Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Green, Green Hills of Ireland

My latest release, OUT OF THE BLUE, is a time travel romance with suspense elements. The heroine, Deirdre Dougherty is an Irish clairvoyant herbalist and healer who travels from 1845 Ireland to drop into our time. I thought I’d set the mood by discussing the first trip Hero and I took to Ireland.

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.

Flying in to Shannon airport, the verdant landscape surprised me. I’d heard about the Emerald Isle, but was unprepared for the landscape's vibrant shades of green. In travels across the United States, Canada, Mexico, the UK, and western Europe, I have to say that Ireland is the prettiest spot we’ve seen. In fact, I wanted to move into a lovely cottage in Adare, but my husband dragged me to the rest of our tour. In subsequent trips, we've noticed the country is changing since the adoption of the Euro and entrance into the European Common Market. This has brought Europeans buying up land and building houses as vacation homes.

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 couldn't miss Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. Hero climbed to the top and kissed the stone—not an easy feat. To accomplish this, he had to lie on his back partially suspended over a wall and tilt his head to kiss the opposite wall. Fortunately, there was an assistant to keep him from plunging to his death. Me? I waited at the bottom of the 110 steps for Hero's return. After all, no one in my family needs to actually kiss the Blarney Stone. We were born with the gift of (sometimes creative) gab!

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.

Dublin is a bustling city formed where once sat a Viking stronghold. The town’s name means black pool. Dublin is a modern city with cheerful businesses and lots of flower boxes and hanging baskets brightening up the streets. Most homes have lovely gardens and hanging baskets. Although we entered through Shannon airport, we departed from Dublin on our first visit. 

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?


Dawn said...

Oh! I shared this with my oss who just next week is taking a three-week biking tour through Ireland. I am GREEN with envy!

Dawn said...

* That should be BOSS, not oss :-)

Becky said...

Ireland is someplace I would like to visit sometime. Maybe one of the days it will happen for me. Glad you had a fun time and sounds like you next visit will be a better time yet.

PeachyTO said...

You brought me back to my honeymoon last October, as we spent a joyful week in Ireland. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, and I'm proud to say that my family hails from this luscious country.

I would agree that the dairy products are the best, certainly of any I've had. I also really enjoyed the meat as well. Everything is so fresh and delicious.

Thanks for this beautiful post.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Thanks to Dawn, Becky, and Peachy for commenting. I hope all of us have a trip to Ireland in the near future!