Note– I actually wrote this a few days ago, but as we didn’t have great access to internet or the proper charger for the laptop, I didn’t get a chance to post this earlier. But– belated greetings from Ireland!
The View From Dunamase Castle Ruins– Greetings!
So, I am taking a few minutes while the baby naps to write down some of my observations of Ireland! Because that’s where I’ve been for the past three days, and I finally have a moment to stop and reflect. What is a country girl from the backwoods of Pennsylvania doing in a country in Europe anyway? Well, by myself, I would never pack up and visit a foreign country, but I happen to be married to someone who has all the essential skills for traveling—he is unafraid to try new things, he’s a great driver, and he has this wonderful sense of direction that I lack, so, have husband, will travel, is my motto.
Stephen is currently taking a class to learn how to use plates and screws to repair fractures in small animals. When he was planning on traveling for this and wanted me to go with him, he had several options on where to take the course—Alaska, Missouri, Nevada—and Ireland. And, of course, I voted for Ireland.
I’ve always had a bit of a “thing” for English culture. I was an English major in college, so we spent way too much time learning about the country, the customs, and the language. And, I’m one of those girls that happens to love Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and The Great British Baking Show—if you haven’t seen it, you should!
Ireland is not the same as England. In fact, there is some real animosity between the two countries. (Check out the current state of Brexit, for example. It’s all their news stations are talking about.) But—it’s pretty darn close. There are castles and gorgeous views and tidy streets and people who have lovely accents and tell their children to mind their manners. It’s all really wonderful for this American girl.
The Little Town of Howth, Ireland
In some ways, Ireland is not extremely different from America. They have the same basic structures as America—the buildings, the restaurants, and the amenities are not extremely different. But, there are just enough differences to make it interesting.
The driving is probably the most challenging aspect for someone from America to adjust to. Most of the cars are tiny, and the drivers’ seat is located on the right side of the car. As the passenger, I keep getting in the left side of the car and wanting to put my foot on the gas pedal! The cars also drive on the left- hand side of the road and pass on the right, which takes some getting used to. There are also no stop-lights that we have seen. Instead, the roads are designed with “round-abouts” that you turn off to avoid having to stop your car completely. Speed limit signs are posted in kilometers per hour, and there are very few billboard advertisements. Hedges line both sides of the road, making it difficult to see the gorgeous views beyond them, but keeping everything looking very neat.
My main impression of this island nation is that it is a peaceful place to live. The streets, for the most part, have no garbage littering the ground, and the lawns look to be well-kept. There are also not as many big chain stores—no Wal-marts or Targets or Kohls, mostly local businesses and shops, with a few McDonalds and Subways scattered in among them. In many ways, Ireland seems like a quieter country than America. You don’t realize it until you leave, but our great country can be pretty overwhelming for the senses with our busy, crowded cities, our many, varied choices at the grocery store, and our endless t.v. channels. When you leave the country “on holiday,” you notice that life is a bit slower in other parts of the world.
One of my favourite things here that I wish I could transport home are the way the kids are dressed. Most children wear uniforms to school, and they look lovely in their little button-down shirts with skirts and plain black shoes. I imagine wearing a uniform takes a lot of pressure off of kids in the school environment, as they don’t have to be worrying about their clothes and standing out from their peers, and I also guess that wearing their uniforms is a part of the way that the children are taught good manners.
Because the people here do seem to have better manners than Americans. The whole time we have been here, we have not heard a single car beeping its horn at another car, nor have we witnessed people yelling at one another in the street (which I have sadly seen when visiting American cities.) I’m not sure how they get the majority of their citizens to display better behaviour, but I definitely appreciate it.
One habit that I have noticed over here that we would not want to bring home is that many, many Irish smoke cigarettes—many more than in the U.S., where I think it is more out of fashion. I also observed anti-smoking commercials on television here, so I am assuming that smoking is a problem for the Irish people. While we’ve been here, we have not spent much time in the pubs as we are non-drinkers, but I imagine drinking is a big part of the culture here as well, as all of the pubs and “Guinness” signs make me think that it is a happy past-time here in Ireland.
Overall, the landscapes are lovely, the weather has been great, the people nice, the castles charming, and I am thoroughly enjoying a little “holiday” from my busy life at home. I am looking forward to going back to my home country at the end of the week, but for now, I am also happy to be experiencing something new and different.
Toodles for now!
With love from Ireland!