From Ireland to Italy (Part 1: The Ireland Part)

Pairs Well With… “Galway Girl” by Steve Earle

There’s something I love about travel.  Actually, I love everything about travel: the anticipation of the trip, the adventure that awaits, conversations with locals, the beauty you can only experience when you’re across the globe, and the eye-opening takeaways, mostly good and at other times very eye opening.

One of my greatest passions in life is travel which, at the core, is adventure.  If I were to define what the three things I wanted out of life to be, it would be as follows: adventure, love, and really good food paired with even better wines. I simply can’t imagine my life without adventure.  It is who I am and who I always will be.

You can learn life lessons anywhere and everywhere but it isn’t until you travel that you break out of your routine and begin to really think differently and assess the discrepancies between two contrasting locations:  home, your comfort zone, and an unfamiliar destination.  You’re forced to function differently from possessions (what do you mean my hair straightener doesn’t work in this country?!) to privileges (yes, sometimes a hole is a toilet), simple things many of us take for granted in this country.   Familiarity is safe, but it’s when differences in privilege, culture, and social status come to life and you are immersed in it that you can begin to understand the learned lessons of travel.

Big international travel seems to be something I do on an every other year basis.  Last year, I vacationed in BrazilFrance, and Spain.  Three countries. Three and a half weeks. All the 2015 vacation time.

This year has been more subtle with more quick trips, most of them solo. Let’s not forget how I thought it would be great to play jet setter and book back to back trips to Sedona and Alabama, two trips that feel as though they were decades ago.  The one big travel lesson I learned this year is that I was surprisingly okay traveling by myself.  And guess what?  The only person that can screw up a solo trip is YOU.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself in conversations about where I’ve been and which have been my favorites.  Let’s time travel for a minute, shall we?

Back in 2010, I visited Ireland.  Like Nashville, I had a calling to visit and followed it.  That’s just what I do.

Ireland was exactly how I had pictured it in my head: castles, luscious green hillside, drunks, and rainbows.  The coastal drive was immaculate.  Absolutely stunning.  Now, I had higher hopes for the food.  If I return, I’m bringing a stockpile of salt and herbs in my suitcase to jazz up those bangers and mash.  I still have moments where I think back to this trip and want to trade in my bustling city life for green pastures and simplicity.

Ireland Rainbow

This may have been the only trip I’ve taken where I was limited to a backpack.  A backpack.  You can imagine the terror in my eye when I heard this.  Yet, I made it work.

We made three stops on the Ireland trip:

  • Belfast – to ground ourselves in deep and meaningful culture
  • Dublin – no brainer, because we wanted a taste of Irish city life….and….I wanted to scout out some Irish lads.
  • Galway – because our flights got cancelled, plans got screwed up.  We wouldn’t make it to Cork, so Galway better be good – and we have no other options.

Our trip began in Belfast. Everything we read consistently stated that Belfast was glum, quiet and conservative, but full of immense culture and history.  Belfast is most widely known for their peace walls: a series of border barriers in Northern Ireland that separate Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods. According to Wikipedia, “the stated purpose of the peace lines is to minimise inter-communal violence between Catholics (most of whom are nationalists who self-identify as Irish) and Protestants (most of whom are unionists who self-identify as British).

Graffiti Wall Belfast

The Peace Wall

belfast-cemetery

After one quick and depressing night in Belfast, I was ready to turn this party up a notch in Dublin.

Dublin was a blast with Jameson and Guinness tours by day and Irish sing-a-longs by night.  I met a man who was convinced we should get married, I should not work, and just be his wife.  His name was Kevin and his last name wasn’t Flannigan, Murphy or O’Anything.  It wasn’t going to happen.  My Irish at heart dreams were fading quickly. Kevin had plans to make us a plentiful living off of his export business of sheep, or maybe wool, or maybe that sipper of whiskey kicked in because everything about everything I just said I couldn’t comprehend at the time.  I suggested he buy me a beer and we could discuss the specifics of this impromptu marriage arrangement.  Not so shockingly, though, it didn’t work out.  Gone were my hopes of getting married and running around in a big ass castle.

Clontarf Castle

Clontarf Castle: my woulda, coulda, shoulda future home

After sending rosy-cheeked and overserved Kevin on his way, I heard these two ladies talking about the Mall of America = they must be from Minnesota too = I must say hello and introduce myself.  As it turned out, one of the two women turned out to be the owner of our local Irish bars here in Minneapolis (The Local, Kieran’s, The Liffey and now Cooper Irish Pub).  Instafriends over a sipper of whiskey.  It’s a small world after all.

We packed up the car the next morning and got our mosey on to Galway.  Driving in Europe is scary as sh*t.  The roads are narrow, you’re driving on the wrong side of the road, and there are livestock roadblocks everywhere.

No, but really...

No, but really…

You say that kind of thing around city folk and you get l

And the sheep take their time and look at you like cows at a magic show (think about that one for a minute….)

Galway (pronounced Gul-way), was a cute and quaint coastal wharf town.  It’s just off the Atlantic Ocean.  There’s cute little boutique shops and fantastic places to dine.  Somehow we ended up in some hole in the wall pub with this guy following us around all night who proceeded to call me “a legend.”  I think that’s because my wit and banter was not to be matched.   I’m pretty sure I had him at hello. Come to think about it, ladies, if you’re looking for men, go to Ireland.  They seemed to be quite plentiful.

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On our drive to Galway

Galway Guy

Ireland was one of the most charming and picturesque places I’ve been, one that holds a piece of my heart, and one that I hope to adventure to again.  The castles are calling.

Ireland Rainbow

Stay tuned next week for the Italy adventures…

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