Mick was pretty chipper as we headed northeast since he was heading back home. There was still a lot of information to pass along to the tour group, such as the origin of the fairy forts and fairy trees. Mick educated and entertained as he drove along, and we listened to a brief history of Ireland, which brought us to the Rock of Cashel.
"For me, the Rock of Cashel is important," Mick said, "for it has on it every step of Irish history."
And he was right. It contains everything from the Iron Age to the depredations of Cromwell. The Rock had witnessed the crowning of kings, the creation of monasteries, the invasion and sack by the Vikings, and the conquest of the Normans. Even the 21st century was present with the team of archeologists and workers using ultraviolet light to arrest corrosion of frescos and scaffolds with tarps and sheets to coax water out of stone for its preservation. Even fresh graves of families with names like Maher and Kennedy were around the grounds of Cashel.
I have never been to Cashel in sunshine. For me, the place carries sorrow as Cromwell massacred the entire village within the sanctuary of the Church. The Vikings looted and pillaged the grounds and the very sense of struggle seems evident in the ruins. So it always seems fitting that a steady rain falls. Áine, oblivious to all the history, reveled in the opportunity to jump in mud puddles until we quickly ended that. Then her howls of frustration matched the gloom of the grounds. We decided to leave, and along with Althea, Annie's mentor and teacher, set out to find a nice place to eat. We managed to secure a little lunch, have some tea, and look around Cashel town before getting on the coach to head onward to Tallaght, which is a Dublin suburb. For our whole party, which had been lulled by the tranquility of Killarney and sobered by the Rock of Cashel, Tallaght was the reminder that Ireland is also a modern, cosmopolitan country, very much in step with today.
After checking into our hotel, Annie, Áine, and I decided to head toward a Tesco to pick up some snacks for the baby. The store was in a shopping mall that looked every bit like a mall in Chicago. People of all stripes and colors were to be seen walking around. There, proudly perched right off the escalator, was Starbucks. A football stadium right across the street from our hotel was home to the Shamrock Rovers. A match was scheduled for that night and so the place was a hive of activity, with Shamrock Rover fans excitedly chatting and spilling into the hotel dining area where we were to have dinner. Later on some of our group were able to sneak in and catch the end of the game. The security, knowing they were on tour, allowed them in and even moved people and chairs so they could get a great shot of the field!
On the Mezzanine level of the hotel as I was heading back to the room, the elevator opened and I was looking at a "deb" party for a Philippian-Irish woman, with her family and friends dancing to a throbbing disco beat. Brian Boru, the Rock of Cashel, and red deer seemed a million miles away, and yet this part of Ireland, stepping confidently toward the future, was exciting to behold as well.
~ Marty McCormack
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