|The rolling green hills of Ireland
On an Irish dock, many many moons before, stood a young man with dreams as large and as full as his tattered suitcase. He’d packed up his meager belongings, been given the blessing of his Catholic family, and prepared to board the boat for the long voyage ahead. Paddy was eager to escape confines of the Emerald Isle and start afresh in the country where he’d been told riches lay in wait for those prepared to work hard to earn them.
Imagine his surprise then, when he wound up in… Australia!
And that folks, heralds in the illustrious start to my family’s ancestry in Oz… How very typically Irish that poor Paddy wound up on the wrong boat and wrong continent…
Many years after this ill-fated voyage, I finally had the opportunity (thanks to those super cheap €1 flights the UK budget airlines) to pay homage to my ancestry and spend a week ensconced in the Emerald Isle – and finally find out what this so called “good craic” was that everyone spoke of!
Tell you what, it took me only 10 minutes after arriving in Dublin to get my first authentic taste of it.
Laden with my oversized backpack and daypacks, waddling along the streets of Dublin in search of my accommodation for the night, I was still very much in “London mode” ie not making eye contact or talking to strangers – basically ignoring anyone in the vicinity… Throw in the fact it was 11pm, and I was hungover thanks to too many beers in the sun at Camden Town earlier on that same day, when I was suddenly caught in the middle of a bunch or rowdy revellers, pleading with me to come have a pint or three with them at the nearest pub! They seemed oblivious to the fact I was weighed down with luggage (literally) so therefore not so much in search of a party as I was a backpackers hostel. Yet as I was to find out, when you are in Ireland, there is always the chance an impromptu party will find you anyway!
You’d be hard pressed to find a country as picturesque as Ireland, or as packed with history. Luscious rolling hills of green, more vibrant in colour than any gem greet you from every angle, and a legacy of the turbulent days of before are evident in every crumbling castle and church dotted amongst the land, and also in the face of every proud Irish local you meet.
These locals too certainly lived up to their reputation – proud, passionate people who love a pint and a laugh. I’ll never forget the driver/manager of our tour on day 1… Barrelling along the bumpy roads at a speed to make Schumacher look slow, suddenly he slammed on his breaks, shouts out the famous four letter expletive and starts shaking his head. The 14 of us on the bus, rubberneck around to see what the hell has happened, only to be greeted with Michael’s mutterings of “Fucking Leprechauns……”
Whether we were pulling over to the side of the road for an impromptu game of soccer, launching our legs, hurdle-style in a Bog Trench race, climbing huge bales of hay stacked up about 5 metres high in farmer’s fields on the sides of the road to get good photos, or partying the nights away in true Irish style, it was easy to understand just how at home I felt in the land where my lineage began.
I climbed the horrendously winding, narrow staircase to kiss the Blarney Stone, (and please, no comments about the fact it’s known as the local’s lavatory), I stared in awe of the dramatic Cliffs of Moher, again marvelling at the exquisite craftsmanship of Mother Nature; visited Clonmacnoise, one of the most sacred monastic sites in all of Ireland, complete with authentic Celtic Crosses looming in the adjoining graveyards; caught a ferry along the winding River Shannon, took a horse and cart ride through the misty forests of Killarney (and managed to stay on this time, thankfully) and took a tour of one of the oldest whiskey distilleries in all of Ireland, and was “forced” at the end to try a drop or two of their local brew (even if it was early morning!)
So, as one who thankfully did manage to catch the correct mode of transport back out of Ireland, I can attest to the fact that the “Craic” does indeed exist in large doses in the Emerald Isle. And who knows, without poor Paddy’s little logistical error in judgement, perhaps I’d never have felt the pull to visit the past. So I’ll tip my Irish hat to that!
|Kissing the Blarney Stone
|In awe of the Celtic Crosses at Clonmacnoise
|Basking in the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher