Three weeks in Ireland…final reflections

By Caitlin Kelly

Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland -- Europe's highest cliffs
Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland — Europe’s highest cliffs

It took a while to determine the bird we heard everywhere in Donegal, and whose trilling song sounds just like a modem, (Google it, young ‘uns!). It turned out to be a skylark, an unforgettable sound.

Our rented house, which was ear-ringingly silent, awoke on our final morning to a distinct tap-tap-tap. It was a fat magpie rapping its beak against the window before fanning its feathers indignantly and strutting off into the grass.

After a glorious week in the cottage — a three-bedroom house, architect-designed, (and it’s available the week of July, book here!)  — in Donegal, we returned to Dublin, a four-hour drive. My husband was kind enough to do all the driving. We rented a VW Golf, diesel, and liked it a lot: quiet, comfortable and very economical on fuel.

It was tough to find hotel rooms for the week in Dublin on a month’s notice, and every single hotel was booked the night of July 1 — for an AC/DC concert!

There’s a flea market in Dublin but only on the final Sunday of every month, which happened to be the one we’re here for. I love exploring flea markets so that was a definite.

I scored! A hand-knit wool sweater for five euros, a mirrored Indian bag for 10 euros and five silver-plate forks for five euros. That’s my kind of flea market.

Our vacation has been filled with surprises, most lovely, a few less so.

Like:

— The driest Dublin June in 40 years. Yay! We had only one day of rain. I’m returning with, (yes, really) an Irish tan.

— The tree-shaded canal a block from our hotel, lined every few feet with comfortable benches, where I sat and watched a duck with her five palm-sized ducklings

The Luas -- which means "speed" in Irish
The Luas — which means “speed” in Irish

— The worst public transit system I’ve seen in any major city of comparable size. There are only two tram lines and they’re very short and they don’t intersect. Yes, there are plenty of yellow double-decker city buses, but no official bus map available. Even locals agree it’s a disaster.

— A ton of construction all around Trinity College (as they expand the tram system), making road traffic and pedestrian traffic a big mess.

— The best foie gras I’ve ever eaten at L’Gueleton. Go!

— Sunset in Dun Laoghaire, a quick DART ride from Dublin, and dinner at there at Fallon & Byrne in People’s Park

— The shocking loss of three people suddenly swept out to sea while walking on shore in Baltimore, Co. Cork

An amazing collection of Asian art at the National Museum of Decorative Art, including a room filled with Buddhist tangkas

The Titanic Museum in Belfast, (a 2.5 hr train ride north of Dublin) was well worth the cost of trainfare and the time to travel there. We spent 3.5 hours at the museum itself, which is typical, and enjoyed every minute.

— Getting to know a dear Dublin friend’s husband and adult daughter, and renewing a 30-year-old friendship forged on a fellowship we shared in Paris

— Salmon, salmon and more salmon!

— Oysters, oysters and more oysters!

— Cheap and plentiful Dublin taxis

We will dearly miss a nation of people who still thrive on lively, engaged conversation. It was blessedly very rare indeed, anywhere, to see people staring at their damn cellphones while sitting with others in a social space like a pub, bar or restaurant.

We will miss the extraordinary light, a sky that stays lit until almost midnight.

We will miss the glowing green of stone-walled fields.

We will miss the warmth of new friends.

Jose gazing out the window of our rented cottage
Jose gazing out the window of our rented cottage

We will miss the silent, craggy beauty of Donegal, where only the wind could be heard.

We will miss being able to cross an entire country within a few hours’ driving.

I will miss seeing my family name — Kelly — on shops and trucks and signage everywhere.

We hope to return soon!

Have you been to Ireland?

What did you enjoy most?

8 thoughts on “Three weeks in Ireland…final reflections

  1. We have recently arrived for a 4 week trip, so reading your posts was really interesting. We left Dublin a few days ago (we loved the buses by the way – who needs a timetable when everyone talks to you!) and are now on the Wild Atlantic Way. Loving it.

    1. Fantastic!

      I was annoyed by the lack of a bus map because I really wanted to explore the city and couldn’t find logical ways to get from one place to another…taxis ended up being a $$$ default.

      The WAW is gorgeous!!!! Have a great vacation — feel free to email me with questions; learntowritebetter@gmail.com

  2. with every detail, good and bad, it sounds like an enchanting visit to an enchanting land. i’m irish too, being a kennedy, and hope to go next summer for my first time. i love the pic of jose sitting in the chair by the window, it really says it all about the feel and pace of your holiday. the flea market sounds wonderful, and i love the fact that were was more face to face communication and less tech intrusion into the lives of everyone around you. wonderful and i can’t wait to go!

    1. You will LOVE it.

      Be sure to take as much time as you can — it’s a landscape that rewards just sitting still and really being present and open. Jose managed to drop/break his cellphone (again) and I did not even bring mine (why would I?) The only tech we used was Ipad and computers to blog/social media in a very restricted way. I really loathe being so attached to it all the time at home so taking photos was the extent of it.

      It’s a hard place not to love. 🙂

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