Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Leprechaun Went To Ireland (Part One)

Loyal reader(s) of this blog will recall that I started writing it to chronicle my deployment to Iraq as an Army Reservist. At the time, I named this blog "The Fighting Leprechaun" in a nod to my Irish heritage, and one of my nicknames while serving as a cop. (Definitely one of the more complimentary nicknames I acquired...)

Reviving the "leprechaun" moniker also revived my desire to visit the place where my father's family originated...my "Gaelic Roots Tour" so to speak. While it's kind of a cliche', and Europeans regularly joke about how everyone in the USA seems to claim Irish heritage, my own link to Ireland is relatively recent and well-documented enough to overcome any fear of being taken for a "wannabe".

When I returned home in one piece from the war, several events combined to bring this trip to fruition. My beloved Spousal Unit (who craves internet anonymity, which is why I refer to her as the Spousal Unit, rather than by name), encouraged my desire to set Ireland as our next destination, even though it wasn't high on her personal list of places to visit. (Although she does enjoy going to the excellent Galway Bay Irish Pub in Ocean Shores, which is relatively authentic in food and atmosphere.) Without her active support and brilliant financial management, we probably would never have set foot in Dublin, Wicklow, Kinsale, etc.
Also key to launching this journey was the bequest from my late mother, who had passed away just after I returned from Iraq. That made a comprehensive tour financially possible.
Finally, the family genealogical information compiled by my cousin Mark F. provided tangible evidence of locations and timelines of our ancestors. Validating this link to Ireland provided me with context for understanding what their lives must have been like, and a clue to their motivation for immigrating.

Once the foundation had been laid, I commenced doing what I enjoy almost as much as the actual traveling; planning the trip! I started doing some serious reading about the country, attended an in-depth lecture series on the History of Ireland sponsored by the University of Washington Alumni Association with one of my grad school classmates, also of Irish descent, and picked the brains of friends and colleagues who had toured Ireland.  One of my colleagues mentioned that he had recently gone on a two-week "Rick Steves Tour", and really enjoyed it. For those of you who aren't familiar with Rick Steves, he is the kind of nerdy fellow from Western Washington who has become famous for creating "Europe Through the Back Door" videos broadcast on PBS, unconventional guide books, and putting on tours covering all parts of Europe. Since my colleague, Rob, is a fellow UW Husky, he has a high degree of credibility...so I checked out the Rick Steves website. After looking at the itinerary and the specifics of what the tour package included, I compared costs if we did a similar itinerary on our own, booking a rental car, lodging, admission costs, meals, etc., and concluded that while the Rick Steves option was pretty darn expensive, the higher cost would be offset by not having to drive/navigate through an unfamiliar country that uses the wrong side of the road, book lodging, and deal with all of the potential crap that comes with being a tourist a long way from home.

(End of Part One. Next up, "Rolling the Dice: Report from a 'Rick Steves Ranger' ")

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