Dispatches from Ireland: Days 17 through 25

Posted By Mike Padgett

Sept. 9, 2008

Ireland, thank you for a new kingdom.

I’m sitting alone in a hotel lobby after breakfast in central Ireland, sinking into a sofa as soft as Grandma’s lap. The music of Simon & Garfunkel is playing softly over the sound system, making the rest of the world fade away and sending my thoughts wandering over three weeks of travels in this country new to me.

Ireland, thank you for rainbows and rock fences and rainy days and peat bogs and narrow crooked roads. Thanks for Irish smiles and wit and the crow’s feet at the edge of friendly eyes. Thanks for misty days and brisk coastal winds and the smell of salt air, and thank you for ancient rock carvings and the Irish brogue suddenly appearing in my dreams.

Thank you for tidal bays and gray days, and for sandy beaches where the clouds expanded like a storm flexing its powerful muscles.

Thanks for the memorable conversations we had with a 14-year-old book enthusiast and future journalist who is studying French, German and Irish. He told us about his parents’ dairy, the ruins of the castles his grandparents’ people built near Cashel, and the young politicians discussion group he joined this summer.

Thank you for the courteous hotel and restaurant workers we encountered in Dublin, Galway, Carna and Cashel. Thank you for the many generous and creative meals we ate in our travels.

Thank you for a glimpse into an ancient culture where the friendly and gracious Irish have a turbulent history. And for your colorful sailing boats called pucans or Galway hookers, and for Galway’s Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, founded in 1320.

Thank you for the opportunity to meet and talk with some of your other visitors from France, Sweden, England, Germany and Argentina. We met a hotel chef from Sri Lanka working near your west coast. In Dublin and elsewhere, we met hotel workers from across Europe. When classes resumed at one Dublin primary school earlier this month, the flags of 23 countries were flown to represent the home nations of 66 new students.

Ireland, thank you for the echoes of our whispers inside a rural church. Thank you for the expert workmanship seen on your ghostly ruins. Thank you for our thoughts of wonder as we visited your stone famine houses and religious ruins, and for our thoughts of our own mortality as we walked slowly through your cemeteries, reading about yesterdays’ souls.

Thank you for the many shades of green across your countryside, for your frothy peat-colored streams rushing to the ocean, and for your colorful fuchsias that thrive in your mild climate. And for our bus trips through your many villages with their narrow streets lined with three- and four-story buildings filled with restaurants and pubs and bookstores and bookmakers.

Thank you for the views from atop the Cliffs of Moher, which rise 650 feet from the Atlantic Ocean, and for the views over the edge at the promontory fortress Dun Aonghasa on the Aran Islands, about 30 miles offshore from Galway. And thank you for Clonmacnoise, a medieval monastery where many kings of Tara and of Connaught are buried.

Ireland, thank you for the buses that crisscross the countryside, and for the drivers who jockey their wide-bodied buses and trucks on narrow roads. When two large vehicles meet, the drivers brake and their vehicles brush the bushes as they ease past each other, crowding their sides of the road.

And thank you for Kylemore Abbey, a lakeside Gothic Revival castle that is one of your most picturesque manmade attractions.

Thank you for the individual street performers who ignored cold and misty weather. Many played guitars. A lanky teenager in Dublin played his violin. A woman in heels and a black dinner dress sang and rocked sideways while her fingers danced across her accordion keys. My throat tightened and my eyes blurred as I listened to a man on a Galway street coax melancholy magic from his saxophone.

Ireland, thank you for a kingdom of new memories about people and places and music and history.

Sep 9th, 2008

One Comment to 'Dispatches from Ireland: Days 17 through 25'

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  1. Nick Hower said,

    Mike,
    thanks for sharing- my wife (Kristin) and I went to Ireland about 3 years ago and saw many similar sites which bring back great memories…albeit a little foggy from the Guinness at times! can’t wait to go back, or move permanently one day! Nick

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