Final Thought: The grass is greener on the other side

… but the skies were grayer on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

A couple of years ago, I lived in Galway, Ireland, for five months during a study abroad program. During that time, I did a lot of traveling on the weekends and was able to visit more than 15 countries in Europe. However, I also traveled around Ireland and was able to experience its culture, landmarks, nature, food and drinks. 

I took a lot of bus tours around the country and visited the famous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare; Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim; Blarney Castle and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Cork; Kylemore Abbey in Connemara; and, of course, the Guinness Factory and Temple Bar area in Dublin. I also saw more cathedrals and castles than I’d like to reminisce about. 

I also learned the ins and outs of Galway, which sits on the West Coast of Ireland about three hours from Dublin. It is the city where the Claddagh ring originated, the inspiration for Steve Earle’s song “Galway Girl,” as well as for Ed Sheeran’s modernized version of “Galway Girl.” (The music video was filmed while I was living there, though we were unfortunately traveling that weekend.)

One of the coolest things I got to experience while in Ireland was St. Patrick’s Day. Having lived in Galway for about three months at that point, I probably saw more Americans in Galway that weekend than I had seen throughout Europe in the entire three months. I couldn’t count the number of green Guinness hoodies, four-leaf clover beads and leprechaun hats if I wanted to. The morning parade was comparable to the scene I witnessed when my plane was landing in Dublin for the first time: rolling fields of lush, green grass. 

Even though Ireland is well known for frequent rain, I didn’t see too much of it while I was there between January and May. There would be an occasional 20-minute downpour followed by clear blue skies, less than once a day.

The morning parade started out under a light drizzle that the dancers, band and other participants had to endure, but in minutes, the skies turned to pouring rain—I mean heavy downpour, drenched clothes and rain so loud that you couldn’t hear the person next to you. The narrow, cobblestone streets of Galway were flooded with puddles the size of small lakes, which were impossible to avoid considering the number of people trying to seek shelter in the already overcrowded bars. 

Once we navigated to our favorite bars and realized they were already overcapacity, we moved on to the less popular bars down the street, where we tried baby Guinness shots (a shot of black sambuca with just a little bit of Bailey’s Irish Cream to represent the foam on a pint of Guinness), danced and dried off as much as possible. St. Patrick’s Day is such a big holiday in Ireland that it’s a family event, so it was odd to see young kids at the bars with their parents.

Though I spent the day in soaking wet clothes and bone-chilling weather, I’m so glad to have been able to spend St. Patrick’s Day in the country where it counts the most. 

X