A big part of me needed to go to Ireland. My ancestors were originally from the County Cork and I felt a part of my identity was there. Is there.
Docked in Cobh, we passed the famous statue of Annie Moore facing her destination in New York. In New York, there is another statue of Annie, honoring her as the first immigrant processed through Ellis Island. Seeing the statue in its original location is a reminder of the troubles the Irish faced and the reasons that many searched for a better life.
The misty air settled all around the beautiful hills with bits of sunshine peeking through. Just as expected, the land was covered in green, spotted with village homes and castle ruins. The town was quiet as we drove towards our main stop, Blarney Castle. The castle sits atop a mound overlooking the lovely village below. Our serenity was a bit thwarted by the many tourists lined up to kiss the Blarney Stone at the very top of the fortress. Seeing the line wind its way between the tight stones walls, I opted to pass on the popular smooching and explore the grounds instead.
I am very glad I did. The line was an hour and a half’s wait and Blarney was too beautiful to miss. Its stately manner did not seem foreboding at all as I usually sense with a structure of this magnitude. The pastoral surroundings with such lively vegetation made the cold walls even seem welcoming. Fitting for a country known for it’s hospitality and kind demeanor.
Leaving the kissing tourists behind, we walked around the village below. Small shops, pubs, and the Blarney Woolen Mill. Strategically placed along the castle’s walking route, the woolen mill provides a wide variety of sweaters and other such apparel made from the famous argon material. There were plenty of souvenirs available as well. While I enjoyed walking through the woolen mill, it was very commercial – translation, Anthony Bourdain would not be caught dead there.
So I ventured to a nearby pub for a little bit of local culture. Or rather, a taste of culture. I ordered my first Guinness in my homeland and immediately fell in love with the dark stout. Just sitting amongst the locals, watching them quietly chat, I felt very at home. No fan fare, no silly trinkets, just an afternoon as any other day.
After having such a lovely day at Blarney and the surrounding village, it felt appropriate to experience a bustling Irish city next. So I took a walking tour around Dublin. In general, I prefer walking tours. I have had my fill of bus tours which sometimes drive you by the best stops and you sadly watch them pass by. Not this time. With my comfy Sketchers on, I literally hit the pavement. The tall buildings lining the streets in downtown Dublin reminded me a bit of New York – more quaint, though, and much less neurotic (I doubt there is a soup Nazi anywhere..Seinfeld anyone?). Although, I should note that some believe Dubliners can be a little on the snobby side. I did not experience that; however, I can understand a sense of pride to be living in a seemingly great city. Trinity College has a beautiful campus with gorgeous architecture. The buildings were close together, but quite stately – meant for scholars.
The Merrion Square park is home to the famous Oscar Wilde statue. Oscar looks quite proud of himself as he lay across the large stone that supports him. That’s right, ladies. I write and I know how to party. If you know his biography, then you also know that the statue is very fitting.
The surrounding foliage was beautiful and I recommend a stroll if you have the time. The shops and walking areas downtown were nicely kept. I would love to go back and wander the stores.
Being short on time, though, we popped into a pub for another Guinness. ‘Cause that’s just how I roll. If it’s between shopping (no, I don’t need more postcards) and a quick pint, no contest.
My childhood pal who currently lives in Dublin says that the nighttime is a bit high end. No jeans, no casual wear. It’s all heels and skirts. Even in the pouring rain. Seeing the clean streets and storefronts, that does not surprise me. She and I reconnected after my trip and with an invitation to visit again, I think my passport may end up with another Irish stamp. With gorgeous landscapes and an intriguing city life, I don’t think I’ll stay away for long.