Ahh, the Emerald Isle!
The homeland of my pasty people. In September of 2012 my parents took us kids (Phil and I, my brother and his wife, and my sister) on a marvelous family vacation to the motherland.
We squeezed an admirable amount of site seeing in to a one-week trip. Galway, Slieve League Cliffs, Bushmill’s Whiskey Distillery, the Titanic Museum, Giants Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, and more castles and sheep than you can shake a stick at.
I was so excited for this trip and knew that research and planning was needed to make the most of our short time on the isle. My parents were footing the bill for us but had uncharacteristically little interest in planning the actual itinerary. What?! They sort of just wanted to go and let the trip develop organically; to figure it out when we got there with no prior knowledge of the areas we were visiting or what we should be doing and seeing. Umm, that’s a terrible idea!
Even if you make no solid plans for a trip, you should ALWAYS research it fully before you go. The less time you have to spend in a particular location, the more time you should take to research it prior to your visit. And the more people you are traveling with the more actual plans you should make because groups need structure. This trip would have been a total waste and complete chaos had I not taken control early on and forced my family in to the rigidly structured tour itinerary I ran them through with military precision at an unyielding, swift pace. :)
Sure they may have balked at my immensely detailed schedule but they were happy afterward when they saw their photos and could reflect on all the things they were able to experience in a short trip. As the baby of the family I’m used to everyone basically acquiescing to my whims and they didn’t disappoint me- they allowed themselves to be hauled all around the northern half of the country.
My dad’s one stipulation was that the tour included the county of Donegal so he could visit the bar that his family owned before immigrating to America.
We popped in for a pint just as the bar was opening for the day and had a chat with the current owners, the McLaughlin family. Wouldn’t you know it, the bar happen to be for sale again and Mama McLaughlin was giving us the pitch to buy it back.
She was laying it on thick for Phil, really giving him the hard sell (funny because he was the only non-Rodden there) and he looked downright frightened. Later, in the safety of our rental car he told us why he could never (never! Not ever!) see himself living in the tiny, rural town of Carrigart, Co. Donegal. He said with blatant disgust, “there isn’t a gym or a tanning salon within 50 miles of that God-forsaken place.” Whoa bro! Sometimes you don’t realize someone’s a Guido until their broad and bronzed back is up against the wall.
Though the delivery was questionable, I share his sentiment. We wouldn’t be completely happy living in Ireland. Don’t get me wrong, it is eminently beautiful. I love the wild and rugged highlands, the lush green meadows dotted with grazing sheep, the charming and idyllic small towns, the magnificent bluffs that plunge to the silvery sea, and the warmth of the people.
Ireland is a lovely country and one I’ll probably visit again. But it’s not the type of place Phil and I could live out our ex-pat dreams. The weather isn’t warm enough. The cost of living too high (pretty comparable to that here in New Jersey). The standard style seems to be slacks and sweaters instead of our preferred flops and tanks. I loved the bar scene in Ireland, there are pubs EVERYWHERE, and I thought trendy Belfast had great gourmet food on offer. There are plenty of positives to an imagined life in Ireland but when we really count the chips, so to speak, it’d be a lateral move for us. And an admittedly weird thing I disliked about Ireland was the tap water tastes coppery and bottles of spring water are inexplicable difficult to find in shops. Oh, they have mineral water for days but I just wanted some regular freaking water. I was perpetually thirsty in Ireland; it seems a minor annoyance but I will never forget it, I will never forgive it. Viva la Poland Spring!