The rain did eventually come. In and out like a ghost. Appearing and then disappearing behind glorious sun. It howled in on our trip to the Charles Fort in Kinsale, so much so that we were barred from visiting. This disappointment quickly vanished when we walked to Desmond Castle, also known as the French Prison. The overcast day provided an eerie glimpse into what was surely a stark existence of the inmates. The stone edifice, constructed in 1500, was transformed over the centuries into whatever was needed at the time. Our docent regaled us with lots of well rehearsed silly tales along with the history.
A walk to our harbor side restaurant allowed a peek into the charm of this town. The deep harbor made it an important naval base in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is now an international yachting center. Kinsale is also famous for its cuisine and annual Gourmet Festival. Our meal held no disappointments. According to the guide book, it is considered one of the prettiest small towns in Ireland and we certainly agreed.
Next, we were on to Dublin, cruising alongside the greenest of pastures and hillsides. When we arrived in the Capitol city, we scurried off on our own to find our own lunch, without straying far from our rendezvous point. We stumbled upon an Italian restaurant that seemed to be filled with locals. All the walls were stacked with wine bottles. The food and service were outstanding. Having already frequented several taverns and sampled lots of local fare and Guinness, this was an unexpected treat.
A local guide joined our tour and pointed out important and fun facts about the city. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Ireland’s largest church, St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College and of course the Guinness factory were some of the memorable places. The history engulfed us as we meandered across the Liffey River and down the main streets. We ended the tour with a trip to Phoenix Park, the site of the presidential residence.
This vast acreage is Europe’s largest enclosed city park originating in 1662 when the Duke of Ormond turned the land into a deer park. Lord Chesterfield opened it to the public in 1745. It was the site of Pope John Paul II’s mass in 1979 before millions of people. Standing at the base of a huge cross on the hilltop, you could imagine the stirring event. Next to us a young boy on his bike went careening down the hill, squealing all the way. This quickly broke the revery, but gave us a chuckle. The skies were clear and there were masses of people enjoying the beauty of the oasis just outside of their city. Next, we were heading back for some free time in the city, or in our case, what we thought was a brief stop at our hotel…