This seems to be my year for wandering far from home, and for exploring islands. I've had Ireland on my mind as a destination for a while, and it finally bubbled to the top this year.
I was leaning toward visiting Ireland in the spring, but in mid-March I realized that I was longing for sunshine and warmth, and I started to rethink my plans. I decided to visit one of my favorite islands to satisfy my need for the sun - the Big Island of Hawaii - but at the time I planned that trip, I also committed to cycling in Ireland in 2003. I was afraid that if I just went to Hawaii without continuing to plan a trip to Ireland, that the Ireland trip just wouldn't happen. Nothing like planning two trips at the same time!
Touring for me is about the journey, but it's about the destination too. Ireland is supposed to be a superb place for cycling with quiet roads, beautiful countryside, and friendly people. It feels like it's a good time for me to start an exploration of Ireland. I'm not naive enough to think I will be happy with only one trip there, especially since I'll only be there for two weeks, so I think this trip will be an introduction for me. After all, I've learned over the years that one trip to a destination usually isn't enough!
Ireland - one island, but two countries...
My first thought was to visit the Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland, but that quickly changed. The more I read and talked to people, the more I realized that Northern Ireland shouldn't scare me off (and you know, I'm not easily scared!). I'm sure there are places there that aren't safe places for wandering - actually the only thing I've heard is that there are some sections of Belfast that it would be best to avoid. But really - there are places here that aren't safe either, and that's probably true of many cities. It helped to chat with Maggie when I ran into her at the YMCA. She grew up in Northern Ireland and her family still lives there. It helped to do some reading too.
Of course there are places that look interesting to me in both countries, so...
My decision - one island, two countries, and I'm visiting both of them!
Country references... to avoid confusion
As you read my journal, you'll see references both to the island and to the countries that make up the island. I've tried to be specific in my references, but after a while I'm sure the name game can be confusing.
Maybe this will help (and maybe not):
- I refer to both the island and the Republic of Ireland as Ireland.
- I also refer to the Republic of Ireland as ROI, "the south", or "the republic".
- I think I consistently refer to Northern Ireland as Northern Ireland, but there may be cases where it is referred to as "the north".
The posts in this journal are organized with the newest on top. If you'd like to read the journal in the order in which I experienced it, please use the blog archive in the side bar. You'll need to open all of the sections, then click on the posts from bottom to top. Once you've read a post, if you click "previous post" at the bottom of the screen you will be taken to the next entry in the order in which the entries were written.