I Kind of Liked It

We’re back from 17 days in Ireland, and I don’t really know where to begin. This trip was wonderful on so many levels, and I’m still feeling the effects of it, four days after returning. I suspect I will be for a long time.

We started out with a few days in Dublin, then picked up our rental car from an extremely irritable guy who I bluntly told, “You seem really grouchy!” Poor Mark had to do all the driving because I am apparently incapable of driving a stick shift, having tried to learn in Heidi and Alex’s car, during an evening that ended with a trip to the mechanic, and a thousand spluttered apologies.

Before we left, I had really wanted to book all of our places ahead of time. This is due to many factors, but mostly my paranoia about not having a place to stay and also maybe I’m a bit of a control freak? Mark gently persuaded me that it would be better to just get there and go with the flow. I am so, so glad we did this. It meant that we had the freedom to listen to people’s recommendations, and to go anywhere on a whim. We had our GPS, Scout. We had a car to sleep in in the extremely unlikely event that we couldn’t find a bed for the night. We had the small log of sweet Irish butter I insisted on carting around. We were fine.

Galway was definitely my favourite larger town. I had “Fairytale of New York” in my head for two days straight (I wanted this to be the first song we danced to at our wedding but was roundly vetoed by Mark, who insisted that the lyric “you’re an old slut on junk” was not terribly romantic BUT I BEG TO DIFFER). Magic happened in Galway, but we’ll get to that later. The second night we were there, we found a pub having a trad session, grabbed ourselves a couple of pints of Guiness, and soaked it in. We met a very sweet local couple who gave us a bunch of ideas for our trip. The husband asked us, “So, what part of America are you from?” and after telling them we were Canadian, Mark shot back, “I don’t know, what part of England are you from?” They were pretty amused. Also that night: Mark tried some Bushmills 16-year-old whiskey and looked as happy as I’d ever seen him.

We sort of followed the coast, meandering and stopping to take pictures of the stunning views. It was slightly overcast and there were a couple of times it absolutely poured, but that was okay. I kind of liked it.

We took a daytrip to Inisheer, one of the Aran Islands. The water was so rough that people were throwing up left, right and centre. It was worth the horrendous boat trip, though. The island is only about 12 km in circumference, only 300 people live there, and we pretty much walked around all of it.

Towards the end of the day, we got absolutely pelted with rain and wind. Using the flimsy umbrellas we had brought was futile, so we didn’t even bother, and by the time we stumbled into the local pub, we were completely soaked through. We still had a couple of hours to go before the ferry would come for us, so we ordered some food and drinks, and sat at a table, playing crib and drying off. A group of three very drunk Irish fishermen joined us and it was one of the best afternoons in recent history, resulting in my new favourite phrase (said in a drunken Irish accent): “Aye, Ronan, you’re a failure of a man.”

The Dingle Peninsula was as stunning as everyone had said it would be. At one point we pulled over, climbed up a giant hill, and had a 360-degree view of the water all around us.

We pulled off a hat trick and made it to all three Murphys Ice Cream locations. I am not really an ice cream person — I would take a warm dessert over a cold one any day — but this stuff pretty much blew my mind. Mark kept laughing at the expression on my face the first time I tried it, because I looked so distraught and happy. I got the sea salt flavour every single time and switched up my other scoop. Caramelized brown bread was stunning. I would go back for this ice cream. Mark left this note at the Dublin location:

We found an old deserted castle on the side of the road and snuck inside. For goody two-shoes, rule-abiding Canadians like us, this was very exciting.

I could say so much more, but I don’t really need to. I was in a really anxious, sad state before leaving, and I came back a different person. I know it’s not as easy as saying that Ireland helped me feel better, but what if it is?

(P.S. After repeatedly trying to persuade Mark to buy a bottle of that 16-year-old Bushmills in Ireland, he finally broke down and purchased it…in the Calgary airport.)