A Travellerspoint blog

Across the Irish Sea

semi-overcast

So back in July I took a flight out to visit a friend in Dublin. We had met at summer camp in Canada in 2011 and now myself and an Australian friend were flying over from England to have a little catchup weekend. We had thought on doing so many things during the 3 days we were there, but in honesty we never got round to half of them! Girls have this amazing ability to make catchups last forever :) and we are very proud of it! However, we did get to see some quite amazing sights. We skipped over the Guinness Factory (partly because I'm not a big beer fan) and headed straight into the country for a bit of celtic heritage seeking.
We went and had a nosy around the Battle of the Boyne. Back in 1690 the area was the site of a battle fought between William of Orange (a Protestant and the King of England, Scotland & Ireland) and James II (the deposed Catholic King). It is located 30 miles North of Dublin and was considered the last natural barrier facing WIlliam and his men as he headed to meet the stronghold of James II in July 1690. The battle came to an end on the southern side of the river with William being victorious. Consequently this ended any hope James had of regaining the throne.
Nowadays the site of the battle is a peaceful place. There is a small attraction in the form of the Oldbridge House, the Tea Pavilion (cafe), and large areas of grassland. The Oldbridge House was built in the 1750s and extended in 1832, and believed to be designed by architect George Darley. The use of Renaissance architectural concepts are evident with the use of the three storeys, which was believed to be a harmonious. The original 1850s house had three storeys and was three bays wide, thereby visually illustrating harmony, proportion, and unity (renaissance ideals). The old Roman features popular in the Renaissance are also viewable within the entrance design with the use of columns and closed pediments. The house works to create a very peaceful atmosphere with its natural surroundings. It contains a visitors centre and an informative display which is meant to be very interesting, but unfortunately I never got the chance to have a peek around. There is also a self guided tour of the parklands that can be done, and there are various monuments plotted along the land, such as canons, with their own descriptive signs. We were lucky that it was a lovely sunny day, a great opportunity to take advantage of the picnic benches outside the House. A visit is a great chance to get out of the city of Dublin and stretch your legs!

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Then we went and visited Newgrange, a Stone Age Passage Tomb built about 5000 years ago. It is a little out the way from Dublin, but luckily my friend had her car there and acted as a brilliant tour guide! The Tomb is circular and decorated around the outside with these white stones, which are apparently part of the original design from 3200BC. Very impressive. It is based on a open planned hill, ideally located to act as the highest point to a local village back in the day. You can still imagine how the people of the time would have focused on this building as their religious centre. And still the tomb creates an awe-inspiring moment when you first see it. It's hard to believe it is so old, yet so the architecture of it is so advanced for its time. You have to wait for a few minutes to go inside with your group, which leaves plenty of time for a walk right around the tomb. It's a great opportunity because as the tomb is built on a small hill the views around are beautiful! You can see great sweeping fields and the landscape stretches quite a way.
The tomb itself is designed in a pyramid manner, with stones piled over each other, joining at the top, in a /\ shape, with earth placed over. Standing in the centre of the building it feels a little claustrophobic as you realise how many stones above you are playing jenga. But the fact that they have been balanced that way for the 5000 years creates some sort of trust in the structure. The tomb also has a spiritual and religious tone to it. On the winter solstice the sun shines through an opening (a roof-box) that lies parallel with the centre of the structure, allowing a beam of light to spread into the tomb and gradually flood the inside in a golden hue. This only happens for a few minutes and only on the shortest days of the year. Tickets for these special days are difficult to come by, and if I remember correctly, you must enter your name in a draw for the chance to come on this special day. However, for those of us who do not win said coveted ticket, there have been artificial lights installed that mimic the patterns of the light. It is interesting to see, and makes you wonder what happened to the knowledge that existed so long ago that created this mathematical genius. For by the dark ages it had surely depleted. It is one of the wonders that makes the celts such an interesting people.

These images below are from the outside of Newgrange. The whole circular structure is surrounded by these large stones with swirling patterns. The entrance is also is guarded by some oblong stones. The second image shows in more detail the celtic patterns carved into the stone and the top section of the photo shows the roof box where the beam of light shines through on the winter solstice in December.

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Jen x

Posted by Jen_Ingrid 08:51 Archived in Ireland Tagged houses ireland irish renaissance dubin meath Comments (0)

When In Rome!

Blondie a Roma

sunny

So I realise I have a little bit of back dating to do before I can update with my current travel plans...and yes I do have a few sneaky trips in the pipeline!

The biggest city break I have done recently was Rome. I mean I travelled Italy last summer and saw Florence, Verona, Milan, and Venice, but this was ROME! The city that housed the capital of the Roman Empire until 330AD when it was moved to Constantinople. The city with the iconic colosseum, Vatican city, Trevi fountain, and Parthenon, how could I not start my blog with this city!

Of course I went to all the sights. My friends and I did the typical movie style montage of throwing coins in the fountain, the 'peace' gesture photos in front of the monuments, and the Vatican Tour that are all essential for any tourist's visit to Rome. However, travelling in a group consisting of 2 archaeologists, a biologist, and historian does have its advantages, and makes for some interesting discoveries! We tried to stay off the beaten path as much as possible and explore the little secrets that Italy is so good at hiding. Sometimes we did this successfully, finding the quaintest restaurant in Rome called Traverna Romana which is located just down the road from the colosseum. In our opinion it was the best restaurant we went to in Rome, and had the tastiest lasagne I have ever had.
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Then again there was the day we decided to try something different, and set out to find the catacombs. We ended up following a map that led us in the total wrong directions for 2 hours, before pulling up google maps on 2 separate iphones, retracing our steps for another hour, asking 3 people for directions- including a police officer- (note: never take directions from an Italian seriously. Whilst they are very lovely and willing to give them, the location you are looking for is always 'just down the road and turn right/ left.... leaving you a little confused if that takes you to a road of residential houses with no signposts for catacombs! no prize for guessing who was in charge of the map that morning!). It was only after it started raining, and following signs for the catacombs that suddenly appeared we found them! (turns out they were only 10mins on a bus from our apartment - blondness strikes!) The journey to catacombs and the catacombs themselves were totally worth all the trouble :) We got a most wonderful view of some ruins on the way as well:
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If you are the type to try something a little different then I would for sure recommend the Callisto catacombs. Le catacombe di San Callisto or Catacombs of St. Callixtus as it is also called, is an underground burial chamber which contained thousands of bodies, including fifty martyrs and sixteen pontiffs. Many bodies were dug up as the area was raided and stripped of its goods many years ago, however what you can now see lining every inch of the walls on display for public visitation are cut out slits about a foot in width, all that is remaining of many of the graves. The passageways are narrow, quite dark, and go a fair few metres down into the ground, so it isn't recommended for those who suffer with Claustrophobia. There is no photography permitted due to the sacredness of the site, but the guides are extremely knowledgeable and create a great mental image of the importance of the burial site to contemporaries and the history of its transition into site popular with visitors. Entrance is only a few euros, I think I paid €7-8 , so wont break the moneybank and you get your money's worth in the hour long tour. Definitely something I would recommend to anyone planning on a trip to Rome.

A few little tips for when visiting Rome:

1. Explore the backstreets when going out for dinner. As you will find in most Italian cities the best places to eat are not the ones in front of the star attractions. They are usually just round the corner. Usually much less noisy, better quality food, and at a much better price.
2. Have a potter about in the evening. Many of the sights really come into their own when the sun goes down. Definitely a good opportunity to grab a gelato after dinner and take a few sweet snaps in front of the buildings as they are lit up in the night.
3. Take a tour, or two...or three! The tour guides have excellent knowledge of the sights and the city's history. So unless you specialist in Ancient History it is well worth paying for a tour guide of the Vatican, the colosseum, and the forum. We were approached by a young woman in the queue for the colosseum offering a tour of the colosseum, forum, and Palatine Hill (Emperor's Palace) for around €15 including entrance.
4. Wander into some of the local churches. The renaissance of 1300-1600 left some pretty spectacular renovations in many of the churches. Full of rich colour, and gothic/ renaissance architecture it is well worth a step off the busy streets into the peaceful atmosphere of the church. Most only ask for a donation if they charge at all.

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Interior shot of St Peter's Basilica.
The late Renaissance building is full of Renaissance style Architecture which can be seen especially in the geometrically proportionate arches, the ceiling panels that create a sense of depth and perception, and in the roman style columns that decorate the building.

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Interior of Vatican buildings.
The interior fills its walls with paintings from the renaissance legends, inviting such crowds that the umbrella is adopted my many tour guides as their new favourite accessory for keeping their troops together.

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The photo that had to be taken.
The colosseum has some great viewing areas that utilise the perspective of the building. Great for taking the perfect pic!

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Palatine Hill
One of those awe inspiring sights to been seen. Also named the 'Emperor's Palace' the area is perfect for a wander round someplace a bit quieter.

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The Vatican at Sunset
Never miss a chance to see the sunset on St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. A marvel in its own right.

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The Colosseum
Perfect example of why wandering round at night with a camera is a must-do in Rome!

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Church Interior
This church is located right by Palazzo Venezia. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name but it is well worth a look inside whilst you're passing by. The rich colour inside is something to wonder at. The features are so delicate and yet create a very warm interior.

Jen x

Posted by Jen_Ingrid 15:53 Archived in Italy Tagged history italy rome colosseum renaissance catacombs Comments (0)

Writing About What You Know

rain 9 °C

'Write about what you know'. Its always seemed like such a cliched term to me, something I usually just pass over. But having completed a history degree in 2012 and since then working as a customer advisor, I have begun to really miss using my historical knowledge and seeing what I studied still appear in day to day life.
I guess that's what this blog is kind of about. Whilst sitting on my bed writing this, rain pouring outside (typical) I imagine myself back in all the places I have visited so far, and all the sights I still have to see. Because that is what is good about life in this modern age. Travel is so accessible, and I don't plan on wasting it. Going places, writing about them, and finding the little bits of history in everywhere I go is a dream of mine. It's not that hard considering every city has history behind it. The task is finding the interesting history, the history full of stories, of rich colour, and intrigue, and exposing it in a way that makes you want to see it over and over again. Maybe to make you see the world a little differently. To make places seem timeless, and as if the history is still alive!
I suppose it could sound like I am trying to create an online history textbook, but I am hoping that the dyed blonde hair, and the Liverpool sarcasm will count for something! Hopefully to give it an alternative viewpoint. In my degree I specialised in Renaissance Florence and Venice, so I guess that is where my love of Italy has come from and that will for sure become evident in my posts so be warned :) I am also a fan of petty pictures and sketching, so expect to see a lot of creative images thrown in to illustrate!

The first post is meant to be an exciting moment, but to be honest I am glad its over :) now I can crack onto the fun stuff! Feel free to leave feedback or ask questions!

Jen x

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Posted by Jen_Ingrid 20:54 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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