kells netAfter seeing the exhibit we went up to the Long Room library.  “The main chamber of the Old Library is the Long Room; at nearly 65 metres in length, it is filled with 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books and is one of the most impressive libraries in the world.” ( Trinity College site)

long room library net

Notice the ladders, this is the top floor of the 2 story Long Room

We walked down Grafton Street to look at the shops and heard this lovely singer entertaining as people strolled by.

Grafton street singer net

She had a great voice

We are close to the ocean here in the house and have made a short trip to a town nearby Dun Laoghaire to see the seaside city.  We walked along the harbor.Ireland rocky shores 5x7 netDun Laoghaire cannon 5x7 netblue mosaic 5x7 net

The weather has been Irish.  It is sunny for about two hours and then the dark clouds and the rain wash in.  So we keep our umbrellas handy.


Exploring Belfast, Northern Ireland

We have been in Belfast, Northern Ireland now for a week.  I have to admit I was a little reluctant to come here because of “The Troubles” between the Catholics and the Protestants at the end of the 20th century.   But peace has been place now for almost 20 years and Belfast is flourishing.  They have constructed an excellent tourist exhibit about the Titanic and her sister ships.  The ship was built here in the Belfast shipyards in the beginning of the 1900s.  belfast titanic 5x7 netIt is a modern architectural building that has some excellent exhibits that document this period of human grandiosity and folly, when they believed they had created the unsinkable Titanic. titanic belfast ship drawings netThis is a photograph of the ship’s designers hard at work coming up with a truly remarkable ship.  But they forgot to add enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew in case the unthinkable happened. There are complete mock ups of the first class cabins with exact replicas of the luxurious furnishing.titanic belfast 1st class room 5x7 net  It was an intense experience.

It was easy and inexpensive (a weekly bus pass was £15 each) to get around the city on the big, pink buses.Belfast pink bus 5x7 netWe took a different bus to Hillsborough Castle which is 20 minutes outside of Belfast.  This is really a large Georgian town house where the queen comes to stay when she visits Belfast.  Hillsborough Castle Ireland netWe had an excellent tour given by this lovely guide, Helen. Hillsborough castle guideShe told us all about the history of the house and how it is still used by the English royal family.Hillsborough castle diningroom netHere is the dining room all set for lunch with china and crystal.  The extensive gardens and grounds are stunning.  Here is a photograph of the garden lake.Hillsborough Castle Lake netIt rains a lot here and there are lovely flowers everywhere.blush rose 5x7 netpurple spike flowers netTomorrow we are off to Greystones, which is a little below Dublin.  We get to take care of 2 wonderful kitty cats and 2 chickens.