Published: July 22nd 2012July 22nd 2012
Before you go on, Dear Reader, just be warned...this was one of the funnest days ever, so if you are feeling overly cynical, get yourself a nice cuppa or a perfect Guinness and relax.
Our last full day in Ireland dawned with, what else, more clouds and intermittent sprinkles, but a nice warm temperature and lots of what we call in Oregon "sucker holes." Niamh had decided that we really needed to experience the full Irish breakfast before we left, so we sat down to eggs, rashers, sausage, black pudding, roasted tomatoes, toast, marmalade, butter, coffee, and Fea's JOOSH (translation: juice). We were almost done with this amazing meal when Niamh realized she had gotten beans and mushrooms as well but forgot to cook them...I think we did JUST FINE without.
Shawn, as an employee of the Irish Office of Public Works, had booked us into a 12:15 tour of Newgrange, a prehistoric monument located in County Meath, just north of Dublin. We loaded young Hendo and Fifi and Hank and Niamh and I into the car and set out for a truly epic day into the Irish countryside. After getting a really strange iced latte for me at
the service center off the motorway, we were transported into the Ireland of winding roads, green pastures, quaint villages and thatched roofs. The visitor center, situated alongside the Boyne River, welcomed all those planning a visit to the various Bru na Boinne monuments - there are buses that take visitors to each monument - Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. We clambered on to a bus to Newgrange, built around 3200 BC, making it older than both Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza. Henry supplied us with almost enough facts about the passage tomb as the guide eventually did, and had the added bonus of keeping Fea constantly occupied with his amazing sweet smile. The passage tomb was AMAZING. After listening to the history and theories and controversy surrounding the tomb and the bits of reconstructin that have taken place since its discovery, we were led into a VERY NARROW passageway that opened into a central chamber, layered with huge slabs of rock. Amazingly, the peoples who constructed this tomb also had a very great understanding of geometry and astronomy and constructed a second passageway just above the main one that focuses sunlight once a year on the winter solstice into the
central chamber. To illustrate this occurrence, the guide extinguished the lights once we were all packed into the chamber like a bunch of sardines and then slowly illuminated lights representative of sunlight on the winter solstice....fascinating to be sure, but maybe a little unnerving! Hank breathed a great sigh of relief once we were exited and had the chance to freely circumnavigate the mound and view the rolling green hills dotted with sheep and farmhouses. Fifi LOVED just barreling downhill into the soft green grass - the girl has no fear and finds it even more thrilling if you pretend like you are chasing her. Argh.
After we returned to the visitor center, Niamh asked if we might like to go see the severed head of St. Oliver Plunkett. After a very brief and incredulous pause, the overwhelming answer was HELL YES! As La Feef was showing signs of napping, we decided to take the long road to Drogheda. We headed up to the Hill of Slane, where the ruins of an abbey remain on the site where St Patrick lit an Easter fire on the same day as their Druid feast day in an attempt to convert those
damn Irish pagans. It is a breathtaking place. Niamh stayed with a sleeping Bunny La Feef in the car while Hank, and Henry and I explored (I have to admit...Niamh at first thought this was the place where U2's The Unforgettable Fire was recorded...alas, that was actually at Slane Castle...good thing I refrained from licking the stones in attempt to communicate with Bono...).
After the hill, Hank decided that a pub was in order, so we headed to Drogheda, a very cool little town on the River Boyne just as it enters the Irish Sea. We first visited poor St. Oliver Plunkett's head in St Peter's Church. He was a Roman Catholic martyr who was hanged, drawn, and quartered in 1681. His head resides in a glass box in the church... and it was more than a little odd to be checking out his teeth a few hundred years after his untimely demise. The church itself was very beautiful. We made our way through Niamh's old stomping grounds (she used to attend a teen disco down the street called Bubbles) and had a pint and some JOOSH at McPhail's pub. There we learned about snugs, little wooden enclosures in
the front of the bar where you would take your lady friend (if you were an unattached male) back in the day for some beer and a little bit o' slap and tickle (nothing TOO outlandish, mind). Niamh and Henry instructed Fea in the fine art of Irish dancing (which she keeps doing! Ha!). We also learned that on St Stephen's Day, Niamh takes the leftover Christmas turkey and constructs some sort of turkey pies...next holiday vacation BOOKED.
After McPhails, we were in need of a little snack, so we trekked down the main street to the delightfully wallpapered Westcourt Hotel restaurant and had salad and sandwiches and mashers with gravy (Henry rated the mashers a 9 1/2 on his personal scale!). YUM. We headed back to Dublin, taking a bit of a detour to see the seaside towns that reminded me a little bit of the Jersey shore. Hank and Fea fell asleep, so we deemed our day a success and made our way home. That night had a bit of a celebration feel to it, as we were leaving the next day and Enda was headed off to Irish camp for 3 weeks. Niamh presented us with
a delicious lasagne and salads and wine. Her brother, who just finished traveling the world for the last 14 years or so with Riverdance as a musician, joined us, and we ended the day with truly lovely conversation and very sincere regrets to be leaving such kind and indulgent hosts.
St. Stephens Day...turkey pie...we'll be back. :)
There are more photos below