Saturday, July 23–Wexford city, Co Wexford

Johnstown Castle and the Irish Agricultural Museum; back to Kelly's Café for lunch; the 1798 memorial; Selkar Abbey; Franciscan friary; looking for the Opera House; the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland

Killiane Castle

Black VW Passat sedan



I slept quite well last night, and until around 8 AM this morning. The shower in my room here in Killiane Castle is wonderful if a little difficult for me to get into and out of since it's in a soaker tub, but has lots of hot water, great water pressure from a nozzle high enough to easily get under, and lots of places to put things. And then I had a lovely breakfast with porridge and baked eggs with mushrooms.

I spent the morning over at Johnstown Castle and its grounds, which house the Irish Agricultural Museum. It was pretty easy to find from here using Google Maps on my Irish Android smart phone, although I have to admit I drove past the entrance at least once because of the unassuming and easy to miss sign near the entrance.

A lot of people apparently go to the castle just to walk around or run since that's free. I know I saw one woman several times who was out for a run and when I was over near a side entrance I saw someone else in workout clothes coming in.

The castle's grounds are quite lovely and very pleasant to walk around even though sites of interest are often hard to find because there is very little interior signage. I admit it, I need frequent signs with maps that say "You are here" to find where I want to go.

I first went past the castle, which is quite a wonderful building but is closed to the public, and took the long way around the ornamental lake to the museum. It's in some of the outbuildings of the castle which are also very pleasing architecturally and are around a central courtyard. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the museum. The exhibits are all very well done and laid out and house some surprisingly attractive farm machinery. There's also a section featuring some crafts typical to a working farm, a great exhibit of country farm house furniture, and a very well done exhibit on the great Irish potato famine.

I even learned one horrifying fact I don't think I'd heard or read before–before the famine, the typical diet for an adult male was 14 lbs of potatoes split up evenly into three meals.

After I left the museum I wandered around the castle grounds some more for another half an hour to 45 minutes, specifically looking for the famous walled gardens, but I finally gave up trying to find them when I kept coming back to the same places from different directions. Remember I mentioned no directional signage a couple of paragraphs ago?

I thought I'd try and find the Farmer's Kitchen for lunch but Google Maps was having trouble locating the GPS satellites and because I eventually wound up going past the same small shopping center with Kelly's Café, where I had lunch yesterday, I had lunch there today as well.

By now it was grey and drizzly again, and I didn't need to be back into the city center to pick up my ticket for tonight's concert until sometime before 7 PM so I came back here to my room in the B&B for a couple of hours. I asked my hosts to call a cab for me around 5 PM, and oddly enough it was the same cabby who'd picked me up both times yesterday who picked me up today as well.

I had him drop me off up on the other side of the city center, where I hadn't gone to yesterday, and had a nice wander around while working my way over to the Opera House. I started off at the 1798 memorial, went past Selkar Abbey which is closed most of the time except for once daily tours, and found the lovely Franciscan friary which was open.

Finding the Opera House was surprisingly difficult because it isn't signposted very well at all, and the tourist map I had doesn't even list names for all the cross streets it shows connecting with North and South Main Streets so I didn't know where to turn off. I wound up stopping in a small pub at the end of South Main Street and went in to ask for directions, and it took three guys to tell me to go back up Main Street, and to look for a small alleyway called Keyser Lane near a certain department store, and just go up the alley and around the corner from there. I not only remembered the department store but also the alley, or at least the one part across the street from the side I needed to take because it did have a historical identification plaque and is also a three-quarters high doorway.

Even so I almost missed the Opera House because once again there are no signs, it's in a building that's rather undistinguished from the street side, and is actually on a very narrow one way street. I went in, picked up my ticket, and asked where would be the best place to catch a cab back here after the concert because there really didn't seem to be any place in the immediate area where they would likely be waiting. The woman at the ticket booth told me I really needed to book a cab in advance for after the show, and she did so for me.

The next question was to find someplace to eat. I at first took the next street that went down to the waterfront, and found myself on the same corner as La Cote where I had dinner last night. I also went past the very small Presbyterian Methodist church, which I've seen signs for in other places and which confused me until I read the sign in front of the church–it's owned by the Presbyterians, but they let the Methodists use it. Both denominations are quite minor ones here in Ireland.

I went back up to Main Street and walked up and back trying to find somewhere still open. Perhaps unsurprisingly by now most of the shops and places that aren't pubs or bars close up about 6 PM, even on a Friday or Saturday. I did not want to eat in either of the two American themed restaurants on Main Street, and when I went into what looked like a very nice Italian place I was told they were fully booked. When I asked where I might be able to eat dinner before the concert, the guy who told me they were booked came outside with me and pointed me to a very nice Asian place just a couple of doors away. I had a very good stir fry with beef, chicken and prawns and fried rice even though I wasn't hungry enough to eat all the large quantity of food they gave me. I did have dessert, though, what they called their strawberry sundae even though it seems to have only been meringue, strawberries, and whipped cream from a can but no ice cream. The strawberries were very good so it was quite enjoyable.

You enter the National Opera Hall into a small, modern & modestly decorated lobby with a bar. When they let you into the performance hall itself, it's quite surprising. It's a rather beautiful, modern, quite large but not huge performance space.

The concert tonight was wonderful, great music, very well performed and played. As I said earlier, tonight's ensemble was the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, whose players range from 12 to 16 years of age, and whom I had never heard of before until I found the concert while looking for somewhere to listen to music tonight. The first part of the program were seven pieces by Irish music educator and composer Micheal O Suilleabhain who introduced the pieces and played piano with the orchestra for most of them. The soloist for the only piece that didn't have a piano part was Irish flute player Niall Keegan. I'd never heard of either the composer or the flute player before tonight but I certainly want to look them up when I get home.

Tomorrow I drive to Dublin for my final week here in Ireland before moving on to Scotland on August 1st. I need to do some planning and work out what I'm already scheduled to do when, since I'm going to dinner & show at the Abbey Tavern one night and have booked a ticket to "Riverdance" (now celebrating its 21st year) another night, but that can wait until I have a better desk to work on than the small make up table I have here in my room at Killiane Castle.

The weather forecast for tomorrow currently predicts dry with warm sunny spells and occasional scattered heavy showers in places, so I think I will make the two stops on the way to Dublin I was thinking about yesterday.

The National Heritage Park is only a few minutes outside of town away from here, and sounds wonderful and very interesting. It's then about an hour and half the short way around to the ancient monastic site of Glendalough, founded by St Kevin. I was there with my tour group ten years ago, so this time I want to go the other direction and up to the second lake I didn't get to see last time. (Glen means much the same in Irish Gaelic as it does in English, a small valley. Da means two, and lough is lake, so glen with the two lakes.)

It's then another hour from Glendalough to Jury's Inn Parnell Street in Dublin, my home for the next week. Because I have all of next week to explore the city, I have no plans after getting to my hotel other than exploring the immediate local area and further refining my plans for the week, including finding the exact dates for my two planned evening activities. I might book at least an Irish musical pub tour, if not the literary pub tour as well. I want to get some laundry done on Monday so I can get my jeans and other pair of slacks cleaned, which I haven't done since I left home assuming it's at least almost warm enough to wear shorts. Monday I also need to take the suitcase with the seam that needs fixing and reinforcing to the luggage repair place so I can pick it up the following day. Next Friday or Saturday I want to take my smaller suitcase and rolling briefcase, which had the portable printer in it and which I haven't been using because I prefer my book bag/pack, to the nearest Dublin branch of Mailboxes Etc to send back home to my neighbor who's collecting my mail and keeping an eye on my townhouse for me. That way I'll still have two carry ons but will only have two bags to check instead of three when I fly to Glasgow, then from Edinburgh to London, then from London to Paris, and then back home.

Time to check my email, send this on to Michael, Tim, Renee, and Kelly and get to bed.

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