Old Castles and Lumpy Lawns cont.

Leo told us about this abhorrent ritual killing that the celtics used to practice, and I’d like to tell you about it. So, they’d cut the guy’s stomach open and pull out his small intestine. Then they nail it to a tree and force the guy to walk around the tree, wrapping it with his  intestines, forcing him to watch his own guts unravel from his stomach. Brutal.

Okay, that was pretty grotesque. To balance things out, here’s a lighter Leo fact: There are 8.5 million sheep in Ireland, but they’re primarily for eating. In order to survive the climate, Irish sheep have developed a thick fleece that isn’t pleasant for making sweaters. Leo says it’s like wearing a Brillo pad. The nice merino wool usually comes from New Zealand sheep. It’s not so chilly there, and apparently the sheep grow softer sweaters.

Alright, so the next stop on this adventure was Loughcrew Hill, which contained more burial chambers dating back 5,000 years. By this point on the trip, Matt and I had started making friends with the other folks on the bus. There was a fella from Brazil, a nice lady from Saskatchewan who thought Matt was my husband (?), a sweet young woman from Bretagne, and a neat lady from Mexico City who Matt and I immediately really took to. Oh, and there was this sweet, tiny, very old Chinese woman who was wearing a head wrap to keep her ears warm–and it took me a while to realize it, but the head wrap was Rastafarian and had huge pot leaves all over it. I don’t think she knew, but it sure gave me a giggle.

The main tomb at this place was at at the top of a giant hill. It rained for about 45 seconds while we were walking up. I didn’t mind–I was excited for the unexpected mini-hike, rain or not. The view from the top was phenomenal.

The main tomb looked really big from the outside, but only 5-6 people could go in at a time. And you had to really duck and crouch to get in there. Not a place for claustrophobics.

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Ancient Tomb

I didn’t take any pictures on the inside on account of it being so cramped, so you’ll have to take my word for it. I have no problem with tight spaces, so I went right in. I DO, however, have a problem with spiders and I didn’t consider that until I was locked in there–farthest from the exist–with 5 other people, a talking guide I didn’t want to interrupt, AND THE MOST GIANT SPIDER HANGING OUT ON THE VERY LOW CEILING. I did have a small panic attack, but I just kind of made myself very small and stared at the floor until the tour was over. But hey! I went into an ancient tomb and faced a terrifying foe and I lived to tell the tale. I’m basically Indiana Jones, lady version.

It was windy again, but not nearly as bad as the first place. Still–my hair was doing some funky stuff.

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This look is going to catch on

 

We had lunch at the little cafe at the bottom of the hill. Very tasty! It was nice to visit with the other folks from the tour. Like I said, we were making friends!

Our last stop was the town of Drogheda. The tour website says that this town has a “fascinating yet tragic history” but Leo didn’t tell us much about it. He released us like cows out to pasture. So we wandered into this church because some guys head is on display there. Literally his head. I don’t remember the story or who’s head it is, but I’m sure you can Google it. I just like grotesque stuff and a head on display in a church is pretty fucking grotesque.

See the head? Pretty gross. Anyway–we’d seen about a million churches at this point, so we hit the streets looking for this old pub Leo told us about. We walked past the fortress gate and snapped a few pictures. It’s pretty neat that they still have the gate. It’s just part of the road now. Totally normal.

We found the pub. Or at least we found a pub that claimed to be really old, so we went in. Seemed like a place mostly for locals. It was charming and had a little fire place going. The bartender was a sassy old broad. Evidently, every beer we wanted was out, so we all ended up with Guinness. I can’t complain. Our sweet friend from Mexico City asked some old timers at the bar to take a picture of all of us because we were struggling to get a selfie with all our arms tangled up in an elaborate cheers she arranged. They were reluctant, but nevertheless, she persisted. When they took a bad picture the first time, she made them redo it. I fell in love with her right then.

On the way back, we passed (but didn’t stop) at Slane Castle. It’s has a natural amphitheater that has become a popular place to host concerts. It’s general admission, so shows there tend to draw huge crowds. Bruce Springsteen drew a crowd of 81,000. I guess the contemporary owners didn’t have the money to fix the place up, so they decide to have a concert to raise money, and people loved it. Now it’s a really popular music venue.

We saw a bunch more burial mounds, some sitting right in the middle of farmers’ fields. I guess they just plant around them because messing with an ancient burial ground is how you get the movie Poltergeist.

At the end of our adventure, we took our new friend and met up with Emily for dinner. I finally got fish and chips! I can’t tell you how happy that made me. IT WAS DELICIOUS. The Irish like to serve mashed peas with pretty much everything and I dug it. Emily was not impressed. I ate her mashed peas too. We heard live music start up downstairs, so we went down to listen for a while. The fella singing was really good, and he sang a bunch of Irish tunes. Made my heart leap. He was selling his CD for 5 euro, so I bought one. Unfortunately, it’s all slow jams so basically rubbish. He was great live though.

And that concludes our adventure in the Boyne Valley. Great tour–recommend. Especially if you can get Leo. Leo’s the best.

Oh! One last Leo fact: Driving through the country side, he asked us if we’d noticed how curvy and janky all the roads are. Evidently most of these roads started as cow trails because in the spring, when the ground is soft, cows will find the most solid ground to walk on. People followed the cows and eventually those well-worn paths became the main roads. Neat!

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