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"East best, home West"  

According to a well known Irish proverb, What begins with a Guiness has to end with another one. And according to another one, A day that starts with good weather has to end in rain and tears. And another Guiness, I would add.
And the fact that I made both proverbs up does not seem to change a lot: during our stay in Ireland, everything started with good weather, and ended in rain and Guiness and tears. Or vice versa. Because hitting some decent weather in Ireland can be compared to winning the Lotto. And I've never won the Lotto, or I would be fishing in the Maldives right now, wouldn't I?

It's been some years that I broke my oath to never ever visit any country north of Belgium. My decline  started with Iceland, and now that it has been embedded with Ireland (just one letter-different!), the cloudy sky is the limit: The Feroe islands (the Fer-islands islands literally...), the Arctic, Patagonia and, why not, the planet Mars next year?
So there's definitely some masochism in choosing to pass time  in Ireland in the summer, but on the other hand this is most probably the only season of the year that you may, just may get some nice weather, if you've been good to Walhalla. It is in summer (façon de parler of course) when the Irish landscape unravels!
The island is so green that green is the national colour  (!). Although covered by vast uninhabited areas, Ireland  is the island with the biggest population in Europe. A paradox, given the fact that until 6.000 years ago the island was covered with ice and that in 1840-1845 about 1/8 of the population starved to death due to the Great famine, caused by a succession of mild winters and warm summers (some places are better off cold…) and more than one million Irish migrated to America -until it became the national hobby, and the population kept on declining until 2006!   A huge Irish diaspora lives in England, the USA and Canada, and some 34,5 millions Americans are of Irish ancestry (Sean Penn, to name just the handsomest…). In the 20th century, things changed somehow, with foreign blood coming to foster the Irish genome: Czechs, Latvians, Polish, and lately Greeks, due to the crisis.
But Ireland is also a country in  crisis (one among the PIIGS countries, as delicately put by our friends in the richer countries: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain). A crisis definitely not as pronounced as in Greece, but still… 15% of the people are jobless (50% in Greece) despite the fact that the country has just come off  the  hated "Memorandum" (I remain very, very sceptical though).

Ireland has a unique way to conquer you. It happens via the sky. Dramatic is the word that comes in mind: a cloudy sky with the sun piercing through, and the Irish green and dark blue colours of the sea and the rivers and the lakes, taken to a lower, quasi greyscale level by  the ubiquitous historical stone buildings. The black and white spots you may distinguish from time to time are the famous Irish sheep, beige fleece  and  pitch-black face. Some believe they originate from Black Africa, and were brought to Ireland by poor immigrants in the 16th century, but you know by now I made this up too, don't you? What you may ignore though is that the famous Mohair textile is produced by the sheep that live on the Moher cliffs and feed on grass and Guiness!
(OK, I made up this one too, but the Angora sheep producing the Mohair textile fibers also have a black head, so how can one be sure???).
Back to our trip: what will remain as the fondest memory is driving in the majestic scenery, nothing higher than hills but water everywhere, and the skies. The un-sheltering but photogene skies. And by driving I mean right-wheel drive, at the wrong side of unbelievably narrow roads where the limit is somehow 100 or 80 km/h (can it be that they ran out of traffic signs for 50 or 30 km?..) and where the locals seem to always be  in a hurry, or on a death trip. Until the end of the trip, we could not decide if the car was too wide or the streets too narrow, but my impression is we made each other pretty uncomfortable by shaving pavements and barriers, and sometimes even cars and lorries during the many kilometres we had to share the wheel.

Another highlight of the trip was eating. We had in fact so much seafood that I must now feed on plain quinoa (tastes like low-PH soap) for the rest of the summer. It's hard to eat badly in Ireland, be it an "expensive" restaurant or a simple canteen. Beer is of course everywhere, but NOWHERE as good as in the Guiness Storehouse, the Disneyland-like factory of the famous brand, where it tastes absolutely superb. They even sell Guiness chocolate, absolutely delicious!
Last but not least, one should not forget that Ireland is home to Celtic music (the parents of Enya have a bar next village to where we stayed). Music happens in most bars in the evening (in Temple Bar in Dublin it happens during the day as well), and the quality is as surprising as the Irish clientele, who seems to enjoy so genuinely dancing in the bars, without any sort of inhibition (ugly or pretty, old or young, chubby or skinny). I could not but admire this attitude…

So there you go, another trip has come to an end and I had to write this down before I head for warmer latitudes and attitudes.
Wishing a great summer to my friends,


The slideshow

The postcards


Even sheep need a brother soul to scratch their back!




In Ireland don't be surprised if your seafood sings for you!