During the waning days of June, five days after completing a 10-day trek around the Cordillera Huayhuash of Peru, I boarded a train bound for Jasper, Alberta with two of my closest friends. We piled into the narrow compartment of a sleeper car, pulled out two bottles of wine, unwrapped the prosciutto and cheese we had purchased at the Granville Island Public Market, and raised plastic cups filled with Cab Sauv in a toast to Canada.
When thinking back on my various travels, an inanimate object usually comes to mind to summarize the place—Florence’s Duomo, Cambodia’s Temples of Angkor, the fjords of Western Norway. Not so Morocco. I returned from that colorful country last week filled with slivers of stories of the lives of people with whom I intersected for only a moment or two as I passed through their world. The varied fabrics of their personalities left me with a fondness for the country that no dazzling riad or crumbling kasbah could similarly impart.
1,813 kilometers, seven days, six hotels, untold pints of Guinness, countless castles and innumerable sheep—that’s what a counterclockwise road trip around Ireland looks like. I’ll admit it was an aggressive itinerary we envisaged: from Dublin to Belfast, Belfast to Ballymote via the Giant’s Causeway, Ballymote to Galway via the Connemara Peninsula, Galway to Kenmare via the Dingle Peninsula, Kenmare to Kilkenny via the Ring of Kerry, and then Kilkenny to the Dublin International Airport. Sleep would be sacrificed for sightseeing, and sightseeing would be sacrificed for driving onward, ever onward, around the Emerald Isle.
But sometimes, particularly when you are compelled to see as much of a country as possible in a limited period of time, a frenetic pace is required. Prior to heading off across the Atlantic, I read an article in a travel magazine that encouraged its readers visiting Ireland to take the opposite approach. Go visit the Ring of Kerry, the author advised, but be sure to spend five days there. Maybe you can squeeze in a drive around the Dingle Peninsula, but be careful you don’t overdo it. Soak up Ireland slowly, leisurely, and contemplatively in one setting.
Of course, that’s sound advice for a certain type of person who wants to experience a certain type of trip. But that wasn’t going to be us—not this time, at least. My traveling companion and I were going to try to hit all of the highlights in one fell swoop with Guinness, beef and Guinness stew and Guinness-battered bread to sustain us. It was only during the final night of our trip, while cozied up in the corner of a Kilkenny bar as a band sang a lively rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” that a Galway native, upon hearing me recount all of the places we had seen the previous six days, looked me in the eye and said: “You’re crazy.”
For a detailed summary of the Road Tripping the Emerald Isle itinerary, see the full post in the Travel Itineraries section.