One of our favorite members has written another great article about our awesome trip to Ireland. Janet, from the San Francisco Bay Area, had a great time and provided her thoughts on the trip for us…
A bottle of Espresso flavored Smirnoff’s vodka bought at the duty free shop broken just as I rounded a line in Customs at Dublin airport was my reminder. An airport employee disposed of the sad liquid mess; another suggested I might check right past customs to the 2nd Duty Free area. The clerk at the counter made the call upstairs; can it be replaced? They couldn’t between Duty Free and Customs it would involve another 40-minute jaunt through that maze. He shook his head sadly but took me by surprise when he offered to replace the broken bottle with something of equal value. I had no receipt and no broken bottle just my silly tale, a faint odor of espresso on my fingertips, one tiny drop of vodka laying gently on my suitcase handle and yet here he was wrapping up a bottle to make up for my mistake. That is the difference between the Irish and Americans in a nutshell. Throughout my 10 days there in every city, every street, shop, line or business the Irish are one of the warmest, friendliest, giving, and open people I’ve met.
Ireland was always somewhere deep within me. I had a desire to visit this country since I was a teenager. There’s no story about a grandparent that spun tales from long ago. No important event in my life involving the Irish that left its mark deep inside of me. The Irish were in my blood in a way that I couldn’t understand. I didn’t study the history or language; there is no recollection of writing a paper on anything Irish although I might have. There aren’t Irish books in my home; I don’t listen to traditional music, although I like the Corrs and Thin Lizzy. I never tried Irish dancing and Michael Flatly was cool but I didn’t geek out on him.What I can say is that I have an affinity for Celtic art; my first tattoo is a Celtic inspired confused question mark and I’ve indulged in Irish whiskey periodically. I think it must be my knotty side drawn to the artwork.
Now I’m sitting here on the plane crossing over Vermont back to the states still wondering how it went so fast and if I will remember enough of it to keep me warm during those cold American encounters. We began in Dublin, to Kilkenny, Kerry, Clare, Galway, West Meath, Meath, and roundabout to Dublin again. Each of our small group that traveled by private bus came away with our own experiences and stories of this beautiful country with more than 41 shades of green.
I barely scratched the surface of Dublin (I was on a quest separate than the group you see), but the city is vibrant and alive. I can’t wait to go back. In Kilkenny I ate hands down the best meal of my trip in Kyteler’s Inn, Hot Chicken & Ham Vol-au-vents. I took a picture to commemorate the moment. The inn was originally owned by Dame Alice le Kyteler born in 1263 who, because she had four husbands and made quite a bit of money she also had quite a few enemies. Haters. We were fortunate enough to be there on a Tuesday when Helen taught us how to play the Bodharan, two of our crew even got certified! We got to enjoy traditional Irish and Irish folk music across the country at several pubs such as the Pumphouse (also in Kilkenny), Matt the Miller’s, the Shelbourne (Cork), Taffe’s (Galway) and more (Lisa and Emily have their own list of adventures). Grab a pint of Guiness on the East side of Ireland but its Murphy’s on the West, and a Beamish before leaving Cork. Ask for Baby Guiness in Galway at Taffe’s!
Most of us trudged up 120 steps at Blarney Castle; lay on our backs and slid down holding a hand rail to kiss the Blarney Stone. Steve chickened out. Later in Cork, I had a scrumptious black and tan hot chocolate from O’Conaill’s on French Church Street. No powder here, they melted dark chocolate and white chocolate into frothy creamy milk. Yummy chocolaty goodness in a variety of flavors served up with a handful of white, milk and dark chocolate chips to munch on. Don’t miss the quaint fishing city of Dingle in County Kerry. There is a nice selection of pubs, restaurants, and a dolphin for your entertainment. A number of photo opportunities exist as well for street singers or Dexler and his donkey sitting quietly by the iron fishing hook. Make sure you stop at Murphy’s and get a scoop of Balsamic Vinegar ice cream and Sea Salt ice cream. Trust me, do it.
Newgrange was a surprise to me. I had no idea that this passage tomb constructed about 3200 BC is 600 years older than Giza, and 1000 years older than Stonehenge. Why doesn’t anyone know about this place??! We weren’t’ able to take photographs but I can tell you is that it was surreal to be standing inside the tomb and looking up at a ceiling built 5000 years ago. No changes, no restructuring but the original inside as it was years ago. A photo can’t adequately capture standing at the Cliffs of Moher. Nominated as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, it is an awe-inspiring site that actually took my breath away with its plunging depths. Fair warning about the winds at the Cliffs, I’m not sure of the speed but I can tell you I had no control over my movements for a good 5-10 minutes as the winds mercilessly charged at us. The roar of the wind drowned out my laughter but when it finally died down, I took my moment to lie down in the green clover by the cliffs and look up at the blue sky gently decorated with cotton puff clouds and sighed. A satisfied, happy sigh that Ireland was as I hoped it would be. It is a magical, lovely place with castles, kingdoms, stories, humor, and song. I can’t wait to return, there is so much left unseen and unexplored.
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