Thursday, June 27, 2013

The emerald dream: Planning an Irish adventure

Ever have one of those way-out-there dreams—something you wished for a lifetime, but never thought would come true? 

For me—and for my octogenarian mother—the dream was a trip to my maternal grandmother’s ancestral home—Ireland. 

Mother and I first talked of the trip a couple decades ago, but the stars didn’t align to make the trip a reality back then. 

This time they did. Accumulated airline miles helped. A trip such as this is easier to finagle when airfare isn’t in the budget. 

I knew several things going into the trip. 

First, we were limited in our choice of dates. We needed to schedule our flight quickly once we decided we were going so that we could arrive in Ireland in decent weather, but before higher in-season tour rates and lodging prices applied.

Two, I didn’t want to drive in a country which allegedly had narrow winding roads (ironic considering I live in Missouri, where such roads are commonplace), some big cities and where people drove on the “wrong side” of the road. 

Three, we knew that we didn’t want to miss seeing County Limerick, from which we knew some of our ancestors emigrated during the potato famine of the mid-1800s. (The accompanying photo is of the Famine Memorial along the River Liffey in Dublin.)

A diligent researcher, I spent hours on the Internet, pouring over train and bus schedules, looking at hotel and bed and breakfast websites, and pondering over tour company itineraries. The more I looked, the less confident I felt that I could plan the trip and the more overwhelmed I became. 

“What if I booked a trip or a room and the website I chose was a scam?” I wondered. “How on earth would I know from here in the States what company over there was legit?” 

Finally, I cashed in a “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” chip—I phoned a friend. 

One of my high school classmates has made several trips to Ireland, with her dad, her mom, siblings and friends. If there was anyone I trusted in steering me right, it was my Irish classmate. 

Her advice: “Mom and I went on a CIE bus tour. It was great, especially for a first-time visit.”

Whew! I had that decision out of the way. 

Now I was back to the drawing board to find a trip that went where we wanted to go—along the coast of southern Ireland and to Limerick during the dates we’d be in country. The coastal trip wasn’t a problem. We could see the sites we wanted to see—the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle and County Cork—but Limerick wasn’t on any itinerary that would fit our schedule. 

So what did I do? I planned a side trip—on my own. I just had to find a little village in Limerick that was easily accessible using public transportation and that had the charm we always imagined our “homeland” to hold. 

I found it—the village of Adare—and it didn’t disappoint. I also scheduled one extra day on our own in Dublin before we left the country. I was glad I did.

In my next post, I’ll share what went into preparing for the trip and some of the ways we found to make our travel easier—here in the States, in the air and on the Emerald Isle. 

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2013 (Words and image)