Thursday, April 18, 2013

really, really old rocks

           Today we took a bus tour to Newgrange and Tara. It was nice to leave the driving to someone else (thought more than a couple of times I wanted to tell the driver he was in the wrong lane; but I stifled myself).

            One bit of trivia we learned from our tour director/owner/one-woman show, was that just this year the Irish have to pay property tax. Never having had to pay such before, the European Union demanded they do this to help pay back their debt. She was not a happy camper.  She also seemed pretty disgusted upon learning that Margaret Thatcher had made the comment to one of her appointees to Ireland, “You can’t trust the Irish; they are all liers” -  (  - and one of her grandmothers was Irish!

            Well … 15 of us headed off to the ancient (5K years old) Neolithic Ritual Center and Passage Tomb north of Dublin, called Newgrange. This is an architectural and astronomical wonder. Like the pyramids, HUGE stones were brought here from far away by people who didn’t yet know the wheel. Their life span was less than 30 years, so several generations devoted themselves to building this massive structure. 

              Like the pyramids, there is a narrow opening that takes you to the center where some sort of rituals were performed and “some” bones placed there. We walked the passageway which was quite narrow and then opened up into a “room.” Four days a year, at the winter solstice, the edifice is strategically situated and positioned to let the sunlight in which shoots right to the center (here’s a video: 

Entryway. Note the engraved stone
in the foreground from 3000 BC

Newgrange Burial mound/passage

But… this (and its nearby sibling mounds) pre-dates Stonhenge by 500 years,  the pyramids by 1,000 years, and the Mayan astrological calendars by 3,000 years. Those clever Irish… who knew? And… you know those “celtic” spirals… they are everywhere here carved on stone, and they predate the celts! (Here’s some more detail:

Nothing like soup on a cold, rainy
blustery day!
They grow heather as hedges here.

            Next, we followed the River Boyne – saw where some history changing battle took place (1690) – and finally arrived at the hill at Tara, where 142 ancient Irish High Kings were crowned – evidence it also goes back 5,000 years (  

            I couldn’t help but remember Scarlett O’Hara’s Irish father naming his plantation “Tara” – probably because of the sense of power and perpetuity that is present here.

As our guide told us, “Winter or summer, the weather is never nice there!” The wind was ferocious, with fits of showers. It’s a gorgeous vantage point, and looks kind of like a challenging golf course! The Mother Church, not to be outdone, erected her own chapel and statue of St. Patrick, and graveyard. Not far away in the Village of Slane, St. Patrick lighted the Paschal Fire.

Guess Who?

No not the 19th hole - it's Tara,
home of the high kings of Ireland

Just cuz...

The loyal opposition;
the Catholic church presence at Tara:
St. Patrick's.

Tonight I got to taste something I’ve only read about: Sticky Toffee Pudding. Suffice to say, it was winter comfort food at its best.

(Taste bud change alert: I am now officially craving tea with milk, which suddenly seems much more satisfying than bitter coffee. I had it 4 times today, with 2-3 cups each time.  Brian said I was humming “Danny Boy” in my sleep. I may be slipping over the edge, and it’s only day 2 in Ireland.)

my 1st sticky toffee pudding - ummmm

1st of many; you were right Vava,
it IS a chocolate smoothie!

Perhaps some of you were unable to sleep, knowing of my hunger dilemma when last I wrote. Would Pamela waste away before sunup?  

I am happy to write that all reports of a superior breakfast served here are entirely accurate! Several large selections were offered but we chose a full Irish breakfast (tomato, 2 links sausage, 2 slices ham, 2 friend eggs, black pudding 

And yes… I loved the black pudding!

Take the &^%$# picture; I'm freezing!

Tomorrow we are off to the Guinness factory and to see the Book of Kells! 

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