A return to Ireland | Vancouver Sun


Reading, writing and drinking is part of Irish heritage

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My first overseas trip since Covid was both terrifying and exciting. In March of this year, I felt caged and wanted to get away and travel. Like all travelers, I had big plans to travel more in my later years, but Covid certainly quashed those dreams. With the certainty that I am fully vaccinated, I decided that this was the year to continue my wish list with a visit to Ireland.

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Airports are always tedious but I enjoyed my four hour break at Schiphol, one of Europe’s major airports: restaurants, shops, bars, lounges, yoga studios and very tempting cafes with crowds of travellers.

The atmosphere cheered me up, I was able to get rid of my doubts and look forward to my visit to the country of my birth.

The green fields of Ireland are no cliché. Ireland is surprisingly green and lush, all a tribute to the gentle rain and the influence of the Gulf Stream. Spring was bursting into the hedgerows and the fields. Sweet Cicely, known locally as a weed, was knee high along the side of the road.

Lock down and Covid was now behind me at least for now and I was in the wide world again – freedom.

I stayed with family for the first week to reconnect and enjoy the countryside. I slept soundly and woke up to birdsong. The first few mornings I was treated to the full Irish breakfast, including nutty brown bread. Delicious, but there’s still a feeling of guilt about the fat content. It’s silly, considering I’m a senior and pleasures when they come to this stage of life are all the more enjoyable. A much healthier voice told me to eat bacon and eggs, black pudding and white pudding, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms – life is short.

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The full Irish breakfast includes bacon and eggs, black pudding and white pudding, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms and hazelnut bread.
The full Irish breakfast includes bacon and eggs, black pudding and white pudding, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms and hazelnut bread. Photo by Getty Images

I walked through the familiar fields and admired the hedgerows and open vistas, the ever curious birds, sheep and farm animals came to greet me.

I was just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Royal Canal bike/walking path. Ireland has done a wonderful job with the canal paths running through the Midlands into deep rural Ireland. I was happy to see them well used by German cyclists and locals. These paths, originally towpaths are now paved and the canal itself is dredged and free flowing.

The landscape along the route is made up of open fields and farms punctuated by locks and villages. The banks are a haven for wildlife and birds and a wonderful way to enjoy a cycling holiday that I would have loved back when I was cycling.

Feel rested and renewed. it was time to head to Dublin, the iconic and historic capital of Ireland. I stayed at the Grafton Hotel which was very central with helpful staff and an amazing breakfast buffet. I was surprised to find Dublin full on weekends and full of tourists and locals.

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I recommend a visit to one of the tourist offices located throughout the city to see what tours are offered, then take a hop-on hop-off bus tour to get the geography of the city. They include all the highlights like Christ Church Cathedral, Guinness Brewery, Kilmainham Gaol, Galleries and Museums.

Then, hit the streets on foot and do some walking tours. There are plenty, including food tours, some going to off-the-beaten-track parts of Dublin that would be hard to find on your own. The food tour introduces groups to charming little cafes and bakeries and ends in Temple Bar, Dublin’s entertainment district. Even during the day the music overflows from the pubs and a good time is always on offer.

Temple Bar attracts all young travelers and bachelor parties from all over Europe. A neighborhood that I would personally avoid at night.

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Dublin has grown even more great coffees since Covid, coffee might be more popular than Guinness.

Glendalough is a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland.
Glendalough is a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Another visit I recommend is the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Dublin is the world heritage city of literature and is full of bookstores. Reading, writing and drinking are part of Irish heritage.

For an ‘out of town’ tour and a chance to see some countryside, I really enjoyed visiting Glendalough Wicklow: stunning scenery and set between two valleys. The site is dotted with monastic ruins, our guide explained the history of this ancient place of pilgrimage, one of the most important religious sites in Ireland.

I loved walking around Dublin, especially Georgian Dublin to see those picture perfect squares and parks like Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green. I visited Iveagh Gardens and had a coffee at MoLI, the Irish Museum of Literature. As you would expect, MoLI has an excellent bookshop and the place to buy Irish authors and tasteful souvenirs to take home.

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I love old churches and Dublin is full of parish churches; I never miss an opportunity to visit them. Dubliners love their churches and come to light candles or say a prayer for a sick friend or neighbour.

Ireland is now a very multicultural country, in addition to having its own very young population, it also has young people from all over the world. Bars and cafes are manned by migrant workers, all with Irish accents, who joke and chat with customers in friendly Irish fashion.

Eating out is expensive all over the world but in Ireland I never felt cheated as the food is good and the portions are generous. I love Irish lamb and fresh fish and ordered it every time it was on the menu.

Now that I’ve taken my first post-Covid trip, I feel ready to start working on the to-do list again.

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