Cead mile failte. I have trouble spelling it and certainly never mastered saying it, but it means “a hundred thousand welcomes” in Irish and it really connected with me. This greeting embodies the feeling of being a visitor to Ireland which goes beyond just feeling welcome, to feeling they are really genuinely happy to have you. They don’t expect anything from you, they’re just glad you’ve come.
Ireland is a beautiful country in so many ways. The land varies from flat to rolling hills, all a million brilliant shades of green. Hillsides are crisscrossed by stone walls or hedgerows and dotted with hundreds of little white sheep. It’s not called the “Emerald Isle” for nothing. Around every curve in the (very) narrow winding road is another crumbling tower, medieval castle or historic abbey.
All those beautiful pictures you’ve seen of the Irish countryside – the rocky coastline, old ruins and picturesque pubs – its really like that. Everywhere.
Its hard to make any progress driving across the country because you keep stopping for yet another photo.
As beautiful as the scenery is, its exceeded by the Irish people themselves. These are hardworking people who are close to the land. “Salt of the earth” is a term I’ve heard before used to refer to a genuine, good and solid individual, but I heard it used a lot here and it seemed especially apt. My impressions of the Irish are of outgoing, friendly people with an incredible sense of humor. These are people you want to spend some time with – maybe over a pint at the pub.
If you have Irish heritage, you’ll be welcomed as family and if not, they’ll find another reason to welcome you just as enthusiastically. Storytelling is an important part of the culture and maybe that’s why you find that people don’t just say hi, they engage and ask you questions. You can bet they’ll tell you their story but they want to know yours too.
And that brings me to the importance of the pub, as a center of community.
We saw towns that were just a blip in the road, couldn’t have had more than 300 people – and they still had 5 pubs.
Irish pubs are not places you sit quietly in the corner and drink alone.
When the work is done, Irish folks like to kick back and have a pint.
The Irish do indeed have an intense pride in their country – the land, music, language, food and of course the beer and whiskey.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, particularly popular in the US around St. Patricks Day – “Proud to be Irish!”.
My response after a brief visit is – “As well you should be.”