As I landed in Dublin on Friday morning, the first time I arrived in Ireland came to mind.
My passport now filled with large Irish stamps, my first trip in October of 2007 seemed to be in the distant past. I remember entering the taxi rank on the first day with my parents who had come to meet me, and the images that have stuck with me from that first ride into a sunny Dublin: bright colored pubs, fish and chip shops, the bustle around O’Connell St bridge crossing the Liffey.
That October, just off an early flight from Paris, the first thing I noticed walking through the airport in Dublin was the Irish on the walls, the distinct celtic font welcoming visitors to the country. My next surprise was the pleasant and cheerful immigrations officer (although not always the case in Ireland, but that’s a subject for another entry..) that was excited to welcome me to his country for the first time.
The pleasant surprises continued again at the hotel, when a cheerful paddy named Paddy thanked us for bringing the good weather from across the pond, and became our secret source of inside information over the course of our stay. He not only pointed us in the direction of restaurants and particularly beautiful areas of the city, but when we expressed an interest to see Ireland outside of Dublin, to take in the rolling hills and the expanses of green, he got out a map and charted a course for our day’s journey.
The first time I arrived in Dublin, I was in a unique situation. From the moment of arrival I was looking at the city with a skeptical eye, as my travel partner and I had selected it as a possible resting point for the middle of our lengthy trip. After months of packing up my bag every few days, the idea of settling somewhere, even for just two weeks, was increasingly attractive. I walked the streets of Dublin for the first time thinking, ‘Could I live here?’
This thought is extremely ironic now, as I do live in Dublin, and not just for two weeks (equivalent to months for the quickly moving backpacker) but full time. Sometimes, when I’m walking through St Stephens Green, I remember the first time I entered the gates of the park, on my way to Grafton Street, and thought I wouldn’t mind strolling this path each day. Now, I walk down Grafton Street daily on the way to work, and often eat lunch on one of the benches in Stephens Green.
That October, our unofficial tour guide Paddy sent us south of Dublin to Glendalough, (meaning Glen of Two Lakes in Irish) in County Wicklow. This 6th century monastic settlement was built in a glacial valley, and upon arrival, it was easy to conclude that those monks knew what they were doing when choosing this location. A peaceful spot surrounded by rolling hills, this visit was my first exposure to the pensive side of Ireland, a landscape that inspires thought and appreciation for the world around us.
A stroll around the lakes brought us through a wooded canopy, within feet of interesting birds and wildlife, and away from the bustle of the city. As with many trips in Ireland, the journey was half the fun as well. The thin, winding roads and locals who drive them very quickly made for an afternoon full of laughter and only a little bit of fear.
Few places have held my interest like the emerald isle. Trips to Connemara, County Kerry and Sligo have all left me wanting to explore even more. This small island has much to offer the traveler, and hopefully, on your first visit you will be as lucky as I was, and bring the sunshine with you.