Sunday, March 20, 2011
Must Love... Ireland
... you can't stay away!
Ireland has a very distinct feel about it. Maybe it’s because wherever you are in this scenic country there is a picturesque view to be taken in, or the fact that Guinness is consumed at every occasion and with any excuse. Either way I travelled Ireland with a permanent smile on my face, constantly performing mental jigs as we wound our way around the countryside from Dublin to Killarney and Ennis to Galway.
Coming from Australia it is hard to imagine being able to drive from one side of a country to the other in a matter of hours, but that's the beauty of Ireland. In the morning we could be surrounded by mountains and rolling hills, divided into endless green pastures by rock fences running through the countryside like veins. And by the afternoon we were peering out of the bus window at breathless drops of cliff face and creamy, sandy beaches.
It is easy to see why the colour green is associated with Ireland. At times it is the only thing you can see for miles and miles. However, it is more often than not dotted with the white shapes of woolly sheep, trailing young lambs behind them, each covered in different colourful marks to separate them from the other mobs. We spent hours marvelling at how far these snowy figures reached, sometimes seeing them at the very tops of mountains or along the jagged rock faces that dropped off into nothing.
We kicked off our Irish adventure in Dublin, a very kitschy city. Whether you are looking for a traditional experience or a new-age destination, this capital city has it all. We walked along cobbled streets, taking happy snaps of brightly coloured buildings, streets lights draped in lavish plants, and doors and doors painted unique shades. We stopped in at cute cafes like the Queen of Tarts where I had a hot porridge breakfast as Meg sipped contently on a latte from a vintage looking mug.
The next day saw us jump on a bus with 22 strangers and begin our tour of the southern part of the island. We stopped in at the Blarney Castle, walking down the winding path and along bridges paving the way over gentle running streams, filled with the coins of well wishers. We struggled up the tiny staircase to the top and pulled ourselves through the air to kiss the Blarney stone and gain an eloquence to our speech.
Australians are known for enjoying a beer or ten, and it is no secret that we like to have a good time. But our drinking spirit is no where near the Irish standard. Our first stop over was in Killarney, and after cooking ourselves some pasta in the hostel kitchen, we headed down to the local pub - O'Connors. It was here that we were treated to a private comedy show, infused with music by the local character known as 'Pa'. It was also here that we met a real life Leprechaun 'Patty", who I will continue to have nightmares about for the rest of my life.
It was our tour guide's birthday, so he was becoming quite jovial, when the police (in full uniform, Bobby hats and all) came to kick us out. We had been drinking past the hours of the liquor licence. Our tour guide's response to this was "Look guys, I ordered you some strippers!" Needless to say the police weren't happy. But we weren't concerned and wondered down the road to a bar that was still kicking on. As we walked inside we were greeted by Lady Gaga's Poker Face being covered by a rock band and a dance floor full of people drinking and gallivanting away. It was a typical Monday night.
I find it kind of ironic that I spent Australia Day in Ireland and St Pattie's Day in Australia. Nevertheless, I wouldn't have had it any other way as it was one of my favourite times on the trip. We explored the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, looked out upon a rock field in Burren that could have easily been mistaken for a location from the last Harry Potter film, and celebrated our homeland's Federation in Galway downing glass after glass of berry cider and listening to Aussie rock tunes with new found friends.
After countless hearty pub meals, Irish coffee, a pint of Guinness and digesting the daily history lessons given to us by our guide, we came to love Ireland nearly as much as the locals did.