Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I Have A Good Excuse...

I haven't been a very good blogger lately. However, I have a good excuse. I have been busy planning and preparing for (and enjoying) a vacation to Ireland. I know. Pretty awesome, right? I don't normally like to brag, but how often can you say you've been out of the country? 

My sister and best friend, Wendy, took me along with her on an 8 day trip to Ireland. We went around the same time of year 5 years ago, too. Ireland is so lovely and welcoming that we just had to go back! We also have deep family roots there. My grandmother was born in Dublin and my father was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Same continent, different country.)

Five years ago, we visited the houses where my grandmother and father were born. It was so special to me and I will never forget it! We also visited many of the obvious tourist spots like Blarney Castle, Waterford Crystal, and walked around Dublin. This time around, we stuck to the northern half of the island. I will post about each day we were in Ireland and what we did. 

First up, the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. This visitor's center is the starting point on a Neolithic journey to the ancient monuments Knowth and Newgrange in Co. Meath. Dowth is also nearby, but the shuttle doesn't take you there.

Even the entrance to the center was beautiful!

During excavations of Knowth, over 200 decorated stones were found. You can visit Knowth and see one-third of the megalithic art in Western Europe! It is the largest of the passage tombs in the area.

Many stairs lead to the top of the largest tomb. The view is spectacular!

Looking down from the top of the tomb. Newgrange is in the distance.

White quartz and "Easter egg" stones on the ground around the entrance.

One of the passages inside the tomb. (No access.)

Newgrange is also a passage tomb, but archaeologists believe it is more than that, such as a temple. It was constructed in 3200 B.C., before Stonehenge and the pyramids at Giza. 

A guide had to stand at the entry of the tomb to make sure no one hit their head on the stone. This is one time being only 5' tall paid off! Didn't even have to duck!

Pictures were not allowed inside the passage tomb at Newgrange, but it was a surreal experience! The passage isn't exactly straight, yet somehow, on Winter Solstice morning, sunlight filters in and comes to an exact point in the center of the tomb. Obviously, we weren't there in the Winter, but they simulate the sunlight while you are inside. It was so thrilling!

Newgrange is covered in bright white quartz stones and "Easter egg" stones. These same stones are found at Knowth, but the archaeologist of that site left the stones on the ground. Should the stones be on the walls? Who knows. I personally love the look of Newgrange, but since we don't actually know what the monuments looked like thousands of years ago, I would have left the stones on the ground.

The giant stones surrounding the monuments are called "kerb" stones. Each one is unique. They are fascinating! In fact, one of my souvenirs of the day is a small reproduction of one of the stones.

I had to capture this scene of a field of sheep. The little black spots are not a dirty camera lens. It's also a field of crows!

I love these beautiful cows grazing and drinking from the River Boyne.

It was a lovely day with perfect weather. We were told we were lucky with the weather, as they had just had 7 weeks of rain. We only got caught in rain a couple of times, but it is Ireland after all!

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