In true backpacker style, I jumped on a plane to Dublin Sunday morning armed with nothing more than a borrowed rucksack from Liz's days at Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy; a guidebook to Ireland; and a trench coat. And it turns out that really was all I needed. My purse-toting, check-in luggage days are over...okay, okay, for now at least. I've experienced what it is like travelling with kids in the past few weeks and I know what my future holds one day...
I don't want to throw an overwhelming and disjointed amount of information about my trip at you so I'm going to organize things into separate posts in the hope that this way, if you're really interested in, say, churches, you can read my forthcoming post about St. Nicholas' in Galway (trust me, it was WAY cooler than just an ABC - Another Bloody Church) and just skip over posts about drunken Irishmen and toting wine in a box down Grafton Street (although trust me, that's a pretty interesting story too!)
Here I just want to give my quick, overall impressions of the Emerald Isle, Aerinn, Ireland. One of the first things I noticed (I am such a language nerd) was the constant use of the word "grand". When my phone didn't work and I had to borrow a Good Samaritan's mobile, she shrugged off my apologies with a sunny "Oh, its grand." The weather and food were consistently described as "grand", and in reply to "how are you?"s, the answer was always, "I'm grand."
"What does all this 'grand' stuff mean?" I asked my friend Iain after a few hours in Dublin and about seventy "grand"s from him, his three friends we met up with, and various passersby on the streets. "Magnificent, wonderful, imposing?"
He burst out laughing. "It just means 'better than s***."
Oh. Okay. Apparently its a very typically Irish thing to say...about EVERYTHING. I myself even started saying it, when people would ask me how I was finding the "mizzle" (mist + drizzle = this delightful combination). "Oh, its grand!" At one point while Iain and I were having pints of Guinness at an outdoor pub in Galway, the weak, watery sun managed to shine through for a brief second and I was suddenly struck with a rather poetically Irish realization:
"It doesn't get much better than this, huh? A glass of Guinness, a good friend, people-watching, and some sunshine...life is grand!" Maybe the Irish are on to something. It doesn't take much, but its better than s*** and maybe we could all do with remembering that every now and then.
But don't think for one minute that Ireland is JUST "grand". It is so, so much more. Ireland is cloudy skies that give way to sunshine that illuminates the countryside. Its a patchwork quilt of jewel-like green squares. It is lively pubs, graceful, arching bridges spanning the Liffey, cheerful smiles, and imposing Georgian architecture. It is cold houses but warm, welcoming hearts.
Erin go bragh! Ireland Forever!