Coastal Ireland & Northern Ireland - Stop #4 on the 2019 European Excursion

We were scouring airplane tickets for the cheapest flight from Munich to Dublin. It just so happened that Sunday, March 17, was the cheapest day to fly.

If you are not me, this may sound like a dream. However I despise crowds - especially crowds consisting of drunken foreigners.

But, like any human on an adventure through foreign lands accompanied by more outgoing and vivacious souls, I was dragged into the centre of Dublin on Saint Patrick’s Day.

After a pint I can become most tolerant of anything. At the start of a second one I’ll begin to enjoy myself. Guinness in Dublin did not prove wrong these hard facts, and then I heard John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

People talk a lot of “spiritual experiences” while traveling. I firmly believe that when someone describes their trip as a spiritual experience, it means they found good food and don’t want to share it with you. But I’m here to share. So let’s start with food.

The only reason we were drinking and singing was to kill time as we waited for a seat in the restaurant area above. We were at The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub still in operation. I ordered the Honey Mustard Glazed Bacon & Cabbage. Now, if you were raised in the United States, or Canada, with zero Irish heritage, you may have basic expectations for Irish cuisine as I did.

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But holy shit, this tasted like Christmas dinner in my Grandmother’s kitchen. The food reads simple, but as soon as you dive in you’re assaulted by familiar flavours with an intensity cranked to 11. Even the cabbage - CABBAGE - had flavour! This island was now my grazing pasture and I intended to eat and drink everything I could.

I ate my way through scones, jams, egg sandwiches, fish & chips (better than England, sorry), Irish Coddle (a type of seafood stew), and soda bread, of course. Always with a beer.

On our first venture across the island we got skunked by the weather at The Cliffs of Moher. The fog laid in heavy and we saw precisely zero cliffs. I still don’t know if they’re real, but I trust the word of Mike, the helpful park guide who told us about the slate rock that’s formed there. The rock was used for roofs, streets (including most of London), chimneys, and whatever else they could imagine should be made of Slate.

My travel companions made friends with a couple girls from California who agreed to jump in puddles for our cameras. That was entertaining for a while as we waited for the fog to lift. But we were soon hungry and left in search of food.

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The Giant’s Causeway was a different story - and also a different country (in case you didn’t know Northern Ireland is not the same country as The Republic of Ireland).

We arrived a little before sunset and quickly scurried about to find that golden light. Hiking trails and braving cliff edges to see just what the heck everyone is so obsessed about. It wasn’t until I reached the top of the Spanish Rocks (named after the wreck of La Girona) that the urge to photograph wore off. It’s a narrow strip of land and in the post-storm weather the thin layer of dirt had turned to mud.

‘I miss you.’ These three words repeat in my mind. I stand so small against the girth of the world atop a pile of rocks that aided the strong winds in cutting short the lives of so many sailors centuries ago. The connections we share in this world are as short and fleeting as our lives. I wonder how long it took these sailors families or partners to learn of their early deaths. I wonder if they felt the same pangs of regret for not saying what they felt much earlier in life.

Later, I sat in the pub and ordered a drink while I waited for my travel companions. They wanted food, so we moved the dining hall. I looked around at the crowd and saw it full of familiar faces. They're the same people that filled the dining rooms of my great-grandmother's nursing home. I chuckled and sat down, but then panicked. These are not my people and this is not me. I bolted to the car and under a full moon sky I grabbed the picnic bag and ran toward the coast. There were a small corral of picnic tables along the coast. I claimed one, as if I were competing for space, and hastily slapped together scones, homemade preserves, cracked hard-boiled eggs and stuffed myself full. The fact that I was sitting alone didn't seem a bother. I loved it. I imagined the first people who explored this place sitting there doing the same thing and I felt connected to you.

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