Today was spent in the car for the vast majority of the time. We literally drove from one side of the country to the other. And we learned that our GPS likes to take backroads instead of the motorway, much to my chagrin! We left Lisdoonvarna and didn’t stop until Navan, which was 20 minutes from our destination, just north of Dublin. We saw a McDonald’s and decided that we hadn’t had fast food this whole trip, so why not?!?!
Then we made our way to Newgrange, which is a Neolithic passage tomb in the Boyne Valley (called the Bru na Boinne). I have wanted to go to this area (as well as the Hill of Tara, but we ended up missing that today) since I first came to Ireland in 2012. I was actually set to do a tour of it on my 39th birthday, but I may or may not have overindulged the night before and didn’t really feel up to it!
It was amazing. First, the countryside is just beautiful (what’s new?). But the passage tomb is enormous. It was built 5000 years ago! That is older than both the pyramids and Stonehenge. It is just absolutely mind-blowing that people built that thing 5000 years ago. They brought big rocks from 15kms away, which they decided would have taken 80 people 4 days to move ONE stone. And those large stones encircle the tomb. And that’s not to mention the granite stones that were 30-some kms away and the quartz that was 80 kms away!
Inside is even more awe-inspiring. The architecture is incredible. To stand inside something that hasn’t been touched in 5000 years is unbelievable. Inside the chamber the walls and passageway have been reinforced, but the main chamber ceiling and capstone haven’t been touched. So amazing. The unique thing about this tomb is that at sunrise on the Winter Solstice, the sun shines through a “roof box” or basically a transom window, above the main entrance. For 17 minutes as the sun is rising, it perfectly lines up with the passage and the chamber. This was a major spiritual ritual for the people who built it. Two other passage tombs in the area (Knowth and Dowth) have similar qualities.
As we stood inside the chamber, the tour guide turned off the lights and turned on a demonstration of what it looks like on Winter Solstice. It gave me goosebumps! It’s hard to wrap my brain around early Iron Age people being able to create a structure like that and have it so perfectly aligned with sunrise on a specific day (well, 6 days, actually…3 before and 2 after). You can put your name in a lottery to be inside on Winter Solstice to see it happen live. Last year there were 30,000 entries!
The passage tomb was surprisingly not used for very long, considering they think it had to have taken at least 50 years to build…when life expectancies was 25 years. They think it was used for only a short-ish period of time. I thought our tour guide said 100-200 years, but for sure it was in disrepair and decay 1000 years after it was built. It eroded and rocks fell off, which allowed it to actually remain largely intact. It sat, buried, for nearly 3500 years, until the 1690’s when the landowner tried to unearth all of the rocks to build a road. When he located the main entrance, he stopped and the site was opened up. But he just opened it for anyone at anytime, which is how it sat for 200 years. So there is graffiti inside (carved into the stone) and no one knows what may have been removed. The Irish government then took it over about 100 years ago, but the main excavation occurred in the 1960-70’s. It Is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.
After Newgrange we made our way back to Dublin and to our hotel near the airport. After relaxing for a bit we went to a nearby Italian restaurant (where I had the pizza, which was a mere step up from frozen pizza…). After that we needed to get gas and candy. Bringing candy home is sort of a tradition. So I knew there was a Tesco about a mile away and we made our way to it. We couldn’t find it, because it was, apparently, in a mall that was closed. Wah Wah. So we got gas and I made a new friend! I went in to pay and he asked me how I was. I said good, but then said, actually I’m sad. He asked why I was sad and I told him because I have to go home tomorrow. He said, so you liked it here, then? I said, yes this was my third trip. He said, “Jaysus, you really do love it here!” He informed me that Ireland is the world’s third smallest country! I told him we had been here for 10 days and he said that wasn’t enough, but that he wouldn’t be able to get anywhere in America in 10 days! (Hence the third smallest country.) As I left he said, well, maybe I will see you again someday!
We decided to try our hand at Lidl, which was an epic fail. No candy AND no Bulmer’s. So I got blackcurrant jam and breakfast for tomorrow. Then we went back to the gas station to see if they haed candy and/or Bulmer’s. They had candy and my new friend told me where there was an open Tesco that would sell Bulmer’s. He also informed me that my Magner’s in the states is made from different products and not the Irish products. Interesting! Through our convo a guy was waiting to checkout and he happened to be a guy who was in line ahead of me at Lidl. We actually walked into the gas station at the same time and I go, “fancy meeting you here!” He laughed.
I was purchasing many small Diary Milk bars in various flavors for gifts and both my employee-friend and a customer in line behind me commented that I hadn’t gotten the mint Dairy Milk. I said I had never had it and they both highly recommended it. So I threw one in in the pile, saying that the Fruit and Nut are my favorite. The other customer said I might change my mind! She then started talking to Jaime about other candy!
We then made our way, or attempted to make our way, to the Tesco that my new friend told me about. Let’s just say we were a bit punchy and we kept missing turns, bear rights, and roundabouts. And yes, I say “we” because my navigator was as confused and laughing so hard she was crying half the time! It didn’t help matters that a Garda (police) came up behind me with its lights on. There was a bus lane to my left and one lane going my direction….the lane I was in. So I immediately pulled over and stopped to the right. But the Garda did the same thing. Pulled behind me. What? Then it honked and I realized I had pulled over to the wrong side of the road. In Ireland, I should’ve pulled over to the left. But there was another lane there. Whatever. He could’ve also gone around me to my left, but he didn’t want to do that. He turned its sirens on then. Dude, sirens won’t help. I thought I was pulling over correctly!
We finally found Tesco and as we went upstairs in this gigantic mall, it appeared to be closed. Um, what? My friend said it was open until 1am. There was a Tesco extra that had its gates down and that’s what we thought was closed. Then I saw a gentleman nearby and I asked him was it closed? He said, I hope not, I have to go there, too. And he was surprised to see the gate down. So I said, Tesco extra…is that something different than Tesco? I really oughta know better by now than to ask Irish people something like that. His response? “Yes, it’s extra!” We later saw him in the store and were like, we made it! He goes, we have to stop running into each other like this!
I found my suitcase Bulmer’s (it all goes in my suitcase and all of my shoes go into my carryon). Speaking of shoes, there were wine-colored ballet flats that I could not resist. Even though they technically didn’t have my size. I went a size up. BFD. I have recently purchased some wine/burgundy items and so I had to have those shoes! Anyway, I intended to get the Pear, Berry, and Strawberry Lime Bulmer’s, but saw that there was also a Cloudy Lemon and they were 4 for 10 euro. Done.
We made it back to the hotel in one piece and did some repacking. Now it’s time to sleep. I’m glad we stayed busy tonight because I haven’t even cried yet. Which would be a first! (Also, taking applications for travel partners for Ireland 2018…St. Patrick’s Day!)