Different places tend to have different effects on individuals. It is always interesting to visit a place that you have been to before and experience it with someone new. For the past twelve days I have been an Irish tour guide for my friend Willie. I grew up with Willie and we have stayed close friends through my college years. He had always wanted to come and visit
and when I said that I was moving here he jumped on the opportunity of a visit. It has been nice to have someone to travel with. I have for the first time realized just how much I have learned while here about the country, how things work, how to get around, and just where to go for the best food, drink and music. Ireland
We started off in
, both of us flying in from various destinations on the same weekend. The morning of his arrival I was late to the airport and franticly tried to find out what terminal his flight was coming into. After discovering that his flight had been delayed and I was in fact early I headed to find a nice cup of tea to fuel up on caffeine and sugar and waited for his flight to land. I sat down in what I thought was terminal one where he would be arriving and I waited and waited and waited. Even after the flight had said it had landed I just figured that customs must be taking forever and I would still be the good friend who was waiting right outside of the sliding doors past the duty free perfume counters. By this time I was starving, my tea was long gone and my kindle was about to die. Being a bit exhausted from sleeping in a hostel the night before and having my sleep interrupted by numerous loud German girls, I was to out of it to realized that it was probably taking way longer than normal for Willie to arrive through those frosted sliding doors out into the real world. I even had what I was going to say all though out for when I first saw him. All of a sudden I am yanked from my frilly romance novel back into the real world by a tall red head coming up behind me and saying in true American style, “Howdy Stranger!!” I nearly jumped out of my skin and my next though was how the hell did I miss him coming through the magic doors?! His next line after a bone crushing hug was, “You know you are in the wrong terminal.” I counted it by pointing at a sign and saying, “No Willie, this is Terminal One, see the sign up there.” Unfortunately the words died on my lips when I noticed the large arrow pointing to the right… Dublin
We stayed in
for a few days taking the city bus tour which I had never done, hopping of at both the Guinness Store House and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery where Willie became a certified Whiskey taster and I nearly threw up after smelling the stuff. The bus tour was great because I learned that I knew almost as much as the bus drivers about the city, I just didn’t pair my information with all of the corny bad jokes. Dublin
After we had had enough of the big city we went down to Kilkenny where I am currently living. We caught the championship game of Hurling which is a sport that is a cross between field hockey and Lacrosse played with a baseball. Hurling is Kilkenny’s pride and joy so the whole town was decked out in yellow and black. Flags covered houses, cars and the whole downtown. Thousands of people turned up the day after the match to party all week in our town after our win!! After a few days of celebration and laundry, Willie and I headed down on a bus to
. We picked up our little SUV and headed out the next morning. Cork
The next few days were full of driving narrow country roads, listening to Galway Girl and Whiskey in a Jar on our handy Irish CD’s picked up after kissing the famous Stone at
Blarney. We then drove into Killarney and decided that we would have enough time to do the Ring of Kerry that day. The Ring of Kerry is one of three scenic loops that are well known in . It is probably the most famous and the most traveled by tourists. It is full of beautiful scenic views of the coast and riddled with cute colorful Irish tourist towns. Ireland
I believe that there are places that you can go where the sheer physical beauty can actually affect you physically. For me my head starts to rush like there is a small twister inside of it and my feet tingle and pins and needles go up my legs. I don’t get this feeling much but when I do I know that wherever I am is not only usually a breathtaking spot but I feel connected to it. I remember feeling this way on the Isle of Skye in
after I climbed through the heather to a crumbling castle on the ocean. Here in Scotland Ireland I have felt this numerous times faintly in places like the Cliffs of Moher, Croagh Patrick, and the Wicklow Mountains but I have never felt it as strongly as I did in the . I stood at the top of a ridge and looked out over a beautiful lake in a lush valley surrounded by mountains. This was the Killarney National Park I had come to find, the lush green, the mountains, the wild flowers, creeks, waterfalls, hills of heather and misty woods. As the beauty of this spot washed over me I knew that this is why the Irish still believe that fairy’s still exist in these hills, why would they leave? Why would anyone or anything? Ireland
After a long day driving we relaxed over a few glasses of wine and some excellent pasta at Salvador’s Italian Restaurant in Killarney and then headed out to a few local pubs for some traditional music. Our agenda the next day was the Dingle peninsula where we wanted to get some good mussels and local Sea food. We achieved that goal, saw some more breath taking views and were gifted with the sun popping out to reveal the mountains just in time to take a few pics before the famous Irish mist would swallow the mountains again as if they were never really there at all.
We then made our way up to Doolin, took in the cliffs of Moher and the Doolin coast line with its dolfins and the
Aran Islands in the distance. Next was Galway with its traditional music and pub crawls! Then we spent a day at Kylemore Abby that lays through the Conamara national Park. The park is full of desolate mountains, windy fields dotted with sheep who roam freely across this barren but beautiful landscape. The Abby was once owned by a very wealthy family but then the family went into ruin after the property was gambled away. Now it is an Abby run by nuns and a girls school. It has beautiful grounds with a large lake and amazing vegetable and flower gardens.
Since I have been in
I have found a new appreciation for gardens. Ireland England and have some of the most beautiful gardens in the world and it has been amazing to be able to experience some of them. I never appreciated all that went into gardening even though I grew up with a beautiful garden and I am not naïve about how much work they are but here they are on a bit of a different scale then my mothers wonderful veggie and flower gardens. They always seem to have something in bloom, which is nearly impossible with the weather here. They incorporate different designs, textures and themes. I have never been so excited as I am now when I go into a garden and can identify the different plants and be able to tell people about why there are calendulas planted in with the cabbages or why a whole bed of comfrey is growing. Ireland
Sligo which is a beautiful town surrounded by the foot hills. It was a dreary day so we took it easy spending a long afternoon at a pub watching a local soccer match. Then up to Northern Ireland to Derry, and over to . The north is different from the rest of Belfast . The history is rich, full and raw. Emotions still run high in Ireland Derry about the events of Bloody Sunday and the Bogside riots, battles and conflicts. It was fascinating to learn about the Civil Rights movement in Derry, I had known nothing about it really and had mistook what had been going on as just a religious conflict like much of the world believes. In the seventies there was a big push for civil and equal rights within the catholic and protestant communities which created quite a stir of emotions in Northern Ireland especially in Derry. The British ended up bringing in troops to keep the peace which seemed to escalate the situation in places like Derry and . Today although their has been a disarmament of the notorious terrorist group, the IRA tension in some places still runs high. Belfast
we went on the famous black cab tour and got some more insight about the recent conflicts and the divide in the country. We had a fabulous tour guide who took us through the Catholic and Protestant areas of the city and explained what life was like to live in Belfast during the rougher times and how it is different now. It seems that things have changed dramatically but there is still a great divide between loyalists and republicans. In Protestant neighborhoods there were murals of their “fallen soldiers” and in Catholic neighborhoods there were memorials for IRA members who had died on active duty. It was fascinating to hear about how life was like growing up in a place where if you heard a car coming up behind you and slowing down your automatic reaction would be to look and see if the back window was rolled down and a gun was pointed at you so you could hit the deck. I can hardly imagine what it was like being a kid and living in that kind of environment. Belfast Northern Irelands history is fascinating and shocking. This is not a conflict that happened years and years ago, civil rights is still an issue in these places and gang violence and political agendas have taken hold of the situation today that is still raw and very recent for its citizens.
We finished up our tour in
with a fun night out in Temple Bar a section of the city that is full of pubs with all kinds of music. We went to three different pubs, all had live music and all was of a different genre. We danced, made friends and reminisced about our favorite parts of our trip. The next morning I got up went to the market and got my groceries for the week hugged and kissed Willie goodbye and hoped in a cab to the bus station. At the station I had to run to the bus put my stuff on it and then have the driver yell at me that he didn’t have change for my fifty so I then had to run back inside where I cut everyone off in line, courtesy of a nice Irish lady, bought my ticket and ran back to my bus where the driver rewarded my apology with a scowl. Two and a half hours later I was at Number 5 Nuncio Road, my new home at last. Dublin