Do you love green rolling hills, thatched cottages, corner pubs, and friendly people? Who doesn’t love those things? Which is why Ireland is a great travel destination. Unless you're a smoker--public smoking is no longer allowed in Ireland. Great for people with allergies, like Hero and me. Not great if you're a pack a day person who has no intention of quitting.
The Irish are friendly to Americans. After so many Irishmen emigrated to America, Irish citizens seem to consider that visitors from the U.S. are only coming “home” for a visit. Hero and I found open, welcoming people wherever we traveled in Ireland. As they should be. After all, our ancestry includes many Scot-Irish, and we were visiting the old country.
Our first visit was through Brendan Tours, and Willie Guilfoyle was our driver and guide. His knowledge of Irish history amazed us. In other trips since then, no guide has been as well informed as Willie. In fact,on all counts Brendan Tours is a lovely group with whom to travel.
The food was superb. Irish dairy products are the best I've ever eaten--even tastiet than in Switzerland. Fresh wild salmon is often served. Potatoes are served with everything in the evening, often in two dishes such as boiled new potatoes and mashed potatoes at the same meal. Carrots and parsnips mashed together--the thought of which gagged me until I ate it--turned out to taste delicious. Strict guidelines are in place to protect the Irish environment. Only clean businesses are invited. (Once at home when we booked an American hotel, the registration agent was in Ireland. No toxic waste from a phone call.)
We also attended several Ceilidhs. These are musical parties. Dancers and singers are always accompanied by violinists. Usually the music also includes the bhodran (hand drum), harmonica, concertina or accordian, and the Irish bagpipe. Differing from the Scots, an Irish piper pumps the bellows between his ribs and his arm and the sound is sweeter than from the Scottish cousin. Sometimes a guitar or a banjo completes the accompaniment.The Ceilidh is a cheerful and fun way to spend an evening..
Across Ireland, we saw celtic crosses either as tombstones or decoration. Beside the roads in many places are creches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Ruins from when the English destroyed Roman Catholic chapels litter the country. I hate to make general statements, but I consider the Irish to be religious and most to be Catholic. We stopped at the site of miraculous healing at the Chapel in Knoch. Nuns will pray for you and you can fill out a card to let friends and family know you’ve placed them on the special daily prayer list. Blessed water is also for sale.
One thing to remember, not every place has air conditioning to which we in the United States have become accustomed. For this reason, you might want to avoid the high summer months. We usually travel in May or September. The weather is still fine, but not as hot as in July and August.
Our visits were all too short. Next time, we plan to rent a cottage, purchase a rail pass, and spend a month in Ireland. Hmmm, I wonder if that cottage in Adare is available?