on one of our last days in ireland, we drove the "dingle ring" along the edge of the dingle peninsula. it's apparently where the movie "ryan's daughter" was filmed, though i've never seen it. but it definitely has cinematographic (is that a word?) qualities: open ocean vistas, breathtaking mountains, curious coves, an aura of history and mystery... truly some of the most beautiful scenery i've ever laid my eyes on.
we stopped first at a celtic and prehistoric museum, owned by some weird american who you just knew used to be some roadie for winger or something back in the day, and then got all burned out on too many drugs and bought himself a houseboat in amsterdam, and then his rock collection got out of hand so he opened a museum off the side of the road in ireland. yeah, that guy. his hands went straight for my belly when we walked in, as if that's ever okay to ever touch anyone's belly ever, but especially if there's a baby in there that you're trying to protect, then apparently it's even MORE okay to do that. sigh. (thankfully the dutch are not as touchy-feely as americans, so 9 times out of 10 people will see my tummy and leave it alone here.) but i digress. we saw some really cool artifacts, including the biggest wooly mammoth skull in the world, some really ancient goddess artifacts, and a case full of old viking jewelry and medallions and stuff. it was pretty cool. even better, he gave us a few good tips on where to go along the dingle ring to see the best stuff, so it was a good thing that we stopped there!
one of the things that the dude told us was to go see the beehive houses, these ancient prechristian structures made out of rocks (because what else are they going to build houses out of in those mountains?!) that date as far back as 2000 bce. the ones we saw were just on the side of the road, in some old lady's backyard, in her sheep pasture. it was really cool. we pulled over, walked up the hill a ways, and this tiny old woman came out of her ragged old house and said, "are you here to see the beehive houses? it'll be 2 euros each." and we talked to her a good long while but no one said much, it was one of those conversations with looooong pauses in between, but not cuz it's awkward but just because that's how the conversation was flowing. just very very slowly. so she opened the gate for us and just asked that we close it when we leave so the sheep don't get out, and told us that these particular houses were built by monks about a thousand years ago. and we were the only ones there and we could just take our time and it was very very nice.
and then we drove aways and stopped at some remarkable vista and saw the blasket islands and took about a million pictures before we headed up the road further to a village that i can't remember the name of, where we had lunch at a really lovely cafe and then continued on to take in even more scenery. i just can't describe in words how gorgeous everything was, and i really wonder if i will ever see any place as beautiful again for the rest of my life.
our last stop on the road was at the gallarus oratory, a structure almost 1000 years old, and is the only perfectly-intact example of the "corbel" style architecture left on the island. it is thought to be a christian church, and by the looks of it it definitely seemed like it was used for something more than just living in... the stones were all perfectly aligned, the corners were smoothed down, the whole structure just looked more cared for and intentional than the beehive houses that we saw earlier. a really cool fact about the oratory is that it is STILL waterproof after over 1,000 years! isn't that amazing?! i forget what the standing stone is on the outside of the oratory -- i can't remember if it was a gravestone, a marker for some other important site, or a teaching stone, or what. if anyone knows, let me know and i'll put it in here.
and i think that's it. we drove back to the cottage that night and played cards and ate dinner at sammy's again, i think we might have done some souvenir shopping in dingle, but we were all so exhausted from the day i think we probably didn't do much that evening. it was so incredible to see and touch all that history!
a few days later we were all back in cork, gearing up for our return trips home. adam and i flew back to amsterdam, just getting on board a few days before our airline was threatening to strike. bob and rae took a bus to a ferry, and then a ferry to merry old england, and then a train to london, and then a plane to home. we all got home safe and sound and without major incident (in fact, it was the smoothest flight adam and i had ever been on, it felt like we were floating, even when we took off and landed! and our bags were the first ones to come off the luggage cart or whatever it is at the airport, and we caught our train, and were home by lunchtime. amazing!) it was SUCH a wonderful trip and i'm soooo grateful for such an amazing family to spend my time with. i wonder what we'll do next year?...