It’s hard to know where to start to describe the weeklong trip my mom and I took to Ireland on October 4-11, 2014. My first overview is simply to say that Ireland has everything this boy can dream of: green pastures filled with cattle and sheep; pubs filled with Guinness and whiskey and with people who enjoy such things; history that goes back thousands of years, which can be seen through castles, cathedrals, and ancient texts; and landscapes that seem like something from a legendary movie.
The people are friendly too – they love America and Americans. After all, America has been there for them through war, famine, and all sorts of conflict. And more Irish reside in the United States than in the Republic of Ireland (which has a population of roughly 4.6 million people). Part of my heritage is from Ireland – on my mom’s side of the family, so it was especially nice to travel there with her. She is half-Irish, which makes me a quarter-Irish. American tourists like us are also the second best thing for the Irish economy (after agriculture).
Many Irish people we met also have a great sense of humor. The food is great too and the prices of things seemed similar as here in the States – which is better in that category than my visits to other European countries.
Speaking of which, I had not been to Europe since 2004. It’s hard to believe it had been a decade. I loved walking the streets of Dublin, Galway, and Killarney. One of my favorite things about Europe is the way the cities are laid out, easy to walk around and many streets are closed off just for pedestrians. In the past, I really haven’t stayed at 4-star hotels in Europe (previously, mostly just hostels). So it was nice to stay at places with better amenities this time around.
While this was my first trip to the Emerald Isle, it wasn’t just any trip there – we went as part of an organized tour, led by one of my favorite bands, Scythian. I first got to know Dan, Alex, and Joey (the three longtime members of the band) back when I first saw them play at Kildare’s in West Chester, PA in 2005, while I was working for ISI. One of ISI’s former employees is very good friends with them and would put them up at his house and invite many of us to come see them play when they were in town (coming up from DC), which was pretty regularly. I also got to see them play when I would visit DC. And, when I moved to Florida, I’ve been able to see them play here at the Suwanee River Music Park (for Springfest and Magnolia Fest) and also at a few other places in Florida, including recently at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney.
It’s hard to believe they are now celebrating 10 years as a band. To celebrate, they wanted to do a trip for their friends and fans to come see them play their very first gigs in Ireland, while also releasing their new album Jump At The Sun.
The name of that album surely made sense the week we were on the Emerald Isle. This time of year, Ireland is used to cold, rainy weather. While we did get some rain, we had a lot of sunshine. In fact, at every natural wonder or outside adventure we were at, it was sunny with no rain in sight. I guess you could say this traveling band and their 90 fellow gypsies helped Ireland Jump to the Sun, at least for a week. Even our Irish hosts were amazed at the weather.
We traveled around the country on luxury buses, with the full tour organized by Hammond Tours. Overall I’d say it was quite the itinerary and everything was really well organized. It was also great to see my friend Joe Lindsley in action. He became friends with the guys from Scythian a few years ago and earlier this year began working for them, managing their gigs, their press, and putting together their musical tour of Ireland, along with many details for we fellow travelers to experience. Joe comes from Irish background himself and his great uncle, “Dan the Durd,” is one of the owners of the Lake House that Scythian played at in Kenmare for their first gig in Ireland. (More on that later).
The band traveled on the buses with us and we were all transported around the country by two amazing bus drivers. For us on “Bus 2,” our driver was “Joe.” He was fantastic. As we traveled throughout the picturesque countryside of Ireland, Joe told us about the history of those places, the legends and folklore, the culture, the government, and about all the Irish ways. He mixed in plenty of good Irish jokes as well. We were certainly entertained on what otherwise may have been some tiresome rides. I can honestly say that Joe really took this tour to a level that I felt could not be topped.
We also had fun with a group of fellow travelers who were from many U.S. states. I counted at least 15 states, but I’m sure there’s more. Here’s the states I can remember our fellow gypsies being from: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and California, plus DC (which isn’t a state). I may have missed a few. There were at least 7 of us from Florida. Some folks traveled solo, others came as couples or with a friend. There were others, like my mom and I, who traveled with a child or parent. That was cool to see – and I think the band was really amazed by that. All of our fellow travelers were really fun people and we made some new friends who we hope to keep in touch with.
Now that I’ve given an overview, I will post a couple more blogs about what sights we saw and the whole experience of seeing Scythian play three live shows and several impromptu performances along the way. Stay tuned!
And if you haven’t yet checked out Scythian’s music, you can do so right now on their website or on Spotify. If you like what you hear, pick up an album – and get to a live show. There’s no better way to experience Scythian than to do so live. And to do so in Ireland, well, that was just magical. Even the Irish press raved about our experience.