Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ireland - Rolling Hills of County Meath

John claims that I have silly superstitions about weather. He fails to acknowledge that he inspired many of them, with all his talk about Irish weather. It was John who taught me things like it will stop raining only after everyone in the group has stopped to put on a jacket. Then the sun comes out making those jackets more like saunas, but it will start to rain again if anyone dares to stop and remove the sweat-inducing garment.  If you ask John when is the best time to go to Ireland for a bike tour, he will tell you September - after school is back in session - because when he was a lad, the weather always improved after his summer holidays ended. He told me that the worst weather inevitably occurs on holidays, with St. Patrick's Day traditionally having some of the most epic conditions.

The riverside bike path made for a pleasant way to leave Drogheda.

So naturally, with a holiday on Monday, we did not expect good weather. By the way, if you aren't Irish, you may be asking who or what was being honored on this particular holiday. Well this was a bank holiday, which is not to say it was a celebration of banking, but just a day when banks and schools are closed, just because...

In the US, we have a variety of holidays to honor historical things like US independence, ends of various wars, veterans, workers, presidents and other notable/historical figures, as well as various religious holidays, and of course the great shopping holiday - Black Friday. While researching US holidays, I did find that Black Friday -  not the day after Thanksgiving, but actually Black Friday - is recognized by that name by 24 US states. Of course, in the US most holidays seem to be more about shopping than what the original intent and name might imply. I don't know what buying cars has to do with Presidents Washington and Lincoln! Some of our holidays also mark the beginning or end of something, like a season or a year. Throughout the world, everyone seems to celebrate the day when we hang a new calendar and begin the annual struggle to write the date correctly on various documents.

Ireland officially observes the big Christian holidays: Christmas (plus St. Stephen's Day), Easter and - of course - St. Patrick's Day, a holiday commemorating the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, while also granting a reprieve of Lenten restrictions for the day. Maybe this is poetic justice for why the weather is typically so bad on March 17th!

But workers and school children simply need more days off scattered throughout the year, and not having anything else to commemorate, they have simply declared some just because holidays in May, June, August and October. You don't have to take part in any religious observance or wave flags or thank veterans or whatever other things holidays are supposed to be about. You can just take the day of work or school and go play.

Just bring a rain jacket!

So with Monday being one of these bank holidays, most folks had the day off. Declan invited us to come join him for a spin through the rolling hills of County Meath. Taking advantage again of David and his car, we packed up bikes and headed north the Drogheda. 

Pamela scratching her head, wondering how she had ended up back at the Zakim Bridge in Boston.

Beware of suicidal cars!

Our first stop was at the Old Mellifont Abbey, founded in 1142 as the first Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. According to Wikipedia,
In the spring of 1140, Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, visited Clairvaux, becoming a personal friend of St Bernard and an admirer of the Cistercian rule.[26] He left four of his companions to be trained as Cistercians, and returned to Ireland to introduce Cistercianism there.[26] St Bernard viewed the Irish at this time as being in the "depth of barbarism":
... never had he found men so shameful in their morals, so wild in their rites, so impious in their faith, so barbarous in their laws, so stubborn in discipline, so unclean in their life. They were Christians in name, in fact they were pagans.[27]

When Cromwell came to Ireland in the mid 1600's he and his troops laid waste to many of the abbeys and churches and castles that today exist only as ruins scattered throughout the country. The fact that anything still stands is testament to the quality of the original building. What really amazes me is that so many of these ruins are unguarded and simply open to the public, and that for the most part, they have not been further vandalized.

After taking loads of photos, we pressed on.

This is rolling hill country and I got very familiar with my shift levers and brakes.

We had a lovely lunch in Nobber, despite the espresso machine there having some difficulty making up its mind whether to work or not.

After lunch we continued to roll up and down hills, making sure every cog got to spend some quality time in contact with the chain!

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the weather, those aren't superstitions, they're truths!
    Merry Christmas!