- Accents – is it just me, or is EVERYTHING cooler in an Irish accent? It has been so much fun listening to the colorful phrases and turns of speech. It’s almost a foreign language, incorporating the Irish Gaelic in their running monologue, and I’m usually laughing so hard I am not really paying attention to what they are a saying. Our bus driver, Seane, sounds something like this:
Alright me troopers! Whats the craic? Did any of ye fall in luf last night? The Irish men don’t lack for the confidence and the persistence, ya know. And I was thinking to meself, I says to meself, aw shite sheep don’t ya cross the road now, ya know? What a was I a sayin…so who likes the Guinness, ya know? You have to say that when you’re in Ireland. I don’t drink it myself, I need oh about 8 or 9 pints first, ya know. What was I saying? Got lost in me mind, ya know.
- Rich History – A really profound discovery for me – the Irish people really know their country’s history. I think this helps explain the fierce pride of the Irish, something we don’t see to the same degree as in America. For example, when taking a historic tour of Derry, the city of the Bloody Sunday attacks and some IRA shenanigans, the tour guide says, “so to understand why this happens, you have to remember that in the year 1262…and then in 1645…and then in 1891…and then in the 1920s…” all to explain events of the 1970s and 1980s. Our national memory as Americans just doesn’t go that far back. I’ve learned so much about Irish history and just love them for it.
Easy for Touring – As my first cabbie told me, this country survives on tourism, and I don’t think I could have picked an easier, friendlier, or funner place to have my first solo trip.
- Amazing Natural Sights – Giants Causeway, Carrick A Rede, Cliffs of Mohr (didn’t get to see, sad face), Connemara, and just green, green, green made this place a bit of a surprise for me. It almost seemed pointless to take pictures, because the camera couldn’t capture what I was seeing.
- Black Cab Tour of Belfast – Probably the coolest thing we did on the trip…touring through the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods – divided by a wall up to thirty feet high, mind you, and learning about the fierce tension that still exists in Belfast. They actually rioted while we were there, and someone threw a beer bottle at our tour! Learned loads about the violence, murder, mistreatment, and crazy British vs. Irish, Catholic vs. Protestant commotion in Northern Ireland. Complicated and messy, very cool tour. Can’t imagine living in those neighborhoods meself. Much still goes unreported.
Old buildings here, there, everywhere – Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Kylemore Abbey (and it’s beautiful and tragic love story), crumbling monasteries, the cemeteries and monuments of the likes of Yeats and Wilde and Cromwell and Joyce, the brick with flower planters and pubs established in the early 1880s…just so cool to see the layers of the cities of Ireland as they have come together in architecture, the hodge-podge that the city developed out o it.
- I Love the Nightlife…I wanna boogie…Have had a fanTAStic time in all the local pubs – the music is amazing, the people friendly, every Irish man can sing and play guitar, and we’ve all learned the words to “Molly Malone” and “Galway Girl” and you can find anyone on the street to sing with you. The Irish stay out late and always sympathize with your bloodshot eyes. Our cabbie on Sunday said “I love driving in Belfast on Sunday. All the locals be home, nursing thar hangovers, and I can get whar I need to be goin’.”
The People – Great conversationalists, story tellers, stopping you on the street to see if you need help. I hold out a handful of my change and they pick out the right amount for me. They sing, they dance, they drink, they love everything out of life. They dress like punks, rock stars, a little skanky for the girls (no one wins when we can see your buttcheeks!), but I think they just have a confidence in themselves. A lovely, lovely people.
Next on the agenda – London! I was there in 2006 but excited for a return journey…suggestions welcome!