Dear Ireland ~
Having recently returned from your emerald shores, I am very much into you.
To start, I’m into the way your people say, “You are very welcome”–sounding each and every time as if they really meant it. I’m into the charm and homeyness we encountered at every turn, as well as the pride you take in your appearance–sponsoring “Tidy Town” initiatives and even laying down the law in the form of stiff fines for thoughtless gum-spitters so that you may present your best face to the world. Well done.
Like you, I’m into your Celtic Tiger economy which, though now waned, has left you with a legacy of good roads. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a few more crosswalks, for the sake of pedestrians and motorists alike. But your roundabouts are endlessly fun, and you boast some of the most courteous and capable drivers we’ve ever encountered–all of which I’m very into, given your narrow, twisty roads.
I don’t think I would ever tire of views of your misty coastline, your miles and miles of rugged rock walls, or your sheep-dotted pastures. And kudos for your nearly universal, free WiFi. Thank you too for your ubiquitous brown bread, which I got into with almost every meal. Not so much your veg, however, which still needs some work, but as I’m into so many of your other culinary delights–seafood chowder, lamb stew, beef & Guinness Pie, oh my!–I will not complain.
During my stay with you I found, in fact, there was little I wasn’t into–except maybe your weather. Your cool and cloudy summer felt a lot like our moody springtime back home–not an altogether bad thing, but we Seattlites are into sun in our summers, because we otherwise see so little of it. And the wind gusting across your hilltops? Whoa. I will say, though, I was into those two mornings of sparkling sunshine you managed to toss in, plus that one day of truly glorious weather to coincide with our exploration of your beautiful Dingle Peninsula.
To future visitors, I would recommend being into both a GPS and an Office of Public Works (OPW) Heritage Pass, which for 25 euro (paying for itself by Day 2), got us into nearly every site we wanted to see.
[Tweet “As the Irish say, “Bíonn siúlach scéalach.” The traveler has stories to tell…”]
As for favorites, if pressed I would say I’m into the imposing remains of Dun Aengus; the medieval town of Trim, replete with castle (and site of Braveheart filming), with mysterious, neolithic Newgrange nearby; the crumbling, windswept ruins of Dunluce castle; the simply old-fashioned “Old Bushmills” Distillery; the enjoyably scenic and instructive Kissane Sheep Farm. If pressed further I would admit that I wasn’t so into Dingle town, which felt far too touristy (at least as we encountered it during touristy July). And if I had to make a choice, I’d go for the exhilaratingly scenic Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (with views of Scotland in the distance) above the sadly over-commercialized, overpriced Giant’s Causeway; and cleverly entertaining Smithwicks (say “smitticks”) tour in Kilkenny over the uber-touristy (and also overpriced) Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
And oh, and the pub trad-music scene. We really got into your traditional folk music and good craic–which, loosely translated, promises good fun, but it’s really so much more than that. It’s one of the best ways you have of keeping your stories alive–those belonging to your people and your twisty, tangled history (apparently confusing even the most Irish among you). That you are so into your music and your stories lends you a seemingly unquenchable spirit. Precious pieces of your Gaelic heritage, may you be forever into these.
In closing, I’ll swing full circle and return again to your people. Of all the gracious, hospitable folk we’ve encountered on our travels, yours are among the most cheerful and friendly. And I’m totally into that. So to the Irish we offer our sincere thanks, and our prayers for a bright future. It’s to you that we raise a glass.
After words: So that’s it for me. What are you into?
P.S. For those who may want more, my husband kept a detailed diary of our trip. You’re welcome to read it here.
P.P.S. Remember I said I would be tucking this book in my tote to pull out during our travels? Well, I really did, and we both so enjoyed the insightful convo it sparked. Recommended!