How could I not write about Ireland on St. Patrick's Day? One of my favorite holidays, where I get to make some of my well beloved recipes and Grandma's soda bread recipe and listen to Celtic Fiddle Festival radio all day without being made fun of by my children.
I have been to Ireland three times recently and consider it a place where I can reset my mental health. There is a reason why so many people have fallen in love with the charms of Ireland, it is a welcoming place full of lively music, cozy pubs, wit, crumbling histories and green, rolling hills. You can sit at any pub and have a chat with the locals and they will share with you their stories. The thing with the Irish is that no one has ever really gave one shit (or shite) that I was American. In fact, once up north they found out my last name and bought me round after round. The Irish are completely aware that they share America with us in a way. Every pub has either American license plates hanging up or patches brought over from Boston or New York City firefighters. That is why Ireland is like going home. A quick five hour flight from Boston and boom- back in a fairy tale.
When people fly into Ireland, they typically don't fly into Shannon unless it's a cheap flight from Boston. Most fly into Dublin, so that is where my journey begins. I tend to stay in hostels around Temple Bar, which is basically a stag party hotspot and full of Canadians, Londoners and Americans but you can NOT beat the music. It makes the Guinness price gauging worth it. Traditional Irish music is heard in the streets until all hours of the morning and then when you wake up in the morning the streets are clear and silent, then it starts all over again. Dublin also has the best free museum I have ever been too, it has bog bodies and all. The National Museum of Ireland isn't too far from Trinity College, which has that famous library you've seen all over Pinterest. My last trip to Dublin I also learned that some car parks closed there and my rental car was trapped over a weekend but that's an entirely different story.
After leaving Dublin I usually make a choice- straight across to Galway or down to County Cork. I would have explored more of the middle counties had I gone alone but my last trip over I brought my bestie Megan and I knew there were certain bucket list items she needed to see. She was a saint for putting up with my driving (a stick shift on the left in crazy roundabouts was not easy). So we decided to head to Galway first (after our pit stop in England but that is for a different post). On the way to Galway we accidentally bumped into Sean's Bar, established in 900AD, when we pulled over to see Athlone Castle. Like most castles in February, it was closed so a quick half pint was the alternative. Onwards to the Cliffs of Moher, where the wind was so bad from Storm Dennis, that it was blowing us around like plastic bags and blowing water UP over the cliffs. It was still breathtaking as ever.
After Galway we went on to Castle Martyr near Blarney so Megan could kiss the stone. We walked right up to it with zero wait which was the opposite of when I went in July and waited for an hour and a half. It was quite strange having the castle to ourselves but we were also saturated with rain half the time! When we got back to the resort we were finally ready to treat ourselves after traveling like homeless bums and living out of backpacks for the first part of the trip. This resort was like nothing I had ever stayed in before and was built next to Castle Ruins but still in a "newer" 1700's chateau. We felt like absolute queens and loved every moment of it. The next day before high tea we decided to go find the ghost ship that had washed up recently near Ballycotton. It was all over the news and causing a massive headache for the locals. We ended up in the adorable cliff town, where I went into the post office for the first time to mail something to my sister in law. The post office wasn't even real life. It felt like something out of Who-ville. But anyways, we never found the ghost ship, we just nearly slid down the cliffs and poor Megan got a view of my pale Irish arse a few too many times. Needless to say, my boots were absolutely destroyed and I looked like a peasant at tea time.
Back in the car we went, with that trip-is-almost-over sadness on the way to Bray. Bray is a seaside town not too far from Dublin. It was dark by the time we got there and dark by the time we woke up to leave but I bet if it was daylight I would have loved it. We stayed in Oscar Wilde's old home, The Strand Hotel, which had an entire pink gin bar on the bottom floor pub. We had to find one last night of live music so we went for a responsible pint at a pub we could walk to, where three lads were playing fiddles and slide guitar and singing songs about Kansas. At night when it was time for sleep, I drifted and APPRECIATED every single sound the ocean was making as it crashed upon the docks outside the window. I am landlocked all the time, and my heart was heavy knowing I wouldn't be able to hear the ocean for a long time.
I keep telling myself Ireland is always there. It never truly changes. It's also within me too, even when I leave it, it's in my freckles. It's in my heart. Whenever that plane is about to touch down at Dublin airport and I see the quilted green fields, I breathe out.
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