Yes, my last name might be über German, but I’m also as Irish as…Guinness? I’m actually only about 1/4 Irish, but it’s strange how it feels like so much more. This is probably because 1.) the Irish side of my family bursts with Irish pride (like most Irish families I know), and 2.) because I’m only a few generations removed: my great-grandparents were born, raised and married in Ireland. Since it’s the relatively recent past, the connection isn’t really as far flung as the term “ancestry” might suggest. It also helps that at least some of us look the part- I mean, once even John F. Kennedy commented on the redness of my mom’s hair.*
So, my parents, grandmother, aunts, and cousins used to take summer trips to Ireland before I was born, and apparently they had these magical life-changing experiences, ran along cliffs, met lifelong friends, played with bands in pubs, and hob-nobbed with our distant relatives. Even my dad, who is not Irish, said it was unlike any other place. It was mysterious and ancient and spiritual, somehow closer to to all things eternal and true. He just felt this connection, whatever it is, that makes Ireland so special.
I finally got to visit a few years ago, on a lovely but too-quick trip. In honor on St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a list of some essential Irish experiences.
Some of the best things I did in Ireland:
1. Drink Guinness in a pub in Dublin. Oh, and Irish whiskey in Galway. Not gonna lie…I’m not much of a Guinness drinker or a whiskey drinker. As far as Irish beer goes, I’ll take a Harp. But come on, in Ireland, do as the real Irish do.
2. Hear live music. It’s not hard to find. On the streets, in pubs, anywhere. Ireland is overflowing with talented musicians.
3. Get to know the locals. I’m kind of shy in foreign places, but the Irish will not stand for that. It’s true what they say- Irish people are friendly, funny, and they tell great stories.
Some things I need to do on a return trip:
4. Kiss the Blarney stone. (Speaking of talking a lot.)
5. Cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. I think this would be a great history lesson, and a chance to really see the gritty, non-tourist areas.
6. Last but not least, visit the town my family is from: Adrigole, County Cork. On my trip, we saw more of the larger cities. This photo I took is as close as I got, and shows the peninsula that the town is on. The rest of my family has been to the actual town, which is is in the southwest, in the more mountainous region of Ireland.
*True! This happened during his campaign stop to Wisconsin in 1960, when she was a young girl. But yeah, this is one of those stories that will probably get expanded to mythic proportions in the family, the way these things do. I know this happens, because at my job, potential donors will call up and say they have, you know, the bed Abe Lincoln was born in. Because their great uncle Toby said so. Family legends are not good enough for museums, sorry. But that’s another story.
Photos from my flickr page.