In case you missed it

All of the photos from our Ireland trip are here:

By the way, Google, I hate your new way of displaying photo albums.

I suppose I should do a full write-up, but I feel drained just thinking about it.  There were some aspects about it that, in retrospect, make me glad to have gone.  (Book of Kells!)  But I’m not going to lie, there were a lot of negative things: the flight, the constant stress about Hurricane Sandy,  and the fact that I was sick the whole time.  I also learned that I will never again book a package deal like this; the convenience factor is not worth the tradeoff of lack of control, IMO. Mostly because I disliked all but one of the hotels that were pre-booked for us — definitely not the sort of places I’d pick if left to my own devices.  (And on a related note, whoever invented the concept of the “full English/Irish breakfast” and sold it to tourist traps needs to be drug out before a firing squad.  And forced to eat nothing but his own concoction for his punishment in the afterlife.)

None of these things are Ireland’s fault.  Still, even now with some distance and time to think about it more clearly I gotta say: Scotland is way better!

Mainly it’s the landscape.  The Irish landscape (at least where we were) is lovely.  It’s nice.  It’s pretty.  While that’s good, those are the strongest words I can come up with to describe it.  It is uniformly pleasant.  But at no point was I ever in awe.  Whereas driving through Scotland I was in awe and staggered more times than I can count.  The Scottish landscape has drama, and bleakness, and that’s what I’m all about.  Scotland also seemed much less tourist-oriented, while parts of Ireland reminded me of Turks & Caicos in that there seemed to be nothing going on but tourism.  And the tourists!  You wouldn’t think so at the end of October, but Ireland was crawling with tourists!  Our hotel in Killarney was home to I don’t know how many tour groups of Americans, loading up to see the sights in an endless stream of motorcoaches.  If you listened to the accents at breakfast, you could have been at Denny’s.  There was no place we went that didn’t have large crowds of people, and I think literally every third car on the road was a rental driven by some hapless foreigners like us.

It was not like that in Scotland.  We went to a lot of sites where we were practically the only, if not THE only people.  Even at the big “must see” spots like Loch Ness, I recall nothing to compare with the crowds in Ireland.  This gave our trips there the feeling that we were going to a real place, where people really lived and worked, and discovering it…as opposed to making stops on a “Things To See” checklist.  Some of that probably could been lessened if we’d planned our own Irish trip, but I’m not sure by how much.

Still I’m happy to be able to look back and say that I stood upon the Hill of Tara and ate sushi in Dublin on my birthday.  And we did have a few “authentic” unscripted experiences that I’ll remember fondly:  the cat who appeared at Trim Castle, eating fish and chips with a Ninja Turtle, Captain Incredible, Buzz Lightyear and the Hulk on the weekend before Halloween.  And crying at the Book of Kells.  All good things.

Scotland Forever!

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