I’m in Ireland! I flew into Shannon, in County Clare, where I cleared customs and found Emma, our Tour Director, waiting at the gate with a Go Ahead sign. I had just enough time to grab a much-needed coffee before the rest of the group assembled and we all hopped on the bus to Galway.
I have to admit that I was not looking forward to an hour-plus bus ride after a long day of traveling, but the scenery as we drove through the countryside was so lovely that it was a really relaxing experience—lots of rolling hills, grazing animals and, of course, plenty of green.
The best part of the drive was Emma’s commentary as we went. We got a great introduction to Ireland as a whole, from learning the four provinces (that’d be Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht) to witnessing the famous Irish spirit that is amazingly well-known, despite the fact that the country is only about the size of West Virginia. “We tend to punch above our weight when it comes to cultural recognition,” Emma said.
She also told us all about Irish Coffee (purportedly created in the early days of transatlantic flights to ease travelers’ nerves) and the story of the humble fairy tree that diverted a multi-million pound highway project. We passed by the West Clare Railway (made famous by the classic Percy French song) as well as Thoor Ballylee, the tower once owned by W.B. Yeats.
When we got to the hotel, we had time to settle in to our rooms and explore Galway on our own for a bit. My travel buddy Katie and I opted for some souvenir shopping (I picked up an authentic, hand-knit wool hat that I never want to take off) and a quick lunch before meeting the group back in the hotel lobby for a guided tour of the town. I can’t believe how much history we’ve already learned, and it’s only been one day!
Later at the hotel, we had our welcome dinner. It was fun to meet the other people in our group and learn more about them. Emma had us each share something interesting about ourselves. It turns out that our group is made up of a woman who biked 180 miles for charity, a man who has skied for four decades, a skeeball champion, a woman who works with wolves and a few couples celebrating some fairly momentous anniversaries. Pretty cool, huh?
– Jessie R., Editor