My wife and I made our first flight across the Atlantic Ocean recently to spend 10 days on the west coast of Ireland. We found startling similarities between Forest Park and the Irish villages we visited”insofar as the houses are within walking distance of the pubs.
We discovered that the three principal products of Ireland are scenery, personal charm and Guinness. The landscape is so gorgeous, we quickly ran out of superlatives to describe it. We wore out “beautiful” and “breathtaking” and were just starting to break in “enchanting.”
The Irish people we encountered were friendly and helpful and their musical language became infectious. When a lilt crept into my own speech, my wife gave me a hard time, but before long she was “speaking Irish” herself. The help we received from our hosts was much needed, because when it came to accommodations, we were improvising.
We not only had to find a room every night, we had to survive the roads to get there. Like some of our streets in Forest Park, the Irish roads were built before the auto was invented. Their “interstates” are narrower than Beloit Avenue, with speed limits of 100 kilometers per hour. Driving them was like a fast-paced video game: hairpin turns; trucks and buses coming right at you and the occasional sheep wandering onto the road.
Plus, we were driving on the “wrong” side of the road. It was very unnatural to drive on the left, but after a near head-on leaving the airport, we got it. The weather was typically rainy and gloomy when we arrived. But we weren’t going to Ireland for the weather or the food.
On the third day, a strange light appeared in the sky. The Irish weren’t familiar with it but the weatherman thought it might have something to do with the sun. Thus began Ireland’s longest heat wave in four years. The fair-skinned Irish flocked to the beaches. We never expected to see palm trees and surfing in Ireland, but we have photographic proof of both. We had incredible luck finding places to stay, grabbing the last available room night after night. Usually our room faced the sea; one had a balcony, another a whirlpool. The best one had a solarium, which turned into a moonarium that night.
The pub food was good and the music … it was like the best St. Patrick’s Day you ever had, every night. The only shortcoming we found in Ireland was actually a blessing. They have the worst TV shows I’ve ever seen. We only watched TV for 15 minutes during the entire trip.
It was a hurling match that caught our eye. Hurling is the national sport of Ireland, and it combines field hockey, soccer and mayhem. An Irish woman I met was searching for a superlative to describe it. She finally stammered, “Why, it’s the Guinness of sports.”
We can have our own hurling field in Forest Park by adding goal posts to our soccer field. We should also imitate the Irish by banning smoking in public places.
Ireland”it was like going home.