Dublin, Ireland: Connections to Home

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Dublin, Ireland: Connections to Home

St Patrick’s Day was just a few days ago. While we barely missed celebrating the holiday in Dublin, New York City put on quite a show. St. Patrick’s may normally be just an excuse to cut loose for a bit, but the holiday is also a reminder of how important the Irish have been to the history of my city. A fact that was further highlighted by the reading material I perused over a covert tea with whiskey during our trip to Ireland (AA is an adamant tea-toller).

Before I dive in, I should say that AA and I sometimes have very different takes on the highpoints of a particular trip. Ireland was a case in point, so I’ll share with you both of our perspectives below.

Erika – Ireland and the United States

A wonderful thing about traveling as an American, and especially a New Yorker, is that no matter where you go you will likely find one person in your group who is visiting the land of their ancestors. This was particularly true in Ireland, where we ran into a number of Irish-Americans – including a descendant of one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising come to pay his respects at the site of his forefather’s execution (Kilmainham Gaol).

 

Kilmainham Gaol was a bit disconcerting not only for its legacy, but also because its account of Ireland’s history and radical political culture feels so strangely familiar. It was a clear reminder that, even more so than the United States, Ireland has a rich revolutionary history. One that is often intertwined with America – after all, the Clan na Gael organization in the United States was one of the biggest financiers of the 1916 Uprising.

Our histories are deeply entangled because the United States has been strongly shaped by Irish immigration. New York City in particular has a strong Irish legacy, and there are remnants throughout the city of a time when the Irish comprised a quarter of the city’s populace (which is now one man closer to reaching its old heights, thanks to the distinguished Simon Mescal).

Dublin Castle and Temple Bar

Most of us are quite familiar with the large wave of Irish immigration to the US during the potato famine of the 1850s; however, the history of the Irish in the United States goes back to the earliest days of the original thirteen colonies. In particular, the Scotch-Irish (protestants from the Scottish/English borderlands who settled in Ireland as part of England’s plantation policy) have left an indelible mark on the culture of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas.

Which leads me to the highlight of the trip for me – my reading material (yes, I’m a bit of a nerd). There are a couple of great books that delve into the unique cultures created by the Scotch-Irish, Pilgrims and Cavaliers in colonial America, and the lingering tensions today that came out of these different societies [1]. Fortunately, the long plane ride and my frequent tea breaks gave me a chance to plough through a couple of these.

If you are interested, below is a brief reading list:

  1. Albion’s Seed
  2. American Nations
  3. The Cousins’ Wars

But to Get Back on Track – AA

While I am happy to ruminate on history all day long, it is Ireland’s contributions to television that peaked AA’s interest. The top draw in Dublin for him was not the museums, the Book of Kells or Temple Bar, but the fact that Game of Thrones was filmed just two hours outside of the city. So naturally a Game of Thrones tour was the first thing planned.

Game of Thrones Tour

The excursion to Northern Ireland was complete with swords and cloaks, although the winter rain put a damper on the cloaks for most of the trip. The tour also included a chance to meet a few show extras (who serve as guides) as well as the furry actors who played the wolves. Although our wonderful guide was not an extra on the show, she had appeared on an episode of Vikings (much to her chagrin, she was required to show us the episode she appeared in).

But the Game of Thrones tour was not all Hollywood, we also got a chance to trek through the beautiful Tollymore Forest and the old Castle Ward Estate. As sheepish as I was about the outfits, the drive through the scenic countryside and walk through the old pine forests of Tollymore were worth the embarrassment.

And a Few More Recommendations

For those of you who are are neither Game of Thrones fans nor bookworms, there is much more to see in DublinGalway and the Cliffs of Mohar are also a must, as is a Black Cab Mural Tour of Belfast. And when in doubt, check out Lonely Planet.

[1] This is not to leave out the Native American, Spanish and African inhabitants of the area that is now the United States who have their own rich histories. These histories are – as is too often the case – noticeably absent from most of these books.

Erika

Erika

I was raised in a tight-knit Midwestern family with a strong commitment to service. An architect by training, I currently work in affordable housing finance. Prior to moving to NYC, I lived in Nicaragua for two years and have also spent time in West Africa and the Middle East. I started this blog as a way to catalog musings on travel and everyday life around the world.

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