With St. Patricks Day approaching I thought it would apropos to reminisce about my first trip to Ireland. I’ve visited twice (once was a surprise - a story for another time) so the post below has some photos from Galway and again from my 2009 surprise trip to Dublin. Either way Ireland is amazing no matter what reason you visit. As cliché as it sounds, there is no other green in the whole world comparable to Ireland. Okay, maybe a rainy island off of Washington, or perhaps on the east near Nova Scotia. Once I visit, I’ll let you know…
(Poulnabrone Dolmen 2500 B.C.)
Originally Posted October 19 2008
This last weekend I joined a group of girls in my study program on their very short trip to Ireland. We left on very early Friday morning and started our day in Ireland in the afternoon. From the moment we landed from the plane I could see the green as far as the end of the horizon. The color, which I think most people talk about, is a green that you’ll never see anywhere else on earth. No photos can do no justice to the vibrancy of that color here. We checked into our quaint hostel in the town of Galway. Galway only has 80,000 people and still manages to be the 3rd largest city in Ireland. The town was small, quaint, and homely much like I have always thought Ireland to be.
At first we wondered around Galway and took a look into the Claddagh Ring store of Thomas Dillon. Thomas Dillion is the only government recognized shoppe in Ireland that is responsible for the creation of the classice and traditional Claddagh Ring which occured in 1720. Today they are still made by hand and they are the only shop allowed to mark thier rings with the word ‘original’. The Claddagh Ring if worn with the heart tip away from your heart means you are free, and the heart tip toward your heart means you are taken.
After settling in and shopping, we headed out to dinner and I took Jofre, a friend from Spain, to a restaurant called Couch Potatas which served giant baked potatoes covered in whatever toppings you chose. Jofre had never had a baked potato like that and was surprised to try sour cream for the first time, which he loved! Mine was covered in sour cream, chives, garlic butter, beans, and cheese. It was so nice to have a hearty meal that is heavy and warm especially in cold Ireland. In Spain I enjoy the food immensely, but it is also very light, which I prefer. But when it rains or is cold, a baked potato always hits the spot and reminded of me of home too which was very bittersweet.
Even though Ireland was very different from Denver, the crisp wet weather (sun and rain), changing leaves, pine trees, soda bread, soups, and baked potatoes all reminded me of home in a sad bittersweet way. I was so excited to be in Ireland, but I would feel the cold wind, or see a changing tree and be reminded that back home the leaves were changing too and I was missing it. I hadn’t thought of it before, perhaps because out of sight out of mind, and perhaps in Spain I’ve been caught in a permanent end of summer time when the weather cools and heats off and on, and the sun is always out.
When it started to rain in Ireland we ran into a cafe for a vanilla latte, I would look at the rain and wish I could be back home curled up under a blanket. All those ‘fall’ moments you have at the change of seasons I was missing out on back home. Where you wear a jacket and are walking under falling leaves and the wind hits your face, or as the stores start to post their Halloween decorations. In Spain they don’t celebrate Halloween, but when I was in Ireland there were decorations everywhere and I got that pinch of homesickness looking at the costumes, candies, and ghosts in shop windows. I was starting to miss my beautiful Colorado fall.
My trip was a small jump back to the things I missed about Colorado fall, but it was also completely different from back home too! The cobblestones, and different colored shops. How the bay was right on the town and the breeze from the water was more like Connecticut than Colorado. The small alleyways covered with homely pubs and cheerful cafes. The cafes! We had quite a bit of Irish Coffees, Bailey Coffees, and Bailey’s Hot Chocolate: Bailey’s, hot chocolate, and whipped cream. Delicious.
As for the country side of Ireland (which is the reason to go!) we spent our only full day there taking a Burren Wild Tour tour bus around the areas of Galway and to the famous Cliffs of Moher, which rise over 200m from the bay. The cliffs have myths and stories related to them and their presence over the ocean in Ireland, and I can see why with their impressive stance and beauty. It was windy and a misty rain turned off and on during the visit. At one point, there was a rainbow. Yup, that’s pretty Irish.
The tour also dropped us off on a local 200 year-old farm where we took a walking tour through the country side of Burren, which was breath taking since it rose up a mountain to overlook the country side and the bay. We had the chance to stop at a Celtic burial site where 22 Celtic bodies were found in the 20th century. Poulnabrone Dolmen, this megalithic burial tomb has been dated to about 2500 BC.
We could also see local churches and castles from the 16th century around. As for castles we stopped at the Castle of Dunguaire, which was built in 1520 and during the summer months houses medieval banquets and serves honey mead. The word honeymoon comes from this origin, as during the wedding dinner it was said the mead was an aphrodisiac that helped the night of a couples first union, and thus the ‘moon’ (night) of honey (honey mead).
After the tour we headed out to sample local fare including our last night there, where we ate at another Irish restaurant, Finnegan’s. I had a veggie soup and soda bread (amazing!) and then salmon with coleslaw and salad, of course followed by a pint of Bulmer’s Irish Cider. We headed out into the night wandering the local streets and visiting the various pubs and beautiful Irish bars. We stopped at Tis Coili where the local Irish music lovin’ folk like to go. Everyone was real rowdy, bawdy, loud, and totally Irish! Haha. The music was great and I’ll share a little snippet below. The video is really dark so don’t even try to see anything, but the audio is worth it!