A twelve-day holiday in Ireland in May: my suitcase was packed with layers, sweaters and closed-in shoes. How wrong could I be?
From the day I landed we had blue skies and sunshine and not a drop of rain. I had too many sweaters and not enough teeshirts. Thank god for Dunnes Stores.
The hire car got a good run around – my mum was delighted with her “07 car” in the driveway. We wandered around the Wicklow Mountains, travelling to Powerscourt Gardens and Glendalough in the same day. On the way home across the Featherbeds I arrogantly decided that the signposts at the Sally Gap were the wrong way around, and we meandered in the wrong direction past Turlough Hill and almost into Glencree in the early evening. I stopped the car on the Military Road and Mum and I stared around us: in every direction there was nothing but bare mountain. Nothing man-made was visible at all except the road we were travelling on. Stunning.
My brother Bernard is running in the general election next week as a Progressive Democrats in Dublin South Central. Running being the operative word: he burns the candle at both ends, dashing here and there distributing leaflets, attending candidate question-and-answer sessions and door-knocking in between trying to spend time with his family. Never saw anybody work so hard. I am really proud of him.
I got together with Joe and Elva Dalton, Paul Curran, and Colin and Susan McDonnell at the Unicorn restaurant to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of our graduation from UCD. Joe and Elva arrived on the Luas, surrounded by Rag Ball students in their finery. Elva remarked that the people going to the ball were not even born when we graduated. Then Paul commented that the new students coming into UCD in October 2007 are the first students to attend university who were born in the nineties. Let’s just say that we were all feeling our age by then…
I met Joe a few days later for lunch on Lower Baggot Street. Over a curry, we chatted about his five kids and my investment plans. We swapped notes on our jobs and how they were going. Then Joe stopped and said: “Look at us Doyler, sitting in a posh restaurant in our posh clothes talking about our lives. Remember only being able to afford Ismail’s kebabs or Pat’s Famous Fried Chicken on Tuesdays for a pound? We are sitting around the corner from Merrion Street but look how far we’ve come.”
I took Mum, Ashling and Connor up to Northern Ireland for a couple of days to the north Antrim coast. Our ambition was to see the Giant’s Causeway but we saw much more. Years ago it would have taken a full day to drive to the north Antrim coast, but these days it is a pleasant four and half hours along new motorway, over striking new bridges and through toll plazas. Except for a few miles each end of the trip, it was dual carriageway all the way.
We drove straight to the Giant’s Causeway, a National Trust site, and had a picnic in the windy carpark. A little shuttle bus takes tourists from the shop down to the causeway, about a kilometre away. Once we were down by the water we were sheltered from the wind and the sun came out.
The scenery was spectacular: huge cliffs along by Bushmills village swathed in mist to one side, and amazing basalt formations all around. We were fascinated by the rock formations, many smoothed by the waves but the hexagonal pillars were clearly visible. Ashling, Connor and I scrambled over the rocks while Mum watched from a sunny spot. We strolled along in the direction of the Giant’s Boot and the Organ Pipes. We could have stayed all day.
We spent the night in a little country bed and breakfast, and spent a fantastic couple of hours down at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in the morning. We were delighted to find another beautiful spot with amazing scenery, and “faced our fears” as Connor said, by crawling slowly across the flimsy rope bridge strung above a ravine. We lay on the little island rock in the sunshine, taking in the views, until time ran out and we had to make the steep climb back to the car and or last picnic. A quick visit to the amazing Dunluce Castle en route, and we were home in time for Indian food and plenty of Aussie red wine with the rest of the family.