UK March 2010: St. Patrick was not Expecting This

Monday some sites are closed in Dublin, but the enterprising young(ish) traveler can still eke out a decent day of site seeing. I started my day with more wandering, got lost, found a new dress, got on my way again. I walked across the city to Kilmainham Gaol (jail). It was one of the top things on my list to do and well worth the walk. The tour was great, we wandered through the cells and the yard, getting filled in on the history of the prison, the history of Ireland. The crux being the 1916 Easter Rising. The leaders of the rising (or rebellion, depending on your politics) where held and executed here. The popular thought is that the executions ended up helping the cause towards Irish Nationalism. The people felt torn and tired, but seeing the dead fighters, revived them into action again. Certainly this cause has had its ups and downs in Irish history, tied into waves of immigration and exodus, religious strife and resource allocation. Not that this battle is completely finished. I'm not going to Northern Ireland this trip, but still have been plagued with the torn history of the Ireland and the realization that the Good Friday Agreement partly worked out by Bill Clinton, was just not that long ago.

Needless to say, after all that, I needed a drink. Since I had lost track of time and things close early, I was running up against some limited choices. The Jameson Distillery turned out to be my next stop. Not the most exciting tour visually, but we had a nice guide, and that helped. I also was smart enough to know to volunteer at the beginning for the taste testing at the end of the tour. They lined up the scotch, Jamesons and Jack Daniels and I helped decide the winner. One guess which I picked. I know where my soda bread is buttered.

I then got out of there before I got into trouble. Not to strengthen any stereo types, but there does seem to be a bit of pressure to drink in Ireland and to do a fair amount of it while you are at it. I've been exiting gracefully with made up plans whenever possible. This day, I sort of had some. I went to the Irish Film Institute to check out the facilities and to see 'The Fading Light', a new Irish film that was playing there. Not the happiest of films, but anyone that has made the mistake of letting me pick out a movie to watch knows that besides my odd Will Ferrell obsession, most of what I gravitate to can be a downer. I finished with a nice, light dinner in the film institute's cafe and then my windy night time walk back to the hotel.

Tuesday and Wednesday I decide to tour some of the outskirts of the Dublin area. I'm drawn to crumbly ruins on my vacation trips. Tuesday I went to Glendalough in Wicklow county. This area is linked to what is known as Ireland's 'golden age', when Ireland was the seat of learning in Europe, partly due to the monastic settlements and the education they provided. Saint Kevin of Glendalough was supposed to have gotten this while thing going. After living in solitude for seven years, he came down from the cliff and started building the monastery. That's a lot of time to plan a community, even in those days. Glendalough translates to 'valley of two lakes' which kind of gives you a rough idea of the landscape. After touring the crumbling ruins. I walked the path built on the boggy land that borders the lower and upper lakes.

Then back to the tour bus. The tour started with a brief drive and history lesson about the land around us. When we stopped for coffee, the driver pulled out a bottle of whiskey and asked if I wanted a shot in my espresso. I said no, put my drink down for a second, and when I picked it up noticed it was twice as full and smelled like Jamesons. It was 10:30 in the morning. After that he stopped a car passing us and handed out shots to everyone in the car. Then answered his cell phone and read texts while driving a vehicle roughly the size of a Greyhound bus. All I'm saying is Ireland is a good place to rediscover your religion. One way or the other.

Wednesday was another tour day (originally this tour was supposed to be on Thursday, but I got bumped). This is the trip I was really looking forward to, to the ruins of Newgrange. There are a lot of these stone circle/tombs around this area, only some of them have been excavated. It is interesting to think about all the history still to be discovered. Newgrange is from the new stone age (neolithic to you smart ones out there) period. A site older than Stonehenge, older than the pyramids. Plundered like most of the sites. And carved into the stones, somewhat modern graffiti from the Victorian Era. You know 'Albert was here 1869'. Actually, kidding aside, that is not far from the truth. Apparently the need to put your name and date on things is not a new phenomenon. So kids, get out your spray point and just go. Someday, 150 years from now, others will be staring at it in wonder.

It should be noted that this was also St. Patrick's day. From slave to bishop to patron saint of Ireland, this man really had a life. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland; picking up the shamrock and comparing the three leaves to the holy trinity. The snakes he drove out of Ireland are thought to actually have been the druids and pagan ways. What he didn't manage to drive out of Ireland where hoards of 18 year old drunkards. Downtown Dublin, 3/17, can make you rethink wanting to lower the drinking age in America. I'm not sure we should let them join the military or vote either. I tripped over scores of them when I walked through the cobblestone streets of Grafton Street and Temple Bar near Trinity College. I did manage to randomly fine a nice, casual Indian restaurant. Ate my fill and packed up leftovers that will certainly last me through the end of tomorrow. Best six euros I ever spent.

Full and frazzled by the throngs of revelers, I headed home. I felt a tiny bit worried that I was not fully celebrating. I stopped into a random pub, had one pint of Guinness, chatted with the bartender and a six year old that was overly enjoying her new penny whistle. She was cute, her uh, talent, was annoying. But she needs to practice now. She will be able to legally drink in 12 years and will need to be able to manage to play after eight hours of solid drinking on that St. Patrick's Day.

My favorite thing about the hotel is tea and cookies on demand. I rushed home based on this benefit. In the room, I put down my bags, called for tea, ran the bath water and drank two cups while soaking in my Irish lavender bath salts.

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