Graves, a great guide, and goodbyes

Somehow we managed to have a lovely day today surrounded by death. Mom just told me I shouldn’t start with that because people will be worried that she died, but I’m confident you all know that I probably wouldn’t be blogging at that point. Probably.

We started by touring the most ancient structure either one of us has ever seen. This site predates the pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. It is called Brú na Bóinne and was a passage grave built during the Neolithic period around 3,000 BC. The passage of one side is aligned with the sunrise on the spring equinox and the other side is aligned with the sunset on the fall equinox.

It was so impressive to peer down that passage and know that it was built by people living 5,000 years ago. We know they took honoring their dead very seriously, if only because it would have taken them three generations just to build it. This was before the invention of the wheel or any iron tools, but their design has stood the test of time.


Nobody has any idea how to interpret all the artwork carved on the stones lining the mound, but I’m a fan of squiggly lines in any form.

At this point I have to stop and compliment our Rick Steve’s tour guide, Dara. He has been amazing with every detail this whole trip and has really gone above and beyond. In addition to being our tour guide, at one time or another he has been our waiter, bartender, crossing guard, historian, travel agent, busboy, and anything else we needed him to be.

Today Dara really took one for the team. The way the Brú na Bóinne site works is you go to their little visitor center and then are bussed to the site. The buses only hold 24 people and that is the exact number of people in our group. So today as we were all taking our sweet time getting back from the site, he was standing in line for us to catch the return bus. Our schedule was a bit tight so we needed to get back there as soon as possible so that we could all get a quick bite to eat and get back to our coach. When the bus got there a few of us got on and then a group of Asians who had been milling around tried to get on as well. He very politely told them the next bus would be there in a few minutes but this bus was for his group. The bus driver backed him up because everyone in the entire country, but especially those in the tourism industry, know Dara (most seem to be related to him in one way or another). What I have described doesn’t seem that heroic until you consider that once we all got on there wasn’t room for him on the bus so he had to wait for the next one and ride it with all the people that he had just prevented from boarding! Now that’s a tour guide you want in your corner.

After lunch we headed to Glasnevin Cemetery, the burial site for some of Ireland’s most famous people of more modern times. It was founded in 1832 by Daniel O’Connell, who is a big hero to the Irish people for his peaceful work to abolish the penal laws that prevented Irish Catholics from getting an education, owning land, voting, practicing their religion, being buried with a Catholic ceremony, and much more. Also buried there is Michael Collins, who many know from the movie was a key figure in the Irish struggle for independence during the early 20th century.


One small section of the cemetery, with the tall monument over Daniel O’Connell’s grave in the center.


The tomb of Daniel O’Connell. There are small peepholes on the sides and apparently it is good luck to touch his casket.


Much of Daniel O’Connell’s family is buried with him but because the caskets are lead-lined, they are too heavy for most shelving. The only thing possible would be to take out one of the caskets to make room for heavy-duty shelving, so instead they chose to simply stack the caskets on top of one another.

After another delicious shared meal, we were sad to say goodbye to our Rick Steve’s group. They were a great group of people to share this amazing experience with.

Tomorrow we are in for a very long and hopefully very enjoyable day trip up to northern Ireland. Everyone cross your fingers that we can sleep through the sounds of Dublin tonight because it’s going to be an early start tomorrow!


About The 1st Draft

I am a 30-something English teacher living in the Midwest who loves books, television, soccer, a good conversation, Cardinals baseball, and playing with my adorable nieces and nephews.
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