Tara is more than a Southern plantation

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Europe » Ireland
July 23rd 2007
Published: June 22nd 2017
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Geo: 53.7096, -6.53999

After a tasty breakfast at McDonalds, we caught our bus tour right in front of our hotel to head north from Dublin. As we traveled through the north side of town, we were told that the north side of the river was once the posh end of town, mostly built during the reigns of the Georges. Later, however, the wealth moved south of the river and many of the buildings turned into tenements. To this day, it is clear that the area has not been very well maintained.

Out from the city we drove through Slane, home of Slane Castle where many concerts are held. They were setting up for the Rolling Stones as we passed by. Our guide made a joke about the collective age of the Stones, referring to them as "famine victims." I guess that's an acceptable description coming from a native Irishwoman.

Next, we ascended the Hill of Tara. This was the cultural, religious, and historic capital of ancient Ireland. We saw a really old cemetery and a statue of St. Patrick. We also posed near the second stone of destiny on our trip. This one was also made of limestone. This was where the high king of Ireland was crowned. It wasn't a toilet seat, but it had bird poop on it. The views from the hill were amazing. On a clear day, one is supposed to be able to see 23 different counties. We weren't sure how far we were looking, but it was breathtaking. We, hopefully, looked out over County Mayo to the west. We really had intended to visit Mayo, but due to flood delays opted to cut our visit.

Back on the bus, we drove to Newgrange, a neolithic passage burial mound dating to 3000 B.C. It was excavated and restored in the 1960s. Remarkably, the interior passage is still intact and has kept out the rain for over 5000 years. The site predates the pyramids of Egypt. There are many theories about how to interpret the symbols and architecture of the site, along with its neighbors (there are 40 such sites in the area). It was listed among several world heritage sites by the UN along with things like the Egyptian pyramids and Great Wall of China. One thing is for certain, its builders, who likely exhausted the efforts of three generations to construct Newgrange, were in touch with the solar calendar. Once each year, for five days in a row during the time of winter solstice, sunlight directly reaches the internal burial chamber. Words cannot describe Newgrange, but something about it speaks to the universality of humankind and their proclivity for building mounds. We were privileged because many people don't get to actually enter the burial chamber; apparently, we picked the right tour to take!

The bus took us back to Dublin and dropped us off at our hotel. Later, we regrouped and headed out to Grafton Street and St. Stephen's Green. "The Green" was a tranquil park in the midst of bustling Dublin. We hardly knew we were still in a major city.

Dinner was found at O'Neill's, and included things like roast beef, ham, and corned beef. It was, as usual, "real good."

Wandering around a bit more, we popped into The Palace. It was the recipient of the James Joyce award for being a truly authentic Irish pub. The sign inside the door, which read: "No hen parties, stag parties, or large groups allowed" seemed to bear out the Joyce award.

Back at our hotel and blogging away, we can't help but to watch Sky news and see how badly the flood damage continues to impact the land we just left. Two of the train lines, Stratford-upon-Avon, and our escape route along the A40 are now submerged. 350,000 people are without electricity and many are also without drinking water. We realize now how truly close we came to catastrophe as we crossed the river at Burford which was just beginning to cross the road as we fled. This is Britain's Katrina and we hope things turn out okay for our friends across the Irish sea.


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