Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cycling to Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park in the Northwest corner of Dublin is the largest urban park in Europe.  Dublin is known as a very "parky" city, and for a very good reason.  St. Stephen's Green and Merrion Square are quiet, green refuges in the middle of bustling City Centre.  Numerous other small parks dot the city map, but Phoenix is a grand, imposing green splash in the city.  Curious, we needed to find out.

The obelisk stands under a cloudy sky with two bicycles in the foreground at Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland
The Obelisk welcomes us to the park
We got on our bicycles and took the six-mile trip from Southeast to Northwest to the park.  The weather was more typical to Dublin Autumn (so we're told) than what we had been used to.  The sky was partly/mostly cloudy with light showers off and on throughout the day.  In fact, in the above photo, rain was falling on Sara as she took the photo of the blue sky behind The Obelisk.

Áras an Uachtaráin, the presidential residence of the Republic of Ireland, stands in Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland
Look like any other White Houses?
The main road through the park makes a straight path from corner to corner, making a steady climb all the way.  We stopped for lunch on a park bench facing the Irish presidential residence, Aras an UachtarainThe estate was built in 1751 by the Phoenix Park Ranger.  It was used by wealthy British Viceroys to oversee British rule of Ireland until it was assigned as the official Residence of the President of The Republic of Ireland in 1938.

Continuing up the hill, we saw some of the most famous residents of The Park, aside from the President, of course.  Two deer were having a snack and a rest in the tall grass just off the path.  These deer must be used to a large number of visitors in and out of their habitat, because they paid us almost no mind.  The fallow deer are quite different than the whitetail deer we saw in the woods of Iowa.  These deer are all descended from a small herd introduced here in the 1660s.  We named this one Judy.

A deer hides in the tall grass at Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland
Phoenix Park Deer, Judy
 Another famous residence is the home of the Ambassador of the United States.  "How is it that the American Ambassador gets to live next door to the President?"  We asked.  By the magic of hindsight (and the internet) we learned that this estate was given to the Americans because the USA was one of the first countries to recognize and establish diplomatic relations with the newly independent Republic of Ireland in 1922.  First come first served, I guess.

The front gate of the Residence of the American Ambassador to Ireland at Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland
Residence of The American Ambassador

A long path vanishes in the distance at Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland
Straight Lines
The main road through the park is lined by two paths on each side, one for walkers and one for cycles.   The road and trails are perfectly straight.  They are pleasingly lined by uniform lines of trees and benches, giving us a beautiful photo opportunity of the path going out in a dead straight line until it vanishes is the distance.

A large slug on the path at Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland
Hey Buddy!
The path also gave us a great view of more of our favorite terrestrial mollusks, the large slugs.

The park was busy today, as Dublin was hosting the All-Ireland Hurling Final.  Hurling is one of the classic Gaelic Games played by the Irish for generations.  On the day we visited the park, the side from County Clare was to take on County Cork in the All-Ireland Final.  Supporters poured in to the North of Dublin to park and party before the big match.  Cars were decorated in red and white (Cork) and blue and yellow (Clare) as they parked for the day.

A car is adorned with flags supporting County Cork before the All Ireland Hurling Final at Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland
Cork Flags
 The Park is also home to more traditional English sports.  We passed the polo grounds and watched part of a game (Match?  Practice?  Scrimmage?  We didn't know) from a distance.

Polo players practice their game at Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland
Polo Party!
 Before we left The Park, we saw, again at a distance, the other baffling English sport that they took so much pain to spread to their colonies- cricket.  I cannot speak too enthusiastically about how glad I am that the Redcoats didn't leave cricket in America before they were thrown back to the Cliffs of Dover.  I can (almost) accept recreational yachting and equestrian sports- But. Not. Cricket.  Not to be intolerant...

People dress in white and play cricket- bafflingly- at Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland
After the white-clad-tea-break-taking-high-flying-fast-moving-snoozy-politely-applauding action of cricket, we were too emotionally spent to do anything else in the park, so it was time to move down to City Centre to watch that Hurling Final...


  1. The obelisk is called the Wellington monument.. It was built to commentate the defeat of napoleon at the hands of a Dublin man. The scenes around it are from the battle of Waterloo.. Hope the hurling didn't disappoint.. Dublin are in the football final this weekend so the city will be crazy on Sunday

    1. I meant to look up the obelisk. That's great that Napoleon was taken down by a Dubliner. Hurling was great, and we are looking forward to supporting the Dubs in the GAA Football final this weekend.


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