Ireland’s Misty Shores

What is it that gives us the urge to travel? I’ve never actually dwelled on the question. Being Irish there is almost a taken-for-granted attitude that everyone will, one day, leave this island for pastures new be it long-term or short-term.  We tend to delight in constant mobility. The notion of ‘itchy feet’ comes to mind.  

It’s our genetic make-up that seems to ‘encourage’ us to embrace life beyond our shores. I don’t think we’re the type of individuals who think that faraway hills look greener – that would be difficult given that Ireland is ‘The Emerald Isle’! – But rather, we’re inquisitive about life elsewhere.  

Our damp climate can be one of the reasons why many Irish people decide to move away, usually to warmer places; embracing the outdoor lifestyle. Yet, despite some of the inconveniences that push us abroad, there are those of us who return.

While I appreciate the sun and living in warm climates, I would miss the ‘ole Irish mist’, the stormy seas washing up on our shores.

A few years ago, my husband and I paid a visit to a friend in Nice; it was early December. The weather was so warm that I spent the majority of the time in shorts and short sleeves. I went swimming almost every day. It was delightful. Coffee at a beach-side terrace, picnics on the beach, spending time à flâner – strolling – through the streets of Vieux-Nice… The warmth of the sun on my face, no lack of vitamin D here!

I marvelled at the outdoor lifestyle; I could see myself immersing into life in the south of France.  That particular winter in Ireland, well, in Cork anyway, it had rained for 80 consecutive days.  I can hear some of you exclaiming: “What! Is that possible?” Indeed it is!

About a week after our return to Cork, I was strolling along the beach one morning – as I often do –when sea mist began to envelope me. Despite it being winter the day was mild – it’s not unusual to have mild winters in Ireland, especially on the south coast. I stood motionless, taking it all in, and the feeling was one of gratification. I thought “this is why I would miss Ireland”. Indeed, I love the sunshine and warmth but I also appreciate the sea mist that brings a certain sense of ‘otherworldliness’ to a place.

For those of you living in ‘mostly-hot-and-sunny climes’ do come visit Ireland; maybe you too can appreciate the mild mist falling around you – creating a feeling of enchantment. These mist-filled days are so propitious to having a bowl of homemade soup accompanied by brown soda bread – homemade of course – beside a blazing open fire in one of the many traditional Irish pubs. It’s an ideal time to chat with locals and listen to traditional Irish music. Come explore this ‘Island of Saints and Scholars’; from Dublin, its capital, to Cork, the People’s Republic also known as the Rebel County, stopping off at Ireland’s Ancient East, not forgetting to meander through West Cork and all the pathways of discovery as you journey on the Wild Atlantic Way, taking in the scenery of the west and north of Ireland– there is something for everyone. And if you enjoy walking then don’t forget to pack your hiking boots to experience the myriad of breath-taking trails.

Experience our Celtic heritage, our identity steeped in local folklore. Irish people tend to be rooted to their culture, however, have an innate sense of travel ‘in the blood’. You’d find an Irish person in every part of the world. We tend to adapt easily, yet, we bring with us the expression of who we are through our cultural heritage, be it music, sport, or language.

During your Irish adventure you are sure to hear a number of locals discuss the weather conditions; we are recognised for our inherent attachment to the meteorological forecast. Expressions such as, ‘soft day, thank God’ usually heard on a mild but dampish day! Come visit and be part of the experience; explore the dramatic maritime landscapes of our seaboards.

Bordeaux and its link to Ireland

My husband and I visited Bordeaux back in end of August 2018. Although I lived in France for over a decade during the 90s, I must admit that I had never visited this port city. I was aware of its many links with Ireland which heightened my feelings towards the place; I wanted to find out more… So our trip was one of discovery for me. I wanted to immerse myself in the city’s maritime heritage.

Bordeaux is geographically located on the bend of the River Garonne; its proximity to the Atlantic seaboard influenced its historical and contemporary trade links. However, despite it having been one of the greatest ports in Europe, the city turned its back on the sea towards the end of the 20th century; however, this has changed in recent years. This makes me think of Ireland’s maritime past. Prior to the 19th century, Ireland was influenced by the increasing number of foreign fleets around its coastal waters and, thus, fostered the development of shipbuilding in a number of coastal towns. Two decades into the 20th century coastal communities around Ireland became marginalised.

Back to Bordeaux! Finding myself in this port city conjured up images of merchant ships steering their course up the River Garonne during Medieval times through to the Early Modern Period. I imagined labourers unloading various commodities, exchanges occurring between merchants from diverse places… Links between Ireland and Bordeaux date back to the end of the 17th century when Ireland was fraught with conflict. Irish families fled Ireland and sought exile in France; they would become known as “The Wild Geese”. Irish families played an important role in developing viticulture in Bordeaux. Some of the region’s most prestigious ‘chateaux’ still bear Irish names.

An interesting little place, for me at least, is the Musée du Vin et du Négoce – Museum of the Wine Trade – 41 rue Borie. The visit takes about one hour followed by wine tasting.  The actual building was built around 1720 for Francis Burke, an Irish wine merchant; this element gave the visit a different perspective.  

Another must is the Cité du Vin – City of Wine. If you appreciate contemporary architecture as well as wine then this is the place to be. It is fascinating; however, give yourself plenty of time to delve into the history of wine and this region that is synonymous with fine wine.

There are many landmarks dotted around Bordeaux with Irish connections. The Chapelle des Irlandais – Irish Chapel – is located at number 17, place Pey Berland and the Collège des Irlandais – Irish College – is housed at 3 bis, rue du Hâ. Street names such as, rue Mac Carthy, rue O’Reilly are woven into the fabric of this splendid port city that is Bordeaux. These place names are a constant reminder of the legacy left there by the Irish.

There is plenty to see and do in Bordeaux. In addition to some great wines, there is an abundance of quirky restaurants and cafés. So why not indulge in a visit to this port city next time you’re planning a holiday…