The day after Zach's happy-travelin' family departed for America, Zach and I played host to another visitor: Gianna May! I met Gianna when she came to work for me in the front office of the Honors Program at UNM. Now, if ever a manager wants proof that she was not a tyrannical jerk, an overseas visit from a former employee surely qualifies.
Gianna has spent the opening months of 2012 attending the University of Leeds in England on a semester-abroad trip. She added Ireland to her list of places to see during her month-long spring break (American students reading this are no doubt bellowing that they want/deserve/need a month-long spring break)!
She arrived in Sandycove bright and early on a Monday. Zach was stuck in class, but I was free to take Gianna south to walk the legendary Bray head, a pathway meandering along the steep cliffs between Bray and Greystones. Before hopping on the DART, we checked the online tourist maps, which assured us the path ended in or near Greystones city center, which seemed the perfect place for us to have lunch and then head back for dinner back home. What is that saying about the best of plans...?
The day could not have been more lusciously sunny! We strolled along the pebbly beach of Bray and then made our way up the steep hillside to the cliffs. At one point, I spotted a trail leading into an irresistibly mysterious and Byronically romantic thicket of gorse (the yellow-blossomed scrub brush you see all over the island). Gianna made for an all-too willing adventure accomplice! I was once her fearless leader in the work place, after all. What could be the harm in following me now, right? (If my mother is reading this right now, she's already sighing and remembering the time I got myself lost in the Apache National Forest in Arizona...)
We schlepped uphill, bent in half to traverse the trail through the low-hanging gorse boughs, and eventually emerged in a clearing. To our relief, we saw other humans on the trails up ahead. Those trails wound ever-upward until we arrived at the craggy bald top of the cliffs. We took some stunning photos, saw open pastures where wild horses roamed, and looked out on a seascape that took away what little breath we had left. Getting down to the main trail was a challenge. Our feet were tired. Our bellies were empty, but for the paltry snacks I had packed. And our water supply was half-consumed.
At last Gianna and I found what looked like a prominent and frequently traveled path that we believed would take us back to the cliff-walk and then on to Greystones. It didn't. It did take us through farms and fields. We had to climb a few fences and ignore a few "no trespassing" signs, until we arrived at an actual cluster of houses and a genuine (paved) road. Making a random guess, I chose to turn left. Turns out I was right to do so. I think. After a half-mile, we did pass the endpoint of the cliff-walk (where we would have emerged had I not diverted us through the gorse). But this was not in Greystones city center, as the maps suggested. We walked and walked until we found a grocery store where one of the employees pointed us to the bus route that would get us to Greystones proper (some 20 minutes away!!!).
We boarded the bus and told the driver to please let us off near the DART station in the city center. He kindly agreed to and then unkindly forgot. It wasn't until we were in Kilcoole that discovered us, like stowaways. So, long story short, we DID make it back to Sandycove. Gianna seemed very forgiving of the fact that I nearly got us lost and/or starved/dehydrated to death!
The next day of her visit, Zach and I both had class, so Gianna boarded a tour bus bound for the Hill of Tara and Newgrange. We recommended this trip, having done it already for Zach's birthday back in September. We reconnected with Gianna later that evening and got to hear about what a great time she had over dinner.
Wednesday was finally a time for all three of us to check out Dublin. We took Gianna to see the secret wonders and horrors of St. Michen's Church. You should have seen this budding historian's eyes light up when they took us underground to see...(but wait, I can't spoil the surprise for my parents...). Then we wandered the scenic quays, enjoyed the Winding Staircase bookshop, saw the sites along O'Connell, then on to Trinity to see the Long Room library and Book of Kells.
We were then bound for seeing Oscar Wilde's House, which Gianna was looking forward to (Wilde being one of her favorite authors). Sadly, we found that they no longer do tours of the house. To make up for it, we stopped off at the park across the street which as a statue of Wilde sprawled in what can only be described as pimp-style on a huge boulder. Gianna scaled this boulder like it was a jungle-gym in order to pose for pictures beside her idol. We also read aloud many of Wilde's famous quotes collected on nearby sculpture installations. (Of particular delight was the one about how it becomes increasingly impossible to live up to the standards of one's blue China tea set.)
With the four and five o'clock hours swiftly approaching (threatening to shut down all the other points of interest on our itinerary), we scuttled off to the National Museums to see the bog bodies on display. Besides those macabre marvels, we saw the stunning collections of weapons, artifacts, and gold jewelry taken from various hordes from around the island. We then stopped in some shops for a bit of souvenir shopping, wandered through the famous Temple Bar district, stopping in at the best, new candy shop in Dublin (Aunt Nellie's) before circling back to the Porterhouse where a few of Zach's classmates joined us just after dinner for the traditional "last night in Dublin" celebration!
Eventually, we made it home so that Gianna would catch a few winks before taking a very early cab to the port where a ferry awaited to shepherd her to the next portion of her traveling adventures (which I believe was Wales and London)! It was so wonderful to have her visit and we so very glad I did not get her killed somewhere between Bray, Greystones, and Kilcoole.