Friday, February 17, 2012

Ireland Impressions

So far, this "travel blog" has shown a pathetic lack of range.  I wrote exactly 29 posts about Scotland, and while these entries show many diverse and wonderful experience this country offers- if I do say so myself- they've failed to even touch upon the rest of the world.

But that's all about to change. This weekend I made my first international excursion since moving to Edinburgh in May, and spent 4 days in Ireland.

"Well?" you ask. "How was it?"

For starters, it was exhausting.  With flights to and from Dublin at 8am and 6:40am respectively, and late pub outings each night in between, I have to whinge about my severe lack of sleep (I'm getting too old for such shennanigans!).  More importantly though, the trip was an exciting and exhilarating change from my adopted home in Scotland.

I'll give specifics  soon, but today I'd like to share a few initial impressions from my mini-holiday on the Emerald Isle:

1.  Ireland is wildly different from Scotland.  Back home in the USA, a lot of people seem to think that these nations are oh-so-similar (or even worse- the same country), but within a few hours of landing in Dublin, I was able to name distinct differences between these Celtic siblings. Ireland's culture, weather, architecture, even in pub food, constantly reminded I was outside of the UK.

2. Where are all the trees?  I rightly expected to see miles and miles of green fields journeying through the Irish countryside, but I didn't think all this open land would fill me with a sense of loss.  Throughout its history, Ireland has seen greater deforestation than any other European nation; while rolling Emerald hills were lovely, I couldn't help but imagine the lush forests of Ancient Erin, which can never be fully restored.

3. Goodness, these houses are colourful! In the 1970s, Ireland faced abundant economic, social, and political hardships.  Apparently, many architects and designers thought they could brighten people's spirits by painting buildings with bright colours.  Loudly coloured buildings look strange in Dublin, where they're often adjacent to historic sites. However, I found them most amusing in wee villages that would otherwise have a quaint, Tolkein-esque look.  And this exterior design choice wasn't limited to student bars and hippy coffee-shops, the maroon building pictured on the right is a dental practice!

4. There are so few vegetarian options in Ireland. In Scotland, I've never had problems finding  vegetarian meals which appeal to me on pub menus.  I assumed, then, that my dietary preferences wouldn't pose a problem in Ireland either.  Boy, was I wrong.  The Irish love their meat, whether it's Beef and Guinness Stew, cottage pie, fried fish, or the Full Irish Breakfast (quite similar to the Full Scottish). I ate a lot of a potato side dishes on this trip- they were delish, but I can't say how glad I am to be back in the land of veggie haggis.

5. You drink your Guinness how fast, now? In a pub, it only takes the typical Irish man 3 lifts of his glass to finish a pint of Guinness.  I tried drinking the stout this way, and found it nearly impossible. Even though I will say Guinness certainly does taste nicer drank a bit more quickly, I will not be chugging one again in the future.

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