A return to Ireland – post Covid

It is part of the Irish heritage to read, write and drink.

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My first trip abroad since Covid was both scary and exciting. In March of this year I felt caged and yearned to escape and travel. Like all travelers, I had big plans to travel more in my senior year, but Covid certainly canceled those dreams. Confident that I am fully vaccinated, I decided this was the year to continue my bucket list with a visit to Ireland.

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Airports are always tedious, but I enjoyed my four hour break at Schiphol, one of the best airports in Europe: very tempting restaurants, shops, bars, lounges, yoga studios and cafes with a crowd of travellers.

The vibe lifted my spirits. I was able to get rid of my doubts and look forward to my visit to the land where I was born.

Ireland’s green fields are not a cliché. Ireland is surprisingly green and lush, a tribute to the gentle rain and influence of the Gulf Stream. Spring broke through the hedgerows and fields. Sweet Cicely, known locally as Weed, stood knee-deep along the roadside.

Lockdown and Covid was now behind me at least for the time being and I was in the wide world again: freedom.

I stayed with my family for the first week to reconnect and enjoy the countryside. I slept soundly and woke up to the song of the birds. The first few mornings I was treated to a full Irish breakfast including brown bread with walnuts. Delicious, but there’s always an annoying feeling of guilt about the fat content. Silly, considering I’m an older person and the pleasures when they come at this stage of life are even more pleasurable. A much saner voice told me to eat bacon and eggs, black pudding and white pudding, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms: life is short.

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The full Irish breakfast includes bacon and eggs, black and white pudding, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms, and wholemeal bread with walnuts.
The full Irish breakfast includes bacon and eggs, black and white pudding, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms, and wholemeal bread with walnuts. Photo by Getty Images

I walked through the familiar fields and admired the hedgerow and open views, the birds, the sheep and the always curious farm animals came up to say hello.

It was a stone’s throw from the wonderful Royal Canal bike and walking path. Ireland has done an excellent job with the canal roads that run through the Midlands into the depths of rural Ireland. I was happy to see them well used by German cyclists and locals. These roads originally tow roads are now paved and the canal itself is dredged and free flowing.

The landscape along the route is open fields and farms dotted with locks and towns. The banks are a haven for wildlife and birds and a wonderful way to enjoy a cycling holiday that I would have loved back in my cycling days.

Feel rested and refreshed. it was time to head to Dublin, the iconic and historic capital city of Ireland. Stayed at the very central Grafton Hotel with helpful staff and amazing breakfast buffet. I was surprised to find Dublin packed on the weekends and full of tourists and locals.

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I recommend a visit to one of the tourist offices located throughout the city to see what tours are offered and then take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour to learn about the geography of the city. They include all the highlights like Christ Church Cathedral, Guinness Brewery, Kilmainham Gaol, galleries and museums.

Then hit the streets on foot and take a few walking tours. There are many, including food tours, some that go into the busier parts of Dublin and would be hard to find on your own. The food tour introduces small groups to charming cafes and bakeries and ends in Temple Bar, Dublin’s entertainment district. Even during the day music comes out of the pubs and a good time is always on offer.

Temple Bar attracts all the young travelers and stag parties from all over Europe. An area he would personally avoid at night.

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Even more good coffee shops have sprung up in Dublin since Covid, coffee might be more popular than Guinness.

Glendalough is a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland.
Glendalough is a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Another tour I recommend is the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Dublin is the City of Literature, a world heritage site, and is full of bookshops. It is part of the Irish heritage to read, write and drink.

For a “get out of town” tour and a chance to see a bit of countryside, I really enjoyed the Glendalough Wicklow tour – beautiful scenery and situated between two valleys. The site is dotted with monastic ruins, our guide explained the history of this ancient pilgrimage site, one of the most important religious sites in Ireland.

I enjoyed wandering around Dublin, especially Georgian Dublin, to admire those perfect squares and parks like Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green. I visited Iveagh Gardens and had coffee at the MoLI museum, the Museum of Irish Literature. Unsurprisingly, MoLI has an excellent bookstore and the place to shop for Irish authors and tasteful souvenirs to take home.

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I love old churches and Dublin is full of parish churches; I never miss an opportunity to visit them. Dubliners love their churches and drop by to light candles or pray for a sick friend or neighbor.

Ireland is a very multicultural country now, as well as having its own very young population, it also has young people from all over the world. The bars and cafes feature migrant workers, all with Irish accents, joking and chatting with customers in friendly Irish fashion.

Eating out is expensive all over the world, but in Ireland I never felt ripped off because the food is good and the portions are generous. I love Irish lamb and fresh fish and ordered it every time it was on the menu.

Now that I’ve done my first trip post-Covid, I feel like I’m ready to start working on the bucket list again.

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