Late Sunday morning, we flew out of the Twin Cities, snow and lakes forming a fractal-patterned Jackson Pollock painting beneath us. Up at thirty thousand feet, it was only a little colder than on the ground below. After landing in New York, a seven-hour layover gave us plenty of time to explore JFK Airport–we were among the lucky travelers whose flights left on time (or close to on time), thanks to weather delays from earlier in the week. After an overnight flight across the ocean through several time zones, we descended into Dublin. Thick grey clouds covered Ireland on approach, occasionally breaking open to reveal patchwork fields in every shade of green imaginable.
One of the first things we noticed was the accent: It’s not the brogue of the Lucky Charms leprechaun. In fact, no two people have exactly the same accent. Our bus driver could almost pass for Minnesotan. Jet lag hit us on the bus, while just outside of Dublin. But not before we caught a glimpse of horses munching grass in a field surrounded by low stone walls. This is within walking distance of an airport, nearly within a city as large or larger than Minneapolis-St. Paul. In fact, horses, cows, and sheep seem to be everywhere.
Mid-afternoon Monday we enter the Burren, on Ireland’s west coast, where we will be staying. In Gaelic, “boireann” means “fertile rock,” and this area is indeed fertile. Over three quarters of Ireland’s flower species grow here, atop limestone slabs that pave the area, ripping through thin layers of grass like giant boney plates erupting from the earth’s skin. The hills are so thick with limestone slabs it looks like a solid covering of stone, but up close you can see textures, table-sized chunks of rock that almost fit together, but not right, a jigsaw puzzle gone awry.
As we reach our cottages, it begins to pour. Quickly, we unpack and head to a pub for dinner. Outside it is wet and cold, “the worst weather in years” we’re told, but the pub is warm, the food is delicious, and now the adventure truly begins! Tomorrow we’ll tour the Burren College of Art, settle into our space there, and begin to explore Ireland.