(Final recap of my late April Ireland trip.)
How do you say goodbye to a country you've fallen in love with? The green fields, dramatic ocean shorelines, amazing ancient ruins, friendly people, lively music, fantastic beer (and lots of it!) I had such a wonderful time in Ireland, I didn't want my trip to end. But nothing good lasts forever. Before I knew it, departure day arrived.
It was a beautiful sunny morning as our plane lifted off from Dublin's airport. Flying low over green patchwork-quilt fields, I snapped my final images from the airplane window. A few tears may have been shed.
|Final view of the Emerald Isle (sniff!)|
Ireland gave Kim and I one final parting gift. While sitting in Boston during our (ugh!) 6-hour layover, Kim's throat started to feel sore. Then she began developing a headache and sinus congestion. My symptoms hit about an hour later. By the time we boarded our final flight home, both of us had full-blown colds brewing. We masked up, and spend the duration of our flight sleeping. It was a doozy of a cold - we were both sick for an entire month. I had plugged ears for nearly three weeks. (And, no it wasn't COVID - we both tested negative.) I'm pretty sure we caught this monster cold from our tour-mates - a couple of them were sick in the final few days. Oh well, at least the cold waited until we were on our way home before it struck us down. And Kim and I both agreed, despite getting sick, the trip was totally worth it!
|I've never seen milk in a stick before! (Courtesy of Aer Lingus airlines)|
Now almost four months later, the post-trip illness nearly forgotten, my memories of Ireland are full of good times and sights from this beautiful island. Although it's taken several months, I've enjoyed sorting and editing my photographs. Writing these blog posts has recaptured the joy and wonder I felt each day of the tour. It's been a great way to memorialize the trip before I start forgetting everything. I created these posts mostly for myself, but if a few of you have enjoyed reading them, so much the better (bonus points if you've read all the way through every one!)
|I almost bought this shirt!|
I'd like to first extend a huge thanks to Pascal - our tour guide extraordinaire! He was an excellent storyteller, a wealth of information about all things Ireland, and an all-around nice guy. Thanks to Pascal, I learned so much about Ireland. He also kept us on time, made sure our accommodations were taken care of, and that our group was properly fed. Pascal's love of his country shone through in every story he told, and in every attraction we visited. I sure hope our paths cross again!
|Holding a falcon (photo courtesy of my buddy Randy)|
I was impressed with our Rick Steves tour. Not only did we have an excellent guide, we stayed in nice hotels, ate at good restaurants, and got to see a lot in our 8-day tour. My only complaint is that some days were a bit rushed. I wish we could've spent more time at few of the places we visited. But that's the price you pay for seeing a lot of things! We had a great group of people on our tour - they were all very considerate (no one late for the bus because they had to take a smoke) and everyone seemed to have a good sense of humor. Kim and I made a couple of friends and I hope we get to travel together again sometime.
(Disclaimer - I have not been compensated in any way by Rick Steves tours. These opinions are my own, and the same thing I'd tell friends and family.)
|Posing by Fungie|
Finally, a shout out to my good buddy Kim for sharing this adventure with me. Thanks for putting up with my late night journaling, endless photography sessions, and my general dorkiness! It was fun traveling with ya, girlfriend! I think we made a good team.
|My really bad statue imitation|
One last thought - on our bus trips Pascal always explained bits of Irish culture to the group. As we were heading into Dublin on our last bus ride, he addressed the Northern Ireland conflict, known as the "Troubles." Pascal lives in the northern part of the Republic, not far from Northern Ireland. Growing up during this turbulent time, Pascal gave us an insider's perspective on the conflict. He told of going into Northern Ireland as a child for sporting events, and having to call his parents to let them know of his safe arrival. Pascal said the war wasn't over religion, as most outsiders believed, but a difference of some Irish people (mostly Protestants) wanting to stay part of the UK, and other Irish groups (mostly Catholics) that wished for the entire island to be united as one republic. The peace agreement in 1998 thankfully brought an end to the conflict and both Irish countries have since prospered. However, the recent passage of Brexit threatens to destabilize this truce. Pascal said he didn't think anyone in Ireland wants to return to the days of the Troubles. I certainly hope that both countries can continue to live in harmony. Now that I've visited the Republic of Ireland I'd hate to see this wonderful country thrown back into the throes of war.
|Kim is much better at selfies!|
And so with that I'd like to thank Ireland for showing this yank a good time! This trip just left me wanting more. There's so much on my "for next time" list that I'm already scheming a return trip.
Kim and I had such fun traveling together that we've signed up for another Rick Steves tour. Get ready Switzerland, we're coming your way in September 2024!
In case you missed any posts from my Ireland trip, here are links to each one: