I’m going back to Ireland in less than a month. Before I do, I realized that I should reflect and write about my last trip there. My fellow Unexpected Wanderlust blogger, Lucia, has been on my case about writing a post about Ireland for some time now. And I have repeatedly told her, “later, not yet.” It’s just that I have mentally been trying to outline exactly what happened, so I could put it carefully into words. But I have realized that no post about it can be all-encompassing (unless you want to read a small book). So, here it goes!
When my friend and I told people that we were going to the Emerald Isle this past January, they generally had the same response: “Do you realize how foolish it is to go in January? You are going to freeze!” My friend and I departed at night from a New York City frozen by the “polar vortex.” (Every state in the continental US had reached freezing or below that winter.) We figured that it was just nature’s way of conditioning us for what was about to come. On the plane, we watched the same movie at the same time on our individual TVs, listened to music, exchanged airplane food, and took turns sleeping on each other’s shoulders. Many hours later and flying into sunrise, we could see Ireland below. Have you ever flown over Ireland and looked out of the window? It’s like looking at a green, carefully patched quilt covering the bodies of ancient sleeping giants. Feeling especially silly from sleepiness and excited by childhood dreams coming true, we listened to Celtic Woman and softly squealed as the plane descended.
From the airport, we picked up our rental car information and headed outside. And what did we find? Ireland was warmer than the place from which we had departed. I had not seen a sun so bright in some time, and turned my face up to its rays. Fifty-something degrees Fahrenheit had never felt so good. It might as well have been a beach holiday.
My friend practiced driving around on the opposite side for a while in the parking lot, and then off we went! We had the kind of pre-packaged trip that I’ve heard labeled as a “green blur” tour. We went from Dublin to Kilkenny to Galway to Killarney to Cork, and then back to Killarney and finally back to Dublin in the span of a week. In almost every city, we parked the car at the hotel, and took a bus into town. We did not have a strict itinerary planned out, opting to wing it instead. In hindsight, given the number of cities that we visited in a week, short winter daylight hours, and seasonal business closings and hours, we should have planned it better.
We spent most of our time wandering around. But each place had its highlights. In Kilkenny, we explored Kilkenny Castle, a place that against all odds, including multiple historical invasions and years of abandonment, still stands as a glimpse into the past.
From Galway, we took a tour bus up to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Without a cloud in sight, we had a breathtaking view of the precipitous drop from the cliffs and out to the water.
In Killarney, we took a walking tour through Killarney national park, which, as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, is basically Middle Earth in real life.
In Cork, we experienced a pretty chill night scene. By the time we returned to Dublin, we were tired from zipping all around and ready to go home. We ate, and my friend had the fortitude to go work out. I, on the other hand, just put on my ultra-warm, fleece Superman PJs and went to sleep. And the next day it was goodbye, Ireland! See ya when I see ya!
Ireland was not my favorite place in the world, but I feel like I need to collect more information before I make a final judgment. Have you ever been somewhere, and feel like you didn’t explore it properly? You just know that you missed some major points of exploration? That’s how I feel about Ireland. I failed to go to a single museum. I never heard live traditional music. I never visited Trinity College. (I am ashamed.) Most of my meals came pre-packaged from grocery stores. The list goes on.
Luckily, I have the opportunity to explore Ireland again this fall. I’ll be in Dublin for a month-long course, and I plan to make at least one small trip outside of the city. I worry about little things like being there all alone this time, and what if I actually end up disliking it for the entire month-long span? But for some reason, my gut tells me that Ireland is going to pleasantly surprise me.
What tips do any of you who have been to Ireland have for me on my second go round? I’ll be in Dublin for Samhain. What should I do/expect? Have you ever visited the same place twice because you felt like you missed something the first time?