Arriving in Ireland for the First Time

Landing in Ireland was a lifetime of dreams come true, so dreamy in fact that I stared dumbly at the customs lady holding my passport asking where I'd just flown from.

"Where did I come from...?", I wondered to myself.

I smiled to bide myself time, "Um...", a laugh bought me another couple seconds until it clicked, "Brussels!", I remembered.

"And what are you doing in Ireland?", she asked, a little less skeptical than she could have been given my delayed answer to what should have been a straightforward response.

"Guinness, good times, this sort of thing", I replied. She smiled and agreed this was a good reason to visit, this was marked by a literal stamp of approval. I was in Ireland, finally.

I walked from the airport to the highway and stuck my thumb out, this quickly yielded a car with a couple guys happy to take me into Dublin. I hopped out and got to walking along until I saw a pub where I made good on my promise to the customs lady. Along with the beautiful pint of Guinness I had some lamb stew and felt the warm embrace of God himself suggesting that I'd reached nirvana.

Apparently God is a Buddhist.

Next I went straight to Flannery's Bar in Dublin, a lackluster start to what would be a sensational adventure, unbeknownst to me in the very moment. Being that my last name was Flannery I had quietly decided to myself that while I was in Ireland I would make a point of visiting every bar with the Flannery name I could find. A simple mission that would become so much more, but I'll get into that in my next post.

After sipping a Kilkenny (a beer my parents got me as a joke souvenir when I was a kid after they returned from an overseas trip) there at Flannery's, in front of a bartender who was indifferent to the name I showed her on my passport, I walked to Christian's apartment.

I'd found Christian on Couchsurfing, him and his girlfriend both worked for LinkedIn and agreed to host me for a few days there in the city. We ran around checking out some nearby craft breweries and getting a bite to eat before returning for the night.

I spent the next day paying my respects, going on the obligatory tour of the great Guinness brewery. Following that I thoroughly enjoyed the Dublin version of my typical aimless city wander I've done countless times around the world. Fish and chips, pints of Guinness and generally kicking around.

The next day my hosts invited me to come hang in their big fancy tech office for part of the day, this involved a lot of computer time and a big free catered lunch, which is a perk they enjoyed from a different restaurant every day.

That night involved some more Guinness and kicking around, but by the next day I was packing off on my own, walking some ten kilometers to the south of the city and the start of Wicklow Way. This was a trail that went through the Wicklow Mountains for just over a 100km and was just what I needed.

As I walked Ireland began to show itself, I took in the rolling green hills, the grazing sheep and even the intermittent light rain drops that were more refreshing than anything. I found myself a nice little campsite perched up on a hill under some trees for cover, climbing into my BivyPack blissed out, still excited to finally be where I was.

The next day I walked and walked through the beautiful green scenery. I reached a small town by mid afternoon, so bangers and mash washed down with a Guinness was an easy choice for lunch. Back on the trail there were plenty of ups and downs and even some hacking through the woods when I got off trail a bit. I once again found a nice little campsite on some pine needles and easily drifted to sleep.

The next day was more ups and downs and gorgeous vast views, walking along farms and moving right along until I reached the end of my trail. At the road I hitched an easy ride, a lazy eyed local drove me straight to a pub where I voraciously chowed some roast beef, with a Guinness of course.

I started walking down the road before dark, attempting to hitch, but traffic was minimal in the country where I was; it was just me and the cows. Then the rain, light at first, then wildly heavy drenching rain. There was no cover anywhere, no trees, just stretching green grass into the hilly distance.

Eventually I came across a house with a "B&B" sign out front, I went down to it knocking, but no one seemed to be there. I went across the street to he house there and knocked. A family looked perplexed, yet intrigued, then exceptionally inviting to this soaking wet backpacker arriving without car or warning.

They poured me some tea and put biscuits in front of me as I told them my story of recent, they made some phone calls in the meantime. Before long a friend of there's arrived and took me back across the street, unlocked the door and showed me a bed, a shower and a fridge with the makings for a sandwich.

I relaxed the night away, eventually a couple arrived and we chatted for a while having more tea and such. In the morning the guy made me a big Irish breakfast complete with sausage, bacon, eggs, beans, toast, coffee and orange juice.

Then just like that I was back on the road, now with sun shining, wandering he road and trails for several more hours until reaching a sign that marked the true end of the beautiful Wicklow walk. I walked another 5 kilometers further to get to the main road, then pointing my thumb towards Kilkenny, the town which the beer I'd had earlier was named after.

It was fitting that this town, Kilkenny, is where the real adventure would spark. Ireland had only begun, there was plenty more in the way of Guinness and surprise awaiting me on down the road.

May 12, 2015 to May 18, 2015