ireland, day two: glendalough, wicklow mountains + kilkenny {the calm after the storm}

When I tell my pop that we’re about to board a Paddy Wagon, he howls and says, You’re a gas man! A few moments later, I point to a green bus that bears the name of a police van, driven by an Irishman, who is set to take us on a day-long sojourn to Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains and Kilkenny City, and my father laughs and says, You weren’t joking. After a shaky start, I’ve accepted that this holiday isn’t what I intended, but more importantly, I’ve come to understand that love is about sacrifice and compromise. Even though I want nothing more to race around Dublin and try every sweet I can get my mitts on, there is something serene about sleeping next to my father on a bus as we ride through the Irish countryside.

We marvel over the plump wooly sheep and their baby lambs wobbling on new legs. Horses gallop, and the landscape reveals itself in degrees, verdant and pastoral. Trees spider up and tangle into one another and my pop tells me stories about growing up in Ireland the trips he and his brothers took. I ask him about Belfast, why he refuses to go back, and he shakes his head and talks about the troubles and family in the IRA. Even after all this time, evoking the name makes him shudder and we turn the page and play a game of spotting cows.

In Glendalough, we take tea and fresh flaky scones in a fancy hotel surrounded by ewes and towering trees. We walk the grounds of crumbling monasteries and step quietly around graves in a cemetery. We throw stones in the lake and watch the water divide. There are two college girls on our town, from Alabama, and they’re possibly still drunk from the night before because their drawl carries along the countryside and echoes in the small craft shops where my father purchases hand-carved photo frames and stuffed sheep.

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After a few hours, we board a bus and drive up the mountains where a slight dusting of snow on Wicklow Gap {Bearna Chill Mhantain} brings out the red deer who travel in packs. It’s cold, unreasonably so, and our driver talks about the snow as if it were an avalanche, and my father and I trade jokes about New York, how we’ll likely experience warmth come June. Much of the mountains were ravaged by the English, and a great deal of rocks and barren, brown land remain. But the deer dot along the fog, something like song or scenery, and I tell my father that when the Irish speak Irish it sounds melodic.

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Onward we go to the medieval capital of KilKenny, which means “Church of Kenny.” We take a tour of the restored castle {later I’ll learn that my father’s brother Jerome built much of the restored furniture in the rooms}, the gardens and grounds, and we take it slow because my pop’s leg is giving him some trouble. We take coffee in a sweets shop, have the most delicious lunch at cafe la coco, where I reaffirm my love for buttered brown bread and charred hallumi. Although my father and I have bickered throughout the day, we tacitly agree that the Irish can bake a bread and make a chicken.

We spend the rest of the afternoon in town, sampling and buying sweets from The Truffle Fairy and Kilkenny Design Centre’s famed Food Hall, and loading up on antique cups and saucers from the slew of vintage stores in the area for my pop and twelve pounds of cookbooks and local foodie magazines for me {in my defense: RACHEL! ALLEN!}.

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Come nightfall, we feast at The Gresham Hotel. This means everything to my pop because he’s going back to the places he couldn’t afford to as a child. While we eat, I text Jerome about rounding up the brothers, and come Saturday, I’ll visit the house my father grew up in, meet the brothers and hold up a pint {not drinking out of it} in celebration of the clan.

But first, we go to Connemara and Galway.

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