At the age of fifteen, I had the privilege of taking the trip of a lifetime. The destination was Ireland and we arrived on May 17, 2005, my fifteenth birthday. My journey began at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. We walked in like pack mules loaded down with too much luggage.I had just seen the gold and violet hues of the sunset fall below the clouds and sweep the horizon of the mighty Atlantic when I fell asleep on the British Airways flight that night. I awoke, we were landing at Heathrow Airport, London.
After spending half of my birthday there, we finally boarded the connecting Air Lingus plane for the hour long flight to Ireland. After my Dad became accustomed to driving on the left side of the road, we headed off to the magnificent Cliffs of Moher where the mountains slope down to the sea. Standing at 700 feet high, these limestone cliffs covered in green moss are invigorating. If you climb to the top of O’Brien’s Tower, you can experience a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was a cold and blustery day, but full of sunshine and clear blue skies. What a beautiful way to spend my birthday. We explored the cobblestone streets of Galway searching for souvenirs and the famous ‘Black Irish’ (people of Irish and Spanish decent, usually having black hair and blue eyes).It was a ‘dark and stormy night’ when we arrived at Kinnitty Castle, on Wednesday night. We dined as lords and ladies in the main hall on meal of tender steak on top of mashed potatoes for 27 Euros apiece.
Our experience was complete with a four person canopy bed that filled up the whole room. Our next stop was Dublin. Be forewarned that it is a disaster when it comes to this city’s layout. The smart thing to do is ask for directions before you get utterly confused.
Thanks to my stubborn Dad, we drove around for two hours getting nowhere. The one tip that can prevent you from hours of driving around in circles is to realize that on every block the street name changes. Once we found our way to the Harrington Hall Hotel, we were able to have tea and scones in a cafe and make a brief trip over to Temple Bar. At sunset, we drove up to the Rock of Cashel, the famous castle in Tara that was once the high seat of Irish kings.
We were disappointed to find it closed, but decided to explore the outside anyway. You could smell the earth as a light rain fell. For a moment the rain stopped, revealing a magnificent rainbow full of radiant colors that arched over the entire castle. The next day, we drove to Blarney Castle and climbed the claustrophobic stone stairway to kiss the Blarney Stone and receive the ‘Gift of Eloquence.’ The majority of the following morning was spent along the Lakes of Killarney in the Irish National Park.
Pink rhododendron bushes lined the pathway of Muckross House as we rode by in a jaunting cart. The Caribbean blue water and emerald green hills of the Dingle Peninsula are beautiful beyond comparison. White capped waves crashed into the jutted peninsula. I can still picture one scene from an outlook on the Slea Head Drive.
As I looked into the distance there were white dots of sheep grazing in the pastures. Divided only by winding rock walls, the pastures looked as if they had been perfectly patched together like a quilt. Who knew there were so many shades of green in one area? But, by far the most exciting event during the entire vacation was dancing at Bunratty Castle that night.
At the last minute, I was invited to dance during the dinner show. As I kicked up my feet in my ghillies (soft shoes), the accordion player played an Irish Reel. The professional Irish dancer’s costumes glittered while they leaped across the stage and the sound of their hard shoes clicking on the wood floor in unison gave me shivers of excitement. Afterwards we had Irish stew, brown bread, and plenty of potatoes. It was such a memorable night to end our journey.Throughout my vacation to Ireland, I experienced the true rugged beauty of God’s creation and Irish culture. Erin, I will return.
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