Tonight is my last night in Ireland, where I have been bumming at my cousins’ house like the unemployed, freeloading student that I am during my school holidays. They’ve now fed and clothed me for four weeks, while all I’ve accomplished in the interval is overstaying my welcome. This comes as no surprise–my cousins are always the most gracious and wonderful hosts. Over the years, I have spent many moons under this roof, with or without other members of my family, and occasionally, even with friends in tow.
This time, my best friend from grad school came to visit. She was my first friend in Scotland; we met at the airport and, after bonding over the fact that we were both wearing cowboy boots, discovered that we a) are both from the Carolinas, b) study in the same masters program and c) live approximately fifty meters from one another. Despite notable differences, such as her vastly superior (read: any) level of athleticism and her love of camo, our friendship is founded on a solid base of tea and sarcasm, and we have been fairly inseparable since that day at the airport. That is, prior to her selfish return to her family for the holidays, during which period I had to send her and endless stream of needy text messages until she finally showed up in Ireland last week.
Since she had never been to Ireland, my cousins kicked into tour-director mode, dropping us off at various local monuments and driving us about the country so that my friend could cram in as much as possible. In the past few days, we have seen Trim Castle, Brú na Bóinne, the Cooley Mountains, Powerscourt Estate, Warrenpoint, the Hill of Slane, the Guinness Storehouse, a very foggy bog, the Hill of Tara, the Book of Kells, St. Stephen’s Green, Merrion Square, Marsh’s Library and a curious bit of road where cars appear to roll uphill. I even ran into an old friend in the crypt of Christchurch Cathedral.
This mummified cat and I first became acquainted when I was 3 or 4, upon at which point I apparently announced, “That… is… DISGUSTING!” We’ve been friends ever since. I try to pay him a visit each time I’m in Dublin. Despite doing many of the same tourist things over and over, I have yet to tire of them.
For instance, my last trip to Trim Castle, where parts of Braveheart were filmed, was completely different than this iteration. Five years ago, I was allowed to do this:
And also this:
Today, everything is roped off. Stupid health and safety violations.
However, our tour guide was much better this time. She colorfully explained the carefully-planned orientation of the steps, designed to foil intruders with a single soldier stationed up top. “If you were a right-handed intruder, you wouldn’t be able to swing your arm around the corner to defend yourself. The soldier at the top would just have to bring his sword down, and your head would probably come off in one blow, and then roll back downstairs into the kitchens, where they could maybe use it to make a pot of soup.”
We had a similarly excellent tour guide at Newgrange. Being January, there were only four of us on our tour. This left plenty of room for extra questions and fun facts you might not get in a larger group. After describing how the chamber was particularly suited for the resonance of male singing voices, Sinead the Tour Guide decided it would be a good idea to force the one male in our party to sing:
Sinead the Tour Guide: Go on with ye, sing!
Token Male: Uh…
StTG: Oh, don’t be shy! Here, we’ll turn off the lights so no one can look at you.
TM: No really, that’s ok.
Not to be deterred, StTG turns off the lights, and we are immersed in darkness.
StTG: Go on, just sing something!
StTG: Anything! Just sing a note!
StTG: Go on, you can do better than that. Just sing “um”
We stood awkwardly in the dark while Sinead the Tour Guide continued to bully the poor man in this manner for at least a minute before eventually giving up in exasperation.
I guess that’s classic Irish persistence for you… not taking no for an answer.
We’re off to Paris tomorrow. It’s a city I love dearly, but I will miss Ireland. French people are entertaining in their own, special way, but they are also significantly less fun than the Irish.
For funsies, here is a smattering of pictures from the past week: