I knew I will like it! I mean come on I watched endless Irish videos on what to see, where to eat, where to go and what to do. I even downloaded Irish music on spotify (ok, I have not listened to it once yet but I do have it just in case) I learnt a lot, and I liked what I’ve learnt!This was my first trip to Ireland, and this was my first trip alone, ever! I had to be prepared!
I arrived to Shannon just after 10 am, got car few minutes later and was on the road before 11…so far so good. Until I left motorway and hit the REAL roads of Ireland. I had no GPS so had to do the old fashioned way and read the map, read the signs and do it all while driving! Easy?…not at all! Driving in Ireland must have been the best and the worst experience ever. If you are good driver and confident one you will absolutely love it! I was just scared. But I had a car, I wanted to see all places I’ve circled on my map so I had to suck it up and learn to love it! Of course I upset few drivers on my way. At the end of the day who would want to be stuck behind someone that is going about 40km slower than they supposed to. But hey, at least I was moving! It only took me a day to build my confidence up and next morning I was driving happily, singing (badly, and few of my friends will know that’s true) to One Direction newest song on the top of my voice, speeding through various turns, twists and bumps while exploring beautiful coastline of co. Clare, Burren and Connemara. And boy the views were getting better and better with every turn! I really was starting to Love it!!
I was staying in lovely village called Ballyvaughan…very charming place with couple of shops and few pubs! I decided to go for a walk around the town. And its so true what they say about Irish people, they are very friendly bunch and will want to to know you as soon as possible. Within few minutes instead of my walk around village I ended up in a car with couple of ladies who dared me to walk the Burren hills (only if my fitness level allows, they questioned). They were not easily convinced that I in fact can walk for more than an hour and just said will see when you get back. That was it. I had to prove them wrong.
What I did not consider even for a second was not the fact that walking could be hard, it was in fact ok, but the area I knew nothing about. I was lost for the first time (overall couple more times) after about two hours, I have not met single person, or even an animal for that matter! So I just kept walking. It took another hour before I saw few cows (surely that must be a good sign -I thought to myself), however it wasn’t until two hours later when I managed to come across some people. At that point I was hungry and very very tired! My shoes were hurting my feet, and frankly I just wanted to cry. And then I saw it. The sign for the Ailwee Caves and cheese shop. I was so happy….they had cheese there, it meant that I wasn’t hungry for much longer! And if you ever have a chance to visit you have to try the piri piri cheese, so creamy tasting! It was like eating little bits of heaven. Five hours later I was back at my B&B and both ladies welcomed me grinning. I never admitted that I was lost. I lied, lied that I went to see caves and had lunch in there and that’s why it took me so long to get back. I don’t think they believed me but they just smiled and said they happy to see me back….
What was great for me as single traveller was the fact that people are very nosey and want to know what up to. That was my fear before I went away.The fear of not having anyone to talk to! Unnecessary, now I know. You sit at the bar and the locals will be very interested in everything you do. I met some wonderful people while drinking Guinness and listening to live traditional Irish music. Those evenings were my favourite. I loved listening to Irish stories (well as much as I could understand their strong Irish accent) and just having a laugh. They made me feel at home, like I belonged. I was part of their little community even if it was just for few days!
I drove up and down Western Ireland from Ennis and Doolin, through Burren, Galway all the way to Roundstone finishing at Clifden. The towns are small and it only takes few minutes to walk them…but they are charming and have that amazing feel good factor. Whenever you stop, you find some amazing views, funny looking buildings covered in pastel paints. Pubs are very traditional, and all have amazing soups with home made soda breads (which are to die for). The landscape when you drive from one town to another are just amazing. The smell of flowers, herbs mixed with green grass and ocean are indescribable! You just have to be there and try to take it all in….again and again as there is nothing quite like that! Pure nature….nothing else!
For my last day in Ireland I have left a little tourist treat for myself. The Cliffs of Moher. They are known to be Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. So my expectations were high! I arrived there around midday. Walked up passing the visitors centre and my heart has dropped. I remember the feeling of sadness….where are they??? The fog was so thick it actually covered the whole of the cliffs. So that was it. My cherry on a top of the ice cream was covered by the thick layer of the whipped cream ( and I am not big fan of whipped cream). I had two options, one was to walk the cliffs anyway without actually seeing them and two turn around, and just accept that it was not meant to be. I think forever I will be grateful that I decided to walk. The fog has dropped eventually and when it did, what I saw was just magical. It captured my heart and I am more than sure it will hold it for really long time!
My trip was over…I have fast found myself at Shannon airport drinking my last pint of Guinness. Then I realised that not for once I did feel alone. I suppose Ireland is like a mother, that takes you in her arms and is protecting you with everything it has…the green grass, the beautiful flowers, brightest stars and friendliest people….I wasn’t alone. Not even for a minute because I was home.