Mar 7, 2011

What Surprised You the Most About Ireland?

Last weekend I had a lovely time speaking to a group of ladies at their annual book tea. Fun, fun! Love to talk to readers (and even some other writers) who are passionate about books.

One question, from my friend Kathy, was, "What surprised you the most about Ireland when you visited?" She knew that I had long wanted to go and just went last fall. My answer was all over the place, and I told the group that I could--if given no time restraint--talk about that all day!

It was a good question because Kathy knew that I had studied, and read, and researched all things Irish (especially all ancient things Irish) for a very long time. Certainly my visit contained some of the expected. But any journey worth undertaking is sprinkled with the unexpected, and it's those wee surprises that stick in your mind the most it seems to me.

One surprise was the color. I expected the vivid green grass, of course, and was not disappointed. Tom even took a close up photo of the grass dripping with morning dew.

But when we got to the Giant's Causeway and the northern coast, the sapphire blue of the Atlantic Ocean bordered by dark gray volcanic rock and that beautiful green grass...unbelievably beautiful. Many of our days in Ireland were sunny, casting the landscape in excellent light. Sunny days in Ireland? That was another surprise!

Another surprise was that we could just walk up and around and through many ancient structures. Sometimes we were the only visitors. With only a few exceptions, there were no barriers or signs that said, "Don't touch!" The downside, of course, is that some of the sites were vandalized and crumbling, but much of it was sound and quite beautiful in an ancient sort of way.

Tea was no surprise. And we love tea and fit right in. Except for the fact that we eschewed the milk. But what was a surprise was sitting down to tea with members of Northern Ireland's Assembly in the Parliament Buildings as they were waiting to take a vote. A friend had taken us there because his friend is a MLA or Member of the Legislative Assembly. The tea was unexpected as was the fact that they offered green tea!

Another tea surprise: no iced tea in Ireland. They didn't seem to know what it was. Those who did said no, they didn't have any. They thought you had to buy it in a bottle, apparently, and didn't know how to make it. So if I wanted a cold drink I stayed with still or sparkling water (still being the opposite of sparkling.)

Another surprise (see I told you I could talk about this all day!) was the still and peace and awe I felt when I stepped inside the little church at Saul.

These are only a few unexpected things. I have more and maybe I'll talk about those later.

I'd love to hear some of your surprises if you've been to Ireland or any other Celtic country OR any other trip you may have journeyed on.

Blessings on your journey!


  1. I was surprised by how much they like Americans. We went to one far-flung hotel (in Glencolumcille) that flew the Ireland, EU, and United States flags side by side out front! But everywhere I went, the Irish were very welcoming. (Unlike, say, England, where it seemed they looked down their noses at me. Ha!)

  2. And they are so curious about us too, Jamie. So many wanted to know what Americans thought about Obama, what the reaction to 9-11 was, if we'd heard of the Titanic anniversary coming up, what it's like in Ohio! lol! I did not expect that. After all, they live in the COOL country. It's all in your perspective.

  3. The grass. I knew that it would be green but not THAT green. I was also surprised at how many of the Irish folk songs I knew and how the music was very similar to many of the Australian ballads I had grown up with.

  4. That's interesting, Marie. Where did you go to hear the music?

  5. The best pub I went to was the Crock o' Gold in Killarney. It is frequented by the locals rather than tourists. I had a great evening there and the musos even consented to me singing "Danny Boy" with them. They said I didn't do too badly .......... for an Australian. :) It was a great evening and I hope to go back there some time in the future. (The local pubs are so much better than those set up purely for tourists.)