Wednesday, 15 October 2014

From Where I Would Rather Call Home

Is there somewhere else in this world you hold close to your heart other than your home country? Maybe you aspire to move somewhere that you love more than where you are right now.

Back in 2010 I ended my European backpacking trip in Ireland and Northern Ireland, in the former home of my roots, the generation of my grandfather. I grew up hearing of the legacy of a great man I never got to meet, and felt this undying need to travel where my heritage travelled from and connect to the land where my blood runs thick. I'm not sure if I'm the only one who feels this connection with a person, a place or location, or even a particular time of day, but when your heart pounds a beat harder in a special country, and you can feel the blood rush to your fingertips, this is what I call a home away from home.

Only problem was I had just over a week to get the most out of it before returning to my reality hanging the backpack up, til next time. So I flew into Dublin, with great expectations to end the trip with golden memories and the privilege of exploring the Emerald Isle.

Arriving into Dublin
Taking this trip as a passage of life, I took the opportunity to get out on foot and explore the city of Dublin one street at a time, I eventually ended up at the river which separates the centre of city. I ran into two quintessential members of the public standing on the corner, handing out flyer's coaxing us into the local Irish Pub to watch them dance over dinner. If I must! There was my night sorted already, a reservation at my first pub in Ireland to watch their national dance over a pint (schooner in my opinion). I was quite happy with a more than Irish night ahead of me. 

Meeting the local talent
With a few more hours to kill, I remembered reading in an article before departing Australia of a brand new museum in Dublin dedicated to the Leprechaun - Yes a National Leprechaun Museum! So I took out the crumpled article ripped from the Sydney Telegraph and asked the Irish Dancers if they knew where it was, conveniently right around the corner. Things just keep getting better on the Emerald Isle. So I skipped off on my merry way to the museum of leprechauns not knowing what to expect. It is set out in a block of bricks somewhat warehouse-y with a side entrance sprayed with leprechaun-y things all over the walls. On first impressions I thought this is a bit child-like, like the science-based museums made for children's education in Australia, but I guess big kids need to have fun too. There are a lot of 'facts' about the 'foes' of the fairy tales in Ireland, and it hit me. I am in a museum dedicated to something that may or may not be fictional. Then I walked into the Leprechaun's room, where I was magically transformed into a Leprechaun! Everything around me was giant, and I was miniature, I mean I am pretty miniature already barely taller than 5 feet. So as I watched people climbing the giant chairs and tables, I tried to do the same. Without any luck, I was unable to climb these giant objects, it dawned on me, have I too become a Leprechaun? 

Where is the pot of gold?
Moving on from my ability to climb great heights, I made it to the finish line of the museum and remembering many secret key letters I won a gold coin straight from the pot of gold kept guarded at the National Leprechaun Museum. I have kept this coin, as a lucky charm and it sits nicely in my collection of foreign currency - which is my personal pot of gold. Overall, it's worth the visit for the novelty of the room with giant furniture. If you have children even better, this place is probably more dedicated to the little kids with a whole range of activities to do at their education level. 

Leaving the museum I sensed the workers there were sick of my childlike behaviour. I wanted to head back to where big kids like me are encouraged to let their childish behaviour out, and down a pint of Guinness while watching these dancing tap the shit out of the stage. OK, I'll be honest I flaked out on the Guinness that night. I am a poor beer drinker at the best of times, so a dark and dingy stout wasn't on my list of things to consume that night. Plus I didn't want to peak too early on the Irish icons on the first night, it will make me look easy. I watched the dancers, the floor shook, the band played their music which rattled in my ears for days. Overall, my night at the Arlington Hotel was one of the greatest nights I had spent out, because I got down to the core of why I am here. 

After 3 nights in Dublin, and a few debates with new found friends about whether to choose Galway or Cork, I moved on to Cork. Yes I chose Cork. Still to this day people ask, why did you choose Cork? Um, because it was the last place Titanic docked y'all! It has to be good. To be honest I don't remember my thought process, but a city named after the stopper for my wine bottle has to be good. Right? 

I had two nights here, and when I arrived it was quiet as anything so I wondered how two nights was going to go down. Arriving at the hostel I booked a tour straight away with Paddywagon to get out of Cork the next morning and fill up the time I had there. To me this made perfect sense because I knew the next day I was going to take in the rolling hills of jade, the sheer cliffs of rust, and the crashing waves of whitewash. I gave the the night a crack, I was staying at the New Zealand named Bru Hostel, having taken as much of the Irish-ness in, I thought I would stay somewhere that represented a little closer to home... it actually ended being a great place to stay, apart from the 7 flights of stairs to reach my dorm, this is a killer later on in the evenings. The hostel was part pub too, when in Ireland. So a local band spent a few hours playing the classics, Whiskey in the Jar and Galway Girl, which reminded me of the city I had chosen not to be in over Cork. I moved on to another local jaunt a few 100 metres down the road to listen to another Irish band play a few other songs that sounded similar to Whiskey in the Jar, by this point it all sounded the same to me. By this point I was also ready to down my first Guinness! I ordered a pint, because when you're trying a dark dingy stout for the first time, always aim for the biggest, I could have went for the jug. I tell you now, I remember it tasting like golden bloody beer. I really enjoyed it (however, I did not enjoy it so much when I arrived home thinking I was the next biggest Guinness drinker in Australia, for some reason shipping it across the globe makes it taste a lot worse), and I was a part of the converted. 

Embracing the upper lip with stout
 After climbing 7 levels to my room, only to realise I had to be at the tour point in only 4 hours, bed never felt so good, and I did not want to miss one minute on the road trip I was about to take. 

First stop was into Limerick, where we saw King John's Castle for only 10 minutes and got back on the road again. We were on the way to the Cliffs of Moher, an iconic destination I could not wait to see. My eyes were heavy and I was fighting the urge to doze off until I arrived, I had a feeling maybe the driver felt the same way, again we are in Ireland. Arriving into the Cliffs of Moher I remember first realising here the public toilets had those Dyson hand dryers, this was the first time in my life and all my travels I had seen these fancy vacuum cleaners on a toilet - go Ireland! I raced to the least tourist-packed spot and I was in awe. I continued to breathe in the air, smell the ocean, and feel the wind as this place just took me all over. I'll let the images do the talking. Have you ever seen a place so breathtaking?

So after about 2 hours roaming free and manoeuvring my way through rocks that hugged the cliff side, I took my life back in my hands and reluctantly hopped back in the van. I felt awake as my eyes were pierced with beauty, my lips tasted of fresh sea salt, and my hair was windswept just like how you see it in the movies - all over my face! You know what, I didn't even care, well I never care really. I didn't want this feeling to ever end. I wish I could relive that moment over and over again. 

So we move on to the Poulnabrone Dolmen a.k.a Ancient Tomb, and we're talking 1000's of years old, B.C. times. Just at the entrance I couldn't help but stop and talk to this man, he was making traditional Gaelic pieces, with a bottle of Jameson by his side, and a half-eaten apple. 


I recall his name as 'Tommy'. I may be wrong so, for any of my readers out there, if you know this man please let me know, or get him to get in touch with me. I need to tell him something. He asked why I came to Ireland, I told him the same reasons I explained to you above. He then followed on to ask if I was looking for love (no it isn't one of those stories...) but he was quick to answer for me - "You're not going to find it here" he says. OK thanks buddy, there goes my dreams of finding my Gerald Butler P.S. I love you story where my Irish husband dies and writes me a series of love letters from his grave until I fall in love with another Irish man. So now, I need to tell "Tommy" something, he was right. And he was right in more ways then one. He told me that love will find me when I go home, with a man by the name of "Shaun". I'm thinking, Shaun that's a pretty dorky name. He said he's a burly bloke, a very sporty kind likes all sorts of sports. This is your one true love. 

After he finished a necklace with my grandfathers surname spelt in Gaelic I returned to the van giggling to myself. He was an incredible character wasn't he, someone with a diet of a nip of Jameson's with a half-eaten apple, surely he doesn't know what he's going on about. 3 months later I met my future husband. A sporty bloke by the name of Shaun, and yes he's a dork, my dork. We were to marry 2 years on (in our travel inspired wedding, of course), and I was only reminded of this story by my mum weeks before I walked down the aisle. The luck of the Irish hey. 

Thanks "Tommy"

My mate "Tommy"
My two days in Cork turned out to be sensational, I can't wait to return there one day and travel out to see the sights in County Clare once again, and hopefully stumble upon "Tommy".

I'm excited that I'm heading up to Belfast now, this is where my grandfather grew up, although I know this is where I will be spending my last few nights before boarding the return flight back home, I know I am ending this trip embracing my heritage. I am beaming with happiness as I arrive at our hostel, Vagabonds. Owned by a husband from Belfast and his wife from Australia, awesome crew. I take the opportunity to book a black taxi tour, where you can discover the history behind this city and country. The tour was fantastic and left me with shivers as we visited some historical landmarks that shaped this city. The feel of the city still felt very raw, I sensed hostility in the air probably knowingly as it was just commencing the annual march through Belfast. The vibe of the city showed me deep pride throughout the neighbourhoods, I saw many different textures and elements throughout the city, it was exciting. As we approached the peace wall, there were a couple of lads terrorising any by-passers, it didn't bother me, I still got my texta out to write a message on the wall in memory of my grandfather and respect for the city he hails from. I only tell of this to hope that this message one meets them, or young kids alike from countries all around the world including my own, stop terrorising the streets, using graffiti and marking your territory with rubbish from your last Macca's visit. People from all over the world visit where you live and form an opinion. Luckily I am resilient, but some are not. Rant over.

It's not far from Belfast where you can discover one of this world's greatest wonders. Just like the Leprechaun museum, The Giant's Causeway is a location home to one of Ireland greatest folklore. Another destination of this isle that adds many dimensions for reason to love this place. To me it is a phenomenon of layers that symbolise your journey through life, just like a causeway, it is to cross through the passage in life in which you are meant to take. Some steps take you up a level, others your stepping aside, and then sometimes you really have to start back down at the bottom to get where you really want in life. My journey as a backpacker is all about this, and my visit to Ireland was the passage of life I intended on taking to get down to the roots, which translated to the simpler (perhaps finer) things in life that you can find in the beauty you seek, the air you taste and overall the reaction you feel in your body as you take this all in. 

This is the reason why I travel to a new place, to discover how different each place can make me feel, and when I feel something as strong as this place made me feel, I know I will be back. Guinness in hand, lucky gold coin in tow, and my lucky charm husband with me this time to relive it all and hopefully run into "Tommy".

See you again soon!

Until then Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Just came across your blog by accident... Love your writing and how you describe Ireland (I'm Irish and living in Ireland) :)

    P.S. where did you come across Tommy?! What an amazing story - I could do with meeting him myself haha ;)