The Beginnings of Authentic Travel
In 1998 I developed an Irish Art history course while working toward my Master’s Degree in Visual Arts. Having an Irish background (both of my mother’s parents were from Tipperary) was the catalyst for my first trip to Ireland, which I took with my sister Patt and her husband Jim. We took a whirlwind tour that began in Dublin, then went to Belfast, where Jim’s sister Kathleen lives and teaches. It was an eye opening experience. Kathleen guided us around the city, and the murals from both Catholic and Protestant factions were a visual insight into the “Troubles” that persisted even at that time. Thankfully, a more peaceful situation exists today. We drove west to County Mayo, visiting relatives, then to Tipperary, or “up Tipp” as the area is referred to where my people come from. Mary, my grandmother’s niece, lived in the family home, and she and her sister Kitty welcomed us with open arms, lots of tea, and heaping platters of food on the table…true Irish hospitality. It felt like a homecoming as more relatives came over to say hello and meet the Americans. Mary took us to the local cemetery, where I found out about ancestors I never had known…and thus began my Irish adventures. They led to me receiving dual citizenship, and developing an Irish Art history component to my graduate studies. This involved studying the prehistoric side of Ireland-archaeology, pottery, landscape, architecture, and culture, which I did by traveling there each semester and researching sites all over the country. Visits with family were always a highlight, as were the local guides I sought out to show me the “hidden” places, or reveal the story of a place through legends, myths and folklore. Music, art and dance added to the tapestry of contemporary Irish life, and I met artists, visited galleries, and attended theatre whenever possible. Music sessions in the pubs are a long tradition in Ireland, and one can always count on hearing talented musicians and spontaneous, unexpected, and uplifting sessions. And, there were times tears came to my eyes as an elderly gentleman rose and sang a cappella to a hushed bar. Ireland felt like home, and I knew that I had just begun a lifelong love for this beautiful, rugged, sophisticated, artistic and mysterious place.