Europe 1998 – A Journey Rewarded, Part Three

We would see Lynn and Tony again back in the States more than once when they would make a trip to the west coast to visit the other members of the Kelly family.  The vagaries of life do not always play out the way one expects, nor desires.  Having once been included, as members of the sprawling web of family members known as the Kelly’s, the divorce that separated David and my sister-in-law Debi severed that connection for us.  So many years of shared experiences, so many memories; now just that, memories.

We’d set aside two nights for Chester, a nice stopping point on the way to Holyhead for our trip across the Irish Sea to Dublin.  At a little under 100 miles from Blackpool, the train trip down was short, landing us in town in the early afternoon.  As observed earlier, our stay at Grosvenor Place Guest House, was disappointing compared to our accommodations in Bath and York.

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Grosvenor Place Guest House

Chester is one of the best-preserved walled cities in Britain and apart from a 330-foot section, its city walls are almost all still intact. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, spending time atop the city walls down by the River Dee, which flows through the heart of town.  We completed the evening with dinner at a local Burger King.  Sometimes when traveling abroad, the comforts of home are a greater draw than that offered in the locale you are visiting.

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Chester Street and City Gate

Up early the next day, our plan was to visit the historical village of Ironbridge.  Touted as being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, its main attraction is the Iron Bridge, a 100-foot cast iron bridge that was built across the River Severn in 1779.  As happened to us at Bath, our plans went awry as we needed to rely on public transportation.

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Ironbridge

Our original intent was to see the bridge and then take in one or more of the museums in the area that celebrate the period around the time of the construction of the bridge, much like Williamsburg here in the United States.  Arriving quite late in the morning, we realized that we’d not be able to see much else but the bridge and its nearby surroundings before we needed to get back on the train to Chester.  We did spend some quiet time floating on the river on a tour, a nice interlude on a warm day.

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View of the River Severn from Ironbridge

On Friday the 21st we boarded a Stenna Ferry at Holyhead, bound for Dublin.  More than just a ferryboat, this particular passage is a floating entertainment palace, with access to duty free shops, gambling (at the time), restaurants and more.  The journey took a little over three hours and was a nice way to spend an afternoon.  We arrived at Dublin port and were greeted by Dermot and Marie Canavan, who we had met in Los Angeles when their daughter, Lisa, was enrolled with Jessica in a local Montessori school.  Dermot is a dentist and had taken a year or so off to participate in a postdoctoral program at UCLA covering Temporomandibular disorders (often referred to as TMJ), making him one of the few in Ireland with that specialty.

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The Canavan’s Suburban Home

They lived in a suburb just outside of town, a setting that could have been lifted straight out of a typical sub-division you would find in the United States.  We spent the first morning in central Dublin exploring Trinity College and its incredible library, which contains nearly five million printed volumes and manuscripts (including the Book of Kells).  We met Marie for lunch at Stephens Green Mall, located in a magnificent building with an open greenhouse ambiance and which houses Europe’s largest indoor clock.

Near Trinity College

Near Trinity College

 

Stephens Green Mall

Stephens Green Mall

We would then journey in the afternoon with Marie and Lisa out to Powerscourt, home to what is reputed to be the finest formal gardens in Ireland.  Built in the 18th century on the site of an old castle, the house wasn’t open for tours when we visited due to a fire in the 1970’s that destroyed much of the interior.  But the grounds were impressive, even for a fellow such as myself who is not known to appreciate a good garden.

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The Pet Cemetery at Powerscourt

That night the adults would take a trip out into the country to visit a large bar complex that featured Irish music and dancing.  It was quite crowded, the parking lot was full of tour buses, and as we couldn’t find seats, we ended up standing at the bar.  I have a very fond memory of the evening, Guinness in hand, taking in the music and the skillful dancing on stage, soaking up a bit of Irish culture.

Sunday morning we arose late and after breakfast Dermot and I took off on a drive down the coast towards Wicklow to the trailer park his folks lived in and pick up Lisa’s older brother, who had been spending part of the summer there.  School was to start the next day so Dermot planned for a quick visit in order to get back up to Dublin for dinner and an early evening in anticipation of the day ahead on Monday.

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View from the Trailer Park

The park was situated right on the coast, with views of the Irish Sea.  Upon arrival we checked in with Dermot’s parents, who advised that the son (I cannot recall his name) had taken off some time ago and they weren’t sure of his whereabouts.  We spent a convivial couple of hours with them, drinking a beer or two and discussing the curious American political spectacle of the time period, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky’s testimony before a Grand Jury the week before.

It was quite interesting getting their perspective on the whole affair, one that mirrored how many in Europe felt about it, that the scandal was blown out of proportion and that the true crime was the eventual cover up of a petty matter.  In the meantime, the son had not appeared and Dermot’s frustration level began rising, the predictable outcome of a teenage son’s not so considerate actions.  We loaded into the car and made our way back to Dublin, taking some pretty narrow, but scenic back roads to get there.

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Heading Back to Dublin

We never did find out what consequences, if any, resulted from the wayward son’s behavior.  We all shared a very nice farewell dinner at The Step Inn, retired early and arose the next morning for our flight on Ryan Air to Paris.  During the ensuing years we would send a holiday card and family newsletter to the Canavan’s, often wondering how they were doing.  Jessica would lose contact with Lisa and after some time, we stopped sending the cards.  Sometimes in life, we connect with folks in what seems a genuine way, only to have that connection erode or no apparent reason.  It may just be time to send another card their way to see if we can reconnect.  It would be nice to know how their lives turned out.

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Lisa and Jessica

Links

Ironbridge – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ironbridgehttp://www.ironbridgeguide.info/

Trinity College – http://www.tcd.ie/

Stephens Green Mall – http://www.stephensgreen.com/

Powerscourt – http://www.powerscourt.ie/gardens

The Step Inn – http://www.thestepinn.com/

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