Friday, September 11, 2009
Hitting the Ground Running
Unlike Chaucer's pilgrims, we did not meet in a tavern to start our pilgrimage. Instead we arrived over a period of time at Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. to set out on our pilgrimage by plane rather than on foot. However, after our flight to Dublin, we probably walked as much in the first two days as Chaucer's pilgrims did going from London to Canterbury. At least our legs and feet may think so.
Our official pilgrimage began with a five-thousand year trip back in time as we visited New Grange. (Above right) This neolithic tomb/ceremonial center is constructed so the the sun shines through an opening just above the entrance only for a few days around December 21 for a matter of minutes around nine in the morning. The hill at New Grange was the first we climbed on the first day of our pilgrimage. We were probably doing this before our friends at home in the US were out of bed on Thursday.
From New Grange we set out to see the hill of Tara where ancient Irish kings went through the ceremonies making them kings. However, our driver was a little confused by our itinerary. After driving through the town of Slane twice and seeing from a distance Slane Castle, popular with celebrities, we found ourselves again circling New Grange. But the confusion bore some fruit. Like true pilgrims we were experiencing an adventure. Our driver took us next to the hill of Slane, renowned for being the spot where Saint Patrick lit a fire in opposition to the fire on the hill of Tara which was a sacred celebration to the pre-Christian Celts. To the left you are seeing the hill of Slane from the bottom with the ruins of a the ancient church and a later college.
The view from the hilltop was gorgeous. We tried to get our bearings and decide which hill in the distance was Tara. According to legend, the king saw Patrick's fire from Tara and was not happy that someone would light a fire on another hill during the festival.
After walking among the ruins on the hill of Slane and marveling at our luck in being there since it was not on our itinerary, we set off again in search of Tara. Sleep-deprived and heavy of foot, we perked up when we finally found ourselves in front of the gift shop for Tara.
Soon we were walking another hill, one that is said to provide a view of forty percent of Ireland.
There we gathered around the Stone of Destiny and reviewed all we had experienced since our long, long day began at home on Wednesday.
After descending Tara, we set out for Glendalough where we are staying for several days. A few pilgrims had a power nap on the drive south to the Wicklow Mountains - just enough rest to get us through checking in to the Glendalough Hotel and having our first delicious meal there.Here we found repose and the end of our first day of pilgrimage. However, jetlag has caught up with this storyteller, so the second day will follow on day three.