Daytripping to Powerscourt

For all the house guests we’ve had in our year abroad, it’s hard to believe I’ve only just recently gone to Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow. It was such an easy drive (or easy bus ride, if we have more than one adult traveling with us) from south Dublin. Definitely easier than bringing a pregnant friend to Howth and trying to hike in icy lashes of wind and rain along slippery trails. (That was in May.) So Emily, who loves gardens, this is for you.

The Powerscourt Estate is situated on a hill looking out at two distinctive Wicklow Mountain peaks, Little Sugarloaf and Great Sugarloaf

We had the great fortune of a spectacular fall day, one where Ireland was out from under its frequent gray shroud. In the warm full sun (no wind reaching down into our bones), the shimmering greens and autumn tones of changing leaves were unbelievably beautiful.

View from Triton Lake of the back of the house. You can see the winged horses at the top of the lake

Powerscourt was the site of a castle built around 1300, and by around 1600, the Wingfield family was given the property as part of Sir Richard Wingfield’s appointment as “Marshall of Ireland.” The Wingfield family hired Richard Cassels to construct a Palladian-style mansion around the original structure in 1731. Descendants of the family lived in the estate through the 1950s, although it was mostly a summer home. There was no central heating in the mansion for much of the house’s life, and anyone who visited us this past shivering “spring” would appreciate one family member’s recollection that:

…the old Celtic idea of hell was somewhere intensely cold. Powerscourt in winter would have qualified.

(This grand house was hotter than hell at least on one night, though, when in 1974, the eve of its public opening, a fire gutted the entire thing.)

The original gardens were laid out in the 1740s by Daniel Robinson. An aside in my Lonely Planet guide explains that Robinson supervised the construction laying down in a wheelbarrow with his bottle of sherry, in increasing states of inebriation.  Sláinte, Mr. Robinson. The grounds are magnificent in spite of, or perhaps because of, your intoxication!

The walled garden

We strolled for over an hour through the Italian gardens down to Triton Lake, the Japanese garden and through the hollows of the grotto, where it was noticeably colder. On one of the mossy stone archways, I zoomed in with the camera to find a dangling icicle!

On a soft slope in the gardens, there is a pet cemetery my in-laws had mentioned to me, since they know I am insanely in love with my cat. 

Touching epitaphs at the pet cemetery

It was so moving to see such loving tributes to animals who meant so much to their owners.

We went on a Friday morning in mid-October, and it was fairly quiet. We glimpsed these beautiful horses through the trees on one of the paths. Seems like one of them had a foal (resting under what I assume is his mama in the left)

The toddling, stroller/buggy crowd would have a tough time negotiating some of the non-paved footpaths and fully exploring the grounds, like climbing to the top of Pepperpot Tower.

Pepperpot tower on the estate grounds with the peak of Great Sugarloaf in the distance.

 

A better bet for kids is the nearby Powerscourt Waterfall (the largest in Britain and Ireland), which is technically part of the estate but is not accessed through the main gates of the manor house drive.

This is Ireland. Driving in Wicklow.

On the grounds there, you’ll find a playground, picnic areas, and a sand pit with a short nature walk to the thundering fall. (“It’s very loud,” G said, as we approached the almost 400-foot sheet of water.) The moss and lichen-covered rocks were slick, but the boys loved scrambling over them and observing the shallow pools of water in the gaps.
All in all, this was one of my favorite daytrips from Dublin. Definitely worth visiting.
PS: Any more skilled bloggers have tips for reducing image file sizes without compromising quality? These images are exported as “medium” from iPhoto because the original file sizes are much too large and would slow down loading, but I notice quite a decline in the image sharpness.

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Bringing our cat

Status

Ok, just want everyone to send out positive thoughts that Sashi gets on her Aer Lingus flight tonight and is cleared tomorrow morning so we can bring her home. G for some reason thinks she’ll want to play “choo-choo” with him.

I got sad when we were reading the “Airport” book and it showed the cargo hold.

It’s my blog and I’ll write about cats if I want to

Today my fourteen-year old cat is going to her final vet appointment. She is not dying, let me be very clear. She is getting her final paperwork and check-up so that tomorrow evening, she can board an Aer Lingus flight and make her long, lonely journey here to us.  It will be the only time she has flown cargo, and will not be accompanied by either me or Sascha, though she has flown many, many times.

At this point in my life, most of my friends, post-having children, think their cats are assholes. But despite having kids, I love her more, not less.

No thank you. Sashi in CA captured by Sarah Scheidler, who was there to shoot the new family.

I can remember getting her in my last year of college. My two very good friends, who told us all they were “definitely broken up,” both had cats. The jig was up that they were definitely not just friends when her cat impregnated his. (Apparently a result of spending so many nights at each others’ apartments that they starting bringing their pets, too.) Our friendship circle would implode a bit several years later, but many of us have the cats from this illicit time. I had no idea what my life would look like in fourteen years, but I knew she would be with me.

I left her once. I remember zigzagging the freeways in Los Angeles, the great curving bow of road to change from the 10 to the 405 so I could get to the Westside. Everything that was left of my possessions was piled into the Teal Mobile. Sashi was just a year and she meowed from her cage in the passenger seat. As I often did in those days, I cried on those swift streets, grateful for the privacy that my car and the freeways at that hour allowed. I wasn’t sure of what I was doing, but I was doing it anyway. I had to leave, and I was going to Japan. I could not bring her, and I was young and selfish and desperate enough to leave her. My then-boyfriend took her.

We crossed many miles since then including one cross-country drive by car (an ill-advised journey arising from an ill-advised relationship.) She brought me roaches in her mouth from my first Brooklyn apartment; in the same apartment, she ran under the bed when I shrieked at the mouse that had run over my foot. In another apartment, she was the sole witness to a break-in. In Brooklyn Heights, she was happy to sleep up high in our loft bed.

We brought her to the desert because we could: all pets were allowed in the bungalows at 29 Palms Inn.

Just don't take the "short cut" to see the Salton Sea

In Los Angeles, she napped beside my ever-growing belly.

Me, monkey cat, and my belly

I’ll never forget how startled she was one evening, when we were all in the king sized bed after bringing the boys home. Sascha and I had the boys on our chests; I think we were doing “skin-to-skin.” Suddenly, G and C began squirming and she realized, They’re alive!

She and I have seen some times.

Surveying one of our many LA homes

So. Yes I have two children and a husband whom I love and adore, but it was extremely hard for me to leave Sashi this time. As we forge our path as a new family, she is part of us. Perhaps she has become even more important as our lives destabilized and we’ve longed to create a permanent home in an industry and an economy that make it nearly impossible. But the rules for importing an animal are very strict. There were two more months before she would be eligible to enter the country after Sascha’s job needed us here or else she would be quarantined.

I do know that no place could be home without the warm insistence of her spine, curled like a comma against my own. I know that she belongs here with us, though she will stalk the back wall of glass to the garden, yowling at the neighborhood cats who jump over walls and onto the roof–the cats that tolerate the boys’ excited yelps better than she.

BREAKING NEWS: I wrote the above this morning, then picked up the boys and put them down for a nap in time to call my brother-in-law at the vet to check in. And after many frantic trans-Atlantic calls, hiring an extremely expensive service to transport her and having her departure finely choreographed, and enlisting the generous help of my in-laws, we have some bum luck: Of all things, the new microchip implanted back in April is apparently defective and unreadable by two different vets’ scanners, meaning the 6-month rabies titre paperwork will not matter. If she cannot be identified through this chip that is listed on all her papers, she will not be allowed in. I am heartbroken.

Thank you Gramby and Papa for giving her such a swank home on the UWS, free from squealing, grabbing toddlers. And thank you Louie for running around the city and trying to make something happen. Dear Irish Agriculture Department, please give us a special pre-authorization to allow our cat to come home.

Yes, we Skype with the cat.