Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Valley of the Kings -- The Irish Ones

The remains of an ancient roadway in the Dublin Mountains (not the Boyne Valley)
On the plane to Dublin Friday morning, I take out the onboard magazine just to read what I can read. Tucked between ads for restaurants and pubs--each more award-winning than the next--is a travel article about the Boyne Valley: Ireland's Valley of the Kings.

The introduction promises "walks and drives through millennia of Irish history" so I'm excited. I make notes, at least mental ones, of the places along the Boyne river I want to explore. There'll be ruins and castles and ruins of castles and, well, mostly ruins. There'll be "passage" tombs, whatever those are, and the town of Trim, which has more medieval ruins than any other town in Ireland. Ruins, ruins and more ruins. I couldn't be more excited.

According to the article, the tombs of the Irish kings predate the pyramids of Giza. Actually, there are pyramids in Mexico and South America that predate the pyramids of Giza, so I'm not sure why we always compare places to the Egyptian tourist-trap. The Boyne Valley, in contrast, is an archealogist's dream, and I'd bet there isn't one guy trying to make you ride his camel or try on his headdress. 

I make another note, at least a mental one, to inform Derek the DIY Geek that Sunday we shall be exploring the Boyne Valley starting in Trim just an hour's drive north of Dublin--on foot of course, although one could do it by bike, car or kayak if one had one of these. I don't have any of them, but I do have two feet.

We'll have only one day, so we won't be able to camp in one of Rock Farm's "luxurious" yurts, but a fellow can dream. Yurts are trendy. And round. If Derek the DIY Geek were standing in one, he'd say it was round because it had no corners. Goofy Derek the DIY Geek.

Rule of Thumb: Don't plan! Things never go the way you plan.

When I get to Dublin there are more adventurous things to do than explore 5000-year-old ruins: cleaning the kitchen, for example, and buying an ironing board. We spend the morning at IKEA, more of the morning at Aldi and the rest of the day building the things we bought at IKEA, then eating the things we bought at Aldi. I'm frustrated. I have the feeling the day isn't progressing very Irishly at all. And the next morning--Sunday--isn't very different from Saturday. We go to IKEA, then Aldi, then Lidl, then a garden centre, then Curries, then PC Mart. But as I look around I realize that our mornings in Ireland so far have been spent in quite an Irish way. Shopping. All the other people in the shops were Irish, aren't they? Ha. We're Irish! Yay!

The Convention Centre from my flat

Fast forward through building more IKEA stuff, transporting plants, ironing shirts, ya-de-ya to Monday morning. Are you a morning person? Do you like people gabbing your head off early in the morning at the airport? If you are, you're weird. I'm sure you're adorable, but you're still weird. The second I sit down and get comfortable at the departure gate for Munich, the fellow next to me pipes up, "So where're ya from?" Oh god.

I turn--lazily but not impolitely. The man has bushy ginger eyebrows but gray hair, three of them protruding from the end of his nose. His teeth are gold capped and very few. He's smiling largely, expecting an answer. Have I said Oh god?

"Well, I'm US-American but I live in Germany," I say, not really wanting to discuss the details of my new digs in Dublin.

"Oh, well you're very welcome to Ireland," he says, as if Ireland is a plate of chips.

"Um, thank you?"

"That's Irish water you're drinking there."

"Oh. Well it's very tasty," I say. It's water.

"You're very welcome to it."

"Um, thank you?"

"You're welcome."

"This 'you're welcome' business needs to stop right now," I don't say.

"So how long were you here?"

"Just the weekend," I say.

"Did you do any touristy things? See the sights? Book of Kells? Trinity College Library?" He rattles off a list of places I've been to in Dublin on previous visits, but of course not IKEA or Aldi, sadly.

"Not this time," I say. "We had some other things to do. But it wasn't my first time here." I have wonderful plans of telling him about the time I was thrown out of the Trinity College library for checking the time on my mobile phone, but he's not listening.

"Just north of here," he's saying, "is the Valley of the Kings."

"Older than the pyramids of Giza," I break in because I love it when I know things.

"Yes," he says. "The Egyptian pyramids are around 3500 years old while the tombs in Ireland are--"

"Around 5000."

"Yes," he says, a bit irritated not to be the only know-it-all here.

"I haven't been there," I admit. "I read it in an article on the plane."

He goes on to list everything I made a mental note of seeing on the plane to Dublin, punctuating it with "You have to see Newgrange."

"Winter solstice at dawn?"

"The alignment of the sun," he says.

"Through the opening."

"Yes. So you've been there?"

"No. I just read about it on the plane." I hang my head. "We did drive south to Greystones," I don't tell him. I don't have time. My flight to Munich is boarding, and my early-morning virtual tour guide has just realized he's sitting at the wrong gate. He's flying to Stockholm, I'm sure to give lectures about the history of Ireland.

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I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Contrary, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, and Word Riot. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.