Rather than bore you with a day by day recap of our trip to Ireland, I thought I’d hit the high points with some entertaining stories, photos, and yes, a video. As it so happens, I also have no interest in writing a day by day recap, so there you go.
For the record, I titled this “10 Things About Ireland” because I only intended for it to be 10 things. But then it needed to be 12. Deal with it.
1. If you think Chicago is windy, go to Ireland.
So, I have what is indisputably the most luxurious hair in all the land…as long as that land is not Ireland. Holy hell, it is impossible to have a good hair day anywhere in that country. It’s either raining, gusting 30 mph winds, or both. If you go, just invest in a lot of really festive hats. This must be why the Royal Family in Britain is always wearing those ridiculous hats. They’re distracting from their horrible hair days. Also, if Chicago is the Windy City, they should just go ahead and call Ireland the Windy Country. It’s amazing AJ didn’t blow over.
2. If you have my appetite and you aren’t a billionaire, you’ll starve to death.
There is nothing like a trip overseas to make you realize why Americans are so fat. You basically go and pay like 13 Euro (about $17.50) and you get a wrap that is about the length of your hand and is really skinny. And it has some funny name like “chicken salad” but what they mean is actually “chicken with lettuce and tomato” which is, of course, not chicken salad, and then you eat it and you’re like “that was a nice appetizer, where’s the rest of my food?” Except there IS no rest of your food and now you’re starving but you’re too poor to eat anything else. Maybe that only happened to me. But seriously, the portions are tiny (compared to what I eat here, which I recognize is perhaps a bit on the hefty side) and everything is horrendously expensive. The only good thing about paying in Euro is that you have no idea how much you’re actually spending, so it’s easy to just ignore the sobbing of your bank account.
3. All the stores and buildings in the cities are painted extremely fun colors, possibly to distract you from the fact that it’s raining. Again.
I feel like anytime I’ve been anywhere in America where fun colored doors and buildings existed, there were like 3 stores and you saw them all on a postcard before you came. In Ireland, pretty much every building in every city and town is painted like that. Everything could be on a postcard. I could have taken a million pictures of just doors and buildings. In fact, I just got a new cell phone and I custom ordered a case with the picture below on it. I’m that obsessed.
Even the small towns did the exact same thing. I nearly swooned every time I got off the bus. I temporarily forgot I was hungry.
4. Belfast is the Moscow of Ireland.
No offense, people from Belfast, but holy shit, your city is depressing (and sorry, people from Moscow, for the comparison). Maybe it was just the weather that day (particularly rainy and cold), but I’m thinking not. We took a day tour up to Northern Ireland (technically a different country, win!) because we had heard that the tours of Belfast are fascinating. Well, they are fascinating. We learned a lot about “the Troubles” and the decades of fighting between the IRA and the British. We saw some of the locations of the bombings, including the Hotel Europa, which was bombed over 40 times. I’d like to think people stopped staying at the hotel for awhile, but probably not. We also saw many of the amazing murals that have been painted (and continue to be commissioned) for political prisoners, IRA martyrs, etc.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like painting the faces of people who were killed in bombings or died during the hunger strikes is perhaps not the best way to “forgive and forget?” It’s easy to see why the violence continued there for such a long time, and the Catholic portion of the city is still largely in ruins. The city itself was also depressing, but at least in one piece.
5. The best part of our trip was a visit to a sheep farm.
There are sheep everywhere in Ireland, so the whole trip, I kept telling AJ I wanted to pet one. He insisted that going up to a sheep and just petting one is not appropriate, so imagine my excitement when I was told that part of our day tour to the Connemara region of Ireland included a trip to Killary Sheep Farm! I really didn’t know what to expect, I just knew I wanted to pet a sheep. Well, it was THE BEST. Tom, the owner of the farm, showed us how his dog, Sweep, herds the sheep with voice commands. The most amazing part about it was that Tom spoke in a completely normal, “inside” voice” while giving commands to Sweep, who was sometimes half a mile away. He said it takes 2.5 years to train a sheep dog, and I believe it. My dog can barely sit, and this dog was herding sheep!
I’m not even mentioning the fact that this sheep farm was overlooking the only fjord in Ireland and it was absolutely gorgeous. In America, it would be covered in condos. In Ireland? Sheep farm.
6. Irish castles are not how I imagined castles to be.
That is to say that the Irish castles we saw were pretty small. Apparently, the locals refer to them as “AFCs”, as in “Another fucking castle,” which I think is probably the most hilarious and potentially snooty thing I have ever heard. There really are a lot of castles, though, and there are neighborhoods and cities built around them half the time, so it’s not really the stuff you envision when you learn about the Middle Ages. Of course, the only place in Europe I’ve been is Ireland, so I don’t really know about the other castles.
7. Ireland has some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.
I repeat: the whole country could be on a postcard. Sorry I’m not sorry for all the pictures.
8. Irish people are ridiculously friendly.
Within about 5 minutes of arriving at the airport, we grabbed a cab and our cab driver immediately started giving us ideas about all the things to do in Dublin and pointing out local places to go. Then, when we were trying to figure out where to get on the double-decker hop on-hop off tour bus, an Irishman saw us with our map and came over to help us. THEN, as we made our way to the International Rules Football Game between Ireland and Australia, a man overheard us talking about getting tickets and told us not to buy any because he had some that he would give us for free. He told us to follow him, so we did (looking back, this could easily have ended like Hostel) but he led us right to the stadium and gave us a full tour of the stadium, the GAA museum, and then our free BOX TICKETS to the game. Like, literally in one of those suites that rich people sit in at football games. He showed us to our seats and then left. Didn’t want anything. So Declan, thank you, wherever you are!
9. The Irish take their music seriously.
Irish music is not a touristy thing in Ireland. You might think it is, but given that literally every single pub plays it live pretty much every night, it’s clearly something that locals enjoy as well. The bed and breakfast (not the way Americans think of them…more like just a cheaper hotel) that we stayed at had an old Irish pub downstairs – directly beneath our room, actually – that had live Irish music each night. On the night before we left, we headed down to listen and I took this video of my new favorite song, Galway Girl. If you don’t know it, get to know it, because it’s the jam.
10. The churches are out of control, regardless of how old they are.
Again, I might consider going to church if churches here looked like the ones in Ireland. Except I’d be too busy staring at how pretty everything was to actually listen, but at least I’d be physically in the building.
11. The Guinness really does taste different in Ireland.
I think Guinness is basically the most disgusting thing on the planet, but obviously, when in Rome, right? Well, they say Guinness tastes different in Ireland, and it is true. That is, it is actually drinkable in Ireland, and by the end of our trip, I daresay I enjoyed it. We went to the Guinness Storehouse (which has been brewing Guinness for 300 years) and took a tour, which included a free pint. We also drank Guinness at the pub where JFK had his first ever pint!
In short, I love Ireland. That’s all.
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