Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Larry Checco (the author) and wife, Laurie, of Silver Spring.
When, where, why: My wife, who was adopted as a very young child, recently learned that she has biological roots in Ireland. “I want my story,” is her refrain, so what better place to start than a trip to the Old Sod? In October, we took a 12-day car trip.
Highlights and high points: On the fourth day, we intended to take a nice, easy one-hour trail hike on the Dingle Peninsula. By chance we met up with the Maggie Mays, a hiking club from nearby Tralee, who persuaded us to join them. Six hours and nine-plus miles later we had hiked up — and down — a 1,600-foot ridge overlooking the village Dunquin and the Blasket islands, just off the picturesque peninsula.
With one mildly sprained ankle and a near-heart attack (slight exaggeration), that evening Laurie and I limped back to our b-and-b in search of our bottle of ibuprofen. But it turned out to be one of our best days in Ireland. And the Maggie Mays were wonderful!
Cultural connection or disconnect: We weren’t in Ireland more than four hours before we found ourselves on a ferry to one of the three Aran Islands. At one of the island’s local pubs I noticed that the bartender and a couple of his customers weren’t speaking English. “Is it Gaelic you’re speaking?” I asked. “Nae, Irish we call it here,” answered the bartender. And a conversation (in English) blossomed. We met nothing but wonderful, friendly and helpful people.
Biggest laugh or cry: We had reserved an automatic-shift rental car, but when we arrived at Shannon Airport at 7:30 a.m., the only thing readily available was a manual. Tired, but raring to start our trip, we took it. In Ireland, cars are driven on the opposite side of the road from us here in the states. Who could have imagined the daily trauma Laurie endured in the passenger seat while I attempted to drive a stick shift on the opposite side of Irish country back roads that looked more like unforgiving hedge-walled luge runs than anything fit for two cars passing in opposite directions? A couple of near-misses took our breath away (the Irish must all train as race car drivers), but we’re still here to tell the stories. Grateful we didn’t have to call on it, but I’m glad we bought the auto insurance.
How unexpected: Before we left for our trip, several people told us that Irish food is bad. Could have fooled us. We had some of the best fresh fish, seafood chowder and mussels we’d ever eaten. At the quaint Lansdowne Arms Hotel in Kenmare, I feasted on the best shank of lamb I have ever tasted. And pints of Guinness made all of our meals go down oh so easily.
Fondest memento or memory: Although we didn’t have much to go on regarding my wife’s Irish ancestry, as a result of our trip, I think Laurie feels more in touch with her “story” — and everyone deserves to know his or hers. This trip could not have pleased us more.
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