There’s a palpable shift in the air; the back-to-school buzz has begun. I foolishly attempted to return an item at Target. The second I entered the store, I saw lines suffocating cashiers. I heard customers complaining about empty shelves. I turned around and sprinted to my car.
I love seeing all the first day of school photos my friends are posting on social media. My heart weeps with parents who are leaving their kids at college for the first time. Alec began—gulp—11th grade, and Zoe started 8th grade. Just writing that sentence is prompting the urge to indulge in a pint of chocolate ice cream.
Rather than wallow within the wistful space of “where has the time gone,” join me on a different jaunt down memory lane. It already feels as if a decade has passed yet our summer travels just ended last month.
My husband passed out the second he landed in his airplane seat. I, on the other hand, watched his head bob. I wished I could fall asleep, too.
Every time I closed my eyes, I heard boisterous men who sat behind me. I’m guessing they were in their early 60s, and they guzzled one drink after another. Our flight was already two hours delayed; we we didn’t take off until 11:30 p.m.
Finally at 3 AM, I asked them if they’d kindly lower the volume. The flight attendant expressed her frustration silently as we made eye contact. I don’t think they listened.
Turbulence tossed the plane abruptly and frequently. My husband remained asleep despite the rocky six hour flight. I couldn’t wait for the captain to announce our descent. In a matter of minutes, I would touch down in the lush land of fairy lore, history, and majestic sprawling greens.
The announcement blasted from the cockpit: “Good morning and welcome to Dublin!” A girlish shriek escaped my lips. Ireland here we come!
The human body is miraculous, and adrenaline boosted me out of my seat. I laughed while looking around this clean, charming airport. We cleared customs quickly, and I laughed after seeing an advertisement that said, “Served here: Insomnia.” Oh how fitting! A perfect word to describe my plane ride. I later learned Insomia is similar to our Starbucks. (I also noticed Starbucks and Subway stores throughout the country. That was quite surprising to me, and we chose to avoid any chain/commercial spots.).
The morning became more entertaining as the minutes passed. We hired a car company to pick us up, and the name? Icognito. I’m now wondering if the sleep deprivation is causing hallucinations?
I dragged my bags and myself into a lovely hotel. My husband wanted to take a tour of nearby distillieries. Despite my attempts at staying vertical, I suddenly felt queasy and weak.
After pouting and protesting, I finally went to our room. Similar to rousing from anesthesia, I awoke with zero recollection of changing my clothes. I pried open my heavy eyelids. My handsome husband grinned at me.
When we travel overseas, I never nap the first day. I push through exhaustion and jet lag. So I was shocked when he told me it was 5:30 p.m. I nearly went airborne with surprise! He said, “Don’t worry about it. I had a blast touring Guinness, and I even got to fill my own bottle at Teeling!” He beamed like a boy who’d just hit a homerun.
My lips parted, but I was still in a semi-coma and totally dehydrated. I took a quick shower—I wasn’t missing another minute in a country I had dreamed about visiting! As I left the bathroom, my husband was now out cold. We were two American narcoleptics! I tickled him awake and said, “Let’s go explore!”
As we wandered down Grafton Street, we heard music echoing everywhere. The vocalists and musicians even more incredible than I’d imagined! For the umpteenth time, I fantasized about meeting one of my all time favorite artists, Bono. Speaking of whom, Irish folks do not seem fond of U2 nor Bono.
I inquired about him in every town, and repeatedly we heard retorts such as, “Eh. He’s such a plonker.” This word roughly means one who is arrogant, a jerk, and forgets his/her roots. Our friend, Sharen, explained this to me when I expressed my confusion. We met her for a lovely dinner. Although I didn’t meet Bono, he was certainly the topic of entertaining and frequent interactions!
One of the highlights of our trip was the Dublin Pride Parade. I still feel the lively, united spirit we experienced. We met passionate, diverse, and friendly people from multiple countries. I loved seeing children and adults of all ages wearing rainbow-colored attire adorned with phrases such as “Love With Pride” and “We Are Family.”
Dublin captured my heart. And it’s the first city in which I tasted Irish whisky, which I apparently enjoy! I realized as we continued on our journey that it’s 5 o’clock all day in Ireland. I also learned about pubs along the way. The true pub experience, and we frequented several, is about gathering to share stories and connect. Pubs aren’t a place to get hammered, although we certainly witnessed a bit of that as well. We heard live jams that blew me away. The entire country felt like a pub that never closed its doors!
I could write about every funny, fabulous, and and unforgettable part of our wee Irish escapades. But I will spare you the details. Here’s what I do want to share:
After Dublin, we traveled to a town called Adara (which translates to “Dara”). We stopped to take photos of this animated, quaint town of my namesake.
While we were there, we learned that “fanny” refers to both the bum and other private parts. A tiny woman with a spunky, sassy personality gifted us with sodium bicarbonate. I told her we use that for baking. Peg’s looked at me mischievously with her electric-blue eyes. She suggested to us other applications for baking soda, and insisted I try this “heal all” tonic right there in her pharmacy. Peg literally opened my mouth and tilted my chin. It wasn’t pleasant, but it sure did the trick!
We shared meals with strangers that became fast friends. The Cliffs of Moher, although stunning and the scenic backdrop for the latest Star Wars movie, were a bit bustling and touristy. A young, local woman raved about the less known Sliabh Liag (Sleive League) cliffs. After a winding, heart-stopping ride, we arrived at one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes I’ve ever seen. It was worth the narrow, bumpy roads that led us there.
Our driver spoke without punctuation and inhalation. She irritated my husband immediately. I sensed she was both proud of her incredible country and perhaps a bit insecure, too.I scribbled copious notes because she spoke so quickly and abundantly.
We were grateful she drove, and her endless stories entertained us (or at least me!). A few other tips if you visit this glorious green country. Hydrangea flowers in unusual hues bloomed generously. Other blossoms beckoned and I frequently paused to snap photos. I wish I could’ve taken the endless roses, lavendar, and multiple other species home with me! The shades and uniquely-shaped petals left me breathless.
The animals are as amiable as the humans. I stopped so often to take photos that my husband surprised me with a tiny sheep stuffed animal. That was his hilarious way of teasing me. Truth be told, I couldn’t help myself, and more than once I insisted we pull over. I was inches away from humongous, hearty cows and colossal horses who roamed freely.
I found myself thanking the animals for allowing me so close to them; I am glancing at photos as I type right now. I love adventure, but I generally lean toward rational and rule following choices. My desire to photograph these darlings nudged me away from my comfort zone.
One time I walked through an empty field to get a closer shot of deer. Then I heard from some locals that ticks were rampant, and they suggested I leave the area. Ooops! Another time cows came toward me, and the only thing between us was an electric fence. This was another rather risky venture but one I do not regret.
A few other random ramblings I’d like to share. If you are accustomed to soft toilet paper, bring some Charmin from home. Every town and hotel provided paper that I could’ve used to file my nails! The food is fresh, and there are healthy options everywhere. I appreciated that menus coded and noted every allergy you can possibly imagine. We had the incorrect assumption that religion would guide socialization. We were totally wrong! Ireland is laden with festive people who swear as freely as they drink. I loved it!
The Irish folks are fun-loving, welcoming, warm, and lively. Every person we met regardless of age or gender welcomed us with open arms. We saw nearly the entire country in a mere nine days. It was a whirlwind, and I cannot wait to return.