Now that I am back home and recovered from the jet lag, I am finally able to write another blog post. If you’ve read my previous blog, you know that I’ve been gone for the last month visiting Ireland. My wife and I went to Ireland to visit our daughter who is presently living in Dublin attending Trinity College. I will forever be grateful that we had the opportunity to spend quality time with our daughter and still experience Ireland. Let me share some of our Irish experiences.
Rebekah Crane, author of the book The Upside of Falling Down, wrote, “If you’re going to be lost, there’s no friendlier place to get lost in than Ireland.” She is right. Ireland is a fantastic country. I’ve never felt more welcome in a country than I have in Ireland. The Irish people are wonderful.
C.E. Murphy, an American writer of fantasy novels and short stories, wrote in her book, Urban Shaman,
“In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you’re really just fine. She asks if you’re sure. You say of course you’re sure, really, you don’t need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don’t need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.
In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don’t get any damned tea. I liked the Irish way better.”
Even though her book is fiction, she captures the Irish way precisely. While walking back to our daughter’s flat (apartment) one day, we stopped for a break and sat down on the steps in front of someone’s flat. Moments later, after sitting down, the door to the flat swings open and a man with his bicycle comes out. He looked down on us and we, being Canadians, immediately apologized for being in his way. His response was so Irish. He said, “No, you’re grand. I’d invite you in for tea but there is somewhere I have to be. So sorry.” The thing is, he was totally sincere.
The Irish are genuinely kind and welcoming people. We stayed a few nights in the dorm room at Trinity College, the college our daughter is attending. The day we arrived, there was a concert occurring at the college so several entrances were blocked. We walked around, for what seemed like hours, attempting to find the location where we were to register. By this point we were exhausted. We finally found the registry office and registered, only to find out we had to walk to the other end of the campus to the dormitory. Standing outside, looking lost, a young Irish lad comes out, looks at us and asks, “What’s up?” We told him our story and his response, “I’ll drive you.” That is what he did. We were grateful for his Irish kindness.
While chatting with the owner of a whiskey bar in one of the Irish towns we were in, we got talking about how readily available gluten free (gf) food is in Ireland. When I told her I was celiac, she said she was also and preceded to tell me that Ireland has one of the highest rates of celiac disease in the world. She then grabs some gf crackers from a box and hands them to me. She said they are a good gf snack. That was such an Irish thing to do.
Now it just so happens that I celebrated a birthday while on an 11-day tour of Ireland. Our tour guide, Henry, surprised me with a birthday cake (not gf unfortunately), but it’s the thought that counts. All of us on the tour decided to meet after dinner and have a piece of cake. The hotel staff we were staying at graciously agreed to store the cake and have plates and cutlery ready when we requested it. Not only did the staff provide those items, they also served us tea at no cost. Once again, only in Ireland.
Lastly, I want to share with you our tour with Henry. Henry was a guide with Vagabond Adventure Tours of Ireland, a company that does small group guided adventure tours ranging in length from 7 to 12 days as well as private tailor-made tours. To say the tour was grand—the Irish use this word a lot—is an understatement. Henry went out of his way to please our group of eight. He knew when to be at an Irish tourist destination before the big bus tours arrived and took us on narrow roads to places the big buses were unable to go. He stopped at a bog to explain how the Irish, still to this day, harvest peat for fuel. He took us to lesser known ancient stone circles and other ancient sites that other tourists would not see on a big bus tour. He was an exceptional guide as he was knowledgeable, funny and always willing to please.
Travis Fimmel, an Australian actor and former model, once said about the Irish landscape, “The landscape in Ireland is just – I’ve never been in such a beautiful place with the lakes and ocean and everything.” He is right. Ireland is a breathtakingly beautiful country full of history dating back 5000 years. Many of the ancient sites we saw were older than the Egyptian pyramids.
One of the Irish blessings is, “May the Irish hills caress you, may her lakes and rivers bless you, may the luck of the Irish enfold you, may the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.” The Irish hills really do touch you and her lakes and rivers are enchanting. I totally understand the blessing now.
An unknown author penned “Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter. Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes… That’s the Irish for you!” I am taken with Ireland. I miss her already. No wonder my daughter chose Ireland as the place to get her Masters. I get it now.