Saturday, December 30, 2017

Our Last Day in Ireland...

Our last day in Ireland was a busy one. We were on the west coast of the country and our next stay was on the east coast. While it is amazing to me that we can cross an entire country in less than 4 hours, any stops we made would have to be quick.

Connemara Marble Factory is one of Ireland's treasures. It is not too far from Ashford Castle, but it is on the other side of a lough, so it was a little bit out of our way. The first time I had ever heard of Connemara marble, was from my Grandpa Darling. In sixth grade, I did my country report on Ireland. My Grandpa sent me several trinkets to show in my presentation. One of those trinkets was his "worry stone." A worry stone is a piece of marble with a circular dip carved in it. You keep it in your pocket and rub it with your thumb when you are...worried. The worry stone my Grandpa sent me is one of my prized possessions, as you could tell he had used it. It was slightly worn from his thumb.

We stopped and toured the factory. There is also a museum, but it was closed.

Geologists have dated the marble to be about 600 million years old. It comes in a variety of green hues, sometimes even with purple. Isn't it gorgeous?

 After the marble is quarried, workers cut and polish it. They then craft it into a variety of treasures.

The trip to Connemara Marble Factory was worth it. Heading back toward the east, in about the center of Ireland, was our next stop. 

Why don't we use exclamation point signs in America?

I had to capture a picture of this road on the GPS. I wish you could have heard the poor GPS say it!
"kin-sen-ten-AH-ree-brij-a-proche-road" (said really fast)

Clonmacnoise is an ancient monastic site, dating to the 6th century. It was founded by St. Ciaran as a religious center. It also attracted scholars from around the world. 

Entrance to the visitor center at Clonmacnoise.
Statue of "The Pilgrim."
The site includes ancient churches, a cathedral, two round towers, and three high crosses. The high crosses have been moved inside the visitor center for preservation, with replicas in their place.

The visitor's center also houses some ancient stone slabs.

The grounds outside the visitor's center were beautiful. I love this pic of the clover!

The plaque to the right commemorates the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1978.

Those making pilgrimage to the site over the centuries used this path, now marked with stones.

One of the high crosses.

One of the high towers.

The weather started to turn, so we headed back out on the road to our final destination, Powerscourt Hotel.

Powerscourt is a vast estate, and where we made our very first stop on our first trip to Ireland. Five years ago we toured the house and gardens. This time around, we stayed at the hotel.

Arriving at Powerscourt, Sugarloaf Mountain in the background.

We had arrived at the hotel around 5 pm, so we had plenty of time to tour the grounds again, right? Wrong!

The bellhop helped us with our luggage and our car was parked. We stood in line to check in for about 10 minutes. No biggie. It just gave us a chance to look around the lobby.

When it was our turn to check in, we were not-so-pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel had no record of our stay. Say wha...? There must be some mistake. Check again, please? After an embarrassing amount of time, we were moved to a desk to try to make phone calls to the travel agency. Remember, we are 5 hours ahead of New York, which by this time is about 11 pm there. We had copies of our itinerary, copies of payment, copies of information. We were getting nowhere with the phone calls and we were very tired and hungry. Like...ready-to-cry tired and hungry.

The concierge could see we were distressed. He said it would all get figured out, we weren't to worry. He took us to the lounge for some dinner, on the house.

We both had the potato leek soup and club sandwich with fries. It was a lot of food, but the stress kinda ruined my appetite. Another hour went by.

Finally, the concierge (wish I could remember his name) came to tell us that our room was ready. It was on the ground floor at the end of a looong hallway.

Our room was on the first floor on the far left.

We opened the door to a suite. A really, really nice suite. A please-forgive-us-for-all-the-trouble suite.

Entry hall.

King bed.

Couch and desk.

Two queen beds.

We had too many beds! I told my sis to take the king bed. That left me with the other two, so I had a "relaxing bed" and a "sleeping bed." Yep.

The bathroom was just as posh. See that black box in the middle of the mirror? Yes, yes it is a t.v.

By this time, it was almost 9 pm. Too late to explore the gardens. Too late to walk to the waterfall. And too dark to even open the curtains and see what kind of a view we had from our room. I'm positive it was spectacular.

A few funny things happened though. We were told there was an ice machine at the end of our hall. So, being the ice fanatics that we are, first my sis took the crystal (yes, crystal) ice bucket out to get us some ice. She came back empty handed. She couldn't locate the ice machine. Okay, I can handle this. My turn to take the crystal ice bucket for a long walk. This is a long hallway guys. I went from end to end twice, with no luck. Oh well. At least we had water.

Then, a little bit later, we heard what we thought was a doorbell. My sis and I looked at each other. Was that the doorbell? A doorbell? She opened the door to find a young bellhop. So, yes, it was the doorbell. The young man brought in a small gift for all of our trouble...

Gourmet chocolates. The one in the center has little gold flecks on it! Awesome, isn't it? While we had the young man's attention, we told him of our trials in trying to get ice. He told us that normally, yes, the machines were at the end of the halls. But on OUR floor, they bring us what we need. That's when we knew how bad the hotel felt special we were. He then brought us some beautiful, rare, delicious ice.

Well, we had to try the gourmet chocolates, right? This is one of those moments that I realized I am a peasant. I am not used to the finer things in life. And now I know I don't like to eat the finer things in life. These expensive chocolates were yucky. Too dark, either inside or outside. The best part of this plate was the candied pistachios used for decoration. See. I'm a peasant.

The rest of the night was spent packing and re-packing our suitcases for our trip home. We slept well, but had to be up too early to enjoy our free breakfast at this 5 star hotel. In fact, the sun wasn't up yet, so we still couldn't see the view from our room. Although, I did get more pics of the hotel while we waited for the car to be brought around.

I was so sad to leave Ireland. I love the country so very much. It's full of history and the kindest people. And, who knows? Maybe in 5 years I will go back to tour the southern half of Ireland. Fingers crossed!

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