Our arrival in Ireland was a trial by fire. Or should I say “trial by tire?” We got off a seven hour overnight flight, suffering seven hours of jetlag, had delayed luggage, and picked up our rental car to begin a two hour journey north to Galway. As we pulled out of the Shannon Airport in our rental Toyota Yaris, a car that we WORE rather than DROVE, Russell got to drive “on the wrong side”, operate a stick shift with his left hand, and immediately merge into his first of many roundabouts. Welcome to Ireland.
Two hours later we pulled into Galway and the College Crest B&B. An early bedtime was in order with the long day and all of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities the next day. We had planned our arrival for March 16 and wanted to be rested up for the big day. The morning of the 17th we were getting ready in our room when my electric converter decide to act up and knock out all the power in the building. Talk about walk of shame as I went into the breakfast room full of other guests to fess up. The rest of the moring went better after a full Irish breakfast—blood sausage and all. We took our spots along the parade route in downtown Galway and as I listened to the cheers for the group of bagpipers from Boston I thought, “I’m in a foreign country and they like Americans—they REALLY like us!” This does not happen a lot unfortunately. And what a great parade! Nothing on the scale of Chicago or Boston, but I had heard before that the holiday was a bigger deal in the States, and it is.
Post-parade we joined the throngs of revelers in one of the pubs where Russell with his Scots/Irish rosacea cheeks fit right in with his people. When we were offered two stools at a pub table by an older Irish gentleman, I was made aware of my lack of Irish traits as he looked at me and stated, “Yar German.” I asked how he knew that and he replied, “Cause yar good-lookin’”. I chuckled after that, but as I looked around the pub, it hit me. Whereas I am usually either unnoticed or an Amazon freak when surrounded by the Latino beauties on most of my foreign trips, here in Ireland, I DID look good! Looking at many of the local Irish women, I came to the conclusion: hundreds of years of genes not leaving an island is not necessarily a good thing.
The day got even more interesting after that as we left the pub, grabbed some fish and chips and headed down by the docks for a stroll. No sooner had we gotten to the waterfront when we heard yelling and saw a commotion. We lingered around to see the scene and discovered that there was a fight and a man was stabbed in the head! It was either extreme nosiness or the Guiness, but something made me go over and walk right past him as the paramedics treated him and news cameras arrived. I swear I saw my shoes on Sky News that night. Once that settled down, we did more pub crawling and finished the night with the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner–Chinese food at Lemongrass www.lemongrass.ie.
The next days found us outside the town of Recess in Connemara at Ballynahinch Castle www.ballynahinch-castle.com. Wonderful days were spent here, watching fly fishermen, sitting at the onsite pub listening to trad (traditional) music, and dining in the fabulous restaurant. We never wanted to leave! But our next destination was calling us and so we headed south in the Yaris to the town of Dingle. All the guidebooks told of how scary the descent into Dingle is through Conor Pass. Luckily, or unluckily, we were surrounded by fog the entire time so who knows? After settling in at Heaton’s Guesthouse www.heatonsdingle.com, we wandered into town, enjoying the unusually warm March temperatures. Per a recommendation we made our way to an amazing seafood restaurant Out of the Blue www.outoftheblue.ie –a hole in the wall place with a chalkboard menu of whatever came in on the boats. To say we ate well the entire time in Dingle is an understatement. It was in Dingle where I had my all-time favorite breakfast: Heaton’s Breakfast Treat—a big bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Wow at 7 a.m.! This German was slowly turning Irish………
Our time driving the Yaris around the Dingle Peninsula was memorable. Between the winding cliff road with views of the sea and Blasket Islands and the sheep herd traffic jams, we had to be on high alert so when we saw a tiny sweater shop we decided to take a driving break and stop. As we were browsing the sweaters and chatting, the only other customer in the shop approached us and asked where in the States we were from. It turned out the tiny town of 2,000 in northern Wisconsin where we live was the same town where he summered as a child! Crazy!
All the other fabulous sights we took in on our visit to western Ireland—the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, Mizen Head, and the trad music mecca of Doolin—wow!
It was nine days of being rendered speechless, sipping Guiness, eating seafood, narrowly avoiding countless car wrecks, warming ourselves by the peat fires of the pubs, and seeing this beautiful piece of Earth while jammed into a thimble of a car. Even though I wasn’t Irish, I never felt so lucky.