“When Irish eyes are smiling, ’tis like the morn in Spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing. When Irish hearts are happy, the world seems bright and gay. And when Irish eyes are smiling, they’ll steal your heart away.”
I’m back state side waiting for my connecting flight to St. Louis and trying to write down my last day’s experiences in Ireland. The trip seems like ages ago even though I left Dublin about 10 hours ago. It’s funny how a long day of travel can turn vivid moments into whispers of memories. I blame it on the uncomfortable airplane seating, annoying seat companions & bad airplane food.
The last day in Ireland was jammed with a bus tour through Limerick (home to the renowned storyteller & writer, Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes), a shopping trip in Galway, a longer drive through the countryside where I finally caved in to listening to my own music and fell asleep, and ending the evening with a gourmet meal prepared by Ireland’s top celebrity chef Catherine Flauvio at her bed & breakfast/cooking school located on her family farm.
My tour mates and I seemed to have had good Irish luck throughout the day. For example, my mom asked me to buy her some Irish wool yarn so she could crochet my sister and me scarves & hats. I searched every day once we got into “wool territory” in Killarney & Donegal area and I had no luck so I gave up my search and bought her pretty jewelry, keychain & magnets instead. Then, I was walking down a street in Galway and saw a local clothing store where they specialized in tweeds. In the window was a bucketful of hand spun wool for sale. Jackpot!
My friend Kristin had luck as well. She wanted to burn some of her Euros while we were in Galway (which was the purpose of that stop). She bought some nice jewelry and thought she was done, but as we were walking by a local music shop, she saw a bhordan (Irish drum) in the window. She had no idea she wanted one until that moment. She walked into the shop and asked the vendor, “Do you sell those?” as she was pointing to a beginner’s drum hanging on the wall. He smiled so brightly and was so proud. He jumped up from his seat and said, Yes, I do.” Kristin paid for her bhordan without having any idea how to play it, but enthusiastically said that she would look it up on YouTube. She was so happy with the purchase and luckily it took up the rest of her Euros for that afternoon.
Another fun thing was the limerick contest a majority of us participated on the bus. Ann, our tour guide, challenged us to write a traditional Irish limerick with 5 lines and a rhyme scheme of: aabba. I composed a fun one a out Ann that goes like this:
Let’s raise a glass to Ann, our tour guide
Who has a beautiful voice and a smile so wide.
But she’ll give you a whack
If you don’t have craic
Then give you a swift kick in the behind.
(Craic -pronounced “crack”- is Gaelic for “joy,” “good fun”or “mischief”.)
Ann collected our limericks and then read them out loud. It was fun to hear everyone’s and we had a good laugh. Ann put our poems in for a drawing and a woman named Bonnie, who had been practicing her limerick writing skills for 5 days, won. When she opened the bag to find a toy leperchaun, she laughed and got so excited that tucked him in to the handle in front of her seat for the rest of the day’s trip.
We pulled into Ashford and went to Ballyknocken sheep farm and bed & breakfast where we were greeted by the owner, Catherine Flauvio (née Byrne), who runs a cooking school at the farm. She is also a TV personality and has her own cooking show in Ireland which is syndicated on the BBC and a few other channels around the world. The farm and its grounds were beautiful, but they couldn’t compete with Catherine’s beauty and charm. She gave us the history of her family’s farm and visited with each one of us (50 of us) individually by the end of the evening. Her meal was delicious. My favorite was her puréed carrot, cumin & spinach soup with creme that was poured into the bowls to look like the Irish flag. I also enjoyed visiting with my table mates who were so sweet, and interesting and genuinely good people. I really lucked out with this entire tour from start to finish. My luck never ran out and I met great people, saw beautiful countryside, drank myself to a happy buzz every night, and was reminded that life is to be enjoyed and soaked up as much as possible because the present turns into the past so quickly.
I end this entire travel blog (Days 1-7) with a Gaelic phrase Kirin from Killarney taught me and which I had said to me by two elderly Irish gentleman today in the airport: Go neire an bohart leat. May the road rise to meet you. I say that to all of you who are reading this. May you go through this life with a light heart and may the road take you on a marvelous journey.