Ireland is a fantasy, a mythic relic I have carried in my heart for so long now that I can't remember a time when I didn't want to go there. The enigma is that I really don't know why. I have no obvious Irish heritage. I don't have a great Irish surname like O'Brien or O'Donnell. I don't even have a great Irish first name like Shannon or Kelly. I didn't marry an Irishman. No one in my family has been to Ireland and come back with marvelous tales or pictures to tempt me. There is virtually no explanation for this Celtic infection that caught when I was fairly young and took over. All I can say is that the idea of Ireland inhabits a place in my mind reserved for unicorns, Avalon and the Loch Ness monster. It's a kind of dream space where all the things we wished existed when we were kids continue to live out their magic. The difference is, Ireland does exist. And because it does, it gives me hope that maybe those things do too. Somewhere beyond the fog, there might actually be a fairy flitting about. Or maybe there is a place where the rainbow ends and untold fortunes are waiting to be uncovered. Ireland makes me believe in the unbelievable. It seems impossible that a place that beautiful could simply be the result of a geological accident. Surely in some lost time, amid the crumbling, carved facade of an unknown hall, a host of mythical beings sat around a great stone table and conspired to create a land where dreams and reality converge. That land, I am proud to report, is Ireland.
When my husband and I first planned this trip, I was beside myself with glee and anticipation. Though we had only months to get everything together, it felt like it was thirty years in the making. However, just before we were to leave, I was walloped with a terrible notion. What if Ireland didn't live up to my expectations? What if the reality of Ireland fell short of the fantasy I'd always entertained? Ireland had become my mystic compass, without it I would feel lost in a world of the mundane. This trip had the potential to crush the dreamer in me. Luckily, it didn't. Ireland turned out to be more magical in reality than it ever had been in my mind. This blog is my attempt to share a little of that magic with those who haven't had the pleasure of feeling it for themselves. It's my way of chronicling my journey, because Ireland is not a mere vacation. Not to me. Ireland is a pilgrimage. It is my Mecca, my holy land.
In addition, I hope it will provide a little practical advice for those, who like myself, are planning a trip and scavenging the internet in hopes of finding some nugget of traveling wisdom gained through personal experience instead of the same old regurgitated guidebook tripe. Try as I might, I had a hard time scrounging up real advice for visitors to the Emerald Isle that didn't come from a tourist site, and I wanted my experience of Ireland to be unique and personal, not patterned after the tired routines of countless tour buses.
Most of all, I must confess, that this blog is my attempt to keep Ireland alive in my heart and soul. It is a sad, perhaps desperate effort to maintain my connection to a place that feels more alive and vibrant to me than any other, to keep it from slipping effortlessly back into the mists where it ceases to be real anymore. Now that I'm home, the Texas landscape seems a dismal comparison to the day-glo green I came to love during my week in Ireland, my new favorite color. Still reeling with the nausea of post-flight vertigo, I take comfort in knowing that right now it is 2:00 in Dublin and a bevy of urban pedestrians are making the cobbled streets of that grand old city virtually impassible for motorists, countless sheep are happily grazing through lunch in rolling pastures the shade of radioactive Kryptonite, and the celebrated stones of Newgrange are solidly standing watch over their spiraled secrets, awing a new busload of visitors as they await the dawning Solstice sun, just like they have for the last 5,000 years. Oh yes, Ireland will make you believe.