Well, I have finally found my pot of gold and it was not at the end of the rainbow. It was actually at the end of a short flight from Newark International Airport to Ireland's Shannon International Airport. It was at this starting point that I discovered the true gold that makes someone rich in life.
As I reflect upon our recent trip to Ireland, I can't help but feel a little melancholy after leaving one of the most beautiful countries we have ever visited. We were not ready to come home. It only took 5 short days to become enamored with the people, their culture and environment and the Irish way of life. We had heard from past visitors and were expecting great things, but our actual experience exceeded those expectations.
Our base for the trip was the adorable town of Adare in County Limerick and the hotel we stayed at was the fantastic Dunraven Arms. This magical place is full of rich history dating back centuries. Our days in town consisted of a river walk, a tour of a castle dating back to the 13th century, 4 pub visits and some awesome shopping. That was all right there in Adare. The town is right out of a storybook. Some of the buildings have the traditional thatched roofs and the pubs are as you envision with deep dark woods and comfy leather seats. No better way to end each night than to sit in one of the pubs listening to a pop-up musical concert while enjoying a pint.
From Adare we were able to venture into the wonderful town of Limerick where we visited another quite famous castle (King John's Castle) and toured an amazing cathedral (St Mary's) dating back to the 1100's. Needless to say we also visited another pub that again did not disappoint and found some great shopping as well. In addition to Limerick, we ventured out to see some of the "must-see" sites of Western Ireland. When in that area of Ireland, you have to see the Cliffs of Moher, the town of Dingle and the whole Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry and the town of Killarney. Those are musts.
But all of what I just mentioned is not why I feel like I found my pot of gold in Ireland. What makes Ireland so special and so enriching is its people that live amongst the most scenic countrysides you will ever see in all your life. They are more than just friendly. They are genuinely warm and friendly and welcoming. They want you to feel at home in their country. They want to get to know you if time permits. They want to engage you in conversation, but only in a respectful and open-minded way. The Irish people have had a hard past life. They made it past famines and invasions and have still kept the the most important things in life at the top of the list; good health, faith, family and friends and some good, down to earth fun. They eat simple, but incredibly delicious foods. They don't go out on the town looking to impress anyone with fancy garments or cars.
They are a people that have a tremendous amount of pride in their Country. It shows by the way they treat their Country (i.e. the land). Try to find a piece of litter in the streets. Try to look around on your tours and see if you can find trash littered along the country roads. The only person we saw littering (throwing a cigarette butt on the ground), was a tourist on our bus. That was it. Irish folk actually throw trash in actual trash bins and cigarettes in actual cigarette depositories. Go figure.
Their pride is also shown by their tour guides and by the person sitting next to you in the pub or the person helping you in the local shop. Their knowledge of Irish history (not just history surrounding what they are about to show you on a tour) puts our tour guides and frankly our entire citizenship to shame. They know what has happened to their Country and what has formed their nation over the centuries. And frankly speaking again, they actually probably know more about our culture and politics etc than we do as citizens of the United States.
So add in their friendliness, their Irish pride, their amazing scenery to the fact that they are a service oriented, gratuity not expected, culture and you have the full pot of gold. Nowhere have we experience such incredible service like we just did in Ireland. And they do NOT expect you to give them a tip. You heard me right. Their service is not being based on how much they are hoping you are going to tip them. Its based only on their pride in their work. A bartender summed it up best when he told us, "I actually love to come to work here and do what I do and I am paid well to come here and serve." He then went on to say that he was about to venture off to America for a holiday for the first time and frankly I am a bit worried he will not come back telling the same stories about my Country as I am telling you all about his.
So do you see why I feel like I finally found that pot of gold? What I just told you is not some Irish fable or made-up story. Its really there. Their people are really that friendly. The Country is really that clean. The service is really that good. And to top it all off...the landscape is REALLY that amazingly beautiful. And I cannot wait to go back for another visit really really soon.
Check out our Facebook page for more tips, pictures and even some video of our trip and you will for sure see why we left our heart in the beautiful Country of Ireland.