If you take away their stone walls and sheep, then add kudzu and table salt, Ireland somehow feels a little bit like Alabama.
We travel in order to experience new things and begin with the thought, “I’m tired of this old place. Let’s get out and see the world.” Yet once we arrive, the similarities overwhelm us. People are people all over the world, and we’re somehow drawn to the familiar.
Ireland is the only country my Italian-Irish husband and I share in our DNA profile. His grandfather came from Arklow, and my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great Grandparents left the Emerald Isle for the shores of colonized America in time for a spat with the British, which enlisted several other relatives in red coats. We refer to it as the first “family squabble,” with the second, coming around the time of Scarlet O’Hara, another well-known Irish American.
Along the cobblestone streets of Galway, as well as in the large city of Dublin, my head would snap every time I saw a young red-headed man. Not because he was so handsome but because he looked exactly like my son. I tasted dishes reminiscent of my Grandmother McKee’s cooking with her prolific use of boiled cabbage, green peas (often smooshed), and lots of unrecognizable things spooned over toast.
Then there were the potatoes. Thank goodness I’ve never met a spud I didn’t like. Even though she was many generations removed from Europe, Grandmother’s Irish traditions had been ingrained in her culinary techniques. She was the perfect combination of a Southern lady with green Irish eyes that were always smiling — as she dished out more cabbage.
The influx of Italian immigrants in Ireland surprised us, and their Italian restaurants in Galway and Dublin were scattered throughout town. Their food is the real- Italiano deal, although they serve pasta with a side of “chips,” which are homestyle French fries with very little (no) salt. Pasta with a side of potatoes? Blarney, why not? It was all good, and we politely ate what was put before us.
The children in Ireland are beautiful, and the people were the friendliest of any country I’ve ever visited.
As a young woman walked past on the sidewalk in Galway, she discreetly looked me up and down, then smiled and said, “Lovely.” I was wearing an embroidered coat dress from a boutique in Homewood, Alabama. She made me feel . . . well, lovely. Wasn’t that nice? Absolutely lovely.
The Irish Rugby fans taught us to sing four-part harmony to their “Ireland” song during the World Rugby Championship. “Shoulder to shoulder, together standing tall.” Recruiting us as new fans made them almost as happy as winning the game. It was an excellent night to be making new friends in Ireland, for sure.
I think I see whisps of Alabama within Ireland because home is where my heart is, and my heart still contains fragmented memories of my grandparent’s house.
Walking down a dirt trail next to a stone wall on Inis Mor Island while eating a few wild blackberries, I remembered my grandfather had constructed a low stone wall like this in front of his house in Hartselle. Was it something he watched his grandfather do, who learned it from his grandfather? More connections to these people and more touches of home, ‘a tuggin’ at me wee heart.
One way or the other, home can be found just about anywhere your heart feels a connection. In small ways, I felt connected to Ireland.
I think it's lovely. Absolutely lovely.
Instagram with me for more travel pics.