My husband and I spent the last few weeks on a tour of Ireland, sans laptop, which was wise because I wouldn’t have had much free time to write anyway. The challenge now is to pull together bits and pieces of what I experienced into a few coherent blog posts. Since jet lag is still dragging me down, I’m starting with a photo essay, because the “Emerald Isle” poses beautifully whenever anyone holds up a cell phone or camera.
Sitting in an airplane seat built for a body the size of a hedgehog, with a comfort level of zero on a scale of one to ten, I began to question my choice of Ireland as a vacation destination. I had two reasons for wanting to go: friends’ photos and positive comments on Facebook, and family history I’d uncovered showing an ancestor from Londonderry County or Derry depending on the resident’s feelings about being part of Great Britain. Halfway over Canada neither of these reasons seemed compelling. Ireland was rural. What was there to see but sheep and cows? And my great-great grandfather emigrated to the US in the 1800’s, so finding signs of him in Ireland today was unlikely.
As it turned out, Ireland’s rural setting — peaceful, quiet and undisturbed — was much of its appeal.
When I searched through my collection for photos with green, I realized that nearly every scene involving grass or trees also included clouds, usually gray ones. Ireland weather is not for those seeking a vacation of sun and sand; they’ll find both here, but should pack a wetsuit not a bikini.
Houses or doors also can be green, part of local communities’ efforts to vie for Tidiest Town status. If a town rates high on the tidy scale, residents continue to work hard to raise their total points for the following year’s rankings. A town can never be too tidy.
It’s not important to have Irish ancestors to make the trip. But don’t be surprised if one or two are hiding on some limb or other of your family tree. More than 1.5 million people left Ireland during the potato famine, 1845-1851, and most came to the U.S. That explains why nearly everyone on our tour spoke of having Irish family connections. Even without personal connections, Ireland is worth visiting for its astonishing geology, fascinating history, and friendly, helpful people. Even worth nine plus hours searching for a place to put your elbows in your airplane seat and sitting with your knees in your face.