Friday, December 04, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

GAELIC GETAWAY, Chapter 4:  

Day 4:  Dublin to Kilkenny
On our way out of Dublin this morning, we set off to find an electric space heater to use while we're in Ireland and Scotland.  Having experienced December in Wales and England, we know that it's likely for the heat to be turned off and on intermittently at a central control in a hotel.  It is not unusual for the heat to be switched off completely at night and restored in the morning.

The first store where we stopped was a Tesco, but it was just a grocery store, not a SuperTesco, as we thought, which would carry other types of products.  We stopped and asked an employee who was stocking shelves if she knew where we might find a small electric space heater.  She, of course, asked us if we knew where various landmarks were, which we didn't.  Finally, she said what sounded like, "Just go to the leafy valley."  After the third time she repeated "leafy valley," I was ready to tromp off into the woods and find the forest in the leafy valley where heaters grow on trees.

Instead, Ken suggested we consult Google, which is so helpful and understanding when we misspell critical words in a search term.  A search for "leafy valley shopping dublin" brought us information about the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, which was only a couple of miles away.  There we found a B & Q store, an Irish twin to Home Depot, all the way down to the orange aprons on employees.

Is it B & Q or is it HD?
From the outside to the arrangement and even signage inside, B & Q was a Home Depot look-alike.  In fact, when we mentioned this to an employee, she remarked that their store manager had worked at a U.S. Home Depot store for a number of years.

Another employee, Brian, was forthcoming with helpful information when we asked where we could find a small electric space heater.  After Ken described the object in question as something one could use to warm up a small space like a bathroom, Brian was aghast and told us in no uncertain terms that electrical items of any type must not be used in a bathroom.  He went on to explain that if we wanted to put a heater in a bathroom, we need to contact a proper electrician and have it hard wired.

Outside the U.S., one often sees odd little electrical outlets in hotel bathrooms that indicate "Shavers Only."  No regular outlets are there.  When hairdryers are provided, they are either hard wired and mounted on the bathroom wall or placed in the bedroom.  Even light switches are placed outside the bathroom on the wall next to the door.

Are we Americans just too cavalier when it comes to using electricity in a moisture laden environment?  We are, and we have reason to be less cautious.  Electrical outlets in North America supply electrical power at 110 to 120 volts.  In much of the rest of the world, that juice is coming out at double the power—220 to 240 volts, typical of the "special" outlet used in North America for clothes dryers.  With the stronger current, more caution is required, as Brian explained.  Still in shock over our question about using an electric heater in the bathroom, he repeated as we parted ways, "We like to keep our customers alive!"

Before we move on past this adventure in non-native shopping, let me hasten to add that we did find what is known locally as an electric fan heater.  And already this evening it has proved invaluable in our chilly hotel room.  Never was a product more aptly named than this little bit of Blyss.

With our business complete, we headed south out of Dublin on the M50, Ireland's busiest motorway—a limited-access, divided highway equivalent to interstate highways in the U.S.  Our first stop was Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, about a half hour from the city.  Set in the countryside overlooking the Wicklow Mountains, Powerscourt is a large country estate known for its gardens and manor house.

Powerscourt Estate
A letterbox hidden in the garden area was what attracted us to Powerscourt, but once we arrived, I became intrigued with the history of the estate.  Built as a castle by a man named Power in the 13th century, the house later came into the possession of the British crown.  In 1609, the estate was awarded to Sir Richard Wingfield, an English army officer, in appreciation of his success in quelling a rebellion in Ulster.  (This was of particular interest because I have a friend with the name Wingfield.)

Today, the estate is still owned by a Wingfield, but it does not serve as a residence.  A 1974 fire inflicted extensive damage, leading to a later renovation.  Today the gardens are open to the public while most of the first floor and greenhouses are given over to retail outlets and the Avoca Terrace Café, which, as we learned firsthand, serves a delectable lunch.

Remains of stone oratory and round tower at Glendalough
Leaving Powerscourt, we headed about twenty miles southeast to Glendalough (glen'-da-lock), where a letterbox was hidden near the ruins of a monastery dating to the sixth century.  A busy place in summer's high season, Glendalough today was a relatively quiet and tranquil spot, where one could imagine monks enjoying the mountain backdrop in the 1100s when the round tower was built.

Between Powerscourt and Glendalough, we had a minor mishap on a narrow Irish country road, but that's another story for another day.  By the time we left Glendalough, it was almost 3:30, which doesn't sound too late until you consider that the sun was headed over the horizon by 4:10.  With 70 miles left to Kilkenny, we would be traveling across unknown territory in the dark.  And half of that unknown was on cramped local roads that are barely one foot wider than a single lane on a U.S. interstate.  With no verge or shoulder on most of these rural lanes, stone walls and thick hedges often abut or even overlap the edge of the asphalt.   After more than two hours, we finally arrived at our hotel in Kilkenny amid rush hour in the rain.

Delighted to be off the road, we enjoyed an outstanding dinner meal in the Zuni restaurant attached to the hotel before collapsing into bed.  Tomorrow we hope to see some sights in Kilkenny before heading to Waterford.
Daily Stats:

  • Started in Dublin, ended in Kilkenny
  • Mileage - 129  (Trip total:  5,059)
  • Weather - 50° to 54°, clear to partly cloudy to rain
  • Letterboxes - 2 finds
Hair dryer at the desk (can't use it in the bathroom!)
Winged horses at the Wingfield manor of Powerscourt
Japanese Garden at Powerscourt 
One of the wider local Irish roads
Wicklow Valley between Powerscourt and Glendalough