Ireland had been a country that we had wanted to visit for some time. Along with purchasing books on the subject and discovering authentic Irish hats and wearing them proudly and observing St. Patricks’ Day with a pint of Guinness…or maybe two. I think that perhaps Ireland was the most anticipated stop of our cruise around the United Kingdom and Ireland. We docked at the Republic of Ireland which covers five-sixths of the Irish Island. The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign nation and its’ currency is the euro while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and its’ currency is the pound. Our first stop was the town of Waterford which is the home of the renowned Waterford Crystal. We toured the House of Waterford and marveled at the craftsmen’s expertise.
Waterford Crystal had actually been shuttered for a few years due to financial issues but had been re-opened and purchased by the employees. After our extensive tour of the House of Waterford and some necessary acquisitions we took a guided tour of Dublin Castle. This group was led by the best tour guide I have experienced…this young woman simply brought the castle and its’ rich history to life with her detailed accounts of what had transpired in the past within the castle walls and the lively current history of the edifice including the up-coming visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alone with fifty foreign ministers scheduled for December 2012. Her moving account of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visit in May 2011 and the historical significance of the Queen recognizing the sovereignty of the Republic of Ireland was palpable.
Our guide said that especially the Queen beginning her remarks in Gaelic was an honor to the Irish.
At one point she was trying to recall an american movie and she asked the crowd of mostly americans if we could tell her the name of it…as the silence was permeating I said in a low voice…This is Spinal Tap…and she exclaimed that I was correct. I have never seen the movie.
We had a delicious lunch of fish and chips at a local pub. It was extremely full of happy people and one not so happy person. As we were crowded against a table of young men who were throughly enjoying their Guinness I noticed that they regularly bumped against our table…with no ill will…just full of joy of life. Thus when the opportunity availed itself we moved to a table with a little more room, I looked up to see a gentleman glaring at me as he drank at the bar…and I really think he thought we were being disrespectful in some way. However I returned to my delicious lunch and he left…ships passing in the night of different cultures.
Our bus tour guide told us that drinking and driving had become so prevalent in Ireland that there had recently been instituted a zero tolerance of it. At almost the conclusion of our tour our guide sang Danny Boy…and her rendition added such a personal touch to our short visit that it brought goose bumps to the audience.
There is a reason that everyone is Irish on St. Patricks’ Day…Ireland is a beautiful, magical, mysterious land that permeates the soul of its’ inhabitants.