A Parental Visit!



While I was in the midst of my massive change in life (that being living in another country, among other pretty big things), my parents were (and still are) in the middle of a new phase of life. For the first time since the 1970s (or, in my dad’s case, kind of ever), they left the East Coast life and gradually made their way west. First, they made a stop off in Michigan to spend a year living in Michigan, but have made their new roots in a beautiful place in Arizona. Soon, my dad will be retired and it truly begins. But they’ve been a busy couple. And, at the end of the summer, Carolyn and I had the pleasure of their company in London. I always enjoy visitors because, while the tourist stuff is fun, living in a city allows me to find some of the more interesting places to visit. So, they got to see an honest to goodness London neighbourhood, eat at some lesser known, but tasty places and take some day trips of their own choosing. We then decided a weekend trip somewhere new to all of us would be fun and we picked Dublin, having never been to Ireland. Allow me to provide a little writeup below. Selected pictures will come tomorrow.

Now, Ireland is a beautiful country and Dublin is a wonderful city. I feel like it would be a terrific place to live. As a tourist destination, it’s perfect to take in for a day. And that’s how we did it. We used it as a homebase with a lovely hotel right in the center and then took a couple of excellent day trips.  We arrived at night and the natural thing to do was to find a pub. We did well at one right around the corner and, naturally, had ourselves some Guinness. A quick comment on Guinness. In the days before the US had their own little selection of microbrews and beers of some quality, Guinness was what there was to drink if you didn’t want cheap, shitty American lager. So, even if it is just another mass-produced product, it holds a place in my heart, beer lover that I am. So, to be drinking it in it’s “hometown” was a nice little moment. And the pub we first got it in was a lovely one. Busy and full of young professionals in the front, but a nice quiet place for us to chat and enjoy ourselves in the back.

The following morning, we set out to see what Dublin was all about. It’s obviously full of rich history, but much of it had been destoryed over the centuries. So we found a wonderful way to relive it on a walking tour. Carolyn introduced me to these. They tend to be quirky walks through historic parts of cities with people who really know their stuff. Ours was an engaging grad student of history and she knew the history of the city and Ireland in general very well. In the course of our walk, we went right up through modern Ireland and saw things like the location where Bloody Sunday took place as well as the ornate former City Hall. Twas a good step back in time.

Lunch was, of course, in a pub. We found a classy old pub with good hearty food. Now, I know it’s a stereotype, but the Irish seem to like their potatoes. Maybe at home, the do nothing but eat, ummm, tofu, but no matter where we ate, every dish came with potatoes. In fact, I had one or two dishes where it specified potatoes and came with not only those potatoes but some mashed potatoes just to make sure you didn’t miss any potatoes. Potatoes.

But I digress. After an excellent lunch, we made the obligatory pilgrimage to the Guinness brewery. My thoughts on it would best be left to another post, but I went in expecting a pretty corporate tourist attraction and I wasn’t disppointed. But the glimpses of an old brewery and the birthplace of Guinness (and a pint with a 360 degree view of Dublin was nice).

After a good Italian (really) dinner, we had booked a car to drive out to the nearby areas of Dublin. We had a bit of trouble with manual transmission and the car rental place. About 20 miles after picking up the car, it kind of died. The transmission just stopped working. On a hill. At a blind turn. Well, we called the rental place, they came and picked up the shit car and provided us with a second car. My mom did fine for the next leg of our trip, which took us to the Wicklow Mountains. This is a splendid range of mountains south of Dublin and it is dotted with wonderful mountain views and some cute villages Glendalough. It’s a former place for hard core monks to live out their whole vision of austerity for god. But the location is stunning and is full of wonderul walks along a lake as well as some impressive medieval architecture that housed the monks churches. This includes an amazing bell tower that just seems perfectly constructed. Well worth the visit.

Now, amid all this beauty, I would like to come back to driving. Being the child of someone, parents tend to be a little freaked out by their kids driving. Now imagine yourself a parent and your child has just taken the steering wheel of a car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. And, this is the first time your child has ever driven on that side of the road. Well, that was my driving experience in Dublin. My mom was, umm, ok about it. After a few initial freak outs. Actually, what made it all better was that I was proving more adept at using the manual transmission cars in Ireland as our second car started having issues and we kind of needed to get back to Dublin and I was the only one who could find the sweet spot on the clutch that didn’t cause a horrible burning smell. 🙂

Anyway, we had one more day in Dublin and were debating whether or not to dump the shitty rental car or just drive it into the ground. We smartly chose the latter one (no more talk of the car, it got us to the airport and around the area of north of Dublin without a problem. Obviously due to my excellent driving!). This allowed us to go north and see some evidence of life in the neolithic era in Ireland. That would be Knowth and Newgrange.

Apparently, 3000 years ago, the folks living in the British Isles (among other places), practiced a particular rite of burials. The created earthen mounds where the dead would be placed for a period of time. These burial mounds (well, the entrance to the chambers) tended to face towards the east and were perfectly situated to have the sun enter the chamber directly on the winter solstice (now celebrated as Christmas — cooincidence? Hmmm). Well, there are two particularly big ones about 30 miles north of Dublin. So we piled in the car and made the trip up to take in these two impressive sites.

Now, these are not just big piles of dirt. They were elaborated constructed of massive stones, some of which came from hundreds of miles away and have managed to survive 3000 years. Not only that, but they have found other purposes over the years. The medieval folks around Knowth liked the artificial hill it created because then they could live atop them and, if people came from around the countryside to committ unspeakable acts and destory their lives, they built escape tunnels into the mounds. In Newgrange, the entrance to the burial chamber was discovered and left open for years, which allowed Victorian tourists to go in and leave their mark in the form of graffiti. So in the middle of this 3000 year old place of death, you look to your left and there’s “John Smith, 1865” carved into the rock.

The large paving stones along the bottoms of the mounds had a variety of patterns carved into them that are believe to signify various parts of nature. And the fact that the burial chamber was situated facing east to see the sun rise fit into the naturalist beliefs of the time. In Newgrange, they have a raffle for 20 people to witness the winter solstice in the burial chamber. For those unlucky people who can’t do that, they simulate it while you stand in the chamber. It’s quite powerful.

Among the interesting things about Knowth and Newgrange is the fact that, while people tend visit both, they were excavated and studied by different people. The archeologist at Knowth has done less interpretation and left things unknown when he had no concrete evidence for it. At Newgrange, they attempted to recreate what it might have looked like 3000 years ago. So, while they both found these gleaming white stones that came from very far away, at Knowth, they are left as possibly paving stones, while in Newgrange, they create something of a protective/decorative wall around the mound. There’s a lot unknown about these things and it’s nice to see a variety of opinions about them.

Anyway, after some more exploring of the countryside, we had to make our way back to the airport to return to London. My parents had a few more fun days in town and then they returned to their life in Arizona. It was a pleasure to have them visit and share Ireland with them.

Shortly, I’ll post what I’ve described above in picture form.

One Response to “A Parental Visit!”

  1. Mom and Dad Says:


    Your caption is “A Parental Visit” and the picture under it is of 8 Guinesses. People are going to think that all we did was drink beer…and eat potatoes!

    Are you going to post other/more pictures than the ones you posted a couple of days ago?