Could it be? Am I back? I am indeed. We landed at JFK yesterday afternoon and took three trains, a bus, and a car back home. Never have I gone on vacation where I didn’t look forward to getting back home at the end of it – until now.
I’m enchanted. What an absolutely magical, mystical country. We saw most of it, missing maybe three counties as we went first southwest, then north and east from Killarney to Donegal to Dublin in 14 days. And in nearly every single place, stunning, breathtaking views that defy all adjectives. And the people. Never have I come across an entire country of people ready to engage you, eager to listen as well as to converse, happy to hear your journey in their country, and always ready to suggest something. And the blarney – I felt at home. My gift for gab now has an explanation. 🙂
We saw exquisite vistas around nearly every turn. Each time, we said “That was the BEST thing I’ve ever seen.” And every time we explored something new, the last best discovery was topped. I didn’t think it was possible.
Kenmare and the southwestern coast was a land built for postcards. Mountains and rocks and coastal vistas just leap out of your imagination and right in front of you. We walked it, meditated on it, and soaked in the highest sea cliffs in Europe, the mountain passes complete with donkey and horse carts carrying people to the top, the shores, and the sheep trading going on in the center of town. We stayed here the longest, and were reluctant to leave.
Maybe that’s why Galway wasn’t so impressive. We spent two days here and came away feeling like the town was touristy and losing touch with its reality a bit. A lovely place, but it took some doing to find the “real” part of the city, which was much better than the designated shopping and music streets.
Then northward we went. The trip to Donegal and the stay there was home. I mean really. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a Gallagher or someone who knew or was married to one. We drove on back roads (I think – they all look like back roads) and found old farmsteads from when my people would have been there. We sat in Ardara, a tiny town with a big heart, and heard the most amazing traditional Irish music possible. It’s where my husband met blarney headfirst when he asked where the man found the orangish sheep in the pasture. “Carrots. We feed them tons of carrots.” I was laughing hysterically. It took him a moment – he didn’t grow up surrounded by BS.
He found his past in Cookstown, the Ulster area, now Northern Ireland. We were able to trace his ancestors not just to Cookstown, but to fields outside of town that were most likely where they lived. And having been in an area where my ancestors were, I understood when he said “This is it.” You just know.
So much to tell, so many special memories, from the best greeting ever by a customs agent, who gave my husband a taste of the connection and humor he was about to see firsthand to the way everyone from shop owner to road crew workers giving directions wanted to connect with us. It was home. It is home. The circle feels complete in a surprising way. I never realized just how much it wasn’t complete.
I’ll post snippets of my visit in the coming posts, and share a photo. This one is one of my favorites. It’s Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe. And the rainbows were a constant companion everywhere we went.