As an Irish American, I grew up thinking that I knew certain things about Ireland. Of course, I had always heard how beautiful it was and how friendly the people were, but I was surprised to discover that there are so many things that as Americans we don't really know about Ireland.
Here are just some of the things that surprised and delighted me during my travels to the lovely green isle.
Top o' the Mornin
I've never heard an Irish person say this in over 20 years of traveling there.
Corned Beef and Cabbage is not the national dish
The most common or traditional meal I found all through the country is boiled back bacon (pork), potatoes, cabbage and a lovely parsley cream sauce, it's just like the country boiled dinner my grandmother made when I was growing up. Corned beef and cabbage developed in America due to the cost of food and immigrants living in the same communities with some who did not eat pork.
Irish Bacon is not the same as Canadian Bacon
It a gorgeous slice of pork loin (rashers) that I adore!
St. Patrick's Day began as a religious holiday to honor their patron Saint
Until 1970 pubs were required by law to close for the day. Irish immigrants in America began celebrating in remembrance of their homeland and it has evolved into the green madness we know today.
The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are separate countries
Although they share a border with the South, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
Pubs in Ireland are truly Public Houses
They are a place to meet, gather and conduct business. You are as likely to find a hardware store or linen shop in the same building. I even found one that had a mortuary on the other side. Many have become more of a drinking establishment, but you'll still find many true pubs throughout the country.
To say that the Irish are heavy drinkers, is not a fair reflection of the culture
I found drinking to be more of a social activity, and many prefer tea or soft drinks over alcohol when they are out. My favorite was black currant juice mixed with water, very refreshing.
Having said that, there is a very healthy respect for the black stuff
During my travels I would often see Guinness mini coupes driving through the country to inspect and service the tiny pubs in the towns and villages. As a woman you are more likely to be offered a glass instead of a pint when you order a beer, just tell them you want a pint, and you'll get a smile and a wink.
We've all heard of Irish Wakes
I was very moved to hear the story about families having American Wakes for their loved ones who were emigrating to the US - they knew they would probably never see them again.
Christian - Pagan - Ancient Celts
As I trekked up the Hill of Tara, I was surprised to see a very modest statue of St. Patrick and all of the surrounding monuments and symbols to honor their ancient pagan history as well.
Cherish the History
That is something very unique about Ireland - they don't remove something just because it is old or seems out of date. A lovely caretaker I met at the Kylemore Abbey gardens explained to me that anything that thrives there stays there.
Taxi drivers are more like professional tour operators
They will give you great information about the local area. It will also be the most interesting conversation you will ever have. The Irish are very well informed about news and world events and love to chat with travelers about all of it.
How lovely and social they are is not a myth
If they ask you about yourself, it isn't simply to be polite - they really want to know. When I lived there, I was told early on, to allow extra time when you go out so you can chat with the people you meet along the way.
The Irish have an incredible, irrepressible, independent spirit
That is perfectly displayed on the Painted Doors of Dublin. At the same time, they have a deep love and loyalty to their country, like singing the national anthem at the end of the night after drinking and dancing. That is something you would never see at an American bar.
They are the warmest, kindest most generous people I have ever met, and the countryside is absolutely stunning.
If you've been there, then you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then you must see it for yourself to understand the true beauty of this very special place.
To say I was charmed by Ireland would be a tremendous understatement. It's not only the home of my ancestors but has become the homeplace of my heart.
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