I used to be intentional about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 each year. I learned to travel solo in Ireland and I love this celebration of all things Irish. While I don’t like cornbeef and cabbage, I do love Irish stew and Guinness. So any excuse…
Learn more about St. Patrick–an Englishman called to save the Irish after his Christian conversion–by reading Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization. If you are traveling through Ireland, stop in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland and check out the St. Patrick Centre.
If you can’t get to Ireland, never fear. Several Irishmen have shared over a pint that the best St Patrick’s Day they’ve ever had was in Chicago, New York or another US city.
Raise a pint and toast the man and the saint! “Sláinte,” (pronounced “slawn-cha”) and translates to health or cheers.
I am missing Belfast, Northern Ireland. You are only surprised by that statement if you have never been. I have been lucky enough to spend considerable time in Belfast both on vacation and on Habitat for Humanity Global Village builds for two weeks at a time.
For a period of about 10 years I flew to Ireland about every 18 months. Every experience was special. The first trip was a 4 days in Dublin. Epic. Then I won a trip to Ireland at the Sacramento Irish American Club’s St. Patrick’s Day party. My friend Cameon and I drove around the island with a quick trip through Nor Ireland. We laughed our way through learning to shift the car and drive on the other side. We had such fun.
Shortly after that I was invited to join a Habitat build with Northern Ireland Habitat for Humanity. It was a life changing experience. It was 2000 and the Troubles were technically ended by the peace process, but the evidence of strife was still easy to find. That was part of the attraction–amazing, wonderful people amidst political conflict. Oh, and did I mention that Northern Ireland is beautiful. On that same trip I climbed the Giant’s Causeway and hiked to the Belfast Caves.
I had the opportunity to hear Van Morrison live in his home town, and Brian Keenan to read from his latest book at a literary festival. The disturbing political murals are a reminder that peace is a process, not a single vote. Every visit provides signs of progress. I am in love with Derry (slash Londonderry) and spent a wild day in a thunder shower (technically in Donegal) after passing soldiers with automatic rifles patrolling the border. I walked in a St Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick where the great saint is buried.
I made several subsequent trips to build homes or to visit friends. In a recent issue of Afar magazine I spied an ad for Ireland that featured the new Titanic Belfast museum. The Titanic was built in Belfast shipyards. It does not hold any fascination for me, and yet I will go one day.
Maybe one day soon. I am keen to see friends and ride my bike up to the Habitat work site. I am looking into a flying visit before I report to Yorkshire for the first stage of Tour de France 2014.