An Irish Hill With a ViewPosted on March 18, 2011
“Women like looking at a view. Men don’t.” The character of Mr. Emerson is absolutely correct when he says this in the screen adaptation of E.M. Forster’s beloved novel, A Room with a View. I was no different from any of the women Mr. Emerson described, as I have often sought out renowned views when traveling abroad, whether it was looking down at Paris from atop the steps of Sacre Coeur in Montmarte, gazing at the Florentine skyline from Piazzale Michelangelo, or climbing the steps of the pyramids at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza to admire the lush tropical greenery of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. My trip to Ireland was no different.
On our last day in the Emerald Isle, I had planned for Darryl (my fiancé) and me to take the DART, Dublin’s suburban rail line, out to Killiney, a small townland in south County Dublin. Its name in Irish is Cill Iníon Léinín and means “Church of the Daughters of Léinín. (A townland I would learn is a small geographical division of land that dates back to Ireland’s Gaelic origins.) Although there were no museums to visit, no famous pubs to have a pint, it was home to a beautiful view, or that’s at least what my guidebooks said. I hoped they were correct.
Coming from a country in which the breakfast meal is served seven days a week, I didn’t think things would be any different in Ireland, especially since the country is renowned for its Irish breakfast, a meal that is considerably more than the ubiquitous roll and coffee that is the standard du jour in other European countries. I had suggested to Darryl that we get up and head straight to Killiney, thinking how nice it would be to dine there. Naiveté doesn’t even begin to describe me.
As the DART train began traveling adjacent to the shoreline of Dublin Bay, I gazed at the slowly moving water off in the distance, the undeniably clear but still gray colored skies overhead. I could just imagine Virginia Woolf composing some melancholic prose about the view in front of her. When we arrived at the Killiney station and saw the emptiness of both the station and the area immediately around it, I realized just how small this townland really was.
Armed with nothing but our wits since in a place this small there exists neither map nor guidebook, we set out for the part of the village that appeared to be the more happening side, which isn’t saying much since we still saw no people.
As we started to slowly trudge up the hilly road, becoming slightly exerted with each step we took, I asked Darryl if he thought we were going the right way. “The right way to what? What exactly are we trying to see again? Because all I see is a lack of people and houses that should really be called palaces.” He was right about the houses. The more we walked the larger they became.
“We’re going to see a hill. Killiney Hill Park to be exact.” After returning from our trip, I found out that when the park first opened in 1887 it had been christened Victoria Hill in honor of Queen Victoria’s jubilee. I could surmise though that when the Irish finally expunged the British from southern Ireland in the 1920s, a new, un-British name was due.
“Ah, a wee little hill with a touch of greenery,” Darryl imitated in his best Irish brogue.
“It’s not so wee,” I told him, “It’s 500 feet tall.” Although it didn’t seem that tall from the station , my legs certainly felt that it was that tall as judging from the physical pain they were feeling as a result of the workout I was giving them.
I forget where but I had read that Killiney is often compared to the Bay of Naples in Italy. When we came across a home that literally stopped us in our tracks with its striking beauty, I could understand why. Some of its streets, which are named after areas in the Bay of Naples like Vico, Sorrento, and Capri Street.
The home appeared as if it should be on some Mediterranean isle, not in a country like Ireland where tropical flora does not exist since it is too cool and there is not nearly enough bright, scorching sun. But here in front of us, all around this grand “palazzo” stood imposing palm trees surrounded by lush, vibrant colored flowers, a scene that resembled one of Henri Matisse’s famous Tahiti paintings.
“I wonder if this is Bono’s home,” Darryl asked.
“Bono lives here?” I told Darryl that I wasn’t sure if he lived here, but he at least had a home here. The Irish singer Enya also has a home here. Judging by the fact that two world renowned singers had homes here and that every other home was worthy of being labeled a mansion, I figured that a summer retreat in Killiney was just the least bit out of our price range.
After walking for almost 30 minutes, we finally got to the top of a hill that resembled the village’s commercial district, if you can call it that. We spotted the Irish equivalent of a corner store (which seemed to be open although it was still quite early and a Sunday no less), and a closed up establishment we reckoned to be the pub. Seeing signs that read Killiney Hill Park, I knew we were finally entirely going in the right direction.
While walking up the steps in the park we finally came across living breathing things, humans and dogs. It seemed to be quite the popular spot for owners taking their dogs for a walk, as there were at least three of them.
As we neared the top of the hill, the killer workout almost over, I stopped to breathe in the fresh air that was blowing all around (500 feet up equates to extreme windiness). The views were simply incredible. Perched on the top of a hill, feeling like I truly was king (or queen) of the world, I felt immensely relaxed and at peace. There in front of us was all of Dublin Bay, the Wicklow Mountains and even Howth Head, the location where Leopold Bloom proposes to Molly in James Joyce’s beloved Ulysses.
Sacre Coeur and Piazzale Michelangelo both offer incredible vistas, but they’re always mobbed with people, and much too loud and bustling for one to reflect on anything. Here it was almost deserted save for a person walking his dog off in the distance. The last couple of days in Dublin had been busy and fast paced. For the first time in our trip, the only thing on the itinerary was to stop and enjoy the view.
In our typical “lucky” fashion (I’m being facetious about the lucky part), there were no places to eat in Killiney, as we were told by the gentleman unloading newspapers in front of the convenience store. We would also discover later that evening that on Sundays in Ireland, pubs don’t serve food. So although you can get rip roaring hammered on the Lord’s Day, eating a meal out is entirely out of the question. We realized this when all we wanted was to go home with memories of good pub food on our final night in Ireland. Instead two ham and cheese sandwiches made up by a bartender at a hotel’s bar had to suffice.
Yes, that’s the luck of us non-Irish.