Friday, July 31, 2009

Ireland & Me

Lovely Carol (left) and Claire. Here we are bonding at Johnny Rockets in Dublin. They are fabulous!
Your basic Irish breakfast. Sooo delish!
Me 'n Betsy on our way to walk the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.
Giants Causeway. Amazing!
Probably the first hour of our 11 mile hike. I was still pretty happy then.

I made the first trek to my own 'holy land' in 2000. Ireland, the land of my ancestors. A most extraordinary place not only to my eyes, but to my heart. The lush green land, the rising hills zig-zagged with ancient rock walls, the plunging cliffs that surround it, the chocolate (for heaven's sake!), the moody weather (that I love so well), and of course, the people. This recent trip was my fourth in 9 years. Yes, Ireland captured me upon first meet. My Fitzsimmons cousins were living in Cork at the time and introduced me to a most spectacular country. In the 3 separate times I visited, I was so enchanted by it that I had to bring different people each time I went. Jenny Beth, Stacy, Justin, Scott and Brianne. Of course they all fell in love with it too.
For almost 6 years I have been away from my beloved Ireland (which oddly enough, means Erin in the Irish). I was all too ecstatic for yet another home-coming, and this time with Lorie, Betsy and Vicki.
And here is how it went:

Wednesday: Arrived in Dublin via Ryan Air, stayed with Claire White (thank you!), then went to sleep (it was quite late). Oh, and I was driving on the beloved left side of the street. Eeks!

Thursday: Ventured out and away to Northern Ireland. Our destination: Giant's Causeway Hotel. We arrived at our hotel around 2 or 3, then after a little rest, we decided to head over to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge via bus. It was only a few miles away. This bridge is a rope suspension bridge in Country Antrim. It links the mainland to the teeny Carrick Island. A place where salmon fishermen frequently fished. The views are stunning.
After we finished capturing the beauty with our eyes and our lenses, we headed back to the visitors center and tea house. I then was told by Lorie (who had researched the area, the attractions, hikes, etc.) that we were going to take a 16km hike back to the hotel. Apparently it goes right along the ridge of the beautiful cliffs in the area, and is supposed to be a great little walk. Well, right up front I'll tell you that I'm not a big hiker. I enjoy a leisurely hike once in a while, but an 11 mile hike isn't a normal thing for me to do. Well, they all decided to go, and I tried deciding if I really wanted to spend 3 hours + on a long walk. I figured, why not?! So, we headed out. It was raining only slightly, but it was lovely. As you all know, I love me some good rain. We kept on and saw some amazing scenery. After every ridge we crossed, I kept thinking that we'd see our goal at some point. We seemed to be saying "I think it's after this ridge" quite frequently. But after every ridge, no hotel. After 3 hours into it, I got restless. I started booking it, and by booking, I mean I was running up every hill I came to. I wouldn't rest (even though I was exhausted from little sleep the nights before, and from this up and down hill hike). I couldn't talk to anyone, because I was in a serious zone. I HAD to find my goal! Where was it?! One sheep pasture after another, one set of boarded steps after another and there was still no end in sight. Four hours passed, and then five. At this point, I was probably talking to myself to make myself keep going. You see, there was no bus that could come and get us, and there were certainly no roads anywhere near. We were off the beaten path, for real! Well, it was 10pm, and the sun had set, though still shined a bit of light for us weary hikers. Every now and then from my weariness would come exhilaration at the sight of what was in front of me or behind me. The views were absolutely stunning! How could I not be swept away by it? I usually gave thanks to my maker at these moments, and also asked for endurance to keep going - though my goal was nowhere in sight. I probably muttered a '3 hour hike? yeah right!' a few times. When I finally saw my goal, I think I could've cried. I walked just as quickly to reach it - even though my companions were a half mile behind me.
When I finally got to my room, I took off my shoes (noticed the lovely swelling in my cankles), and said a prayer. I was thankful to have finished. I was thankful for the much needed energy given to me at my weakest moments, and I was thankful that I would never have to do it again if I didn't want to! There were a lot of personal lessons I learned; things I learned about myself and how I handle trials and how I endure them. Interesting, isn't it?
Well anyway, Vicki had a million cuts on her feet from her shoes (sad), but she also made it.

Friday: Saw Giants Causeway. Wow and wow! Take a look. We then packed up our things (before eating a delicious Irish breakfast), and headed on our way toward Galway. On our way, we passed Yeats country. The place where poet W.B. Yeats grew up. We visited the church he frequented, and paid a visit to his grave stone. In my English Literature days at school, I read much of his works, and was happy to see where so much of his inspiration came from.
We drove through the many beautiful counties of N. Ireland, then finally got to Galway.
Checked into our hotel, then went to see the new Harry Potter movie at the Omniplex. Fun!

Saturday: Well, by this point I was running out of money, and I was still dead from the hike two days before. So, the girls left early and went to see one of the Aran Islands. I, on the other hand, ventured around Galway. It's such a great little town, and it's bigger than most too. If I were to live in Ireland, I think I'd definitely consider the lovely city.
Once the girls got back, we headed to the city center to find some pub grub, and find it we did. I had a plate of Shepherd's pie. Delish! It was while we were out to dinner that I found out I'd have to cut my trip short in Ireland. It's true. Flights were looking bad at best, and my only chance for getting out of Dublin would be Monday morning.

Sunday: Attended the itty bitty branch in Galway and loved it. Had some lunch, then I parted from the amigas and took an almost 4 hour bus ride to Dublin. I was very sad to leave them, because they were on their way to see some of my favorite parts of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher, and the Ring of Kerry. Ah well, it just means I'll have to get back there sooner than later.
I rang Claire and asked if I could stay with her one more night, which of course she was willing (bless her). Then, she and daughter Carol took me to Johnny Rockets for some good ol' American food and great conversation. I munched on onion rings and an oreo shake. Yum!

Monday: Departed from my favorite country and got Business First back to Newark! Woohoo!
The rest was an ordeal, truly. Monday & Tuesday looked like this: Newark to DC to Houston to Phoenix to Denver to SLC. Boy, am I glad to be home!


karen louise said...

Sounds like you had an amazing time there Erin Colleen! I'm so glad for you! I wish I could have been there to share it with you guys!

So glad that you are finally home, safe, and sound. :)


Malea said...

My first country of choice to visit when I was a but a wee dreamer who only dreamt of traveling? Ireland. Then came ILP where I did south Europe, Russia, China. Married a man who works for SkyWest, thus Delta and United benefits. He also loves the tropics; as do my four sons.
Out voted. We plan a trip to Barcelona, only to miss our flight in JFK. Flights to Dublin? Wide OPEN. Madrid won. Every time Matt says, "let's go fah fah away", I always check Ireland. Where do we always end up? Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Boise. I will carry you on your next all day hike if you consider me as your next tag a long.

Rebecca said...

Amazing! Can I go with you next time? =)