My sister Libby and I boarded a plane for Ireland eight years ago this St. Patrick’s Day. It was definitely a bucket list trip.
Our adventure was also the impetus for my first foray into blogging, which was intended solely for my family, as you will gather if you read the entries. It started out as a series of long, involved emails until a cousin suggested a blog would be a better way to let our extended family read about the trip. She was either trying to free up her email inbox or encourage me to write even more – I have never decided which. I put the blog away after the travelogue and didn’t resurrect it for general audiences until a year later.
I’m reprinting our travel blog in all its glory in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve added photos (something I didn’t know how to do in 2009) and present links to each post at the bottom of this one. They’re listed in the order written in case you want to travel along with us.
I should warn you that it is a loooong journey, literary-wise. The trip didn’t take as long as the telling about it did, as one helpful sibling pointed out. Several times. It seems I hadn’t figured out editing back then, either.
We had a wonderful time in the land of our ancestors. We got in to the Dublin airport early in the morning, after about 3 hours of sleep, and decided to head north from the airport to see the sights and get used to the driving away from the city.
Lib and I went to an ancient burial site called Newgrange that is 1000 years older than Stonehenge and 100 years older than the pyramids. It was really impressive. The weather was lovely, sunny with blue skies and daffodils were in bloom everywhere. In fact, everyone we met wherever we went remarked that the weather the week we were in Ireland was the nicest it had been in 2 years.
After lunch at a pub in a charming little town, we decided mid-afternoon to head for the city and find our hotel.
Our first day in Dublin was taken straight from Dante’s 3rd circle of hell, the one with really narrow streets (none of them straight or grid-like), huge buses and suicidal bike riders all over. There are no visible street signs and traffic is moving too quickly to dare stop and ask anyone where you are. We later learned they have plaques mounted on the second story of the buildings that tell the street names. You can’t actually see them from the street – you have to stand right under them, and squint up through a telescope. But don’t get too attached to that street name, because it is sure to change in the next block. I’m not kidding. We hit Dublin the first day around rush hour, minus a map of the city and suffering from serious jet lag. It is a testament to our Christian upbringing that Lib and I were still on speaking terms when we finally dragged our spineless bodies into the hotel after a couple of hours of aimless, terror-filled city driving.
The next day, after a good night’s sleep, we set out to conquer Dublin on foot, armed with a good map. We toured a typical Georgian gentleman’s house on the square, went through the park, admired the architecture, went to Trinity College and looked at the beautiful illuminated manuscripts and their 2 story, vaulted library. We walked over the Liffey River to the historic post office, hit some shops for souvenirs, had breakfast in a little basement restaurant, coffee in a cafe and dinner in a pub right downtown. We split fish and chips and shepherds pie, served by a young Asian man with an Irish accent.
We even braved the extensive bus system to get out to the old jail, Kilmainham. We arrived at 4 to be told that the last tour of the day was sold out. This was one of the few places Lib really wanted to see, so that was disappointing. We spend a few $ to get into the museum and strolled around in a desultory fashion trying to get a feel for the place before we had to head back out to try to figure out what bus would take us back to the city center. The tour group left from the museum and we asked the young woman holding the door if they possibly had any cancellations so we could join the tour. She looked around furtively and said “get along with you then; I didn’t see a thing” and motioned us after the departing tour group. So we got our tour after all!
It was a sobering place with a rich history. During the potato famine, the place swelled with people who preferred jail to freedom because they would at least have a roof and a little food. Later it was a political prison that saw the deaths of countless Irishmen who fought for centuries to get out from under the English thumb.
When we stayed at B&Bs, we had the full Irish breakfast every morning. This consists of one egg, baked beans, 2 pieces of what they call bacon, which we would call ham, 2 large pieces of sausage, toast and black or white pudding. This is actually another kind of sausage, with or without blood. We took it without the blood, thank you very much. If you were lucky, they served brown bread. I developed a passion for Irish scones and chewy brown bread that rivals Mom’s baked goods obsession.
Some OTHER people recently visiting the country developed such a nose for the ale that she (I mean the mythical person) could tell from across the room whether the drops spilled on the pub floor were Guinness, Swithwick, Murphys or, God forbid, Heineken. She (I still mean the mythical person) could further place the source of the brew’s hops in the proper county, within 2 kilometers of the farm, and speculate intelligently on which of the farmer’s sheep had fertilized the field. That requires a level of dedicated study heretofore unheard of in one week’s time. But what happens in Ireland stays in Ireland, as they say.
Anyway, enough of a travelogue for now.
Hope all is well with all of you-
Lots of love,
Our travels continue…