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Memories of Ireland

While you might not remember how to pronounce it, you probably do remember what havoc the Iceland volcano named Eyjafjallajökull created in the early spring of 2010. Gerry and I were scheduled to visit my youngest daughter who was living in Dublin, Ireland completing a graduate degree.  Nasty volcanic ash spewed forth from Eyjafjallajökull and cancelled our trip. Chaos ensued for the entire week when our plans for a lovely Irish vacation were finally permanently shelved. Gerry’s disappointment was further complicated by my sadness that I wouldn’t be seeing my daughter who had left the previous fall for Dublin.

In 1983 I was lucky enough to live in Ireland for one full calendar year. My now-ex-husband and one-year old daughter and I arrived in the southern city of Cork just after Christmas in 1982. During our year, we spent many weekends driving back roads and touring practically every village, castle and sacred spot across the Republic. Our youngest daughter, Ciara, was born that summer in Cork which is the second largest city in Ireland with a population just over 125,000.

Our small family lived in the tiny village of Glounthaune, 7 kilometers east of Cork at the estuary of the River Lee. Not all houses in Ireland are named, of course, and not all years are spent magically, but ours was. Our rented home was surrounded by high stone walls. Near the wooden door opening to the entry was a plaque with the simple name: The Garden House. Our home was situated along a winding road leading north and overlooked an 18th century country house hotel and the Cork Harbour beyond.

We left Ireland just before the next Christmas to return to the United States, as was planned. What I hadn’t planned was my profound sadness leaving what had become a home in my heart.

I’ve returned as a tourist to Ireland twice since 1984. I took my daughters back to celebrate Ciara’s 10th birthday. I visited again in 2004 before I met my husband Gerry. After our marriage in 2007, I wanted to share some of my favorite places, moments and memories with Gerry. In April 2010, Eyjafjallajökull foiled those plans and many others. The weddings of all four of our children and the births of our six youngest grandchildren have kept us from remaking plans since to travel to Ireland.

My Christmas gift for Gerry this year was to surprise him with a long-awaited trip. Given the busy-ness of our lives, I’ve planned only five days and nights away. Norwegian Airlines recently added direct flights from Providence to Cork. We’ll depart on an overnight Monday flight – a perfect idea for a short vacation and arrive before breakfast. Our Saturday return, given the time change, gets us back home early in the evening.

Making air reservations is only the first step in travel. On a short trip, there is not the luxury of whiling away any time. Rambling and exploring have to be left for those fanciful and extravagant trips of more than a few weeks. That’s why I need to explore the travel guides well in advance of our trip planning an itinerary that will make the most of our five days. I’ve learned that driving around looking for overnight accommodations is never a good plan and advance reservations for convenient, centrally-located hotels and inns are next on my list.

This first visit will include arrival and departure from Cork, travel to Killarney to the west, to Kilkenny midway to Dublin, and to Dublin on the east coast. We learned the hard way on a trip to Italy a few years ago that a good up-to-date map is a must. Relying on Google maps can use up an entire allotment of data and can end up being a very expensive mistake. Cell service is often spotty in the least expected places, road blocks and detours can become hellish diversions to nowhere, and wrong turns waste an extraordinary amount of time. For that reason, I’ve invested in a recent edition of a Collins Roadmap of Ireland even though there are maps provided in any reputable guidebook. This way we can fold it this way and that and forget about having to replace a guidebook when we want to return it to the library.

Fodor’s Essential Ireland is published annually and I’ll be using it to search for up-to-date information on hotels in Killarney, Kilkenny and Dublin. While the Internet is a terrific resource, I want the straight-talk from locals and professionals before booking online. I’ll take a look at Frommer’s Ireland, Rick Steve’s Best of Ireland, and Lonely Planet Ireland which are all terrific overviews. Along with my own knowledge, the guidebooks will remind me of the best sites in the towns and cities we will visit. Both Lonely Planet and Frommer’s are also available on Hoopla, the library’s streaming and downloading service.

I’ll plan two nights in Dublin – feasting on the city where over half of Ireland’s population lives. Trips to the Guinness Brewery and Jameson Distillery are top on Gerry’s list and I’ll order advance tickets that I’m sure to read about in the guidebooks. We always take in a bus tour of every city we visit – we find it gives our feet a rest and the added audio or personal commentary is helpful.

I’ll have to be very careful choosing just the right places during our Dublin visit and so first I’ll consult 20 Things to Do in Dublin Before You Go for a Feckin’ Pint by Colin Murphy and Donal O’Dea!  Next I’ll read both 111 Places in Dublin that You Shouldn’t Miss by Frank McNally and Secret Dublin: An Unusual Guide by Pól Ó Conghaile.

There are so many regions of Ireland that are distinct – from western Cork to Galway and Sligo just south of the Northern Ireland border to the mountains south of Dublin where St. Kevin’s tower nestles in Glendalough. We’ll have to save those for another trip which I’m sure will happen once Gerry has his first taste of Ireland. That’s when we’ll take Scenic Walks in Killarney by Jim Ryan and Dublin Strolls: Exploring Dublin’s Architectural Treasures by Gregory and Audrey Bracken.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the December 28, 2017 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Liz Reed

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