Friday, May 30, 2008

Ireland Photos,Day Three-Slane, Newgrange, Tara

My Cousin's Shop, Newtown


Newgrange Entrance

Newgrange from the Hill

At the Entry Stone- the Light Shaft is visible above our heads.
On the December Solstice, the whole inner chamber is lit.

Tara- memorial to all who fought for Irish independence.

Tara-Mound of the Hostages

Tara-Saint Patrick

Day Two-Bray, Wicklow, Navan

Day Two, in Bray. We got up for a huge Irish breakfast, buffet style. After checkout, the boys decided we must hike up Bray Head. The first bit is paved but it quickly gives way to rough trail, parts gravelled, parts not. The trail goes on quite some way into County Wicklow; Ireland is chock-full of hiking trails. It was steep and demanded several inhaler puffs, but it set the pace of our vacation- lots and lots of hiking.
The top of the hill afforded a great view of the bay, of the Wicklow mountains in the west and of Dublin shining in the north. Bren hiked a bit further over on an adjoining peak, but Dan and I rested at the concrete cross set atop the hill. We hiked down and they had a coffee break on the beach before we hopped back into the car for Wicklow. We headed to Glendaloch, site of an ancient monastery founded by St. Kevin. The architectural details of the old church and the Celtic crosses on the burial grounds made for some great photos, with all the spring flowers in bloom. We walked around the cemetary and the monastery grounds for quite a while, and then we headed up the trail to the lake. The trail goes on for several miles, but we just hiked a short section. We hopped back in the car and drove thru the Wicklow Gap, now also known as The Braveheart Trail, because the movie was filmed in this area. It's funny how driving through the gap, you can recognize the scenery and picture Mel Gibson running on the peaks. I would have liked to visit Avoca weavers and Ballykissangel but you can't do it all.
We drove back up thru Dublin and headed out to Navan, the capitol of county Meath ("Royal Meath" as Nana would say) and home of my family. The B&B I had stayed at had just let it last room, but the landlady found us another B&B within walking distance of town. (I have no night vision & cannot drive well at night, so we either stay at a hotel with a restaurant OR a B&B in walking distance of dinner.) On the way down the hill, it was Bren's turn for a meltdown- he insisted we eat in the pub near the B&B, so we settled for bar food. Then we hiked downtown only to discover that the restaurant Kate and I had loved on a previous visit was not only still open, but had won numerous awards- so much for bar food! (The Loft- if you visit Navan, eat there!) We hit up the ATM and got out euros. We found the house Nana was born in in Corn Market and took the obligatory photos of ourselves there. The tanning salon is gone, and it is now a safety planning office. The blacksmith shop where Uncle Gus plied his trade shoeing horses and making ornate iron grave crosses (see his work in Athlumney and St Mary cemetaries) is gone. Last time we were there, it had been made into a dance club specializing in Beatles music. It was town down and rebuilt with apartments above and shops below. the cobblestone street is still there and the little tunnel leading into the marketplace is the same. Someone had spraypainted IRA in green on the wall, so the boys posed happily for that as well! The old post office is not a McDonald's- quite an interesting location. More public art has been placed in the area, including an interesting Neptune sculpture, and more apartment buildings and upscale housing developments built. A hiking and bike trail is now there right on the Boyne, and a little riverfront park. It's a town that's definitely conducive to walking, with lots of shops. The walk back to the B&B was pleasant.
We had a comfortable room, and Bren had never had a B&B experience before. Dan could not get his circadian clock regulated and was awake from 4 am with back pains- we nearly stepped on him since he lay flat on the floor to get comfortable. Someone called Bren on his cell phone in the middle of the night. It's not easy to get adjusted to multiple time zone changes, but it must be easier to do so on vacation than on business.

Ireland Photos- Day Two

Bray Beach from Bray Head
Bren Climbs on the Hill

Glendaloch- Stones



Saint Kevin's

Boyne Riverside-Navan

The Curtis House- Navan

The Old Post Office-Navan

Navan-Public Art

Ireland Day One

Trinity College

The Guinness Storehouse-St. James Gate
Starting the Brew

Bray Beach

How I Spent My Well-Deserved Vacation- Ireland Day One

We started from Logan and got to Dublin airport in the early morning and got our rental car. We drove down thru some of Dublin's toughest areas and the boys begged me to stop and taker a picture of them in front of a huge, dilapidated apartment project (NO). We decided to park in a garage for the day and hoof it in the town- wise choice. We found a diner next to the Liffey that offered breakfast, so Bren got his first taste of Full Irish breakfast- eggs, sausage, white and black puddings, bacon and tons of toast and tea.
We did the National Museum and saw the Bog Man display and the ancient Celtic antiquities. The gold and the intricate designs are mind-boggling stuff. Considering how little comfort these neolithic peoples had in their lives, they still manage to devote themselves to art and craftsmanship that are not quite equalled today. We walked over to the Guinness storehouse for the tour. Bren got picked to push the red button and start a new batch of brew.
He got to taste a fresh brew that wasn't fully fermented yet, and loved it, though he had never liked Guinness before. We headed up to the SkyBar and met Chiquita Banana on the way- apparently some group had rented a room for a costume party. The SkyBar was busy on a sunny Dublin day, and Bren got busy enjoying his and Dan's complimentary Guinness. Unfortunately, the effects of being up 40 hours straight hit Dan, so we headed out. I decided to head for Bray, to a hotel I had been to once before & could find easily. We crawled thru the rush-hour traffic, down thru DunLaoghaire and finally reached Bray. After a good meal in their restaurant, he perked up a bit, so we took a nice walk on the beach up to Bray Head and back. Poor Dan was out the second he hit the pillow, but Bren wandered about for a smoke and I managed to blow the fuse with my plugs. Easily fixed, and we downloaded pics on the laptop before bed.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Where My Heart Is

Judging from the dearth of posts this past winter, it's easy to see that it's been a tough year on my family. Illness, deaths, overwork and stress were the theme. A woman I worked with the other day said "it doesn't seem like it's May!" "That's because your heat is still on," I growled.
My lawn is half-dead from the street salt the plows pushed up. My beautiful purple-and-white themed tulip display yielded 3 purple tulips- all those (expensive) beauties lost to scavenging (starving) rodents (squirrels AND skunks). Yet spring is finally here- the forsythia and quince in riot, the lilac ready to bloom this weekend, the upper lawn a riot of violets. The Lily-of-the Valley is finally poking shyly up by the bricks. It's finally warm enough to open a few windows.
Work is quieting down- everyone who was on leave is back, so I am needed less. The scheduler suggested I take a vacation, and I thought about a nice long weekend with Ros in Montreal. THEN-I dreamed about Ireland.
Dreaming about Ireland is a dangerous thing. It puts a longing in the heart that throbs like a toothache. So I called Pharmacy Son, who was so entrenched in exams he couldn't think about it. On the weekend, he called, and he was ready to talk trip. Kate can't go, and neither can #1 son. But I thought we should invite the Middle Child, and Dan convinced him to rush thru the passport process. Bren has never been, has always wanted to go, and is so excited. I wish we were all going, but 3 out of 5 isn't bad. I so badly need some rest and relaxation; eight days in a compact car on a narrow road with two hulking giants arguing over maps and music may not be THE most restful idea. But Ireland is where I recharge the batteries of my soul, and I am so grateful that all the ducks lined up for me right now. I am already on Ireland mode; easily distracted and constantly humming. I swear the kitties know something is up, they follow me everywhere. I've started putting together lists and items I want to bring.
May is the perfect time to visit Ireland; it's warm, the baby lambs are frolicking everywhere, it's not high season yet so the traffic and touristy spots are bearable. We have yet to pencil out an itinerary; Bren wants to see Navan, and Newgrange of course, and Dan wants to take him to the Guinness storehouse. That's a day and a half itinerary, the rest is up for grabs. We are vacationers who don't need much more than a map and an imagination. We always find a place to stay, and we always have adventures.
So- here's to a well-deserved vacation! More to follow, of course...:)
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