Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Emerald Shores of Ireland - Part 20

The Emerald Shores of Ireland

A trip journal by David Bowers

9/2/08 - 9/11/08

Page 20

The cathedral is very similar to the site at Muckross in that the roof and windows were missing but the basic building has survived. This cathedral building has been through a lot, with it being destroyed three times and all in its history. On one end of the cathedral is a castle like building where the cathedral caretakers lived. I didn't pick up much on the history of the cathedral except that it was destroyed three times, and in the ends its final demise was when another cathedral was built closer to the center of town, making this location on top of the rock obsolete and harder to get to. The bishop ordered the roof removed for tax purposes, letting the building to its own fate and the weather. Speaking of the weather, the wind has really picked up, and inside the ruins of the cathedral it is really howling like a wind tunnel. Before we continued Jerry suggested we look inside a wooden structure we saw in one arm of the transcept where we could see some of the original wall finish, We walked over to the enclosure and peered inside to see total darkness. Apparently, the lights weren't on inside this display. We were about to leave the cathedral when Father reminded Jerry of the time.

Ireland - Rock of Cashel

Ireland -  Rock of Cashel

Our next stop is to be Holy Cross Abbey, and we needed to be there by a certain time, and we must have gotten behind schedule. We exited the Cathedral and found out we had pretty much seen all of the Rock of Cashel other than the museum. We quickly hurried out through reception, down the driveway to the waiting bus. When we left Cashel, Jerry explained that Holy Cross Abbey is also to be the day's Mass stop, and due to a special event going on at Holy Cross Abbey we needed to be there by a certain time.

Ireland - Holy Cross Abbey

Ireland - - Holy Cross Abbey - pub next door - check

We soon pulled across a bridge over a river and first we passed a pub, and then we came to the gate into the courtyard for Holy Cross. We were still in a rush, so we rushed through the courtyard and into the main church and took places for Mass. Jerry came over to us and explained that we had time now to look around the church and we would have mass in a few minutes. We walked around and took a brief tour, starting at the namesake relic. We got to see a relic of the true cross on one side of the altar, and the tabernacle chapel on the other side. After touring the church we headed back outside. I thought that maybe they would take us to a side chapel or a smaller room in the abbey for us to hold our private mass, and in reality quite the opposite was true.

Ireland - Holy Cross Abbey

Ireland - - Holy Cross Abbey

We were led out of the courtyard into a service area. Sitting out in the service area was a gigantic yellow and white big top tent, complete with wooden doors at the tent openings. We entered the tent and it was full of metal benches facing the front of the room where a complete altar was set up. Once we were assembled here, Father explained that Holy Cross was conducting their novena this week, and that in less than an hour they would be having Mass in the main church. He said that with his fast style we most likely could have finished in time, but as we know people like to come early for some quiet time, and we didn't want to deprive them of that, especially during their novena. When we had arrived a bit later than expected, Father spoke with the pastor at the Abbey who recommended we use the overflow tent, which would not be needed till the evening novena service. Father inspected the altar to make sure everything he needed was there, and in the process rang the bell, at which point everybody stood up. He motioned for us to sit back down and noted the Pavlovian response. So we had Mass and remember that wind that was building up at the Rock of Cashel, well it continued to grow, recall also that we are in a big tent. The canvas of the tent was billowing, the masts were shaking, the doors were flapping open and shut. This made it to be a very noteworthy experience, and maybe a bit unnerving to be under a tent that is straining to survive the furious wind. During the homily, Father said that of all the Masses we have shared together this week, this will probably be the one your remember most. By communion time, we noticed others had joined us, and we welcome them in as always, and we also took advantage of the fact the benches had hymnals in them. After our "tent revival" as Father later jokingly called it, we had time for a rest stop and to look in the religious goods store located right off the main courtyard. When we left the Garda or police were directing traffic, and the lot was getting full. We had to walk out to the parking lot to our bus. We left the Abbey and Father mentioned that he was told they had 4,000 there for the morning novena, and will have much more than that tonight. Then it started raining again.

Ireland - - Holy Cross Abbey - mass in overflow tent

Ireland - Holy Cross Abbey  - mass in overflow tent

We made our way back to Kilkenny where we would be staying the night. Along the way we passed a military facility and Jerry jokingly downplayed the size of their forces. "We have the only navy where everybody goes home every night", as he noted even though they have had a history of fighting amongst themselves, that for the most part they have stayed out of the major world conflicts, being able to just watch from the safety of their island. You know sort of like the way we felt until 9/11 when we thought our mainland was safe and everything happened "Over there". Someone who wasn't thinking asked if he United Kingdom assists them if they should need help, and Jerry without missing a beat "Does England assist us, well they are the ones we need help against". We then pulled up to our hotel, the Hotel Newpark. Before people got ideas of seeing the town, Jerry broke the news to us that we are not near the city center and that calling a taxi would be needed. We pulled into the hotel driveway and I like how they welcomed us by having the US flag on display outside. We got our time schedule and were informed the dinner would be in one of the banquet rooms instead of the restaurant.

Ireland - Holy Cross Abbey

Ireland - - From Holy Cross to Kilkenny

We went inside and collected up our keys. The first stairway and elevator were labeled as being for the meeting rooms only, we proceeded back following the signs to "Bedrooms", instead of using the term Guest Rooms. Up a shot ramp, then down one long hallway of rooms, then we came to the elevators, but found out our room was on the ground floor, what we didn't realize is just how extensive the ground floor was as we continued to walk around and around, eventually into an annex that had a different architectural style. We were almost to the very end of the hall when we found our room. We entered the room and Bob was impressed. One of our two beds was a full king bed, and the floor to ceiling windows offered a great view into a forested area that gave the hotel a lodge feel. Bob came out of the bathroom and asked me to please try to contain my excitement, then I went into the bathroom and yes it looked really nice with green and white marble like tiles, and a heated bath towel rack. What Bob was referring to, though, was the full toiletry kit like we are used to seeing in hotels back in the United States. It took a while for the bags to get all the way back to our room, but we looked around, repacked our carry on bags for today's gift shop additions. I noted an Ireland travel guide placed under the wall mounted flat panel TV. I took a look through it and it looked interesting and I noted it was marked as complimentary, so I added it to my souvenirs. I then glanced at the newspaper I had picked up in the morning while waiting for dinner.

Ireland - Hotel New Park Killkenny - green 'marble' bathroom

Ireland - Hotel New Park Killkenny - our room

We left for dinner somewhat early given the long walk to the restaurant. The restaurant was all the way by the front doors, so there were some jokes made about leaving a trail of bread crumbs to find our rooms again. When we got to the reception area, we then had to walk through the restaurant to the banquet rooms all the way at the end. The banquet room we were assigned was more of a ballroom as it had a bar area that wasn't open and its own restrooms. We found out we would be dining with other tour groups as we made our way to our designated tables. We took our seats and started to review tonight's menu. This was made somewhat harder as they had only left 2 or 3 menus per table. We waited for them to come around and take drink orders, and we even saw a person look like they were going to open the bar. That would have worked for us, as we were seated right by the bar. Eventually a bar server did come and take drink orders, I was lucky because I ordered a Guinness, and it arrived ready to drink. I think we had a waiter taking bar orders as he first brought wine bottles but no glasses. He wound up serving everybody in the dining rooms wine before going to get the wine glasses. Even then he made no motion to help open the wine bottles until he was asked. More about him later.

Ireland - Hotel New Park Killkenny - Yup my Pint O'Guinness has arrived

Ireland - Hotel New Park Killkenny - Its Thanksgiving dinner - turkey, dressing and ham!

When it came time to order I went with the field green salad, the ham and turkey with dressing, and everybody got the same desert. There wasn't anything special about the salad, but when the main course came, I know they don't have Thanksgiving over in Ireland, but they have copied Thanksgiving dinner pretty well. I received a generous pile of meat with ham and turkey surrounding a mound of dressing. Also on the plate was one fried potato and some carrot. A little later the side dishes arrived, in literally a semicircular side dish that fit right alongside the plate. The side dishes were, what else, mixed vegetables and boiled potatoes. The desert was like a cream puff with some raspberry filling.

Ireland - Hotel New Park Killkenny - street in front of hotel

Ireland - Hotel New Park Killkenny -

After dinner, we made our way back to our room pausing at the hotel's business center. I spotted an available internet access point, but when I got closer to the computer I noted it was a coin operated computer, and with only two more days until I was home, I decided to go without the internet. We then headed back the long winding hallway to our room. As I alluded to earlier, I had the best shower of the trip that night. I started with a bathroom equipped with a full basket of toiletries and when I was done showering, I grabbed a wonderful toasty warm bath towel. I said it in my Italy trip report, and I'll say it here, let's hear it for heated bath towel racks. What is interesting is the packages for the toiletries had the Best Western hotel logo. Best Western in the United States can be just about anything but this would be the nicest Best Western I have ever been in.

We decided to start repacking our large luggage, and moving stuff from the carry on bags to the checked luggage, all in an effort to start the process to get ready for the trip home. After that we had a pleasant night's sleep.

Day 9 - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We awoke ready to begin out final full day in Ireland. We put the bags out in the hall and made the long hike to the front lobby. During the week, hotels had started serving breakfast before the time Jerry had given us, but not here. Right at 7:30 they opened the restaurant so we could have access to the ballroom. We returned to the same table we ate at last night, then went through the buffet line. The buffet line only had the cold food like fruit, bread, and cereal. At this point there was some confusion as some thought there was no hot food. For those of us that sat down the servers eventually came around the dining room taking orders for hot breakfast. I ordered a sausage and eggs plate to go with my breakfast. We enjoyed our breakfast and then headed back to the room to collect the rest of our things. While we were checking the drawers for any forgotten items, we found the in room coffee service and coffee maker hidden inside one of the drawers. The moral of this story is to be sure to check all the drawers in an Irish hotel, you may find things like hair dryers and the like contained in them.

Ireland - Killkenny to Wicklow - a Dahlman

Ireland - Killkenny to Wicklow -

We made our way back to reception, checked out, and then boarded the bus. Following the seat rotation program we headed to almost the back of the bus in seat 9. When about half the people were on the bus, Father Barry announced the seat rotation program had been discontinued. "It's general seating day on the bus! Sit wherever you like!" As we were leaving Kilkenny, we passed an Eddie Rockets, Jerry mentioned that Eddie Rockets is the same thing as our Johnny Rockets, and there are other cases of similar names shops, like they have T. K. Maxx instead of T. J. Maxx.

Ireland - Killkenny to Wicklow -

Ireland - Killkenny to Wicklow - yes, the bus is about to turn and go down that tight downwardly curving street!

We started another day of driving the Irish countryside, and today we are supposed to travel through the Wicklow mountains. One of the first things Jerry pointed out to us is a dolman, which is a burial marker made up of 3 or more large stones with a flat stone on top forming a table like structure over the tomb. From there it was another day of bright green farms and fields, with several forest like areas in the mountains. Speaking of the farms, Jerry mentioned that we were getting near some stud farms. It seems that there is a lot of money to be made from racehorses, and the owners of a top quality stub can earn quite a bit of money by allowing people to bring their female horse in an attempt to get them to breed. One of the interesting things about horse racing is that all horses age 1 year on January 1st, regardless of what their real birth date is. Obviously this is good if your horse is born on January 2nd, but pretty bad if your horse was born on December 31st, and then a couple hours later is suddenly 1 year old, and thus doomed to race horses with one more year of development. It's an academic matter which months would be good months , and you would think they would be happy with a 6 month break. However, the owners of the studs aren't happy with this, and have discovered that in the southern hemisphere, all horses age on July 1st. In order to get year round production out of their studs, they have commissioned specially designed aircraft to move the horses between Ireland and Australia.

Ireland - Killkenny to Wicklow - fish farm??

Ireland - Killkenny to Wicklow -

We then drove through a small town with signs advertising they had pride in their town, which is a nice but common sentiment. It was explained in this case, that Ireland runs a Tidy Towns competition where towns actually compete with each other on appearance. I suppose that's as good of a reason to celebrate local pride as any. As we were driving through another town, we saw a tight turnoff to the left that led to a sharp downward curving road. Thanks to John's great driving skills we were able to make it through that series of curves.

Ireland - Killkenny to Wicklow -

Ireland - Killkenny to Wicklow -

We then went through some more countryside then we passed a house whose owner is skilled in topiary, or the art of creating carefully shaped bushes and trees, often with artistic shapes or designs like arches, or flat topped or cubed bushes, etc. To our right, a river had turned to rapids, adding to the natural beauty of the area. We also passed what I am guessing is a fish farm of some sort. Here the grass is cut up with several long thin rectangular pools of water. For those that would rather be golfing, we drove past the Woodenbridge Golf Club. The golfers on our bus were getting excited just being that close to an open golf course.


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