Columbus Irish: The Trip of a Lifetime
By: Maureen Ginley
Since I was a young girl, I had dreams of my first trip to Ireland. I’d spend afternoons in County Mayo, learning about the life my Grandma led before moving to the States. I’d drink Guinness. I’d explore the countryside, taking photos of the sheep and their different-colored markings. I had grand, elaborate ideas of what my first time in Ireland would be like, and when the time came for me to go on this journey, nothing could have prepared me for what I would experience.
I stared out the window as my plane landed in County Clare; I started to cry. This could have been because I had only half-slept on and off for the past several hours, or because I was that excited to finally, finally be in Ireland. Eventually I deplaned, grabbed my luggage, and hopped on a bus that took me to Tralee.
As I tried to take in the sites from Shannon to Limerick to Kerry, I chatted with a pair of sisters who I befriended at the bus station. I happily plopped onto my seat as the bus driver explained, in-depth, how I’d get to Point A to Point B, and not end up on the wrong side of the country – something I was initially extremely concerned about.
In these moments, I was struck by the genuine kindness of mere strangers. People I had never met before were going out of their way to ensure that I got a great first impression of the country. They were helping me without any expectation of anything in return. If these first few hours were any indication of how my trip would go, I knew I was in for a great time.
Now, I won’t bore you all with a day-by-day recap of my nine days in Ireland, but I will tell you that each day was something new and fun. When I arrived to the home I was staying in with our Ohio Rose Danielle’s family, I was greeted with open arms. I was asked if I wanted to rest and recuperate from my trip, or head out with the crew to Killarney. Obviously I chose Killarney, and off we went.
That’s how most of the trip went – we hopped on the coach (driven by the excellent Dermott), went on an adventure, and cracked jokes/got to know each other better/enjoyed every minute. We traveled to Galway, Clare, Cork. We saw massive herds of sheep, donuts shaped like Cookie Monster, and centuries-old establishments. I constantly had to pinch myself because I could hardly believe that this was real life. Weeks later, I still feel the same.
After trips to Dingle, the Cliffs of Moher, and Blarney Castle, where we indulged in some very tasty Irish coffee, it was time for the Rose of Tralee International Festival to begin. After a day of exploring the town and getting together with friends from the Ohio Rose Centre, I began preparations for one of the events that I was most looking forward to – the Rose Ball.
I have seen photos of the event before, but nothing could have prepared me for the event I attended. The Dome was done up!
The ceiling looked like a gorgeous night sky littered with beautiful, twinkling stars. The music was great, the food was delicious, and the craic was mighty. I will always remember stomping my feet to some old school tunes while surrounded by great friends – old and new.
From that moment on, Festival events seemed to fly by at a breakneck speed. I went to any event and every event I could. I cheered loudly for the Ohio Rose at each parade. I tried new foods and drinks I had been skeptical of before. I took photos, videos, and mental notes of everything; I wanted to remember it all.
Eventually, the day came for the Ohio contingent to head to the Dome – arms stocked full of flags, banners, and fat heads – to cheer on Danielle as she took the stage. During her interview, we all sat in awe of what we were witnessing – a celebration of Irish heritage that had been months in the making.
We laughed, we cried, we hooted and hollered. And as the announcement of the 2019 Rose of Tralee (Limerick’s Sinéad Flanagan) was made, the crowd erupted in cheers and applause. That moment was magical. Seeing each of this year’s 32 Roses celebrate their friend’s accomplishment was amazing – that’s what the Festival is truly all about.
When I returned back to the States, I cried again. This should come as a shock to no one, but I was so happy to have finally gone on the trip I’d been dreaming of for so long, and I was already yearning to return to Ireland. As I reunited with my family and pup, got back to Columbus, and slowly unpacked my belongings and souvenirs, my heart swelled with gratitude. This experience would not have been possible without the love, help, and support of so many. I have to thank them all somehow.
First and foremost, I need to thank the Goebel Family. When I met them in February and was invited on this trip, I could have never guessed the fun and experiences we’d share while in Ireland. From the moment I booked my flights to when I got home to Cleveland, I felt included, happy, and well-cared-for.
A special shout out to Rachael G., who made sure I didn’t lose a finger in a wine bottle opening accident. Mr. Goebel, Danielle, and the rest of the crew treated me as one of their own during this trip, and for that I am forever grateful.
My family – particularly my parents and brother Billy – made sure I didn’t have to worry about my dog Elvis being taken care of, or having mail pile up at my apartment. They kept me abreast of what was going on at home, and with the rest of my fam, sent well-wishes and asked for loads of photos.
Members of the Shamrock Club provided me with tips, and some even loaned me a raincoat and plug converter, prayers for safe travels, and more. I felt as if they were with me on the journey, and that was an extra special aspect of the trip. I am so thankful to have that community in my life.
And finally – to the friends, family, FB friends, and more who sent a comment online, shot me a text, or otherwise reached out – thank you. Thank you, thank you, THANK you for being with me on what was truly the trip of a lifetime.
Maureen is an MFA graduate living and working in Columbus. She enjoys coffee, spending time with her dog, and all things Irish.
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