I’ve been thinking a lot lately of Ireland.  It’s been almost six months since the plane brought me home from the country where I wanted to stay.  In honor of the fact that I can’t get it out of my head, and my boyfriend made the observation earlier that I tend to randomly bring up Ireland in everyday conversation, I’m posting some of my favorite pictures with thoughts on why I love them.

This may end up being a couple posts, because of how many pictures I love…oops.  So, without further ado, my favorite pictures from Dublin!

img_2463 Drinking my complimentary Guinness in the Gravity Bar, eyeing a 360 degree view of Dublin (if I could see through the crush of tourist bodies surrounding me), I was in awe of the sprawl of the city.  No big skyscrapers here…the tallest structures you’ll see are the cathedral steeples, a testament to the heavy religious furtitude of the Irish people.  At first, the sky was clear, the sun was shining and a late afternoon haze hung in the air.  In a matter of minutes, dark rain clouds drifted in from the Wicklow Mountains and a drizzle chased away the haze.  The sky turned dark and a rainbow appeared.  I watched it form; actually saw it arc towards the ground and post up like a sentry to the storm.  It lasted for twenty minutes or so, at one point becoming a faint double rainbow, and I managed to snap a few good pictures (though reflection from the glass was a problem).  What good fortune, to be sitting with that view at just the right time, to witness a stream of color over Dublin?

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Kilmainham Gaol was probably one of the high points of my trip.  My tour guide was informative, entertaining, and kind, and the stories he told of the Easter Uprising and the jailing and treatment of political prisoners have stayed with me.  My heart was wrenched and my anger at the political issues the Irish have faced and still face has grown into anguish.  In the main “thunder dome” of the jail beneath soaring sunroof ceilings, heavy black doors were sporadically open and closed shut for the tourists to wander.  You could look through the tiny peephole into any, but only a few you could walk in.  Of the hundreds of doors, I happened to look through the peephole of this one.  There, on the far wall beneath the miniscule window, was this drawing of Mary and child.  The room was empty but for it’s artwork.  I wonder who drew it.  Was he a mistreated, starving prisoner?  Was it a punk kid with an itch to make a mark on the world?  I don’t know, but it struck a cord, so I snapped a picture.

img_24632 I was really excited to take the bus to Drogheda (draw-head-uh).  According to my guidbooks, there was a single bus that ran to various ancient ruins surrounding the town, and it was going to be a day full of broken stone, overgrown grass, and trees pushing through disappearing floors of ancient abbeys.  Alas, it was not to be.  The one big letdown of my trip was taking the bus from Dublin to Drogheda on a lovely, bright Sunday morning to find the Tourist information office closed–the purchase and rendezvous point of the bus route.  Thus, I did not see a single thing outside city limits that I had planned on seeing.  No Hill of Tara, ancient seat of the Irish kings.  No Mellifont Abbey or Monasterboice Monastery ruins.  Don’t get me wrong, Drogheda was the epitomal Irish town, and I did get to see the sights in town, like this ruined abbey tower, offset by the gorgeous turqouise sky, only available in Ireland.

img_24633It may be a little dark (I SHUN the use of the flash) but this picture came out wonderfully, considering I’d had three glasses of cider prior to the taking.  That gaggle of people on instruments was a bunch of locals, previously unknown to each other but for three of them, coming together to make traditional Irish music.  To the tune of Whiskey in the Jar and The Wild Rover, I sat and clapped, swaying in my seat to the strains of music like I’d never heard.  You can’t find good, live, REAL Irish music in America.  We can fake Irish pubs and fake Irish food, but when it comes right down to it, the real thing is infinitely finer.  As I sat back in my seat and showed off the picture to my companion, he was the one to point out the fact that I managed to capture the name of the bar above them, on the beam of the ceiling.  I have fond memories of The Oliver St. John-Gogarty pub.  When I return to Ireland, I will be making a stop there for another one of those ass kicking Ciders.

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The road through Wicklow is fearless.  There are no guardrails, no stop lights or signs.  It winds up and down mountains and valleys, stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see, never ceasing, always going.  The mountains are a sea of maroon colored heather, and I felt a pang I wouldn’t be around for the heather to turn the vibrant purple it’s so known for.  It’s a calm landscape, and even on a hazy, misty, rainy day, I was taken by the magnificence of the first mountain range in Ireland I experienced.  Farm after farm rolled by our little minibus, dotted with sheep and cows and the occasional chicken.  Our driver handled the road like it’d been made for him, and I let myself get lost in visions of owning one of the many cottages, chimney smoke swirling into the cloudy sky.

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To the right is Guinness Lake.  Yes, Guinness Lake.  On the right banks of the lake sprawl the “palace” and home of the Guinness dynasty, complete with mini forest of deer and goats and an 18-hole golf course.  Arthur Guinness’ great-grandchildren (I suppose) are the current owners, and the spot was chosen back in Artie’s heyday specifically because the lake is a dark, dark brown similar to the color of his multi-billion dollar brew.  Behind this, the left bank of the lake, you can see the Wicklow mts spreading, three peaks one right after the other.  I just loved this view, and the color of the lake!

img_24636 The dilapidated tombstones and fully intact Round Tower of the monastery of Glendalough (glen-duh-lock).  If memory serves, it is the ONLY fully intact Round Tower in the  country, most of them missing the very important conical roof.  One vocal inflection I did pick up on my travels is the Irish way of saying monastery or cemetary.  Where I put the emphasis on the -ery or -ary, the Irish (and English) say monis-tree, cemi-tree.  While I still say both the good ole Yankee way, in my head, I’m intoning it the Irish way.  Don’t ask.  Glendalough is nestled deep in the Wicklow Mountains, with a ruined chapel and the remains of monk’s quarters.  There are many tombstones, so decayed with time that deciphering the deceased’s name is impossible, but there are burials there as new as the 1940s–family of those buried there before.  I took a pretty lake walk around the land when I was done perusing the gravestones.  Walking the ground of a consecrated place like Glendalough is an experience I think everyone should have once.  It’s not like the cemetaries or churches of the States, dated back only a hundred years and tread only by posers and hopefuls.  Monasteries, especially Glendalough dated as far back as 900 AD, were lovingly crafted and maintained by the most devout of religious men.  They may not have shared my beliefs, but they shared a fervor and love for their god that matches that of my love for the goddess and her consort.  You can feel the ground hum beneath your feet, hear the years screaming at you from the crumbling stone of the chapel, and imagine the final siege that brought down this monastery and many others during the terror of Cromwell.  The beauty of history…that’s what Ireland does best.