February 10, 2010


Big Ben

Trafalgar Square Fountain

It all began back during the apocalyptic rain storm we had a couple of weeks ago. I woke up one morning to the rain crashing down against my window, a gloomy glow cast across my room, and cuddled my pillow snug in my warm woolen sweater. As I laid in bed enjoying the rain lullaby and warmth of my bed I was reminded of a similar morning nearly six years ago. It was 2004 and I was a heavily black eyeliner-ed, jeans, flip-flops, and hoodie wearing nearly 17 year old who was currently trying to grow out a bad hair cut and dye job (two words, Purple Poodle). And despite my poor taste in footwear I had somehow ended up in a magical place I like to call Ireland. That summer I got to spend three weeks touring England, Wales, and Ireland and in my tiny brain I'd hit the jackpot.

Trafalgar Square Fountain

Trafalgar Square

St. James Palace

Leading up to that trip all I could talk about was going to England. I had long been obsessed with England and Scotland, and since I wasn't going to Scotland, I was sure as heck going to lap up everything about England I could. We spent the first few days of the trip in England, then moved on to Southern Wales. I was in heaven. I was seeing things I'd read about my whole life, things I'd dreamed of seeing someday. I woke up every morning with pure joy in my little heart. I was in England. My family and friends had joked about how the country was not going to live up to my expectations and I would end up hating it. Of course this made me determined to love everything about that trip. And while I did love England, and it did live up to all my hopes and dreams, there were many things about that trip I absolutely hated. Being there was the only thing that made that trip bearable.

Ashley and Big Ben



The other kids were dumb, rude, disgusting, annoying, and more interested in buying cigarettes and booze than walking in places that had stood for 1000 years! I remember calling my mom one morning (her morning) and being near tears about how horrible the other kids were. I didn't have a single friend on the trip, just kids I got stuck with (we had to be in groups of three or more at all times and it was the most annoying rule I have ever had to adhere to), or I stuck with the leaders. At least they wanted to got through every room in the freaking castle we were in. But it was hard. I never really got home sick, but it was annoying having to schedule my phone calls so I could actually talk to my mom and dad. The second half of the trip we had easily accessible email, which made things so much better, but still sometimes a 16 year old girl really needs to hear her mom's voice (sometimes a nearly 23 year old girl needs to hear her mom's voice too, but that's not the point :-)). By the fifth day of that trip I realized I was not going to be making any lasting friendships, so I decided to just focus on the fact that I was actually there and I was going to enjoy it dammit.




We were in Cardiff when I came to this decision. I liked Cardiff (and I sware I saw Charlotte Church, but sadly have no proof), I loved the Roman section of Cardiff Castle, argued with a tour guide ( some of them were just stupid and by the end of the trip I got banned from answering questions so I would stop arguing with the tour guides), and had and interesting experience in a shop who's outward appearance was quite deceptive as to what it actually contained (this would be my first (and last) experience with edible underwear). We left Cardiff and drove to the coast to catch an overnight ferry to Ireland. That's when the trip got interesting.


There were two people who didn't get seasick on the ferry: one of our leaders, and myself. I have always loved the ocean (I hate sand, but the ocean makes up for it). When I was a little girl we spent every summer in Oregon and were there for my birthday. Birthdays meant going to Lighthouses and hearing "creepy" ghost stories and dreaming about being the lighthouse keeper's daughter dressed in a white linen gown, pining for my sailor out at sea. I was a very romantic child. I don't get sea sick at all and love nothing more than being rocked to sleep by the ocean's lullaby. I remember being on the deck of our ferry watching the sun set as the sea mist sprayed my face. It was bliss. Then I went to bed and woke up in the middle of the night to find some people (I'm still not entirely sure who) getting freaky in the bunk above me. I went back to sleep dearly hoping the next day would be a better one.

Sun Set on the way to Ireland

The next day I woke up to Ireland.

Ireland from the Ferry

We docked in Cork and met our incredibly charming coach driver, PJ. he looked like a leprechaun. As I entered the coach he saw my name tag and smiled at me. "Well there's an Irish name if I ever did see one." I smiled back. In the week I'd been in the United Kingdom, no one had ever miss pronounced my last name.

PJ the Irish coach driver/leprechaun

Blue House at Bunratty castle

St. Patrick Cathedral


Irish White House

I sat near the front of the coach and listened as our English leader argued with our Irish Coach driver whether Ashley Barrett was a good Irish or English name. When I interjected that my middle name was Louise, PJ claimed his prize. "It's Irish," he said, "No doubt about it." Smiling and feeling rather delighted about being "claimed" by my happy leprechaun, I finally turned to look out the window. I'd been so taken by PJ and his funny manner, I'd forgotten to even look around me. It nearly made me cry to do so. I had never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. The green of the earth was bright and vibrant against the patches of gloom in the sky. I had fallen in love with that country within the first hour of my being there. It was as if the minute I stepped foot on the lovely green soil, something magical happened. I am a firm believer in the Magic of Ireland.

Ashley in the Stocks

Bunratty Fireplace

Bunratty Parapet

If you touch this thing, you're supposed to give birth to twins

As we drove through the various places we went, PJ gave us a history lesson, sang us old Irish tunes, or told us stories in his soothing oratory. While the others slept as we drove, I couldn't. there was too much to see, and hear. I loved everything about being there. My home stay family were so wonderful. They wanted to know everything about us, they brought us to a pub for dinner and bought us cokes and told us about their lives and laughed when I told their son I didn't speak troll because he was mumbling at me. Our home stay mom had gone to school in America and asked us about things that had changed. The next day her best friend came over and we showed them pictures from home and they freaked out about the palm trees and how "lovely" they were. I never wanted to leave.

Former Glory

Cliffs of Moher

the Burren

It wasn't just the people that made me love it. It wasn't just the rain, and lovely gloominess. It wasn't even how heartbreakingly beautiful the whole country was. There was just something in the air, some intangible force that made me love this place so very much. I took the most pictures in Ireland. Everything was a Kodak moment. I remember one day we were driving to the Ailwee caves and as we drove down the road we passed some ancient wall covered in ancient carvings. It was just an instant flash that I saw them, but I wanted to see more I wanted to spend as long as I could there, just looking.

Mini- Henge

Cliffs of Moher

CLiffs of Moher


The day in question was while we were staying in Lisdoonvarna. Someone had converted a castle into a hotel and we were staying there. The night before we'd gone to a Ceilidh. They taught us a jig, played some Celtic music, and I just about died of happiness. The next morning I woke up to the rain pouring down, hitting my window. being that we were in a castle, they apparently felt the need to give us the castle experience. That or they didn't have central heating. Either way I huddled down in my woolen blankets (in July!) and smiled. In that moment I decided that this was officially my favourite place in the world. There were so many things I did there, so many things I saw, that I could talk about them for hours. My love for Ireland is boundless.



View from the top of Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Whenever it get's rainy here, or when I really need a bit of an escape, I go back through my pictures from that trip. Instantly I am back there, the wind swirling my hair in my face. I'd give just about anything (left lung included) to go back. I've wanted to go back since I left. Thinking about that part of my trip makes me smile so widely.

My mom and I were talking a few weeks ago about that trip and some of the things we did and she asked me if I'd like to go back there now, with an older perspective. The answer is of course. And someday I will.

But I promise to pack less jeans and black eyeliner this time.

View from the top of Blarney Castle

There are a few more pictures on my flickr here.


  1. thanks so much for sharing! europe is such a dream vacation ... *sigh* someday.

    ...edible underwear?

  2. Your pictures are amazing! I lived in Cardiff and in Scotland for some time a couple of years ago, I adored Scotland and would happily go back....not forever...but a couple of years maybe. But I hated Cardiff, I was ready to leave after a year!
    While we lived there we went to every historical site we could, including a rambling road trip through the scottish highlands finding cairns and stone circles....
    Despite this, the trip I loved the most was the 3 months I spent backpacking America! I made an effort to go to small out of the way places in an attempt to get a feeling for "everyday" america...and it was amazing!
    This is the post I wrote about that trip-

    sorry about the long comment!

  3. That trip sounded really fun. I went to London and Paris (rode the Eurotrain over to Paris) in April of hmmm 2002 maybe. I was visiting a friend who was in grad school over there. It was a fun time and I totally enjoyed every minute. Your trip brought back plenty of memories.. even memories of the best glass of shiraz that I have ever had, lol!

  4. The picture of stonehenge is dreamy.

    Also: ALICIA BOTICH!!!!!