Three and a half years ago, I began a trip to Ireland that changed my life in every conceivable way. I was there to study, travel, and grow. And I did. In the hope of keeping track of my adventures—for myself and everyone back home—I created my first blog, Life in Limerick. My four months in Ireland were everything I could have hoped for, and more. Some of the best things I came away with at the end of those four months were the friendships. There was also plenty of magic in Ireland—in the mountains, the oceans, the fields, the friendly faces. One of my closest friends met the love of her life on a weekend windsurfing trip we took that April. They dated for our last few weeks abroad, and when she got on a plane back to Canada, and when he moved there a few months later to be with her. The magic continued this summer when those two wonderful friends agreed to spend the rest of their lives together at their wedding(s). And wedding time? That meant a trip back to Ireland!
On the first morning of my twenty-fourth year, I arrived back in Limerick. It was the first time I had ever been away from home on my birthday, and I felt a little homesick as I made my way through customs. I’d had a similar feeling the first time I had walked into that airport three and a half years before; this time, though, I was older and (somewhat) wiser. The immigration officer greeted me with a warm smile and asked the usual questions: “How long will you be in the country?” “Are you here on business or vacation?” “Where will you be staying?”
Then, he took another look at my passport and realized I had been to Ireland before. “Actually,” he told me, “I was the one who stamped your passport then too!”
My heart soared. The man standing in front of me, the complete stranger, had just welcomed me back to the country I had called home for those short few months. I couldn’t have been happier.
After a much-needed three hour nap (oops), I spent the day exploring the city all over again. I took the bus into the city center and walked down O’Connell Street, where I had walked so many times before. It still felt like the city I had grown to know and love all those years ago. I visited St. John’s Castle and met up with my friend Catherine later that afternoon. We wandered around Limerick for the rest of the afternoon—nowhere in particular to be, nothing in particular to do—and we were happy doing just that. After all, we were home.
The following afternoon, our friend Avril met me and Catherine at our hotel before the wedding. The weather was lovely, especially for Ireland. The sun shone brightly. It was warm with just enough wind to still be cool. (And the taxi came only ten minutes late!) Meggan and Gerald had a ceremony in Canada a couple of weeks before, but they wanted to share their love and joy with their loved ones in Ireland as well. The wedding was in a small, beautiful stone church. White candles and roses lined the aisle to the alter. I felt so lucky to be able to share such a wonderful day with them in the country where it all started. After the ceremony, we spent the whole night drinking and dancing and celebrating the happy couple beside an Irish castle. The magic was everywhere.
Catherine and I spent the next couple of days with our friend Nicole, who came up from Cork to see us while we were visiting. We spent even more time exploring Limerick. No matter how many times we walked the streets, or visited the stores, or rode the buses—it could never get old. We also revisited our beloved University of Limerick, which still had the same buildings and the same green grass and the same friendly feeling. As we frolicked down the Living Bridge and wandered past our old classrooms, we reminisced on the four months we were lucky enough to spend there and all the time that had passed since then. The smile on my face was three feet wide.
We walked to a tiny town down the road for dinner that evening. Annacotty was charming and quiet, like most of the Ireland I had come to know. We ate our meal, drank our ciders, and watched Olympic boxing. It wasn’t anything grand or spectacular, but it was lovely to just sit and talk with two good friends.
The one thing I had wanted to do most during my trip, aside from seeing my friends, was to go to the Cliffs of Moher. I had visited a number of times when I studied abroad, but I could never get enough. Every time was more incredible than the last. Nicole and Catherine had been to the Cliffs of Moher just as many times, but they were just as excited. It took the three of us three long bus rides to get there and the anticipation grew with every transfer. When we finally arrived, I was beaming with joy. We walked along the cliffs for a while before we settled down on a grassy ledge. We unpacked the fruit, salads, and snacks we had filled our bags with that morning and enjoyed a picnic lunch with the most spectacular view. Thousands of people milled around in every direction, yet it still felt like we were the only ones. The birds flew around us; the wind whipped in every direction; the sky and ocean were bright blue. This was one place I would never grow tired of.
Our first bus arrived an hour late and then moved slowly through the traffic on the narrow two-lane roads. By the time we made it back to the hotel, we were exhausted. We decided to stay in and indulge in one of our old favorites: personal pizza with chips and a soda for €5. We had spent many evenings over those €5 pizzas with our friends in House 44.
Nicole had to leave the next morning to get her computer fixed, and despite my pleading for her to stay the rest of the day, she got on a bus and headed back to Cork. For our last day in Limerick, Catherine and I wandered the city again. We had enjoyed delicious food and cider at the Curragower Bar on our first night and had been craving more ever since. At the cozy pub, we sat outside on the deck and enjoyed the view of St. John’s Castle across the River Shannon. Once we finished our pints, we had an odd request. The Orchard Thieves cider was served in tall, slender pint glasses that were etched with a small image of a fox and it’s tiny footprints. We were in love. We kindly asked our waitress if we could buy the glasses from the pub. She returned a few minutes later with good news: no one had ever asked them that before, so they gave them to us on the house! As Catherine and I walked to the bus stop, we laughed over our silly request and how ridiculous we must have looked. But we had our pint glasses and we were happy!
Later that evening, Catherine packed up her things; she was off to Cork to spend some more time with Nicole before going back to France. I took another long nap (because having so much fun is exhausting), and woke up in the evening with a few hours still left of my trip. I wanted to make the most of the little time I had left, so I grabbed my Birkenstocks and headed down the road to walk around UL one more time. The evening was cool and quiet. Everything from the clouds to the water glowed blue in the summer twilight.
I woke early the next morning, before even the sun rose, and made my way to the airport. I had seen many of the same people I had spent my time with the first time around, and I’d done many of the same things. It was different now, of course, but being back was everything I could have asked for. The magic was still there.