Columnist John Rice in Ireland in 2005. | Photo provided

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here is what we learned from our trip to Ireland in July 2015 to celebrate our 25th Anniversary:

  • The Irish are incredibly kind people. All the mean Irish must have moved elsewhere.
  • The driving is positively terrifying. The “best” roads have half a lane going in each direction with a 100 KM speed limit.
  • The scenery is breathtaking, even when it’s raining. It was almost overwhelming when the sun came out.
  • Irish TV is the worst I’ve ever seen, based on the fact there was a show about composting on every channel.
  • The Guinness tasted fresher and was cheaper. “Tastes great, less shillings” could be their slogan.
  • The pubs have a family-friendly atmosphere and they close around 11:30 p.m. Except for E.J. Kings, where the owner pulled the shades so the music could continue past closing time.
  • The Irish tend to be late-risers. I had difficulty finding a cup of coffee before 9 a.m. Even the golf course was closed at this “ungodly” hour.
  • Besides full-size golf courses, Ireland has miniature courses called “Pitch and Putt.” Players are issued a pitching wedge and a putter and holes are only 50-70 yards long.
  • When you look at the natives, you will see the faces of West Side Irish families. You can identify their features as resembling some family you know.
  • The Irish people are incredibly accommodating and considerate. They booked rooms for us, made restaurant reservations and made space for us at their tables.
  • The Irish breakfast is a hearty combination of bacon, sausage, eggs and, of course, tomatoes.
  • We were befriended by a stray dog in every town we visited. As a woman commented, “The dogs walk themselves over here.”
  • There is a barrier atop the Cliffs of Moher to keep visitors from getting too close to the edge. Everyone climbs over it.
  • There is a boat tour below the cliffs that is spectacular. You can play “Pitch and Putt” while you’re waiting for the boat to sail.
  • Their newspaper headlines are not as disturbing as ours. A typical headline would read, “Van Overturned, Four Hurt.”
  • We saw things we never thought we’d see in Ireland, including palm trees, surfboards and horses running along the beach.
  • We had weather we never expected to find in Ireland, an 80-degree heat wave that made beach days delightful.
  • We never unpacked our woolen Irish sweaters and wished we had brought more pairs of shorts.
  • Many of the Irish villages reminded us of Forest Park because the pubs were within walking distance of the homes.
  • The Irish roads often have roundabouts instead of traffic signals. Once you get used to them, they’re much better than stoplights.
  • The national sport of hurling is the fastest-paced game on grass. It combines elements of field hockey and lacrosse. An Irish woman searching for a superlative said, “Why, it’s the Guinness of sports!”
  • We found the best Irish music in Doolin, where a band member exclaimed, “The priest of Irish music is here!” He mistook me for the local priest, but I could not join them on accordion.
  • We spent an evening at Murphy’s Pub in Dingle, where I was singled out for adding an extra clap to a sing-along song. I was so infamous, everyone said, “Goodnight, John” when I left.
  • You may experience “waves of joy” in Ireland. They start in your toes and go all the way up. I was feeling several “waves” a day.
  • On our last day in Ireland, a woman we met summed up our feelings, “You have to come here to come home.”

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.