31.8.11

Impressions of Ireland


"If you could drink dreams like the Irish streams
Then the world would be high as the mountain of morn


In the Pool they told us the story

How the English divided the land..."

- John Lennon, "The Luck of the Irish" (song)

It was our first trip to Ireland; our first time to experience a land that is half of Chris’ heritage. With a name like “McCoy,” it is impossible to live in Europe without a trip to Ireland! The trip was fairly last minute, so we had little time to plan or research; basically we just threw clothes into a suitcase and headed to the Budapest airport. Chris’ company has it’s European headquarters in Dunboyne, Ireland and Stamford, England, and both locations were in our 11-day-itinerary.
I was in a sundress and Chris in a light polo and shorts when we disembarked the plane in Ireland. From that point on, we were cold. Serbia had been about 30 degrees Celsius (86 Degrees Ferenheit) and in a matter of 4 hours, the temperature had gone from shorts-weather to coats-and-scarves-weather. So much for the three pairs of shorts that I had packed!
The driver dropped us off at Dunboyne Castle Hotel and Spa in the quaint city of Dunboyne, Ireland. Even these pictures of the castle do not do it justice!
This is the entrance to Dunboyne Castle Hotel and Spa.
Almost every evening there was some sort of event going on here. From weddings, to prom, to soccer conventions. People from all over the country pick this place for the magnificent scenery and outstanding service.

There were loads of walking trails around the castle, and this was just hidden away in the woods. I felt like I had stumbled upon a secret garden.
This is one picture of the Spa. It was so lavish, and people visit the hotel specifically for the wide assortment of treatments. It was a stunning place and I felt so lucky to stay in such an amazing hotel. During the afternoon, while Chris was working, I busied myself with my Serbian studying, the gym, and exploring Dunboyne.

There are only about 5,000 people in the Dunboyne, so in a matter of an hour, I had seen all of the back alleys and hidden corners of the city. It is a cute town with several pubs and spendy restaurants.
My initial impression of Ireland was that the culture was not as warm as that of Serbia - literally and figuratively. There were no cafes in Dunboyne, and no one sat outside and socialized for hours on end. We found Chris' co-workers to be very accommodating and friendly, but random strangers didn't seem to go out of their way to greet a new face. I am always reminded of something that my dad used to say to me when discussing cultural differences. He would say, "Honey, now there are always differences in every culture, but strive to see the beautiful characteristics in ever culture and in every person for that matter. And remember, It may be different, but that does not mean it's wrong."
In my opinion, the most beautiful thing about Ireland is the importance of stories. Over the weekend, Chris' co-worker, Mr. Russell, offered to take us around the Irish countryside and show us some of his favorite sites. From the moment we closed the car doors, Mr. Russell started recounting the history of Ireland. He knew so much about his country, and I was convicted that I had not retained much from my American history classes. He said that he grew up with colorful bedtime stories about Ireland. The verbal storytelling tradition is still very alive, and he does not need a history book or the internet to remember his dates and facts; it is all from memory.
Our first stop was to the City of Trim in the County of Meath. As we walked along the Boyne River, Mr. Russell told as all about the castle which is Western Europe's largest Norman castle and it was constructed in the 12th century following the Norman invasion of Ireland. It is thought that the city of Trim may have been founded in the 5th century.
The tall structure in the picture above is the remains of St. Mary's Abbey in Trim, Ireland. According to tradition, the Abbey was founded by St. Patrick and later destroyed by Oliver Cromwell.
Chris and our wonderful and knowledgable guide, Mr. Russell. This is Trim Castle - the castle was most notably used in the filming of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart."
Jump in front of the "Braveheart" Castle!
We went into the castle and walked around the grounds. This picture shows what would have been the main dining room for the royal family and knights. Mr. Russell told us that Trim Castle had never been heavily attacked so most of the structure is surprisingly still in-tact.
Our second destination was to see The Hill of Tara. Mr. Russell said that this is one of the most important sites to the Irish people. The Hill of Tara is best known as the high seat of the kings of Ireland, and relics have been found that make some archeologists believe that The Hill of Tara may have been an important site since the late stone age.
You will probably get sick of our jumping pictures, but we love them, so you'll see more! This is Lia Fail (the Stone of Destiny), and kings used to put their hand on the stone as they were being crowned. According to legend, the stone would scream as the to-be-king laid his hand on it.

Okay - here is a serious picture. The stone did not scream, so neither of as are "kingly."


As we were leaving The Hill of Tara, we stopped to watch a falcon demonstration. Pretty interesting!


Our final destination was to the passage tomb at Newgrange. This particular tomb is said to be 5000 years old, and it was constructed in such a way that during the winter solstice, the passage way is illuminated for only 17 minutes. The rest of the year, it sits in complete darkness. There is so much history and story telling that surround this site, and we were so lucky to see it in person. If you want to read more about Newgrange, I found this great link.
Chris and I also spent a day in Dublin while we were in Ireland, but I will save those stories and pictures for the next blog. Thanks for reading!
"Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in.
Aim at earth and you get neither."
- C. S. Lewis (my favorite author was born in Ireland)