Exploring my Irish roots

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Two months ago at this time, I was on a plane bound for Dublin, Ireland with 12 of my family members from my dad’s side of the family.  I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland and to be able to experience it with my family was incredible.  We’ve all talked about it for so long, so the fact that someone, aka my amazing cousin Katie, was actually able to organize it, and us, was a dream come true.

My dad’s family has deep Irish roots; my dad is 100% Irish and his father was 1st generation American.  So this really was an opportunity to where our family came from, and where they still are, as we have cousins who still live in County Mayo, where my great-grandfather grew up.

There are not enough words to describe my trip, my feelings, my experience.  The easiest way to describe it is LOVE.  I’ve been fortunate to travel to many places, but nowhere else have I fallen in love with a place like I did upon arriving in Ireland.  The moment I walked off the plane, I loved the country; driving from the airport to our hotel in Dublin, I just wanted to see everything, meet people, experience everything and anything that I could, and I knew that 8 days wouldn’t be enough to do it all.  I loved the culture, and the people were so nice, welcoming and friendly.  I immediately felt at ease, and a sense of belonging, like I wasn’t just a tourist. I don’t know if it’s because of my ancestry that I felt that way, but I’ve never felt like that anywhere else that I’ve been.  I could see myself living in Ireland and being perfectly happy.

We spent 2 days in Dublin, staying at the Clarence Hotel (owned by U2’s Bono!) and exploring the city.  We did the really touristy stuff like Trinity College, Temple Bar, Grafton Street, and the Guinness Factory, but thanks to my cousin Jessi who studied abroad in Dublin, got to do some “non-touristy” stuff like visiting the local pubs, which was a lot of fun.

After our 2 days in Dublin, we headed to Galway for the remainder of our trip.  We rented an amazing house outside of the city. It was like living on a farm for a week; it was very country and had chickens, donkeys, hens, and horses on the property.  The family who runs the house lived on the property and were so wonderful.  They cleaned for us, went to the store for us, cooked for us.  They were awesome, to say the least.

From our house, we took day trips: Clonmacnoise, Clarinbridge, Dunguaire Castle, The Fairy Ring, Poulnabrone Portal Tomb, Leamaneh Castle, The Cliffs of Moher, Doolin and the Burren, Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone, Inishmore (the largest of the Aran Islands), the city of Galway, Ashford Castle, Cong and Knock Shrine.

Throughout the week, I constantly found myself saying “Wow.” Everything was breathtaking and it was crazy that all of these things that I’d seen pictures of and read about were now right in front of me.  I took almost 900 pictures throughout the week–I guess I was nervous that I would forget it all! But there’s no way that’s possible.

The highlight of the trip for me though was our last day.  We spent the morning in Cong (where the movie The Quiet Man was filmed) and at Ashford Castle (gorgeous, want to get married there someday! lol). But then, we drove to Ballina, which is where my great-grandfather was from.  We had lunch with three of my cousins (they’re my dad’s generation, their grandfather having been siblings with my dad’s grandfather). It was scary how much they reminded me of my aunts and my grandfather, even if they are a different generation.  Patrick looked and had the exact same mannerisms as my grandfather and Filomenia was just like my aunt Catherine, knowing everyone’s names, taking down our information to stay in touch with us, and sharing the gift of gab. It was uncanny.  After lunch, we drove a little outside of Ballina town center and went to my great-grandfather’s family farm.  I cry now just thinking about it. It was surreal, to be standing in front of the house that my great-grandfather called home for 21 years until he came to America.  We saw people in the house so my cousin Patty went to introduce herself and apologize for taking pictures of their house.  We then learned that they are our cousins as well! One of their grandparents, I think their grandmother, was siblings with my great-grandfather. They knew that family was still in the area but they haven’t been in contact with people, so the cousins who we had lunch with didn’t know the cousins living in the house.  After talking with those cousins for a bit, we headed back to our house to get ready to head back to America.

Ireland was the trip of a lifetime, and the country has a piece of my heart. I can’t wait to go back and see everything that I didn’t get to see.  My cousins, Molli and Jessi, and I were so sad to come back to the US. Not that we don’t love it here, obviously we do, and this is home, but we weren’t ready to say good-bye yet.  We’ve been talking about going back since the moment we got on the plane at the Shannon airport.  I know that I will go back, and I hope it’s sooner rather than later.  As James Joyce said in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, “My heart is quite calm now. I will go back.” 

Some pictures from the trip, because words don’t do justice to these places.

The Cliffs of MoherImage

Inishmore, my cousins and I hanging out at the edge of a cliff thereImage

A traditional thatch-roofed houseImage

Our house in GalwayImage

The library at Trinity College (that’s a lot of books!)Image

All of us at the BurrenImage

Ashford CastleImage

Wouldn’t be Irish if we didn’t have some drinksImage

My great-grandfather’s house. It was half the size of this when he lived here with over 10 family membersImage

Until we meet again, Ireland. ❤

 

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