Shamrocks, Leprechauns and lots of SNOW?

What’s not to love about Ireland? Tiny green men promising  pots of gold and lucky charms? The warm hospitality of the locals who will literally bend over backwards to help you? The possibility of running into Gerard Butler as you wander around aimlessly looking for Killarney National Park? All of these reasons and more made Ireland one of the top destinations on my top list of travels.

When a local woman I met on the ferry insisted that her father drive me to my hostel after we arrived, it reconfirmed the warm Irish hospitality, but I was unprepared for the shockingly cold weather. Granted it was January and I know the weather there is unpredictable,  but a snow-jacket and boots? Where were all these green rolling hills full of four-leaf clovers? (They were there, just covered in a haze of cold, wet, white stuff.)

Clear weather right before the storm at the bridge

Despite the bad weather, I decided to make the most of my trip, so I did a short tour through Belfast the next morning and then headed up to the North of Ireland to find the Carricks Rope Bridge, and the Giants Causeway. It was a rather small group of us (myself, another American guy there on business, and a husband and wife with two grumpy teenagers from England.) The driver pointed out all of the haunted castles and hotels as we made our way along the coastline, (which the stories seemed quite suiting for the gray weather and the less than cheery disposition of the teenagers riding with us.)

Finally, we made it to our first stop near Ballintoy. The suspension bridge connects a cliff to a neighboring island and was originally built for fishermen to get to the island.  Obviously for safety reasons, they close it down to tourists  if there are icy conditions but luckily to that point the weather had cooperated with us. And then as soon as we got out of the car, a flurry of snow and sleet began pelting down on us. “You’re lucky” the driver said in his lovely Irish accent. “If it had been snowing like this earlier, they would have already shut it down.”

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Yes, how lucky we were!  About to cross a narrow foot bridge over sharp jagged cliffs with snow pelting in our faces. One slip and we could have fallen to the icy waters below and I’m sure become another character in one of his creepy ghosts stories, (mostly of souls who had lost their lives by falling off those very cliffs.)  Where was that damn Leprechaun when I needed him?  Aren’t they supposed to grant you a wish or something? Eventually I decided that as long as they were going to let me on it, it must be safe enough (rain, snow or shine.) After making my way cautiously over the rickety bridge to the island and back, the snow immediately stopped (of course!) We made our way to the Giants Causeway, stopped for a hot whiskey at the Bushman’s distillery, and then we all went our separate ways again.

I decided to keep heading south, thinking maybe I would find some warmer weather. I joined up with another tour  for the next few days in Dublin, which took me through Killarney, over the Dingle Peninsula, up on the west side to Glasgow, and stopping at the Cliffs of Mohr. Another opportunity for a dramatic vista shot and the possibility of falling off a sheer cliff and being swept out to sea.

And of course mother nature decided to work her magic again. Fog as thick as molasses had rolled in that morning and hadn’t managed to burn off yet. We decided to head into the visitors center to wait it out. After about an hour, we came back out to find that the visibility had become even worse.  Me and a friend  decided to head out anyway, thinking maybe with a combination of my positive attitude, and her determination to see the cliffs, we might be able to lift it. As the afternoon grew later and the fog thicker, we finally accepted that all we were going to see was the “Fog of Mohr” (and I still hadn’t seen that damn Leprechaun.) We went back into the visitors center and I  bought a postcard so at least I knew what they could have looked like.

What the cliffs of Mohr would have looked like

As unpredictable as the weather can be in Ireland, isn’t life sort of the some way? We never know when obstacles and challenges are going to be thrown at us, nor do we get to wait around for the “weather” to improve.  We have to take what we can get, keep moving forward and hope that maybe the sun will shine tomorrow.

 It’s been about a year now since my first trip to Ireland. I went back again early last summer and found that the weather really hadn’t changed much from that cold January (although I did finally get to see the “green” Ireland that I was looking forward to before.) I sat in a cafe in Cork sipping on a giant macchiato, wondering where all of the friends I had made on that trip were and what they were doing in their lives. I also thought about myself, and what I was doing with my own life. Still on the road wandering aimlessly, but in many ways  “stuck” and not able to move forward with some of my bigger goals.

Fast forward to today, far away from Ireland, but somehow my body clock seems to  still be on the same time zone. This is the second all-nighter I have had in a 2 nights because I can’t seem to get my thoughts to slow down long enough for my fingers to even type. Hell, I think I even forgot to eat today, (which I finally remembered to do around 4 a.m. this morning.) Multiple projects and books being written, (with plenty more forming in my head.) What I can’t understand is why I couldn’t seem to formulate any of these thoughts into ink before Ireland? Then I remembered my visit to the Blarney castle while I was in Cork, and kissing that slimey wet stone.  The legend says that when you kiss the stone. “you will be struck with eternal eloquence  and never be at a loss for words.”  I didn’t catch mono or a cold as everyone warned me (because of the millions of people who kiss that very same stone,) but was it possible I had caught the “gift of the gab?”

I’m not sure about the eloquence part, but I definitely haven’t been at a loss for words, and things seem to be flowing more smoothly now than they ever were before. If that’s what I gained on my visit through Ireland, despite the chilly weather and the disappointments, that is far better than any picture I could have ever taken, leprechaun I could have caught, or lucky 4-leaf clover.

Learn more about Ireland here.

 

 


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