Late last summer I went to Ireland. I remember buckling myself in on the plane and then turning to my travel buddy to say, “I really didn’t realize it until now. But actually going to Ireland feels like stepping into a real live fairy tale. I don’t know if I will see the world the same way after this.”
When we arrived in Dublin, we got into our rented car, went over to the hostel and slept the rest of the day. I didn’t know it was possible to be that tired. Jet lag turned out to also be real! We wandered the Temple Bar area and then came back to a quiet, cozy bar called “The Confession Box” due to its size, shape, and the sorts of stories one might tell over a Guinness there. Everyone was flushed with drink and generously sharing stories in huddled groups of longtime pals. The live music was Irish, as one might imagine. It was the greatest hits of Wild Rover, Danny Boy, Whiskey in the Jar, etc. I knew most of the words, so I joined the (mostly local) patrons in singing along.
The next day, we drove across Ireland, stopping at the oldest bar on the island, Sean’s Bar, halfway through our trip. It was an old river crossing point that turned into a place to stay the night, have a meal, and a drink. We enjoyed drinking in the history during the lunch hour among other tourists.
We drove on to Clifden, where we stayed at an Airbnb cottage in a more rural area along the water. In Clifden, we enjoyed nights spent walking around the town, where every other door we passed was a pub with music pouring out and drawing us in. From there, we visited Clifden Castle and then explored along the coast all the way to the Cliffs of Moher. Those iconic cliffs were the definition of breathtaking. The wind tugged heavy against me, reminding me of skydiving, as I crawled out to the edge to stare straight down into the full force of the ocean carving away at the island.
My other favorite trip up the coast was to Sligo, where we visited Yeats’ haunts as a child. Overlooking Lough Gill from Hazelwood Forest, I saw how a young Yeats could imagine up his well-known poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” The islands in the middle of the lake reminded me of places I would swim out to as a kid on the American River and pretend my friends and family were all living there with me and surviving off the land. They were small islands, but tall from closely gathered trees. Swans lazily floated by at the edge of the lake, watching us with much less curiosity than we had for them.
I want to go back already. Dream more dreams. But this year I am heading to Scotland on the Hogwarts Express. And I am more than ready for this magical journey to begin!
Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Almost halfway there.