The last part of the Ireland trip:
Friday we had to get up early to pack up and leave for Dublin again. We swiftly packed our things and bade Sinead a fond good-bye. We had to return the rental car by noon, and it was an hour's drive to Dublin, so we had to get moving.
We gave ourselves an extra hour in case we got turned around again, but things went much more smoothly, and we arrived at the car rental place at the airport with no trouble at all. I have to say I was relieved to give the car up. It's stressful and nerve-wracking to drive in Ireland, and I felt like a great burden had lifted when I handed over the keys.
It was a long, long, loooooooooooooong wait for the shuttle bus into town, for some reason. The line for the bus grew longer and longer and longer and more and more pissed off. After more than 45 minutes' wait for a bus that was supposed to run every 10 minutes, one finally arrived, and we made the slow drive into town.
Our next accommodations were at Trinity College, which rents out its student dorms and apartments in the summer very reasonably. Because the wait for the bus was so damned long, we arrived at Trinity at 1:30, only a little before the 2 PM check-in, and the college was already checking guests in. I had booked us a double room/apartment, and the check-in went fine, but the apartment itself was so far across campus, it was almost off the map. I suggested waiting for a ride--the clerk had said we could get if we waited a moment--but Darwin had been put off by the bus wait and said he wanted to walk. So we set out.
It took us more than half an hour.
This was partly because we got lost several times. The paper map they gave us was completely unhelpful--we couldn't tell where anything was on it. My phone gave us directions, but it kept switching from walking directions to driving directions, for some reason. We finally FINALLY found the place. It's a modern building on the outside corner of the campus. It's quite small and Spartan, as we knew it would be, though I didn't know it was a shared bathroom situation. (We share with four other rooms.) But it worked out--there was only one other couple staying there. The main trouble was the noise. Our window (second story) opened right onto the street, and it was NOISY. Heavy traffic roared by 24/7, tour buses trundle past and you heard the guides barking through their loudspeakers, people talked and laughed and shouted as they passed, and you smelled their cigarette smoke. The rooms on the other side of the hall faced the courtyard and were silent. This was a bad luck room!
We had supper at Kennedy's, a pub frequented by Oscar Wilde (well, he worked there when he was young), Yeats, and Joyce, which was pretty neat. I had steak-and-Guinness pie, and Darwin had a tasty lamb shank.
Saturday morning, we'd booked a bus tour to visit Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. You can't visit these places on your own--you have to go through their visitor's center--and I definitely didn't want to drive to them. Newgrange also only allows 400 visitors per day, and if you get there too late, your loss! The tour was the perfect way to go.
We arrived at the tourism center in plenty of time to catch the tour and got seats at the front of the bus so we could see nicely. Our tour guide (totally gay!) was named Trevor, and once everyone had boarded, he got on the microphone and gave us a little tour of Dublin sites that we passed, which was nice. We stopped at the fishing harbor north of Dublin, which was extremely interesting to me. The trawlers with their great nets were docked there, the smell of fish lay on the wind, and all the shops lining the quay sold every kind of fresh fish you can imagine. My inner chef was jumping up and down and wanting to shop here every week.
Unfortunately, this is where things went badly for me. I started getting stomach cramps, a knot right under my diaphragm that started, increased, cramped HARD, then eased off. Then the cycle started over again. As the day passed, the feeling got worse and worse. I tried to ignore it, but it didn't stop. It set off a migraine headache. The migraine started from the tension of the stomach pain and from (I'm sure) the abrupt release of tension from returning the car. And I hadn't brought any of my meds with me.
By the time we arrived at Newgrange, I was in considerable distress. Darwin and I got some lunch at the visitor's centers--and here I have to pause to point out that the Irish know how to run a visitor's center cafeteria. The food is REAL food. Thick sandwiches, home made soup, sausage rolls, fresh fruit desserts. In America it would be hot dogs, hamburgers, and waffle fries. Not in Ireland, thank you!
I had some lunch, hoping it would ease the pain, but it didn't. Our tour group got on a (different) shuttle bus to head for Newgrange itself, and I was trying not to let my head fall off my shoulders.
Newgrange is a splendid site, though. It's the biggest mound tomb you've ever seen, and it's older than anything in Egypt. White stone rings the mound, and famously, sunlight enters the tomb only on the winter solstice. Unfortunately, I was in no condition to enjoy it. Even when we slipped inside and beneath the tons of rock, the pain was horrendous. I was sweating and panting and wondering if I should ask to go to the hospital, but I didn't know how such a thing would work. Newgrange barely registered for me. I'm glad it was my second visit and I already knew what was what.
Darwin knew by now I was in trouble. The stomach and head pain were both so bad, it was all I could do to stand upright. The visitors center didn't sell pain relievers, either. When we boarded the bus, I told Darwin to ask Trevor if he had anything. Trevor didn't, but should he ask the tour at large if they had anything? I said he should. A woman from Sweden had something--I don't know what, and I didn't care. I swallowed it, and lay back to doze off.
The drive to the Hill of Tara took about an hour, and I slept through it. The painkillers, whatever they were, started to work, though, and by the time we arrived, I was functional again. Go Sweden!
The Hill of Tara was new to me. It's where ancient Irish kings were crowned. A phallic stone about five feet high sticks out the top, and legend says if it roars when you touch it, you're the next king of Ireland. (There's a lot of phallic imagery in Irish folklore, which is not for the timid. In order to be crowned king, for example, a new Irish king copulated with a mare in front of the assembled tribes. The mare was then chopped into pieces and cooked in a broth, in which the king sat naked while everyone had a sip. As I said, not for the timid.) Darwin and I climbed up to the hill and wobbled through the circular ditches cut into the hillside. No one knows what they're for, but I suspect they were put there to provide shelter so the tribes could watch the new king and his horse friend without getting flung off the hillside by the wind! Both Darwin and I embraced the stone. When Darwin touched it, a group of nearby ladies obligingly roared, which made him laugh.
You have to walk through a 1700s and modern graveyard to get to the hill. The latest burial we saw was from 2015. Yes, you can be buried on the Hill of Tara. I would like that.
And then it was the bus ride home. We had supper at O'Neill's, a pub continually in business since 1885!
This was a slow day, our last day in Ireland. We visited the Museum of Archaeology and looked at the bog people who have been discovered in the bogs, and the gold treasures from the Bronze Age. This was extremely fascinating. We tried to get into the Dublin Library, but the reading room was closed. The only thing open was an exhibition of William Yeats's papers and other materials. The exhibit was quite extensive--room after room after room--but all of it so dimly lit, you couldn't see much of anything. Also, I'm not a Yeats person, so most of it was lost on me.
We spent the rest of the day in the room, just resting and catching up on things. Tomorrow, we go home!