On this Saint Patrick’s day, I realised that my visits to Ireland in high school were my first real taste of independent travel (independent in the sense that parents were not there).  Although not exactly solo trips (good friends took these first steps with me), they definitely woke the travel bug in me and gave my feet that incurable itch.

My first time seeing Ireland outside of movies (The Snapper), music (The Cranberries), plays (Disco Pigs), and stories (if you haven’t yet, please read anything by William Trevor) was the summer of 1999.

It was a summer of reading, taking chances, and getting a little taste of freedom (and butter sandwiches).

This was what Howth looked like in the 1990s.

I was already a theatre nerd and was therefore very excited to see Dancing at Lughnasa at the Abbey Theatre.

We got to go to the Galway Arts Festival and we caught a play that would change everything: Shockheaded Peter

When we were on the west coast, the Galway Arts Festival was in full swing and I got to see Shockheaded Peter. To get an idea of this show and how it would change the way I saw theatre, discover what was possible on a stage, and set the bar very very high for all the theatre I would see from then on, check this out:

One of my favourite stories in Shockheaded Peter was the one about the hare that shoots the hunter. This exceptional illustration taken from my diary.

Ok, so Shockheaded Peter isn’t Irish, though I did first see it in a tent set up in a parking lot in Galway…

Back to Ireland.  Here’s something we did in Ireland in the summer of ’99:

Sara-Jane and I, after a visit to the Irish Film Centre, eating Leo Burdock's fish and chips, on some church's lawn in Dublin.

When I was in high school, I may or may not have had the habit of snapping pics of boys I thought were nice looking while pretending to take an interestingly-composed slice of life photograph.

Casual picture of Dublin guys hanging out in front of Trinity (ahem: far left).

“We went to a pub called Scott’s in Dun Laoghaire and S-J and I got a half-pint of Guinness.  I tried it first.  It was quite horrible. I expected it thicker or heavier or something, but the bitterness and aftertaste were disgusting.” -from my diary

I don’t know how I managed it (probably got air miles from my father?), but the next summer I went back to Ireland. I idealised that country and loved not being hot in the summer, the accent, the jam sessions in pubs, the laid-back nature, and the slightly worn romantic natural beauty.

Couldn't get enough of Ireland, so I went back the next summer with my friend Ilana.

We were a bit adventurous. We stayed in places like this.

But at heart we were both theatre nerds, no matter how much we “roughed it”.

Here we are showing off our new Conor McPherson books while sitting in St Stephens's Green in Dublin. Check out the glee in our eyes. Nerds.

Since that summer of 2000 where we cycled on the Aran Islands, walked miles and miles to find salami, saw Juliet Turner play in Wexford, drank many Tia Maria and milks, and bought lovely knit hats, I’ve only been back to Ireland once.

While in the UK doing my degree in directing, I finally fulfilled a longtime dream in 2005 to see the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I hadn’t quite thought it through, though. It turns out there’s not much daylight in Northern Ireland in November. But with some good luck, generous people with a car, and a mobile phone, I managed to see the causeway surrounded by an angry sea and get to my hostel afterwards safe and sound and frozen… But I can’t find that photo album at the moment, but I can assure you: the Giant’s Causeway is awe-inspiring.

I hope you are all enjoying your St Patrick’s day as I type this.  On my way home from a dinner party, I saw lots of short skirts, colourful puke, and one loser punching his idiot friend in the face on the subway.  That’s enough excitement I can handle in one night.  Happy St Patrick’s day!

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