Around a week ago at winter solstice in Ireland the sunlight peeked through the stone doorway built into the side of the circular historical structure. Speckled dust was kicked up underfoot, and floated up, around and out into the daylight for the first time in over 5000 years. Winter solstice brings the longest day of the year, and in Newgrange, the only time of year that daylight reaches down the passageway and onto the floor of this place of calm stillness.
Newgrange takes us way farther back then the monasteries of the fifth through tenth centuries speckled across the island. Stretch that imagination further back another 3700 years in time all the way to 3200 BC. Pre-pyramid age. Pre Stonehenge. The fashionable era of “the loincloth”. If women couldn’t vote until the 1900’s, and the car was invented in the late 1800’s could you fathom how things were then? What kind of thoughts rambled on in people’s heads in 3200 BC?
Stones of all sizes with various markings line the walls of the interior structure, sometimes marked by the visitors throughout the ages. Standing around with 20 others inside the cavern-like structure was interesting. The guide turned off the light and allowed us to stand in complete dark and silence. Without sight, all of your other senses overtake your normal visual input. You must simply listen and be there in the space.
Perhaps the smell of the earth, the feel of the cool air or the sound of your breath takes your attention. You are looking, thinking and trying to imagine what others had done in that place, and perhaps if you will make it out of there. The ceiling is steady isn’t it? Do they have earthquakes in Ireland?!
Or perhaps theres an ancient underground passage somewhere in here to the worlds biggest Viking gold lair. Gold gleaming covered swords with spears decorated in celtic knots, and sparkly jewels. Buried treasure beyond wildest imaginings all right under foot. Maybe even a sleeping dragon curled up snoozing on piles and mountains of ….. DWARF GOLD!
Then flick, a flashlight illuminates the chamber and the tourguide is ready to return us to the outer world, gold-less but intrigued nonetheless. Upon leaving the dark inside of Newgrange, the rolling fields of sheep bring your attention away from the inside of the cave and instantly transport you back to Ireland.
Celtic crosses grace many areas of Ireland. They sit magnetically pulling attention to their design and craft. They mark graves, entrances to sacred places or placed as reminders. They hang around necks as divine protection against our troubles.
Woven threads intertwine into knots and pleasantly flowing designs. The flowing and intertwining is symbolic of life and how everything intertwines in unusual and beautiful ways.
Ruins of monasteries spot the countryside in Ireland and symbolize a society with historical roots in Christian spirituality. It would be difficult to pass through Ireland’s interior without running into circular towers, celtic crosses and various other symbolic elements.
Now onto a completely different and more lively topic.
The process of how oysters are farmed has now officially been de-mystified. Oyster babies can grow in the most unusual circular spiral contraptions (pretty ingenious) until they reach a certain size.
Reaching out to local providers to investigate and understand the food process of farm to fork should be on everyone’s plate. Seeing how the workers suit up to handle the elements, mud and water gives you a new sense of appreciation for the process of how we get our mollusks.
They are grown for years and years before they reach you and much care goes into their development from egg to oyster. Different varieties of oyster are available from all over the world. Some of the oyster babies near Carlingford originated from France. You could tell because of an assortment of fine cheeses and red white and blue flags they flew above their oyster houses. The Irish oystie babes sang grand old tunes in the “oyster pubs” drinking teeny whisky’s. No… you couldn’t tell actually.
Regardless of origin, oysters are a classic delicacy and must be sampled at least once by everyone. Not a fan of oyster taste? A shot of whisky, an oyster, then another shot of whisky. A new Irish drinking game!
Almost as good as the drinking game to The Police song Roxanne where you take a shot every time you hear “put on the red light”. These two drinking games are NOT to be mixed, mind you unless you fancy gulping 30 oysters and whisky shots in one song.“Rooooooooooxxxxaaaaaane, You don’t have to put on the red light!”
A personal favorite of mine is fried breaded oysters with a spicy or strong flavored sauce. On the scale of fishiness, my tolerance hovers around scallop or shrimp.
On the accommodations and dining front of the northeast, Ghan House in the Irish town Carlingford felt like an old classy character country home. The property provides guest rooms, cooking classes and a several course “set meal” dining experience.
After a luxurious meal including a most memorable and deliciously braised leg of duck, and sweet creme brûlée with tart berries, a strong coffee finished the meal. Not a tiny “Europe coffee” but a real after dinner sized coffee. Nothing suits better to top off a large delicious meal and prepare for a walk through Carlingford town then a nice strong “kick in the pants” coffee.
PJ’s in Carlingford is one of many pubs well versed in the craft of the “Irish Coffee” creation.
This is worth a try… seriously! You don’t have to put on the red light. Irish Coffee is like liquid deliciousness.
“If you’re interested in something really special the world’s only leprechaun bones are located in a frame on the wall in the next room,” the bartender suggested as we departed.
If you could sum up the expression on my face in one word when I heard that, it would probably be: “MRAH?”.
Perhaps on my next visit, I’ll get to dig further into the roots of my Irish heritage. Or venture south to the famous southern beaches, the Cliffs of Moher seen in Harry Potter or the horse breeders of Kildare County. Moments over food and drink with friends old and new made the top of my list of Ireland experiences. Irish coddle soup with its salty broth, fresh sweets at Dublin bakeries, and even snacks picked up at the Dublin grocery store Dunns all carry an Irish memory for me.
My next Irish trip (with luck), will be in the summer to feel the green clovers under my feet with a warm sun above, and smell the fresh salty seaside air.
Try this awesome Irish Coffee recipe to settle up after a big dinner.
Family members or spouses can serve as guinea pigs as you perfect your international bar tending skills.
1) Splash glass mugs with boiling water to heat
2) Pour in a cup of fresh strong coffee (brew with cinnamon or vanilla for a slight flavour)
3) Add 1 tablespoon of brown or yellow sugar and stir to dissolve
4) Add 1 shot of whisky and stir again
5) Top off with 2-3 heaping tablespoons of whipped cream
Serve straight away with a spoon.