Ireland is one of my favorite places on earth so far. I say so far of course because I have yet to explore even half of the continents in the world and I still suspect that I will grow so fond of Australia and New Zealand when I finally visit that I will be forced to marry a Duck-Billed Playtpus. In the meantime, I hop a super short flight to the Emerald Isles whenever I need my fix of stunning landscape and magical folklore. My first year in Paris, I managed to make my way over a total of three separate times. Since my dear Dancer Friend (aka the friend I have known for almost 35 years at this point) lives there, it is a perfect weekend galavant away.
My first time going to Ireland, however, was over a decade ago with my father, stepmother, and most of my siblings. We flew into Shannon, drove around the southern half of the island, then flew back out of Dublin because my cousin was studying at Trinity College. The whole trip is a bit of a blur at this point, and while there is definitely a box of photos somewhere in my mother's basement, it was pre-smart phone and Facebook hysteria. I have been lucky enough to hit some of those spots again, see some new ones, and every time I go, end up with new tales to tell.
If I do the math correctly (which is frankly a rare feat), I come to the realization that this was my 5th time floating over to the haven of leprechauns, selkies, banshees and rainbows. Even though Shannon is closer to Limerick, where my friend currently resides, flights to Dublin are almost always cheaper from Paris, so I end up busing it the two hours from Dublin Airport to Limerick center. This time was no different, but instead of heading straight from the plane, I wandered into downtown Dublin for the day. Dancer friend ended up having a dancing workshop to attend, so I would have some company on the lengthy bus ride southwest.
First, however, some time to wander around town while Dancer Friend was busy engaging in the creative arts. I was able to make it to the city center without too much trouble (another feat considering my abhorrent sense of direction), at which point I went in search of a cozy pub to fill my tummy with well-needed nourishment. From beginning to end of the weekend, the weather proved nothing if not fickle, so I was rained upon in various amounts while I remained endlessly indecisive about where to set up my luncheon feast. Some of the pubs looked too touristy, some too quiet, others too austere. At long last, I chose a spot that ended up being a perfect combo of chill but cheery. I filled up on traditional fish n' chips then headed straight for the Jameson Distillery.
During my first trip oh so long ago I hit up the Guinness Factory. And in fact, when my favorite high school ladies and I had a European reunion two years ago, we attempted to take the Jameson tour as well. However, we hadn't booked in advance and we didn't have enough time to wait for an open time slot, so all we could do was sip some cocktails at the bar. This time, however, I arrived with ticket in hand and enthusiasm bordering absurd. Going on a whiskey tasting all by myself was certainly begging for a ridiculous result. It was definitely an informative experience, though the three shots of whiskey followed by a whiskey and ginger ale went directly to my head, prompting several text messages to friends and family worldwide. I also bought myself a nice little whiskey flask as a memento.
My level of tipsiness was particularly amusing because I was supposed to be meeting Dancer Friend's boyfriend, who had graciously volunteered to leave work early, after the tour. I had never met him before so he was quite a brave soul for doing so. It ended up being a jolly hour of conversation and cocktails as we waited for Dancer Friend to finish up for the day. Then it was off to a fun restaurant called Market Bar, where we tasted tapas and wine with some of Dancer Friend's friends in toe.
By the time we made it to the bus back to Limerick, there was no end to our level of exhaustion, the result of dancing, travel, dinner and drinks. This may have been the reason why I left my winter hat on the bus when we finally arrived at our destination. Since that was the very worst thing that happened all weekend, however, I was happy to believe that the 5th time you travel anywhere as magical as Ireland can never be bad.