Thinking of Ireland

BlogHer Original Post

Saint Paddy's Day had me thinking of that green nation floating in the Atlantic, a place for which I've real affection. I had the good fortune to be sent there for work one summer. I lived in a furnished apartment a few miles from my work, a short train ride into central Dublin. I rented a bicycle -- it seemed the right thing to do, drank whiskey and Guinness, and swooned whenever the guys in the office said, well, anything in their charming accents. "So you'll have that ready for Monday's review then, will you?" Um, what were we talking about? That's right, Ireland.

Each day, the best produce of the market makes it’s way into the pots, and the menu is written up in chalk, next to a board listing ‘today’s suppliers’ by name. It’s the best advertisement the wonderful people preserving and furthering Irish culinary heritage below could have — and it’s free. The food? Well, it floors us. -- My Kitchen Chronicles

Ireland's booming tourist industry was predicted by Sir Cornelius O'Brien--a self-proclaimed descendant of legendary High King Brian Boru--who wanted to capitalize on the throngs of Victorian tourists coming to see the magnificent views from the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. In 1835, O'Brien built his tower at the highest point of the cliffs so that visitors could stand on the roof in hopes of catching a glimpse of attractions like Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins, and the Aran Islands.-- Travel Insights 100/Marilyn Terrell

Once described by the National Geographic Traveler as “the most beautiful place on earth”, the Dingle Peninsula is a place of intense allure, with a plethora of green landscapes, rocky hills, long sandy beaches and staggering cliff edges. The warm Gulf Stream reaches the peninsula, giving has a wonderful mixture of sometimes rare and unusual flora and fauna. --Irelandgo [This link is a teaser -- click through for the amazing photos on this blog.]

Because I had a job while I was in Ireland, I didn't have a whole lot of time to do the usual tourist things - I saw little of Ireland's supposedly glorious countryside and not nearly enough of Dublin, a fantastic city to find oneself in. I saw some theater, made myself read James Joyce (argh) and Roddy Doyle (genius) and I watched a surprising amount of very interesting television. I did not kiss the blarney stone, buy an Aran sweater, or get any souvenirs labeled with the words "Kiss me, I'm Irish."

I was skinny and bikey and in between countries, my not-yet-husband awaited my arrival in Austria and I'd left behind a passionate entanglement in the US, a diversion I hadn't planned, didn't need, and did nothing to avoid. Ireland was a perfect bubble for my state of mind, a place where my coworkers became fast friends on day two. They fulfilled all of the excellent cliches about the Irish and none of the bad ones. I was offered a permanent job in Ireland and sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I said yes to all that green, no to the things tugging on my heart, and set up house in a studio apartment in Dublin.

My best pen pal is from that time - a coworker from that Dublin summer. He came out to visit me in Austria twice, once shortly before he got married, once several years later when I was working in Salzburg. We drank coffee and ate chocolate and talked about Dublin and Seattle and our spouses and walked up to the castle in the wet snow.

Travel opens your mind to parallel lives and when I think about Ireland, I imagine myself there in very real ways. I imagine the sheep on my friend's farm, and the Italian tourists clustered around the Dublin fountains, and the hangovers and office crushes and the rain. I haven't been back to Ireland, but I haven't forgotten it either. It was green and welcoming and so friendly and full of stories. In my memory, it is a perfect place where I do not have to decide and anything is possible.

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