I went on a long trip in June with my friend Jessica and I'll be posting photos at my leisure and hopefully for your pleasure. I'll start with Ireland. We didn't have a lot of time anywhere but we saw a goodly amount (as evidenced by the hugeness of this post - c'mon you can get through it!). We began and ended out journey in Ireland and Northern Ireland (and events are not in the order experienced). I'm in love with Ireland and I'm ready to move to Ireland any day of the week.

I learned a lot (for the couple days we were there). First, I learned about independence and identity. Second I learned about about identity and immigration.

Kilmainham Jail
Ireland had a civil war about a hundred years ago. When I was young I thought that the Civil War, as in the American Civil War in the 1860s was the only one then had happened or would ever happen and thus we could all call it the Civil War. Unfortunately it's not a the, it's an a. However, like all tragedies great things come to pass, characters come to the front who encourage and inspire us. This is what I learned in Dublin and the Kilmainham jail.

There is a strong feeling there. It's dark and sad. And inhumane. I didn't like it. I think I've only ever felt that way at Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp near Munich, Germany. I took only a few pictures at Kilmainham because of that feeling.  The jail was built in 1796 at a time when humans didn't treat other humans like humans. All genders and ages and offenses were housed together. It was cold, and dark, and damp. During the great famine it was worse, but some would purposely be incarcerated because it was better in than out, though it was horrific in.

And they had gallows, attached right to the front of the building - there are two and it's those little white parts above the doors of the balcony. There is a large snake above the doors. Terrifying. The jail sits on a hill and was a perfect gathering place for publicly hanging people. One would have to have a lot of anger or no emotion at all to be a part of that.

Kilmainham was fairly innovative. They figured out that it was best to have just one inmate per cell and came up with this style of block, where one guard can see the goings-on of many prisoners. I believe that this is the style of many prisons today.

The fame of Kilmainham derives from its execution of the leaders of the Easter Rebellion, the surge towards independence from the island across the way at the beginning of the 20th century and for its holding of other political prisoners. We had to choose between the Book of Kells and Kilmainham and Rick Steves gave Kilmainham more triangles (meaning it's more of a must-see) so we trusted him (as we did at other point and were never disappointed). The experience was dark but inspirational and helped me to understand humans and our history a bit better. I'm glad we went.

Powerscourt and Glendalough
We attended church in Dublin. I love that my faith is the same wherever I am and that I always have friends wherever I go. And every LDS church has a steeple- thank goodness or else we would have never spotted it. I enjoyed church, too, because in faraway Ireland there wasn't the contention and political issues that are plaguing where I currently live. It was a little group of believers who cared most about belief and their relationship with God and Jessica and I both really needed that.

Near Dublin is the beautiful Powerscourt Estate, which the savvy will recognize as the estate of Edmond Dantes in the 2002 film The Count of Monte Cristo. My photos do not to the estate justice.

The gardens are extensive - we didn't even go into any of the buildings - and basically Eden. When have a ever been surrounded by such a massive amount of beauty?! Perhaps only at Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC; but this was wilder perhaps and likely more lush. 

In shocking contrast to Powerscourt is the subtle Glendalough monastery. Nestled to a large hill (I'm from Utah so you have to be huge before I'll call you a mountain) and remove from life, the ruins of a monastic settlement from the sixth (wha!!) century. The buildings, I think, are in fantastic condition. There is a sweet and rather large cemetery with both old and recent headstones. Relatively few people were in the park, giving the verdant surroundings a serene ambiance. 

Northern Ireland
Then we took the journey of several hours to Belfast and drove along the Antrim coast. I had assumed that the scary part of the experience would be driving on the "wrong" side of the road. No, it was the tininess of the roads. Apparently the Irish have no sense of personal space or boundaries. But they do have a gorgeous countryside that, to me, is more relaxing than any sunny Caribbean beach.

Because we got to take a good country drive we saw lots of interesting things, like beef and a pink phone booth (I was only expecting red), and some amazing views.

We visited Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, a 65-foot bridge suspended almost 100 feet between to jutting rock-island-things (technical term is a volcanic plug, whatever that means). It was used for salmon fishing which was better, until recent years, on the one rock-island thing.

Carrick-a-Rede is green and sea-y and windy. The water is clear and on a clear day you can, apparently, see Scotland.

Not at all far from this magnificent site is the Giant's Causeway, whose sheer hugeness and natural precision cannot be shown photographically. It's an entire cliff-way - can you see the tiny people on the tiny path? We walked it all. And the dark rock at the bottom is anything but ordinary rock. 

Caused by a volcano, the rocks have formed little basalt columns - perfect hexagons, stacked neatly -and you can climb all over them!

The legend goes that a giant, Finn MacCool (that's my real last name) got hit up by the Scottish Giant Benandonner (a similar phenomenon is across the way in Scotland) to have a great fight so Finn built a causeway (road across water or a wetland) so the two could meet up. Scared of Benandonner, Finn was hidden by his wife is a great cradle and presented as a baby. Benandonner gave up the fight, concluding that if the baby was this size the father must be amazingly huge. A sleepier version of the legend says that there was actually a fight and Finn won. (I wonder what the Scots think of that?)

Finn's paraphernalia is all around, a chimney and this "boot" I'm sitting in for example.

We failed to arrive at Dunluce Castle before it closed, but we got to walk around some of the grounds. Being a ruin and all, Jessica and I weren't too disappointed. We were more disappointed to find out that the story about the kitchen of the castle falling into the sea was likely not true.

Ireland is a small, exquisite, beautiful land. I'm saddened by the immigration that is taking place. So many of its people are leaving to find work in other countries - a historical problem. If you are Irish and reading this and you aren't living in Ireland, please go back. I really think Ireland needs you. From what I saw and learned about Ireland there are loads of reasons to be proud and we have to keep that going by keeping as many Irish in Ireland. Beside, your accent (if your national pride keeps the accent) is much too difficult to understand.