Ireland - Last Day

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm sitting in Dublin airport waiting to get on the plane to Newark. The week flew by and I am so looking forward to getting home and giving the kids and Greg a big hug.

Older than the Pyramids
Mom and I left Kilkenny early yesterday morning and drove up to Brú na Bóinne (about 25 miles North of Dublin). Brú na Bóinne is stone age archaeological site which includes 3 large burial mounds and many smaller ones. The most famous mound is Newgrange, and it is older than the pyramids. It was amazing!! It's a large, grass roofed mound with a stone foundation. Apparently, each of the many enormous stones was carried from the Wicklow mountains (about 75 km away). And this was at a time before the invention of the wheel! There are many theories, but no one knows for sure why these mounds were built. Newgrange has one narrow passage into the center, where on the Winter Solstice the rising sun lines up with a window above the tunnel and illuminates the inner chamber (real Indiana Jones stuff!). The people who built this monument must have been very technologically advanced to have done all the calculations and engineering necessary to achieve this. Newgrange is built from loose stone (no mortar) piled in a circle. Inside, the stones are placed closer and closer to the middle as you move up the wall, until they come together overhead and form the ceiling. As our guide said while we were squeezed into the tiny chamber, there was over 500,000 pounds of loose stone over our head. He then turned out the lights, throwing the chamber into complete darkness. The rising sun was simulated by turning on two light bulbs in the passage - a poor imitation of the real thing but it was still awe-inspiring. Before leaving, Mom and I both entered the Newgrange lottery. They pick 100 people to visit the site over 5 days on and surrounding the Winter Solstice. You are brought into the chamber at the correct time (about 9 AM) and able to witness the real thing. That is, if it isn't foggy out which, according to our guide, is a 50/50 chance. There were 34,000+ entries at the time we submitted ours so our chances are slim to none but you never know!

Malahide Harbor and the Irish Sea
We left Newgrange and drove to Malahide, a seaside town right above Dublin with a very pretty castle (from the outside - we were kind of castled out so we didn't do the tour). I read there were some nice restaurants there, but I don't think the town has really opened for the season yet. We had trouble finding someplace and ended up having a so-so meal at the Grand Hotel (we did have a nice view of Malahide harbor opening to the Irish Sea while we ate).

After dinner we left Malahide. The Dublin traffic (even on the outskirts) was pretty hair-raising so after a few wrong turns, and a few panic attacks on Mom's side, we were able to fill the car with gas and return it. There's been a lot of recent road construction around Dublin Airport making it especially interesting to try to get into 'car hire' by GPS. Anyway, our mission was successful and we caught a shuttle back to our hotel - The Days Hotel Dublin Airport. Nothing special there, I picked it because it has a free shuttle back and forth to Dublin Airport. It was comfortable, but every time one of us turned on the bathroom light, the bathroom fan also turned on, and our room filled with cigarette smoke - yuck!

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