Kurt and I arrived safely and on time in Dublin this morning at 6:55 a.m., and dear brother Paul was waiting for us at the airport exit (my wonderful sister-in-law, Theresa, being occupied in Dublin completing some coursework for her Master’s in Non-Profit Management). Paul whisked us out of Dublin, amazing us with his skillful driving (they drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road here, remember), and his almost encyclopedic grasp of Irish culture and history. I know I’m a little prejudiced, but my brother is one of the most intelligent people I know (this is someone you don’t want to challenge to a game of Trivial Pursuit), and what’s great is that he’s very humble about displaying his knowledge. Driving around the Boyne Valley with him today was like having the best tour guide ever. We went to Paul and Theresa’s charming and spacious cottage between the villages of Mullagh and Moynalty, had a quick breakfast and wash-up, and hit the road. We had a very productive first day on the Emerald Isle, as you will see – here are some of the things we did in just a few hours.
After our brief walk, we went to view Dowdstown House (http://www.dowdstownhouse.com), a counseling and retreat center. Paul has been trained as a volunteer bereavement counselor, and Dowdstown House is where he will be doing his bereavement work.
Next we went to The Hill of Tara, an important stretch of grassy landscape in the Boyne River valley (north of Dublin and on the way home from the airport to Paul and Theresa’s place in the country near the village of Mullagh). It has played a central role in the history, legend, and folklore of Ireland, and is the home of important stone and earth works from the Stone Age, Iron Age, Roman times and the rule of the Celtic kings. When my mom and I were here over ten years ago for Paul and Theresa’s wedding, we were unable to see Tara because there was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth-disease at that time, and many of the ancient sites that are in rural areas (of which there are many) were closed to tourists, as such sites are often home to livestock which might be susceptible to infection.
And since this would not be a blog written by myself without its share of food writing and photos, here is a picture of my lunch at the cafe near Tara – I remembered both the cafe and the soup and bread I had today from my last trip to Ireland with my mom over 10 years ago – yes, that’s the kind of thing I remember!
After our lunch at Tara, we drove to Bective Abbey, a fine example of Cistercian architecture founded in 1147, and totally rebuilt a century later.
We drove through beautiful bucolic countryside on our way around the Boyne Valley – lovely cottages such as the one below, as well as amazing ancient stone fences both with mortar and ‘dry fences’ created very skillfully with no mortar.
After Bective Abbey, we went into Navan, a nearby town, on a search for a fan – Ireland is in the midst of a veritable heat wave, and Paul feared we might not be able to sleep without one. Fan found and in hand, we went home and crashed.