For the next four days Anna Grace and I connected whenever we could, the first occasion being a Saturday morning in Howth. On our first visit to Howth a couple of years prior we were able to hike around the cliffs and make our way back into the village; on this visit all we had time for was a short walk out to the lighthouse and a stroll about their market. Still, the gusty sea air filled our spirits with happiness.

Back in Dublin we checked out the Temple Bar Food Market and were glad we did! The “Piggy Bap” of succulent pulled pork on a pillowy roll was Mmm! We roamed the little market; and at one point had to catch myself and not purchase a round of Drumlin because I would never get it past U.S. Customs. Reverse-reverse culture shock strikes again.

All the pubs in Dublin were bedecked with the colors of the Dublin (blue) and Kerry (green and yellow) Gaelic football teams ahead of “The Big Game” the following day. Our Uber driver and my airbnb host informed us that this even was on par with the U.S. Super Bowl and that there could be much excitement in the streets if Dublin won their fifth straight title.  I made plans to get out of Dublin, and reminded Anna Grace to be especially mindful while out and about.

Next up, wool sweater shopping. Dozens caressed, several tried on, but none purchased. Anna Grace was depressed. I told her that one day the right Aran would speak to her. We parted here, with she off to some Fresher activity and I, to leisurely wander the shopping in the pedestrian areas behind Temple Bar. The sun was shining and the day was lively. My mission: an Irish wool throw blanket for the great room in the new house. Mission…not accomplished. Finding the “right” blanket to pair with furniture that I haven’t seen in 7 years, to put in a room I stepped foot in twice is a bad shopping scenario. Still, it was fun to caress all that gorgeous colored wool.

Then it was back to the bungalow to electronically sign and re-sign various matters with the new house. A quiet supper of ash goat cheese, water crackers, and olives. And a dull French white from the M&S Food Hall.

Sunday I overestimated the sightseeing time, and wound up with a couple of “wasted” hours. I debated back and forth whether to fit both Waterford and Kilkenny into one day, but decided against doing so because the following day was my long day trip to Belfast. So it was to Kilkenny I traveled. A lovely little town with a charming castle and medieval church, but not enough to fill a full day.

Kilkenny Castle is the official Irish State House for visiting dignitaries. A mini Downton Abbey!

The interior, so different from the Baroque castles we had been surrounded by for seven years.

Excellent taste in art.

I loitered near this (free) tour a few moments and learned that behind the wallpaper was a layer of linen and horse hair to better insulate the room; and that the strips of wallpaper were hand sewn together. Impressive.

Original wallpaper was preserved in very small sections.

One of the largest bowls I have seen.

I paused for lunch at a busy tavern (Irish Beef Stew and the local Kilkenny beer) in the pedestrian zone where the mood was energetic; this was the big Dublin-Kerry Gaelic Football Day, after all. A short walk later found me at St. Canice, or Kilkenny Cathedral; it being Sunday I was not able to tour the interior. The Cathedral is the second longest in Ireland after St. Patrick’s in Dublin.

A few more snaps of the pretty little town before returning to Dublin.

I alit from the Killkenny train and saw Dublin and Kerry fans everywhere, filling the sidewalks and spilling out of pubs, but could not discern which team had won. Or lost. Because they tied.The “Big Game” was a big nothing, and both teams met two weeks later for the “Big Game.” Again.

Over dinner I checked the weather for Belfast (61F and partly cloudy) and purchased my IrishRail tickets.  The following morning as I was preparing my tote I checked the weather again: 61F and 80% Rain. The Brelly was placed on standby.

My Airbnb was in North Strand and the train was departing from West Dublin, so I had to account for extra Sunday morning travel time to make the 0735 departure. There was a “technical” issue with the doors on one of the carriages, so our train departed nearly an hour late. I can report that the Dublin Heuston station waiting room is a wicked dull place to kill an hour.

Belfast, and Northern Ireland, finally. Clouds were heavy, but no rain. Yet. This is somewhere north of Drogheda along the Irish Sea. We are quite jealous that this will be Anna Grace’s home for the next four years.

A dash to the Tourism Office for an all-day transit pass and then a scurry on the tram to the closest Peace Lines I could reach to take a few snaps before the rains came. I lucked out and got several choice snaps before the drops fell. Nearby was St. Peters Cathedral, striking on the inside but with the grey outside my snaps were craps.

Back to the city center for a drippy wander about the City Hall gardens and the Titanic Memorial Garden.

The City Hall tours were all booked so I decided to wait out the deluge with lunch at Café Parisienne across the street, modeled after the restaurant on board the RMS Titanic. My lunch, a coarse chopped burger on Brioche with smoked Gouda and Rocket, paired with a Belfast Ale and a view of the City Hall, was just what my soggy spirits needed.

What to do next? I am definitely not a GoT fan, not for lack of trying, so no tours for me. Belfast Castle sounded intriguing, but the weather would have marred the views. I am also not a Titanic “fan,” if that is the proper term, so try as I might I could not convince myself to visit the Titanic Belfast. So, rather than fill my time with something that did not spark joy, I caught an earlier return train to Dublin. I don’t regret making the time for Belfast; I just wish the weather had been more conducive to simple wandering.

Once back in dry and sunny Dublin I reminded myself to view the Irish Famine exhibit at St. Stephens Green Shopping Center. A simple exhibit with a few artifacts—all told I spent perhaps an hour, and something I was glad to have made the time to see.  A prepared salad and a (thankfully decent) Italian white from the M&S again for dinner, and then lights out.

My final day in Ireland began with the Chester Beatty Library. What. A. Gem. Beatty was a mining magnate who dealt in more than minerals. His collections of Islamic and Far Eastern manuscripts, books and other writings made me swoon, and I would easily place this museum in my ever-evolving list of “Best” even though photography was prohibited.  From the gift shop however I purchased a small print with a scene from a popular Persian folk tale that caught my eye; and in the new house I will have plenty of wall choices on which to hang the print.

Anna Grace was available for an early lunch so we caught up at a pleasant little café somewhere near the campus, then she left to do her thing and I explored Dublin Castle.

Castel-y features? Check.

The Wedgewood Room. No self-respecting castle is without one.

There was also the Throne Room. Again, a requisite.

This overly blue room, St. Patrick’s Hall (are you as surprised as I that it isn’t green?) hosts all of the ceremonial stuff.

A few years after 1776 King George III instituted The Order of St. Patrick (who is, naturally, the patron saint of the Emerald Isle) for Irish leaders; his genius being that all of Ireland’s leaders would swear allegiance to The Crown. As we know, that only worked for awhile.

Because of…James Connolly, a signatory to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916. Dublin Castle was used as a hospital during the Great War, and this was his bed as a wounded prisoner. That is, before he was executed.

On the final morning Anna Grace hurried to meet me for a bus-station breakfast, as I had a shuttle to catch to the airport. Hugs and hugs and hugs, and then we waved until my bus departed.  And who did I spy from the shuttle? Why, St. Patrick himself!

The Luck of the Irish was not with me on the return. For travelers to the U.S. from Dublin, U.S. Immigration and Customs is done in Ireland so I landed as a “domestic” traveler. That’s all well and good, but the process at DUB was painful. Sixteen CBP booths, and only 2 were open for U.S. passport holders. I needed every bit of the 3 hours recommended to reach my gate.

On board the Aer Lingus Airbus (thank goodness!) we sat on the tarmac for an hour, because doing so makes a 7 hour flight that much more enjoyable. Once at Dulles I (and 5 other people) waited, and waited…and waited for our bags. Nothing.

The Claim filed, I rang the Leprechauns at 0300 the following morning (love, love, love jet lag!) to learn that my bag had been found in Dublin (hurrah!) BUT THAT IT WAS NOT ON THE DAY’S FLIGHT. The Leprechauns decided it would be fun to put the bag on the next day’s flight, meaning that I would receive it, in theory, the evening before we were to leave D.C.*

The pot of gold at the end up this rumpled rainbow is that I left Anna Grace after many, many hugs, looking ever confident and excited (and just a wee bit nervous) about her next adventure as a Trinity student. AG has joined the T&F team and has scheduled an audition for the Trinity Orchestra. So too has she sat for her first two-hour Physics lecture on the hard wooden benches, pronouncing the whole experience, “amazing!”

*My bag arrived around 2000 at the hotel, just in time for our morning departure to Tennessee.