IRELAND: Part One, Boston to Dublin
Wednesday, June 10
Starting off with a 2 hour drive to Boston, parking at our friend Heather's house in Jamaica Plain, and then a T ride to the airport. We are nothing if not thrifty style.
Thursday, June 11
The flight to Dublin was about 6 hours, overnight, and we arrived around 4:45 am local time. After not really sleeping, we got off the plane and I realized two things, 1) our rental car was not available until 6 am, and 2) I had left my camera on the plane. I periodically checked the car rental desk on my way to the baggage phone that I had to use to get updates on the plane cleaning. First call, too early, plane not cleaned yet. Second call, no answer. Third call, plane cleaned, no camera found, but here is our toll-free number, please check back as often as you like in case it turns up. I was skeptical that it would ever turn up, but the Aer Lingus folks were extremely nice and helpful on all fronts. Armed with the toll-free number, I decided that the two film cameras and Val's digital camera would suffice, and it was time to give up on the camera and focus on the rental car.
Our car was a Ford Fiesta, and this being across the pond from the US, I imagined (hoped) for something like this...
...which wasn't quite what we signed up for, but it was bright red and quite peppy, at least.
We were sleep deprived, but decided to head out to our first destination, Newgrange, a 5,000 year old pre-historic passage tomb. Best to start at the beginning of Irish history, right?
The trip to Newgrange was about 50km, 30 minutes away, but it was also my behind the wheel Irish driver's test, on the right-hand side of the car, on the left-hand side of the road. The narrow, narrow road. It was a cringe-worthy drive, for passenger and driver alike, especially after an overnight flight, but we made it intact to Newgrange, on a perfectly crisp, sunny morning, about an hour before opening, which isn't all bad as it is a very popular destination. We rested in our rental, and then headed up to the visitor's center with a handful of other earlybirds.
Once the visitor's center opened, we proceeded to purchase tickets to the first tour, and wandered around the exhibit while we waited for the shuttlebus. The bus takes you to the Newgrange mound, one of two passage graves accessible from the center. We chose Newgrange as it is the only one you may actually enter. Our tour took us into the passage, and the lights were turned off and a demonstration was given, of how the tomb "works", as it is still as astrologically functional as the day it was completed. At the winter solstice, as the sun rises, it illuminates the chamber at the end of the passage, coming in through a small opening above the entryway, and keeping it lit for 17 minutes.
Not much is known about the builders, but they were determined to create this sacred site, and used not only local materials, but stone from as far away as Scotland. It was mystical (not just sleep-deprived) to visit this site as our first stop, and a good sign of things to come.
We headed back to the center on the bus, spent some more time with the exhibits, and then decided to head out and find our accommodations in south Dublin, in Dun Laoghaire. It took a few wrong turns, but we arrived, took a nap, and then headed out to find a pub, and a gin and tonic.
They were consistently served this way everywhere we went, with a glass of ice and gin, and a little bottle or can of tonic to be added by the consumer. It was kind of delightful.
After our restorative beverage, we headed elsewhere for a more substatntial menu with our beverages. A menu with a Smithwick pint to be specific.
Relaxed, slightly jet-lagged, and knowing where our accommodations were, we turned in to prepare for our next day of exploring Dublin.
Friday, June 12
The next morning, we awoke to our breakfasts, traditional Irish fried for me, porridge and fruit and yogurt for Val, and we were off to the train to ride into and wander downtown Dublin.
We took a great walking history tour of Dublin, and then took a break for lunch. The Porterhouse is the only Irish-owned Irish brewery in Dublin. Great beers, and the menu wasn't bad either...
After THAT restorative, we walked down to Kilmainham Jail for another historical tour. There were many sights to see on the walk, but of course, I am always distracted by things like this...
...a Nissan FIGARO, for me, at least, a heretofore unknown model, seemingly straight from Japan.
Much of the jail tour was like touring someone's musty basement, dank and depressing, but you may recognize the "newer" section from the several films it has starred in.
Between our morning historical tour and our afternoon historical jail tour, I had begun to realize just how much turmoil the Irish people have been through, since, well, pretty much the beginning of recorded history up until the modern era. It was good to exit the jail into the fresh air, but the tour helped me appreciate everything else we saw on our entire trip.
We returned to our homebase in Dun Laoghaire on the train, and spent a plesant evening in town, another pub, then another pub and another pub meal.
Saturday, June 13
The next morning, after another solid breakfast, but before another train back into Dublin, I tried the toll-free Aer Lingus baggage line, in case there was any update on my camera, and miracle of miracles, there was! It had been turned in later in the day and was being held at the airport. We decided to stop there the next day as it was sort of on our way north. Giddy with the possibility of realizing my plan of carrying FOUR cameras around Ireland, we headed back into Dublin proper and wandered around, and visited Val's "old haunts" of her student days. Sandwich Symphony, anyone?
We also made it to the highly recommended (both by myself, and by our Newgrange tour guide, Sinéad) National Museum, Archaeology division, which included exhibits of items recovered from buried hoards, construction sites, and emptied bogs. The hoards included weapon blades and intricate gold work, and the bogs actually contained bodies, bodies of lives violently ended and portions thereof amazingly well preserved.
It was another insight to the early history of Ireland, and there was an entire section of the museum devoted to the Vikings and their involvement, both violent and commercial in the establishment of the settlements and culture. It was truly fascinating. And exhausting, time for another restorative.
This "salad" plate, accompanied by a few pints of hard cider was just the ticket, and I was down for whatever. We wandered back toward the Temple Bar area, and ended up in The Temple Bar in Temple Bar. "The Temple Bar" is a pub in the "Temple Bar" neighborhood, "bar" meaning not "pub", as you (I) might expect, but a "path by a river". After our Temple pints, we decided to catch a train back to our quiet little homebase of Dun Laoghaire for dinner. It was our final evening in the area, but we wanted to be ready for the solid drive of traveling north the next day.
Sunday, June 14
Breakfast, and off to Lifford and Northern Ireland...
STAY TUNED, TO BE CONTINUED!