The last time I wrote for this blog I was sitting in Heathrow airport, weary from a long day in a place I wasn’t loving and the massive effort it took to get to where I needed to be. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically, and ready to be anywhere but there.
The night’s last flight out of London got me to Cork just before midnight, which is way past my bedtime regardless of timezone. I gathered my luggage and stepped out into the cool, damp air. I hailed a cab and settled into the backseat. The taxi driver was old and Irish and chatty. Classical music played softly in the car and a light rain fell on the windshield. For the first time in two days I felt like I could breathe.
I fall in love with places easily and Ireland sucked me in quick. It wasn’t the culture or the history or the old stone buildings around every corner, although those certainly didn’t hurt. It wasn’t the food (which largely wasn’t amazing) or the whiskey (which definitely was!).
It was the people.
Our hotel was a good mile and a half or so from the center of Cork and because I’m cheap and like to walk, I hoofed it pretty much everywhere I needed to go. I spent my first morning getting the lay of the land – walking past old churches and up narrow sidewalks, checking out the bustling downtown, and strolling along the river. It was on one of these walks that I met John.
[This is John! I took this picture before I knew we were about to become BFFs.]
John was an older Irish gent who was out for a walk with his two little dogs. We first crossed paths as I headed down the trail that runs alongside the river and out of town. We struck up a conversation about the weather (the Irish love talking about the weather) and an hour later we were still walking and talking. He told me all about the city and the schools and the old abandoned asylum that sits up on the hillside. We talked about beer and dogs and politics. Our walk took forever because every time he wanted to make a point he’d stop walking, look at me, and gesture wildly with his hands.
I loved every minute of it.
This was a pattern that would repeat itself for the rest of the trip in every town I visited. The woman in the little craft store in Cobh. The lobstermen who were working on their traps in Kinsale. The owner of our AirBnB in Killarney. The cab drivers – Oh my god, the cab drivers! They were the chattiest of them all.
I learned early on that you don’t start a conversation with an Irish person unless you plan to be in that conversation for a very long time. I started a lot of conversations because as far as I’m concerned, hanging out with the locals is one of the very best reasons to go to Ireland.
The places we visited were a lot like the people – friendly and warm and welcoming. The pubs were a cozy kind of crowded and the drinks and conversation flowed. The landscape was soft and green and painfully pretty. Even the sheep (which were everywhere in the countryside) were extra fuzzy and adorable.
Ireland is nothing like the place where we live – but it felt like home from the moment I arrived.A week wasn’t nearly a long enough time in this place and we’re already scheming about how we can go back someday. I want to spend more time in Killarney and visit the Cliffs of Moher. I want to drive the Wild Atlantic Way and try like hell to not cross over onto the right side of the road. I want to spend more time drinking beer in pubs with the people that make this place so great. And I want to take my son – because I know he would love it there too.
Stay tuned for more posts and pictures about our trip to Ireland. I have a lot to tell you!