On a day when green nails, green hats, and green beer abound, we thought we’d turn our attention to the original Emerald Isle, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day! Community member and blogger Mariah recently took a trip to Ireland, and along with gorgeous pics and a newfound love for hearty breakfasts, she brought back some travel tips to share with us.
So Mariah! Give us a little background on your trip.
I went to Ireland as part of a year-long program that Evergreen (my college) does called “Ireland: In History and Memory.” I was there for just under two months, during the springtime. I originally traveled around for about two weeks with my very dear friend Seán, who has family in Ireland, who we got to stay with before meeting up with the rest of my class in Gleann Cholm Cille for the remainder of the time.
Did you go into the trip with any expectations about Ireland or Irish culture?
My wonderful professor (also named Sean, but without the fada) did a really good job of preparing us for the differences in culture, as well as dispelling the popular American stereotypes of the Irish. I mostly went in expecting to see lots of green land, an abundance of wind, and to meet hospitable people. These things were all confirmed in the best of ways. I cannot speak enough to the absolute kindness and generosity I experienced while traveling there. I have never met friendlier people. I truly believe they are the kindest people in the world. (And it was also so so so so so so windy. Oh my goodness, the wind.)
What was your favorite place in Ireland?
Definitely Gleann. While I loved Dublin (and I usually detest cities), nothing can beat the peaceful serenity of Gleann Cholm Cille. Being able to take a walk anywhere in town, going to the beach whenever you wished, and being surrounded by tons of happy bleating sheep can’t be beat.
What’s something you loved in Ireland that you can’t get in the states?
The Fanta. Oh yes. It is different than the one here, and is to die for. They make theirs with actual orange juice. Holy cow. So tasty. You can kind of replicate it by mixing some orange juice (no pulp) into an orange soda. Try it! I tried to bring some back to the US for my man but got stopped at customs and had to drink them or throw them away. So sad.
Talk about the food! What was your favorite meal there?
Breakfast without a doubt. And by this I mean the traditional Irish fry up. This includes: bacon, beans, puddings (both white and black), and sausage. Some have even more food than that. It is impossible to find an authentic fry up here in the US, and I crave one every day. Every. Day.
Of the people you met, who really stuck out?
Anne was definitely my favorite person. Her house was the very first place I stayed in Ireland. Her and her husband are Seán’s cousins. She welcomed me with such open arms into her life and her home. Even though she had just recently recovered from a broken leg, she took us on hikes and drives every day so we could see as much of Ireland as possible before we were stuck in the Gleann. On the night before we left, Anne and I stayed up later than the guys, and she shared some very personal aspects of her life with me. Her openness and hospitality were so touching and honest. I will never forget her.
What are your recommendations for the Ireland-inclined?
My recommendation for people who want to go to Ireland is, above all else, to just go! Make sure you get out of the touristy parts and actually see the sights. Go to The Burren. Take time to meet the locals — the memories of the people there will far outlive any memories of getting drunk at the pubs. Try a Guinness with black currant. Eat the candy. For goodness sake, forget your diet, and eat the candy! Bring sunglasses, or be prepared to buy a pair. Eat at Bewley’s. Bring warm clothes. And most importantly, leave any preconceived notions behind you, and ask people their opinions on things. The best way to learn is by actually asking the questions you have.
Would you go back?
In a heartbeat. Again and again.
Next time, Mariah, we might just tag along!