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Ireland in the hot sun - melting roads, water shortages, but no better place on Earth

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Children playing in the Irish Sea. Don't be fooled -
that water is freezing cold.

And the Lord said, "Let there be light," and there was light and quite a bit of heat too. I'm sure God saw that it was good, although he doesn't like to do it too often. 'What's seldom is wonderful' seems to be God's motto when it comes to Ireland and warm summer weather.

We are in the middle of one of infrequent heat waves. Temperatures have been as high as the mid 80s and we have about 15 hours of sunshine a day. Who could complain?

No one Irish anyway. We may have water shortages and melting roads, but nobody much minds. That's the real beauty of it - this fine weather really lifts the mood. It's such a rarity that the good weather just seems to cheer everyone. In weather like this Ireland can rival the Magic Kingdom for the "happiest place on Earth."

The only people I can imagine who might be slightly disgruntled are American tourists because away from the coasts it is actually pretty warm through the nights and there is no air conditioning anywhere here. Even fans are fairly rare. Hotels and restaurants can actually be uncomfortably warm. When darkness doesn't totally set in until well after 11pm and light starts breaking through around 4:30 sleeplessness can come into play. Whereas Irish people shrug that off at times like this, I would understand if a few tourists are a little grumpy and bleary-eyed with it all.

As for me, well I may be American, but I'm as sun-starved as any of the locals. I'm thrilled to see the sun for such long stretches. My family has been doing as all Irish families have: enjoying the sunshine immensely. We've gone swimming in the frigid Irish Sea, dined in the back yard, gone on excursions without even considering bringing umbrellas or rain jackets. That last one is a rare treat indeed.

On Sunday we went back to County Meath, which is, as advertised, Ireland's "heritage capital." This time we visited the site of the Battle of the Boyne, the Hill of Slane and the birthplace of Irish patriot John Boyle O'Reilly.

The Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre is in a lovely location. A big old house, pretty green fields with some period cannon scattered around, but ultimately the center is disappointing. Maybe there isn't much that can be done when you have no artifacts - a few replicas is about it - and the battle was 323 years ago. Still I left there feeling no wiser just poorer for having gone there.

Churchyard at Slane, Co Meath

If you're in Meath and have to choose between the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre and the Hill of Slane go to the Hill of Slane. The good weather helped, of course, but the Hill of Slane has great views, history and it's free. You have to do your own research to learn of Slane's importance, but just walking in the ancient friary and churchyard can be rewarding enough. I hadn't been there in years and was really glad to visit again on Sunday.

The last stop on our brief tour of the area was one my specialties. I caught a glimpse of a sign advertising a memorial to John Boyle O'Reilly and ignoring the wails from the back of the car I headed off in pursuit. One lucky guess at an unsigned crossroad (follow signs for Dowth) and I was there. The old school his father ran and the tower house he was born in are still there, although they've recently been refurbished.

John Boyle O'Reilly memorial
Dowth, Co Meath
O'Reilly - Irish patriot and
advocate for Catholics
in 19th Century Boston.

O'Reilly is another example of the links between Ireland and America. He was a determined Irish patriot, a Fenian. He was transported to Australia in 1868 after the failed Fenian uprising. From there he escaped to America. He settled in Boston where he argued for Home Rule, helped organize a rescue of his fellow Fenians in an Australian prison and became an advocate for Catholics in his adopted homeland. Oh yeah, and he edited a newspaper and wrote poetry too.

All in all, O'Reilly packed a lot of living into his 46 years. He is remembered with a memorial near Fenway Park in Boston, which I've never seen but I assume is much easier to find then the one at his birthplace. Finding that was the perfect end to a perfect day in sun-drenched Ireland. Hurry over before it goes, unless you prefer it damp and cool. If you do, just wait a week and I'm sure you'll be satisfied.

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