Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Amazing Emerald Isle
The last stop of my family's European adventure was six days in Ireland. The Emerald Isle is amazing. The beauty of the country is beyond description. Every shade of green appears on the hillsides and the people are the nicest on the planet. At every turn we impressed with their friendly and welcoming attitudes.
I have wanted to visit Ireland for longer than I can remember. My maternal grandparents were born there, and I grew up amongst stories of my grandfather's childhood in rural County Mayo. He moved to America with his three younger siblings when his parents died suddenly. There was no future for the family in the poverty stricken country. He was seventeen and went on to create a good life in his new land (he loved America and everything it stood for), but he carried within him the spirit of his Irish heart.
My mother never made it to Ireland, although I know she had always desired to make the trip (she was born in California). I know that she was with us as we traveled her parent's homeland, and on some level I feel we were there for her.
Two decades ago, if you had told the governments of Italy, Germany and France that they should look to Ireland for economic advice you would have been laughed out of the European Union. For centuries Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Europe. However, in the past fifteen years it has become a hub for high tech companies and other innovative business growth. The Irish have prospered. Known today as the economic "Emerald Tiger", other countries are studying and hoping to replicate their success.
These new found economic windfalls have lead to amazing growth and opportunity. With that has come traffic congestion, immigration issues, and other problems of the modern world. Ireland is now one of the most expensive countries in which to live in Europe, and one sees that cost when eating every meal for a week in restaurants.
Yet the natural beauty of the place somehow transcends everything. The Irish continue to have the a friendly demeanor toward neighbors and strangers. While the French tell you "Merci" with every interaction, you somehow do not feel their "thank you" is rooted with any sincerity. However, when the Irish say "Thanks A Million", it grabs at your heart and you know they are consumed with honest gratitude.
One visit to Ireland was not enough. I will cherish the opportunity to spend more time there in the future, but a week did not do it justice. We will go back, and invest in soaking up the culture, countryside and surprisingly delicious cuisine. The country is a wonderful example of re-invention while still masterfully maintaining it's generous heritage. We should all do that!
Have A Great Day.