Yes that’s right. Dublin.
If you recall (back when I was posting about real stuff) I wrote about a quick stop in Boston where I got to check out a lot of the places important to America’s whole Colonial Era mythology. The reason for this quick stop was actually a layover because I was on my way to Dublin, the land of my forebears (sort of), to visit my sister and college roommate.
So. After a fun and eventful day in Boston, seeing all the sites with other college roommate, eating the famous cannolis from that famous place from that famous movie (Mike’s?), I hopped a cab back to the airport for my 10 pm flight ex patria.
First off, the security for this international flight was super easy. I got to keep my shoes, belt, and jacket on, and leave my laptop in my bag. Nice!
All the Aer Lingus employees had Irish accents, from the lady at the check-in counter who printed my ticket to the flight attendants to the pilot. This gave me secret thrills and tittilations. (“Ooh! Irish accent!”)
The flight itself was unremarkable. I sat next to this nice couple from … somewhere, who were on their way to Parish via a 36 hour layover in Ireland. For some reason, when I scheduled the flight, I saw that it left about 10pm my time and arrived at about 8:30am Irish time and I recall thinking, “Ooh, full night’s sleep!” …. Right. I probably only got about 2 hours of sleep total. A couple of times I got up to walk the aisles and got to see what movies everyone was watching. Two separate people (both middle aged white men, btw) were watching Monuments Men. I thought about engaging them in conversation but wasn’t sure if their seat partners would be okay with that.
The other thing about the flight were the babies. The babies were relatively well behaved for something like this, but I was entranced by how they traveled. The front rows had shelves in front of them with, basically, padded boxes that were strapped to the walls. I’ve seen people do stranger things with babies and boxes but I thought that was somewhere between hilarious and cool.
This flight was sponsored by Aer Lingus, Irish if I ever heard it, and their in-flight menu was commensurate. For my entree, I chose the airplane food version of shepherd’s pie, and there was a roll with Irish butter, and they served coffee AND tea. I felt like a little bit of a heathen choosing coffee, honestly, but for an American, I’m kind of a tea snob and I wasn’t sure how mass-produced tea would taste.
I type this as – truefacts – I sip my Twinings English Breakfast Tea. Yum.
My college roommate met me at the airport and took me back to her place at Trinity College to drop my stuff off. We went to a coffeeshop, Fixx Coffeehouse, where I got some coffee and the Irish version of a bagel, which was actually more like an obese croissant. It’s cute how they try. Then we wandered back to Trinity and sat on a nice bench and watched an intramural game of cricket while we caught up on life and who got married and who had kids and who is still together, against all predictions.
Then it was time to meet my sister. Sister took me on the train to south of Dublin to this nice coastal town called Bray. Random note: you’re allowed to eat on the Irish trains. As eating on a train in DC is cause for a monetary penalty, I felt weird and dirty eating my lunch on the train. Back to Bray. Bray is a cute coastal town in County Wicklow, apparently rather expensive, that has a really nice beach walk and is overlooked on the south side by Bray Head, a hill topped by a stone cross. Reading it’s wiki page, the town has existed since the land was ruled by chieftains, and it is said that Oliver Cromwell himself stayed in the town. Interesting to think that this little town of about 31k people (the 9th largest urban area in Ireland) and a mere 12 miles south of Dublin proper, goes back that far. I mean, Oliver Cromwell was only responsible for shaping much of modern Europe and, by extension, the western world. In America, we get excited if things are over 100 years old. (Especially people). We sat and people watched for a little bit and got ice cream (well, I ate some of Sister’s) and then Sister’s friend Mia came to pick us up and drive us even further south to Glendalough and Wicklow National Park.
Holy amazeballs, this place was gorgeous.
First was the Glendalough monastic city, which dates to the 6th century and was founded by St. Kevin (or Caoimhín). More on him later. All the signs are bilingual, which was interesting. I studied some Irish in college but that was long enough ago that I don’t remember much. I can say “Thank you” and “I am tired” and I can still hear the substitute teacher jumping down our throats for not pronouncing the accented vowels correctly. Anyway, the monastic city was kind of interesting because it’s a whole collection of ruinous buildings. One of the highlights was the round tower, a stone edifice with unknown purposes but in which people used to reside, if the beginning of Ulysses is to be trusted. More on that later as well. There was also St. Kevin’s Cross, a giant stone cross. According to legend or folklore, if you can wrap your arms all the way around the cross and have your fingers touch on the other side, you’ll either get all your wishes granted or you’ll go to heaven. My sister has a freakishly large wingspan so she’ll be going to heaven, but we knew that anyway. I am not so lucky.
There were some trails around the valley which went past the lakes, more St. Kevin sites, and some really beautiful scenery. I am not sure if these sights are part of the national park or not.
This culminated in a waterfall by St. Kevin’s Bed, which we accessed by climbing up a steep mountain. This part of the land is comparable to Narnia, I think, just because you could feel the power of nature. The Shire, on the other hand, is a little too cultivated to be an appropriate comparison.
Nearby was St. Kevin’s Bed, which was marked with a small statue and a plaque by Seamus Heaney, an excerpt from his poem. According to legend, St. Kevin, a hermit hanging out in Glendalough, had his hands lifted in supplication, asking the Lord to let him do something wonderful with his life. And while he stood as such, a blackbird came and built a nest in his outstretched hand and laid an egg. Well, St. Kevin kept his hand outstretched through all types of weather, waiting for the egg to hatch, and when it had hatched and the baby blackbird fledged and flown away, St. Kevin finally lowered his arm and went home and asked no more of God, who apparently thought hatching a blackbird was a great enough thing to do with his life.
Further proof that God has a sense of humor. As if the platypus wasn’t enough.
After trompsing through some picturesque scenery, Sister’s friend Mia drove us through the park itself with some stops along the way. Or maybe the stops were part of the park? Yay geography. One stop was the top of a waterfalls. It might be the source of the falls in Glendalough. This stop was very picturesque, although the road was a little worrisome. Mia assured us this was a main road and not to worry. Um… okay.
Note: This is a main road.
Through some more fantastic scenery around mountains, we stopped at the Guinness Lake. I am not sure what the lake’s real name is, but it looks like a pint of Guinness and is on land owned by the Guinness family, so it has been nicknamed the Guinness lake. Interestingly, there were several huts built down on the shoreline, which are used in exterior shots of the show Vikings. Interior shots are filmed in a nearby village. That was pretty cool. We couldn’t get very close to the huts, but we could see a trailer and a cherry-picker crane that probably had a camera attached to it.
As we continued driving through the park, the scenery kept changing. There were some rough, craggy mountains that reminded me of that Ettinsmoor scenes in the original adaptation of The Silver Chair, while on the other side of the road were the Irish version of a thick pine tree forest, and around the next bend, for the road was very bendy, the land leveled out into old peat bogs as if it had always been like that. There were some signs that said “No Dumping” and we weren’t sure what that meant. Mia said (I think) that sometimes people came and dumped their trash here instead of paying the fee for the trash removal people. She also said that it wasn’t unusual for mummified bodies to turn up in the peat bogs. That led us to surmise that “No Dumping” actually meant “No Dumping Bodies” but they couldn’t say bodies because they didn’t want to give anyone ideas. It didn’t help that the sky was overcast and there was no one else on the road. I wondered what happened if someone got stranded there – like their car broke down. I bet phone service was terrible, and it was miles until civilization (or it seemed like that.) Maybe that’s where the bog bodies came from.
We stopped at Mia’s house for a quick pit stop. The view from her front door are the mountains of Co. Wicklow. Nice. Then she drove us to the nearest train station, which was Greystones, I think. We grabbed some fish n’ chips from a chipper by the station and ate the hot, greasy mess on the train back. I made it back to Trinity College where I was staying and probably went straight to bed. Or spent the next hour on Youtube.
And that was only day 1. Stay tuned for the rest of it plus reflection but I’m tired of typing now. I’ve sort of taken a hiatus from blogging and I need to get back into the groove of things. And I don’t want to create a post that’s too long or has too many pictures. I know I could look at these pictures all day, but you might get bored.
The last picture I will include is from Glendalough. We spent many a minute trying to figure out what it meant: