Admittedly, one is supposed to take good walking shoes when one goes abroad – but, really, an unscheduled walking tour is just going a little too far (needless to say!) Of course, it’s one way to see the landscape! And, the landscape of Ireland is wonderful. Ireland, a land of readers, excellent schools, lilting folk music, rolling hills, lush countryside, delicious Guinness, charming people and lots of buses, opened its winter arms to the Harrell’s in 2006. Dublin was “command” central. But, the west coast of Ireland beckoned and a trip to Galway and the Connemara region (where Ireland’s only fjord is located) via train past peat bogs, consumed the first full day in Ireland. In Galway, we met our tour guide for the bus trip around the countryside. Charming, simply charming two lane roads were often lined with sheep. And, to be able to stop at the Quiet Man Bridge (yes, the one at which John Wayne kissed Maureen O’Hara) was spectacular. The scenery unbelievable! Sandwiched in between this natural beauty, was a charming visit to Kylemore Abbey – one could write an entire essay on this gorgeous building and its grounds.
Connemara, however, was only the first of excursions. Dublin came under scrutiny and various walking tours as well. Dublin is definitely a cosmopolitan city embracing diversity and old world charm. Trinity College (est. in 1592) held the Book of Kells (the oldest illuminated manuscript) and a most awesome library called the Long Room where 200,000 of Ireland’s oldest manuscripts are located. One other excursion afield took us via train to Waterford. Then, via bus (and the unscheduled walking tour) the Waterford Crystal Factory was located – to witness the making of such a gorgeous product was amazing. The craftsmen are so talented (to say the least.)
Back in Dublin, the bus routes and schedules had become more familiar and we continued learning the city. This historic city of brightly colored doors on town homes, of great pubs, of beautiful music, of busy commuters, and of literary giants, experienced its coldest winter days in a number of years (and snow!) We noticed that almost everyone was reading, either a newspaper or a book. The city library was busy the day we visited, not a seat to be had. One of the highlights of the visit, though, was located at St. James Gate, the home of Guinness Brewery since 1759 – the product is decidedly yummy. Visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral (the site where St. Patrick is said to have baptized many into Christianity) was awesome. Jonathan Swift is buried on the premises. All too soon, though, the visit came to an end. We stuffed our suitcases with all our treasures, our hearts with our memories, and began the journey home. It seems there is always a “wee” bit of myself that is left in a land visited. Well, indeed, Ireland holds a “wee” bit of the Harrell’s – forevermore.
(P.S. - We couldn’t put away our walking shoes, though; there was quite a trek between gates at Amsterdam’s airport.)