The next morning - awake before dawn, again - we packed, had breakfast, and checked out of the Shelbourne to make our way out to the airport to pick up our car and drive down to Kilkenny/Thomastown. Given that this was Alan's first time driving a right-hand car on the left side of the road, we were rather aggressive in our plans to see Glendalough and Kilkenny and everything took just a little bit longer than we had anticipated. That, paired with our complete lack of sleep and the skies darkening at 4:15, made for a very long and frustrating day. In the end we had to scrap our plans to go into Kilkenny for the Ireland/France soccer match because we were just too tired. Instead, we watched the game in our amazingly beautiful room at the Mount Juliet Hotel.
Because driving on the other side of the car/road was so new, it was not without its challenges. I can't say too much for Alan's feelings about the whole thing, but I can tell you that at one point - while looking at the back of a semi as we changed lanes - I felt very apprehensive about the whole thing. To give him credit though, we did make it to our destination unharmed, unscathed and no worse for wear.
Glendalough was incredibly beautiful, and I imagine in good weather would have been an awe-inspiring site. Seeing ruins of buildings and churches that were built in 600 A.D. was one of those instances - like Rome - where I felt like America was nothing but a squawking, precocious infant trying to assert its dominance while the rest of the world was sitting back thinking, "they'll understand when they're older." There's simply no way for Americans to comprehend a populated, civilized society that goes back millenia and standing there, you're just humbled.
In Kilkenny we walked around the castle and the design center but didn't do any actual shopping. If I'm being honest I was kind of let down with the look of Kilkenny after hearing so many people say it was their favorite stop in Ireland. I was also extremely hungry and grumpy and I'm sure my foul mood was less than appreciated by my traveling partner. Once I had some potato salad in me (one of my new favorite dishes from our travels!), I felt infinitely better. It was getting dark and starting to rain so we made our way out of town to check into our hotel - Google maps had indicated it was about 6 km outside of Kilkenny and should only have taken us about 10 minutes. Ha! Our Garmin took us a very roundabout way that would have had us lost if it weren't for the signage the hotel has located EVERYWHERE as you approach.
When we arrived at Mount Juliet, we were shown into what I can only describe as the biggest damn hotel room we've ever had. It was in a wing to the right of reception (does that make it the west or east wing?!) and was just so beautifully decorated. Even better was the private(ish) patio immediately outside. If it hadn't been pouring rain at this point it would have been a great place to have morning coffee. As it was, Alan went outside and watched the 10,000+ crows who descend daily/nightly on the estate property return for the evening. If you've never seen that many crows, it's terrifyingly beautiful. None of my pictures can do the experience justice, but trust me when I saw the sky turns black.
It was heartbreaking to be in Ireland and watch the soccer match essentially stolen from them over what was clear to anyone who watched an extremely flagrant handball on the goal. Alas, that's what we had to do. I'm actually kind of happy we didn't have it in us to drive back into Kilkenny and watch - I'm not comfortable with grown people crying.
The next morning was our first introduction into the buffet and traditional Irish breakfast that is served with all b&b plans across the country. Like fools we started out by grabbing a bit of this and a bit of that, only to groan when our actual meal came. Too. Much. Food. Sadly, it was so delicious that we ate all of it (and now my pants don't fit!).