Last summer, my grandparents took my two siblings, my older cousin and I on to Europe, starting with the quintessential visit to London, and ending with a week-long tour of Ireland. My grandparents both have Irish blood, and have both visited Ireland before. This trip was their way of passing on the knowledge of our ancestors to their four oldest grandchildren. Our trip was full of historical information, tours, and immersion in Irish culture. I’m choosing to give two anecdotes: one of the best part of the trip, and one of a rather uncomfortable interlude.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
What worked: I swear, if you do nothing else on your trip to Ireland, you must cross the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. The rope bridge itself is located a little way from Ballintroy, in Antrim, Northern Ireland. And I know exactly what you’re thinking. Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, you’ll probably have to stand in line with an army of small, squirmy children and parents. All of this for the chance to walk across an old bridge to a little island?
Yes. And it’s completely worth it for what’s on the other side.
Look at the picture. Really look at it. Now imagine being surrounded by those calm, teal-blue waters. We were incredibly lucky during our trip to Ireland- six out of seven days were unseasonably warm and sunny. This was one of those. While my grandmother generally walked over every inch of land, marveling at the sights, my siblings and I sat ourselves down on a grassy knoll looking out to sea, and soaked it all in. The ocean, the breeze… I’m not too ashamed to say that we tried to make a daisy chain.
I can best describe the experience as an almost-spiritual one. Every version of paradise in a book or movie… this island was what they try to emulate. The effortless comraderie between me and my fellow stressed travelers, was a god-send.
What didn’t work: We had a couple of hitches in our travel chain. First off, on our first day in Ireland, fresh off the plane at about 8:00, Ireland-time, we stepped into the lobby of the airport to find… no one. Our driver was nowhere to be found. While my irate grandparents phoned our travel agent, we kids basically sat around, ate our plane snacks, and played juvenile games. An hour later, our driver, John, showed up.
For the record, none of this was John’s fault. John was a saint. When my grandparents asked him if he was going to be with us all week, clearly expecting him to say yes, what they got was a puzzled and slightly frightened look and the response, “Well, my wife’s expecting me home for dinner…” The discomfort continued with every request my grandmother made for Irish tales, or songs, or anecdotes. The poor man was clearly not a trained tour guide, but he did his best. In the meantime, we cousins got to sit in the back of the bus and feel very, very sorry for him.
Errors and miscommunications notwithstanding, John not only took us to Belfast, but he also secured us a tour guide last-minute, found us a hotel, and, as far as I know, got home for dinner.
Ireland was a life-changing experience. I learned about my roots, grew closer to my extended family, and saw more of the world than I ever had. I’ve shared something that I will remember for life, and one memory that I hope doesn’t last so long. With any luck, my limited insight into Northern Ireland will help create lasting memories for other travelers.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.