We made it to Ireland at 5am on a rainy Friday. The first time we were in Ireland I fell in love with the country and being back with Cillian to spend time in the countryside, in a home where he would be the fifth generation since it was built, and for him to meet his Irish roots was something we had been looking forward to since I peed on that stick.
What we didn’t account for was how we had changed, and what we normally prioritized on a vacation was no longer at the top. Don’t get me wrong, taking part of a lock-in is still on my bucket list. We figured ahead of the trip that Cillian was still a bit too young for pub crawls throughout Dublin, Galway and Killarney, and putting a 2.5 month old in a car for eight hours, while we drive the winding roads of Ireland made for go-carts and sheep (not trucks and busses, although they seem to miraculously pass each other without causing an accident – take note all North American drivers) would be us tempting the fates and our normally car happy baby. We did however think we could fit in a quick three day road trip up to Northern Ireland, an overnight in Dublin and perhaps another in Galway. See when we traveled in the past we were convinced that we could control time and no clock would tell us what was unrealistic to do in a 24 hour period.
My partner’s home is situated in a postcard, between fairy forts and rainbows, down the road from castles and bordering a lake containing an island with 13th century ruins, plus the two donkeys that now call part of the land home. Before I had visited I thought places like this only existed in Gerard Butler and Amy Adam movies, and it could be completely feasible for us to happily spend all our two weeks here, but we did want to do a bit of exploring and eating our way through Ireland.
The first thing to realize about Ireland is that while the country is small and when looking at a map you believe you can fit in a lot of sightseeing in one day, the roads mentioned above extend your travel time two fold; which meant that after a day trip to Sligo we realized perhaps our previous plans would have to wait for a future trip, when Cillian understood that the destination is worth the journey.
In regards to our favourite pastime – eating, we had learned a few lessons from taking Cillian out to restaurants and pubs since he was one week old, we understood what sort of atmosphere and seating arrangements worked, and which ones required all of my grade six Tetris skills.
We had some fantastic day trips to abandon beaches and surf towns, wool mills where Cillian was the star attraction to a tour bus full of British grandparents, we took a train ride into Dublin where we quickly realized everything is bigger in North America, including our stroller – in our defence we have to walk through five feet of snow for six months of the year, so our stroller best keep up. We ate at Ireland’s best Gastropub, the family’s namesake pub, a hidden breakfast gem and locals only dessert restaurant to name a few, as well as cooked many feasts at the home. We went down the lane to visit old estates and hiked up Molly Hill, discovered one of the first roads in Europe, played on the recently built playground down the way, and of course took walks in the rain. The best part of the trip was spending time with my partner’s family and childhood friends. To get glimpse of his life before Canada, to see the pride he had in showing off Cillian and the love that his family has for the newest edition. I don’t know if any new parent has received as many kidnapping threats as we did when our time to return to Canada neared.
As Cillian grows it is very important to us that he gets to discover his many different roots, including but not limited to Ireland, Germany and of course Canada, and like his parents identifies as a transatlantic soul.