We are home from Ireland, and all we can say is…it was EPIC!
Fantastic meals, wonderful people, perfectly poured Guinness, bottle after bottle of Slane Castle Irish Whiskey, a rock concert to end all concerts, and endless hospitality from an incredibly gracious family added up to a truly indescribable vacation.
The setting for much of the weekend’s festivities was Slane Castle, the historic home of the 8th Marquess Conyngham, or, as we call him, Henry. Henry’s ancestral home is Slane Castle in County Meath and he’s added to its storied history while it has been under his direction. Slane has been in Henry’s family since 1701, but its first round of infamy came in the early 1800′s. It seems that King Henry IV kept the first Marchioness Conyngham as his mistress and often came to stay with her by the banks of the River Boyne. There is a bedroom in the castle that to this day bears his title, and a portrait of King Henry that overlooks the castle’s ballroom.
When Henry Conyngham (or actually, I think he was Henry Mount Charles at the time…the last name changes as one ascends up the nobility ladder) returned home to Ireland from Harvard, his father charged him with keeping the family castle up and running. No small task, to be sure. Henry began the slow business of building the Slane Castle brand, and dreamt up a musical festival to help him accomplish that task. Thirty years later, on the same banks of the River Boyne and just under the King’s Room, TJ and I found ourselves drinking Slane Castle Irish Whiskey “Wojitos” and getting our first glimpse of the stage where the Kings of Leon would play in front of 80,000 people the next day.
As if drinks at a castle the night before the concert aren’t impressive enough, later that evening we were transported to Beauparc – a house that looked just like a castle to me, but apparently is more of a manor house. This is where Henry and his wife Iona primarily live, and I can understand why. As breath-taking as the castle is, the grounds surrounding Beauparc are even more amazing, and the house maintains a cozier charm than the castle. It was here that we felt like we got indoctrinated into the group, as we drank Champagne Pannier with Henry and Iona’s closest allegiance of friends and family. We rolled home at about midnight, beyond excited for the next day’s festivities.
I’m really not even sure how to begin explaining the day of the concert. We got to the castle at about 2:30 and headed up into the VIP area. This is how an article in the Evening Herald Newspaper in Ireland describes the VIP scene:
“Over the years, the VIP area at Slane has come to resemble a sort of a rock’n'roll version of the queen’s annual garden party. And with the castle perched high on a hilltop, overlooking the concert site, VIPs at Slane are afforded the privilege of, literally, looking down on the great unwashed, as they scramble for space on the slopes.”
Except, of course, we were part of an even more rarified group, as the article continues on to say:
“But not all VIPs are created equal and even within the hospitality area, there are various hierarchies and levels of access, some clearly demarcated but others much more subtle.
At the top are those with entry to the castle itself, where the hospitality is gold-plated (many’s the hapless VIP who marched confidently up the castle steps only to discover their wristband was the wrong colour or their laminated pass didn’t have the requisite number of gold stars).”
These are only some of my wristbands. I had more on the other arm.
Yes, TJ and I had full castle access. The whole day. The whole night. It was completely unreal. Apparently, we were not the only ones who were confused by the full VIP treatment, as almost everyone at the concert started wondering if we were famous. Or, to put it more bluntly, if TJ was famous. “American footballer?” people whispered. Or my favorite, one girl pulled me aside to ask if he was Eminem. Yes, TJ Douglas…wine store owner or scrawny white rapper…your choice.
But let’s be honest. The entire point of this day was to drink, have fun and make new friends. All of which we did. We started slowly with a few Guinness, but as the weather cooled off, TJ moved on to Slane Whiskey on the rocks and I continued my love affair with cocktails made with Slane. Wojitos, Rock n Rollas, and a few other concoctions that I can’t quite remember were enjoyed by all, and definitely by me. I will without a doubt replace the rum in all my summer drinks with Slane Whiskey, and highly recommend you do too. It’s good!
TJ and I spent a lot of time wandering around in the field while it was only partially packed. I love this picture.
We also loved watching the concert…the same of which can’t really be said for most of the people in the VIP area. I hadn’t head of White Lies before but they were really good, and the reconstituted version of Thin Lizzy was fantastic. Could we look ANY happier right in this picture?
This is my favorite picture of Henry. Can you read the thought bubble over his head? If you can’t, let me help…it says, “I f*cking did this!”
But the real fun began when Kings of Leon came on the stage. I think people were worried that they might not be friendly enough to win over the crowd, but honestly, it didn’t matter. They absolutely killed their set. And once the sun went down, the entire effect of the show was beyond words. So I’m not even going to try. Instead here is a little video clip from our seats.
Just remember, you are only seeing about a third of the people at the concert. The rest are up the hill and around the bend.
Some smart people enjoyed a balloon ride over the festival. GORGEOUS!
I have no idea what I am doing in this picture. I was about 87 sheets to the wind at this point.
This all went on for hours, as Kings of Leon impressed everyone by playing an incredibly long set.
I think the show ended at about 11 (who was watching the clock by this time…not me!) with an impressive fireworks display. We headed into the castle for the after party, which also doubled as Henry’s 60th birthday party. After literally inhaling a meat pie (more on that tomorrow in my food of Ireland blog), TJ and I danced up a storm in the nightclub in the bottom of the castle (and no, I’m not kidding…there is a nightclub in the basement). There is some indecent footage of me from this part of the evening that will be immediately burned. I think we landed in bed at about 4:30 AM, a completely indecent hour for a mother of two. I am still exhausted.
Seeing a concert at Slane is incredible and something that is really not on the American radar. But it should be. All the greats (well, with the exception of Bon Jovi) have played here. U2 has played here three times and even lived in the castle while they were recording the Unforgettable Fire album. The place practically oozes with rock and roll history.
Through it all, we were continually amazed by the fact that Henry and his family treated us like family. We honestly cannot thank them enough for this truly spectacular experience.
Lots more to share from our trip. So stay tuned for additional posts over the next few day!