Everything started with a click. Sitting in the shade of a pine tree, majestically extending its branches at the back of the garden, I was glaring at my computer. The heat was unbearable even though summer was coming to an end. On the computer screen, the very unappealing booking reservation mail from Aer Lingus announced that the return tickets to Dublin were confirmed, the only thing left to do was pack a bag and say goodbye.
This one-month-trip backpacking around Ireland was going to take an unsuspected turn. And it all started with a click of a confirm button. The idea of backpacking for a month in a foreign country was thrilling. After failing a year in college and working all summer to make amends, I decided to skip the repeats. Now was the time to enjoy the present.
The first day in Ireland was somewhat frightening, realising that you are on your own in an unknown country and barely speaking the language didn’t help. But as the first hours came and went, Dublin put on a friendly face and became more recognisable. Landmarks during the day and pubs at night, after a couple of days I was ‘Dublined’ out. I packed my bag and headed to the bus station, this trip would be punctuated by spontaneity. Back in France I had to take the bus every morning to go to college, and always wondered what it would feel like to jump into the next bus and go where it brings you. The bus journey to Donegal took what seemed like days, from bus to mini bus and finally a taxi, because “the bus doesn’t go that far this late at night” so the driver said. The hostel was four miles up a hill, up a dark little road, with dogs howling.
In the morning the sunrise revealed one of the most beautiful landscapes my eyes had ever seen: a white sand beach circled by hills, black and silver waves incessantly bashing against the sharp rocks and rolling towards the beach to finally disappear in white foam. I had never seen such fierce wilderness. The south of France is different, the landscapes are golden in summer and green is scarce. The bright blue of the sky reflects in the sea.
The sun radiates against the chalk-like cliffs. The water turns turquoise in those little havens of freshness and peace called calanques; the cicada’s songs swinging and swirling with the warm wind, smells of salt and pine filling the air.
Facing the ocean, at the edge of a cliff in Donegal, it felt as though I were sitting at the edge of the world. There was nobody around but some antique looking ships and gliding sea birds waiting for a piece of my ham sandwich.
To the West
After a few days there, it was time to go and hitchhike down to Galway. The next three years would take the shape of a dark-haired, deep blue-eyed Irishman from Cork. A few return flights would be missed, exchanged and postponed for those reasons.
We first met in the hostel by the docks and with a bunch of backpackers spent a week of partying, dancing and early morning street singing.
Making the dream a reality
The trip back to France had a sour taste, and the time spent in Ireland seemed like a dream. It was hard to settle back in. A month later I had given up my apartment, closed my phone line, sold the most of my belongings and packed up the essentials in a small backpack: mainly the only coat I owned at the time, and left for Ireland. This time there was no return ticket.
After a year waiting tables in Galway to all sorts of tourists and considering to become a bingo caller: “blue, forty two!” I made one last big decision and decided to go back to college. A challenge really as my practice of English had somewhat limited itself to “want fries with this?” for the past eight-months.
Three years and counting
Two years in Galway and one in Dublin have taught me that Irish drink as if every night was the last, that Buckfast is a genuine drink and has to be drank by the Spanish arch on a sunny day, and that rain all year long is possible. It taught me how it feels like to walk on ice in the small harbour and slide to town on black ice.
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