I waited anxiously and impatiently for Ben’s plane to arrive at Dublin Airport. We had arranged to get in at the same time – me from London where I was visiting family and Ben from Paris. But his flight was delayed 4 hours, so I found a table in the food court and grudgingly did some work for school. I was ecstatic when he finally walked out of the arrivals gate! It’d been only three weeks since I’d last seen him, but it always feels like much longer. We took the AirCoach to Dalkey, where my childhood piano teacher, Barbara (who left Toronto 10 years ago and whom I haven’t seen since) awaited our arrival at her beautiful home near Bulloch Harbour. She took us on a walk to the pier and then to Killiney Beach, where we had a beautiful view of the coast and returned via Vico Road where U2’s Bono has a house. We had a nice home-cooked meal and took an early night after a long day of travelling.
Ben and I spent the next two days cycling and wandering around Dublin. What an AWESOME city! We were very lucky and had clear blue skies both days, which likely boosted our opinion of the place even more. But just the warmth and friendliness of the people were enough to make both of us agree that this was a fantastic city. We were standing at a street corner trying to locate ourselves on a city map, when a lady on a bike approached us and asked if we were lost. When we said “no, but thank you”, she asked another couple two metres up the street who were also holding out a map if they were lost and if she could help them out. People acknowledged/smiled at us on the street, strangers would strike up friendly conversations… needless to say, it was a very welcomed change from Paris and even Leuven.
On our second day exploring one of the smaller streets of Dublin, Ben suddenly turned to me with excitement and whispered that “the guy walking past us is very, very famous.” I didn’t recognize him, but turns out it was the actor that plays Joffrey in the Game of Thrones series! We decided to follow him down the street for a while, but before we could decide whether or not we wanted to say hello or ask for a photo, he hopped on his bike and rode off. My friend Judith (whom I studied with in Jerusalem in 2012 and is now studying at Trinity College Dublin) told us the next day that Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) is a Theology student at her university. Ben and I (even though I don’t watch the show) were pretty stoked about running into someone famous for the first time, something which we ironically talked about never having happened to either of us just the day before.
To add to our already terrific impression of Dublin was the food. We had a mini world gastronomic tour in the city: Mexican burritos, Palestinian salads and falafels, Indian curry, locally produced ice cream – all which was reasonably priced and delicious. Food diversity is something that I’ve been spoiled with growing up in Toronto and have been missing during my time in Leuven. What a nice treat!
On our third full day in Ireland, Ben and I took a train to Kildare, where Miriam, who is in some way distantly related to Ben, came to pick us up and drove us 3 hrs to Kilrush on the west side of the country in County Clare. We arrived at Crotty’s Pub and B&B, owned by Rebecca Brew and her husband Kevin, where we would be hosted for the next two nights. (Miriam had arranged everything with the Brews in Kilrush, and Ben and I had no idea we’d be staying in a B&B!) I had my first ever full pint of Guinness at Crotty’s pub over conversations with Rebecca and her brother George, Miriam, and Seamus, trying to figure out how everyone was related (to Ben). We figured out that all of them had met Art Brew, Ben’s grandfather at some point in their lives and tried to build the connections with that as a starting point. It’s so amazing how connections made half a century ago resulted in Ben and me sitting in a cozy pub in the small town of Kilrush (population 2,700) in 2014.
The next day, Miriam’s sister, Catherine, drove us to Kilkee to see the picturesque cliffs along the Atlantic shore. My oh my. Every direction we looked was like a postcard photo. And because this area is less well-known than the Cliffs of Moher (which we visited the following day), there were very few tourists and no barriers separating the footpath and the edge of the cliffs. George Brew picked us up after our walk and took us on a tour all around the back roads of County Clare. One of our stops was a big “EIRE” sign made of stones on a hill, which was placed there during WW2 to alert German airplanes that they were flying over Ireland and not the UK. I, for one, thought that was grand! The next day, Miriam met us at Crotty’s and drove us to Lahinche, where Seamus waited for us and then brought us to see the Cliffs of Moher and the Burrens (a vast hilly limestone landscape). Both places were breathtakingly beautiful!
My adventure ended just as it started: waiting at Dublin airport. But this time, I was there with Ben…trying to get some sleep on some chairs while waiting our early morning flight back to Brussels and chatting about the wonderful week we spent together. I feel so grateful for having had the chance to visit Ireland and appreciative of everyone who took the time time to host us, treat us to delicious meals, and show us around the beautiful country. I had a most fantastic time and hope to visit again soon.