I’m back from a longish trip around my little corner of the universe with dad, celebrating his retirement with a trip overseas to visit his daughter. How lucky am I?
Last time dad came to England, I was living in London which made for a mostly urban visit. This time around, we spent most of the trip driving and walking around the English and Irish countryside, with a few village and town stops in between. For example, here is my dad in Lacock, a ridiculous English village better known as a movie set than an actual living community because it’s so damn “quaint”. In fact, being there felt a bit like being in a post nuclear holocaust where the only beings left were posh Cotswoldian zombies. Here’s my dad pretending to be one of them:
The weird thing is, people do seem to live in Lacock. But can you imagine growing up in what is essentially Disney World for hardcore fans of Pride and Prejudice? That can’t be normal.
I also took my dad to see some of my own favourite spots in England: the farm, Stonehenge, Avebury, Bath and Demuths Restaurant. We had a particularly good time at the remains of the Roman Amphitheatre in Cirencester, pretending to be Romans in the most pathetic gladiator fight of all time.
For the most part, his trip was a great excuse to see some things I’ve always wanted to see, especially Ireland. Neither of us had been to Ireland before, so we did what most tourists seem to do: rent a car, drive around, see lots of ruins, drink lots of Guinness, and sleep at B&Bs along the way.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather – it barely rained a drop the whole trip. I expected Ireland to be shrouded in gray, but instead it bursted with greens and blues and only seemed black when I was staring into a pint glass.
But for all of its greenery, one of my favorite bits of Ireland was the stony Burren, punctuated by its karstic limestone pavement, sporadically topped by cool neolithic tombs.
We were there for five days, but we only managed to see a small slice of Ireland between Dublin and Connamara. But maybe it’s for the best that we left places like Cork, Killarney, and Donegal a mystery: it gives us an excuse to go back. And I really hope we do. Trips like these make me homesick. I wonder, am I doing the right thing by living here in the UK, while the rest of my family are in Chicago? Or am I missing out, missing opportunities to get to know my family better?
And then I think, if I lived at home, would we ever bother to take the time to go on trips like these? I don’t know. I hope that by living in the UK, the time I DO spend with my family is of a higher quality than it would be if I were back home. Plus it gives us both an excuse to travel, see new places, and pretend we’re Irish monks meditating on a rocky spur.
I should add, my dad is half Irish, and I’m 25% Irish, so going to Ireland was sort of like a family pilgrimage. Sort of. Apparently, the family is from Limerick, but the Irish people we met didn’t have many good things to say about Limerick, so we decided to pass it by. In fact, it was hard to feel any sense of heritage in a land so covered with tourists. But that’s how it is with these sorts of places. Take it or leave it. Or get off the tourist path, hike into the hills and pretend you’re there all by yourself – that’s what I hope to do next time.
For sake of completeness, here’s a laundry list of the highlights from the two weeks my dad was here:
- Aug 5: Dad arrives at London Heathrow. Drive-bys of Stonehenge and Avebury en route to the cottage.
- Aug 6: Day trip to Bath. Evening walk around the farm.
- Aug 7: Pub lunch at The Bell in Sapperton, packing and planning for Ireland
- Aug 8: Ireland – Dublin
- Aug 9: Ireland – Dublin
- Aug 10: Ireland – Fantastic drive through Glendalough, the Wicklow Mountains, then west to Tipperary
- Aug 11: Ireland – Bunratty Castle, the windy Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, and Lisvardoona, the matchmaking capital of Ireland (also full of Germans)
- Aug 12: Ireland – Galway, Connamara and the most scenic B&B location EVER
- Aug 13: Ireland – Connamara ponies, flight back to England, pub dinner at the Wheatsheaf in Oaksey
- Aug 14: Drinking and eating with my neighbors until 3am
- Aug 15: Sunday roast at the Organic Farm Shop, walk around Cirencester
- Aug 16: Bradford on Avon, Shaw village Lacock, and roast dinner by Tim
- Aug 17: Farewell to dad