Today was a great day of journey and expedition! During our weekends that we stay in Ireland, we have designated trips or tours across several different regions of the island. Today was a trip through the breath-taking views of the Wicklow Mountains. The day started early around 8.00. After determining the new "pick-up" bus stop by John Nolan, we then were off to the motorway to get to the mountains. During our travels, John would give us the attention of being a tour guide - telling stories of past years and days of good enjoyment. The first stop we made was a visitor center before entering the mountains. The center had places where people could stay, a cafe and restaurant for tea and coffee, and a small building for meetings and occasional get-togethers. A great view was apparent from a set of stairs leading to the small creek passing beside the location.
The second stop of our trip was near the top peak of the Wicklow Mountains. Before stopping at a place to take pictures, we crossed two places of importance - one being the location of motor homes and trailers the actors of the show "Vikings" would stay during the filming periods, and the other being a bridge. This bridge was important enough that John allowed us to get off the bridge real quick to take pictures. Sure enough the bridge was in one of the scenes during the movie "P.S. I Love You." After these short little breaks, we finally reached our point of destination - the Wicklow Mountains.
The view was outstanding - we could see such grace and piece mingling together at such a fine point. Just below the peak we stopped out was a place that seemed fancy and of rich background. The estate that was below us was that of Guinness - as in the company Guinness. The owner of the company made his living arrangements in the valley of the mountains right beside the lake that was established below. John explained to us the owner had millions of tons (literally) of sand brought into the area to be place at the one end of the lake. This was all strategic though as the result is to look like an actual pint of Guinness via the water and sand (looking at the pictures sideways it truly does look like a pint!).
Onward to our second location was that of the Glendalough Monastic Tour Site. The center had some great information about the monastic background in the area and also featured a little video to watch to introduce the area. Afterwards, we were able to go outside and go for a walk to view the different graves, church settings, and even the Round Tower located in Glendalough. Our final destination of the day involved a little trip to a place called Powerscourt House & Gardens.
The location seemed that of great meaning and higher importance. The greens were cut square and trimmed. The trees aligned perfectly in a row to make a stunning "barrier" around the fields. Gates were featured on every driveway leading up to the main building. Sure enough this place was going to be spectacular. The Powerscourt House & Gardens had a featured golf course that was being played at the time followed by a little court to enter the area as well as to depart. Getting off the bus I knew that this location was going to be full of picturesque settings. Going through the building we saw several rooms full of tourism and shopping areas. Making our way to the back of the building, we entered an area known as the Gardens. This was full of rich green grass that was textured in a way that only was matched by those of baseball parks. The Gardens included statues, flowers and plants, and even some animal life (horses in the background). The Garden featured different locations including a Japanese Garden and even an outlook tower (this was my favorite - a tower surrounded by cannons that you could go all the way to the top of for a great view!). 4.00 rolled around real quickly and our day had come to an end with John Nolan.
Driving back to the Dublin area, John explained the drop-off that would take place for those who were attending the GAA vs. AFL game being played in the evening at Croke Park (YES - this is the location that Penn State football played out last year overseas!). We were dropped off near River Liffey and Christ Church Cathedral. From there, a group of seven or so people including myself walked all the way to O'Connell Street to get takeout food before walking the rest of the way to Croke Park. Around 18.30, we walked past the likes of many people heading to the game including a person selling merchandise - this included scarves, noise makers, and even flags. A nice scarf that I got for 10 euros included both teams that were playing, Ireland and Australia. We then arrived at Croke Park where we were able to get 5 euro back for student discounts - only 20 euro to go to a match!!!
The stadium was full of almost 40,000 fans that were ready for a great game. The game was a friendly match, mixed with Gaelic football rules and Australian football rules (hence GAA and AFL). Even though we didn't know all the rules, it was pretty easy to pick up on the gist of the game. At halftime, the score was fairly distant, making most of us to believe that Ireland was going to win convincingly. However, the second half was quite more exciting. Ireland held on to win with the score of 56-52. It was neat to compare field hockey, soccer, rugby, all grouped together in one sport. Finally, the day had come to an end - we ventured back to the Temple Bar region and caught the 15B bus back to Ballyboden Way and The Green. Needless to say, the day was full of excitement and of great journey in a most-fascinating region of Ireland. Tomorrow continues the travels near Newgrange.