For those who know me, I've always been an Irish girl at heart, and since I can remember having a dream destination, that destination has been Ireland. I have, of course, lived my life accepting it was little more than a pie-in-the-sky dream. My desire to make it a reality was kicked into overdrive in tandem with my name change. I realized part of the stress I was feeling was over the loss of my readily-identifiable heritage that the name of Egan implied. Several of the people I'd encounter would comment on what a "beautiful Irish name" I had (while also questioning how my English middle name, Elizabeth, got in the mix), and one gentleman even nicknamed me his Galway girl, as a song apparently exists about the dark-haired beauties of Galway, Ireland. (I don't pretend to take credit for the beauty part, but dark-haired is certainly accurate enough.)
It made me sad to think I was losing that. Of course, another third of my heritage is Italian (the third is Danish, if you're curious), so I'm not sad that Riggi points me in that direction. But still, I felt like I was losing a link to a part of my lineage. Total overthinking, I know, but just roll with it.
And so I started researching places to go, things to do, and travel to/within Ireland. Again, if you know me, this became overwhelming in a short amount of time, and I again wrote it off as a pipe dream. Then John and I stumbled across a presentation at AAA on their Ireland vacation packages. Why not go? John had been hinting at a first anniversary gift of paper, in the form of plane tickets, though we never really talked about actual destinations.
We attended the presentation, and I sat there with actual tears pricking my eyes because for the first time ever, I realized we can do this. There were even great discounts and incentives offered for booking by the end of March. We took our planning tools home and thought about it long and hard. Checked departure dates, air lines, and which itineraries fit both financial and vacation-time budgets.
I'm am still pinching myself when I remember we're actually going. For 8 days. And what's exciting and comforting is that we don't have to worry about anything while we're over there. Our group tour package includes in it all of our lodging, meals, activities, and travel. All we need to do is buy lunch or snacks, souveniers, and parse out some Euros for tipping along the way. Add to that, of course, get passports, get some AC adapter converters, and various other vacation to-dos, and we pretty much just need to show up.
Here's a short summary of what we'll be up to on our adventure:
Arrive in Dublin, Ireland
Welcome to Dublin! At 2 p.m. begin a city tour. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral and walk the courtyards of Trinity College to its library and world treasure, the 8th century Book of Kells. This evening, join your Travel Director and fellow travelers for a Welcome Dinner with wine.
Dublin / The Midlands / Ballina
Cross midland Ireland and visit Strokestown Park House. This grand 18th-century estate still has its original furnishings. The Famine Museum, designed to commemorate The Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, is located in the former stable yards of the house. Continue on to County Mayo to visit the Shrine at Knock. Finally head to your hotel in the town of Ballina, set on the River Moy.
Ballina / Connemara
Travel to the picturesque town of Westport, then on to Connemara, Ireland’s historic western province, with its whitewashed cottages, mountains and rivers. Visit Kylemore Abbey, a neo-Gothic mansion, occupied since 1920 by Irish Benedictine nuns. This evening, relax at your elegant hotel on Galway Bay.
Connemara / Galway / Cliffs of Moher / Killarney
This morning visit Galway Cathedral before dropping in for refreshments at Rathbaun Farm. Then travel west to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, rising 700 feet above the pounding Atlantic waves. Later, take the Tarbert Ferry across the Shannon estuary and continue on to Killarney.
Ring of Kerry Excursion
Travel the road that winds around the beautiful Iveragh Peninsula, better known as the Ring of Kerry. Stopping at Torc Waterfall, there is a chance to join a leisurely guided hike. You walk along the lakeshore and past the farmlands of the Muckross Estate. For those who do not want to join the hike, the motorcoach will return you to Killarney. The rest of the day is free.
Killarney / Blarney / Waterford
Stop at Blarney Castle and perhaps kiss the famous stone that bestows the gift of eloquence. There’s time to shop at the Blarney Woolen Mills, then on to Waterford. Visit the House of Waterford Crystal for an interesting visual journey of over 225 years of glassmaking.
Waterford / Dublin
Meet local Jack Burtchaell and hear about a gallery of rogues and rascals, all delivered in an entertaining style by a master storyteller. Then, return to Dublin. Make a stop at the Guinness Storehouse and discover what goes into making a pint of Guinness. Your evening is free.
It all looks so amazing, and I'm grateful for this opportunity. I realize how lucky we are to take this trip, and I fully intend to soak up every second possible and glue those memories in my mind. 2012 is indeed the year of making dreams come true. We've booked and made the dream come true, now we need only to wait a few months to live it. I've never seen a sunrise. Maybe I'll have the chance while we're over there.