Growing up just an hour north of Boston, I considered myself Irish even if my bloodlines said otherwise. I know many from my youth that feet the same. My family was quick to frequent local watering holes such as Master McGrath’s and Patricks. We appreciated the food, the atmosphere, and of course the music.
I may have been a bit envious of one local family, immigrants from the Emerald Isle, whose boys sported tattoos of their beloved Irish flag. While my family never took us across the pond to visit, we still felt a kinship, a closeness to all that was Irish.
Being raised Catholic magnified our inner Irish spirit especially upon learning about Saint Patrick and how he kicked all the snakes out of Ireland while converting the locals to Christianity. In my late teens and early twenties, I found a love for Irish theme movies from The Matchmaker to The Quiet Man.
After my mother relocated to Annapolis, my twin and I found ourselves journeying with her many times to the Killarney House for some traditional Irish folk singing and food. While the years have passed and our family dynamic has shifted, mainly with the passing of my twin, those bonds we shared over Irish meals and songs never changed and surely are to be never forgotten.
I’m not sure when I first planned to visit the country. I know I had seriously considered as much when I left to teach in Italy. The budget airlines made it more than affordable, but for whatever reason logistically I wasn’t able to pull it off. Fast forward to four years ago and I booked tickets to travel during a long April weekend. I intended to go around the time of Stephen’s anniversary, to celebrate the island with him if you will.
I don’t remember what canceled this trip. I think it was food poisoning or some other mean bug that roared its ugly head just a day or two before I was to depart. Like everyone else that has put their life on hold due to the pandemic, I decided once I moved to Europe I couldn’t wait any longer.
Veteran’s Day this year fell on a Friday, which coincided with Polish Independence Day and a long weekend from work. Knowing I had the time, I bought the ticket in early September and made the plan to travel to Dublin. There were other places on the island I wanted to see and visit, especially with my desire to find the town where they filmed the matchmaking festival in Janeane Garofalo’s romantic comedy. Still, I had to be reasonable. Dublin was the most direct flight and for $70.00 I wasn’t going to fight that price.
I could hear my brother whispering in my ear about visiting the Guinness factory and getting our official perfect pour certificate as well as our fill of that liquid brew. I shudder at the idea of wasting time drinking what I considered a beer that tasted more like crappy coffee, even though I knew if he was alive this would have been a prerequisite to any trip.
There was a compromise in my planning to visit the downtown area. I know there didn’t need to be one, but I still thought of his wants and desires when making this pilgrimage. To begin I made it a point to stay outside the center, close to parks and decent running. Clontarf seemed and was the perfect spot. I knew the cliffs of Howth were within range and Bull Island was less than forty minutes by foot.
Knowing I had preplanned nature I wondered where Stephen would have liked to venture to save the beer factory. Always amused by his name on signs and venues, St. Stephen’s Green was nonnegotiable. While Stephen wasn’t overly religious, I knew he wouldn’t turn away from a brief tour of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral as long as he wasn’t paying and we did a Kuiper Twin driveby. If you don’t know what that entails, let’s just pretend you have the attention span of a gnat and walk through every room and fixture without reading a thing.
Other than those two spots, the rest was open to whatever whim we wanted to follow. There were no serious restaurants I had to visit. Whatever looked cute and not packed was the order of the day. For myself and Stephen we had to have mussels in some form and there had to be a true hiking trip along the cliffs of the Irish Sea.
I thought any other additional planned venues would be too ambitious and for someone that hasn’t traveled with much frequency these past three years not reasonable, especially after my recent trip to Estonia and Latvia. While Estonia had been a reprieve, the congested feelings of Riga lingered and was a recent reminder of what I didn’t want to experience anytime soon.
I do find the irony, now living in a city frequented by crowds and tourists galore. And yet, where I live aside from Sunday afternoon where families go for their strolls with kids and dogs in tow, my section of the city is a quieter place with refuge from the masses.
Downtown Dublin at night wasn’t even an option. The idea of being around crowds and droves of tourists was not on my agenda; add in toasted ones and that would make a heck of an evening. I could see Stephen having a few shots of Jager to cope with his own anxiety in such circles even though I’m sure he would have managed with a few bar hops of his own if in proper company.
Taking all these things into account, I planned for a low key Dublin trip with a little city action and some country viewing as well. While I wish the trip had been longer, those three days were enough to embrace the spirit of Ireland and what it meant to my family growing up. For the second week in a row, I was able to reconnect with the water and feel closer to the memory of my twin. Whether it was the stress of moving and switching jobs, getting that connection back, one that I felt in a way I had lost, made the trip even more worthwhile.
Join me if you would like for the four videos I made vlogging this Ireland based retreat. The first two videos focus on the city of Dublin and the longer than expected walk to St. Stephen’s Green. Whether it was a bad case of ADHD, I stopped too many times to count. Between looking at signs and street corners, for what I’m sure was all the right reasons, a three hour round trip walk was a grand undertaking. Thank goodness I was alone.
The second set of videos focus on nature, specifically Bull Island and the hike from Bray to Greystones. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been to either spot, let alone Ireland.
Sixteen plus years as a published author, Jonathan has been independent the last eleven. With readers across forty-seven countries and six continents, he has readers around the world. Writing across genres, he loves good dialogue and flawed characters.