As my husband is fond of saying, “It takes 5 years to make friends in France, it takes 5 days in Great Britain, and it takes 5 minutes in Ireland.” It’s so true, at least about the Irish people.
After 5 years of doing other things, the call to return to Ireland got louder and stronger. Living in hot and humid North Carolina may have something to do with that little voice we kept hearing. After all, the last time we were there it was 55 degrees and raining EVERY day! It’s good for our skin, I thought. It’s good for our souls, we learned.
Vacations are hard work, at least for me! First there’s jetlag, right on the heels of making decisions about where, then when, then what to take. Ultimately, the vacation gets better and better when it’s in my memory. All that isn’t to say that I’m unappreciative of time in a fabulous new environment, but there are always some obstacles in the way…like rocks. And icebergs.
Imagine finding yourself at a working lighthouse, in a cottage, overlooking the Atlantic, from the OTHER side. The Irish side. Then notice the books on the coffee table about shipwrecks off the Irish coast, like the Celtic, and other famous boats going down, usually in a gale, or on the rocks. Such is Irish weather, it seems, a whole lot of the time, as our hosts are proud to tell us.
There were fierce rocks down below, and we quickly related to the shipwrecks over multiple centuries. Little did we know at the jetlagged beginning, just how many, and how ominous that spot actually was and is. The beauty, and the light were a photographer’s dream, and from the moment we walked into our house it all just kept getting better and better.
Long about the third day, it was time to visit a “village perché,” as my husband calls a day trip. In the olden days it was visiting ruins in France or walled cities, and it always involved precarious mountainous roads. Ireland is no exception, except instead of the mountains, we were driving on the left side of the road on tiny impassable roads. That’s all part of the mystique. Live dangerously on a vacation!
Cobh is a small town nestled into the harbor right next to the much bigger Cork City. Within five minutes of parking, we discovered the Titanic Experience. http://www.titanicexperiencecobh.ie As teachers, we have always valued experiential and hands-on learning, and that’s precisely what the museum provides. It had been years since we had seen the Titanic movie, which was so romanticized and mostly fictional. The museum is real, and meaningful and very sad in a palpable way. I will not give away any secrets here. During the commentary, we learned that the actual Titanic anchored off our little village on the ocean, rather than risking going into the harbor, so passengers were taken out from Cobh to the Atlantic to board the boat. Imagine boarding a doomed boat in Ireland that found itself on the bottom of the sea just 4 days later! It was an iceberg and not rocks, but rocks have managed to take out many boats off Ireland’s shores, including the Celtic.
Our appreciation of those rocks in front of the house, and the rocky coast of both east and west Cork, are all part of the spiritual experience of Ireland.