What an amazing trip. Ireland was everything I imagined it to be and more. The people were wonderful, the weather was surprisingly good (mainly dry with plenty of sun!) and the sights were breathtaking.
If you want to see all of my Ireland trip photos, I created a public Google Photos album.
I started in the southern part of the country in Blarney and Cork. Blarney Castle was fascinating to tour. I air kissed the stone (couldn’t quite lean back far enough due to my vertigo) but also enjoyed walking the beautiful grounds. Spent the next day in Cork, a charming city. Then I made my way to Westport, where I took a break from being a tourist and enjoyed a stay at a writer’s cabin at a retreat. There were country roads that offered picturesque, serene walks and I loved how the owner’s pets came to visit me during my stay.
It was in Westport while I was at the grocery store that I happened to see the Alzheimer’s fundraiser. It truly is a global movement and I was happy to support it.
Dublin was a lively, bustling city full of history. Seeing The Long Room at Trinity College was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
I saved my father’s hometown of Belfast for my last stop. I had so much anticipation as the train neared town. Of course Dad would not recognize modern-day Belfast, but there were markers of the past everywhere.
I’m not a big fan of group tours but I did take a walking tour on The Troubles in Belfast. The guide provided an excellent historic overview of the origins of division and unrest, how The Troubles unfolded in the 1970s and what the future may hold in store for Belfast. From taxi drivers to shop owners, everyone I talked to in Northern Ireland and the republic were concerned about the upcoming Brexit actions that could trigger increased violence along the border.
The above mural was taken in the working class neighborhood near where my father’s family members lived. I was able to locate the street that was on my father’s birth certificate and the street where my grandparents lived until their deaths.
While Belfast is known for its politically-charged murals, a new crop of murals have also emerged, offering a fresh perspective and are quite artistic.
I visited my aunt’s grave at a sprawling ceremony just outside of Belfast. She lived to age 95, and while she was plagued by physical ailments in her later years, her mind remained sharp as far as I know, while three of her siblings (including my father) ended up with dementia. She was a resilient woman, raising three children on her own after her husband died while working overseas.
Giant’s Causeway was one of my favorite destinations. What a breathtaking site.
I ate really well while maintaining my gluten-free diet. The awareness of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet is quite high in Ireland, and I ate as well and in some ways even better there than I do here in the U.S. The highlight food-wise was gluten-free fish and chips in Dublin.
The modified Irish breakfast that was gluten-free came a close second. (I had a few variations of it during my travels.)
I am grateful I was finally able to complete this trip of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to return.