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Watching for Perseids Meteors in the Dublin Mountains and living the dream

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Proper attire for a meteor party.
Proper attire for a meteor party.

Last Monday night's plans were quickly thrown out the window when Jen got in touch saying that there was a group heading up to the mountains that night to watch the meteor shower, and did I want to come. Um, YES was my answer.


So, just as when we went on our Meath adventures, we took the Luas to Sandyford where Dave met us in his family's car. We drove further out of town to pick up one of their friends who lives basically at the base of the road that goes up into the hills and eventually takes you through the staggeringly beautiful Sally Gap and into Wicklow. There was still some light in the sky - and clouds - when we got to his house, so we stayed for tea and some quality time with the dog.

When we all piled back in the car and started uphill it was properly dark and getting chilly. You don't really realize how much height you've gained until you round a [hairpin] turn, and the whole city of Dublin is laid out perfectly, twinkling, below you. It's a popular viewing spot, and there's a big space for cars to pull off and park. Whenever I've driven past before, there have been at most 2 vehicles stopped there. But on Monday night it (and the road leading to and from it) were packed with parked cars and groups of people standing around, heads tilted back and staring up.

So we drove on, looking for a less busy spot a bit further from the city lights. About a mile - less? - on, we parked and trooped out into a field.

Your average Monday night...
Your average Monday night...
One of my favorite things about Dublin is that it takes no time at all to go from town to the middle of nowhere. If you were picturing us driving along an American-style highway with painted lines and streetlights, working our way through suburbia and gas stations and rest stops, you had it a bit off! There are no lights, no buildings, only the occasional sign - really just the land under the sky with one small winding road on it. And like I mentioned when I wrote about the views from Croagh Patrick, the fact that so much of the landscape is treeless makes space feel so BIG and stark and dramatic.

Knowing all of this, and having spent summer nights at camp outside watching for stars, I knew it would be freezing despite the warm day. I prepared, and I'm so glad, because no one else did! We scuffed and hopped through the big tufts of grass to get away from the road (again: no lights, no guardrails), and randomly picked a spot. I laid down a couple of big towels for us and unfurled the gigantic duvet I'd insisted on lugging the whole way (made for a comfy Luas ride). On went my hat and scarf, and we were snug as bugs in rugs, four of us smooshed up under one duvet gaping up at the sky. I had cookies and chocolate too.

We only actually saw about five meteors, but we were only out there for around an hour I'd say, and couldn't stay any longer as we all had work in the morning. Maybe we missed the real show, but clouds and the hour finished the night early for us.

But it was still so fun! I think Jen and I giggled the entire time, absolutely delighted with ourselves. I kept embarrassing myself by inadvertently exclaiming "OOOH!" really loudly each time something shot across the sky. It was such a neat thing to do on a weeknight, and I always feel good getting out of town and into the country.

Not to get too corny now, but I also want to mention that I felt very aware of how lucky I was all night. Lying in a field watching a meteor shower in Ireland? Pretty amazing as a young woman from a foreign country that basically idolizes this place. So many American college students come to Ireland to study abroad every year, many of them really wanting the "real" experience - to befriend natives and get to see wonderful things without being tourists - but, just as anyone does when put anywhere foreign, many end up only spending time with other Americans, and entertaining themselves the same way they would back on campus. I know that I'm having the experience they hope to have, and it takes special moments like Monday night to remind me not to take that for granted.

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