Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

World traveler that I am (Ireland was my first and only step off my own continent), I’ve got a bit of advice to give.

If you ever go to Ireland:

  • Consider going “self-guided,” and not with a tour group. That was the best thing we did right. The seisiun in the pub in County Clare would
    have been a different experience altogether, if we had not been just four American mice in the corner of a very Irish event.
  • Insure your rental car before you leave home. It’s more expensive if you do it there, and you’re really going to need the peace of mind. Not only (if you’re American) will you be driving on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road, but Irish roads are
    very, very narrow. You can almost pat the head of the driver in the next lane. Country roads are single lane, very narrow, and the traffic goes both ways, so you quickly learn the fine art of give and take cooperation. As one Irishman told me, “Anyone can drive in America.” In Ireland, you’d best have insurance.
  • With that in mind, rent the narrowest car you can get. Preferably something single-file, like a bobsled.
  • If you go to County Clare, consider staying at Katie’s Cottage, a home that’s been in Pat Shannon’s family for generations. It’s updated just enough for the 21st century, but still has the feel of a traditional Irish cottage. When we arrived, Agnes had the peat fire
    burning, and an apple tart fresh from the oven. Pat stopped by for visits in the evenings, and offered great advice, and even their dog Prince paid the occasional call.
  • While in County Clare, eat at Fannie O’Dea’s. There’s so much history in this place (just walk around and read the stories posted on the walls), and such great food (I never got past
    their wonderful clam chowder, but my husband ordered other things, and I tasted them), that we rarely ate any place else.
  • If you go to County Mayo, consider staying at Culdoff Cottages, Tom Keane’s family farm which has been converted to living spaces, mostly for the fisherman who come to fetch salmon and trout from the River Moy and Lough’s Conn and Cullin. We stayed in the Granary, an 18th Century stone building that once served for food distribution during the potato famine. Nowit’s a comfortable place to stay, with a thousand year old bog-wood mantle over the fireplace. Tom and Mary took excellent care of us. Tom stopped by in the evenings to tell stories and to help us plan our next day’s activities. Mary taught me how to make a proper Irish Coffee. And their cat Annie came by for a can of tuna when there wasn’t a better offer of fresh salmon someplace else.
  • Don’t overplan. Before we left I drew up itineraries that involved
    short, daily drives of just 50 miles to this, that and the other
    attraction. Don’t do that. Fifty miles in Ireland, for some reason I
    can’t explain, is very different from fifty miles in America. And it
    matter. There are wonderful things to see all over the place,
    and anyplace you land you’ll be close to some of them. So go see those
    wonderful things, and leave lots and lots of time and space to breathe
    the air, and meet the people, and see what happens. That will be the
    best part of your visit, no matter what you do.

I’ll close with this Irish Blessing: “May your footsteps always take you to where your heart is, and may your heart always take you where God leads.”

(By the way: if you click on any of these pictures, they’ll get bigger.)

Have a lovely Day.