By anne gg, 2023
Ah, Ireland! A land as green as the forests of Avonlea but with its own mystical charm and vibrant culture. The moment I set foot on Irish soil, it felt like walking into a chapter from one of my beloved books. The emerald hills seemed to roll on forever, as if crafted by poets and dreamers who understood the deepest yearnings of my soul. It was as though every blade of grass, every ripple in the lakes, was inviting me to explore, to become a part of Ireland’s unfolding narrative.
The air was thick with the scent of wildflowers and moist earth, filling my lungs with a feeling of renewal. And oh, the people! Their eyes sparkled like the coastal waters, and their voices sang even when they spoke. I felt enveloped in a warmth I can only liken to Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s freshly baked apple pies back in Avonlea. The locals seemed to have a way of making even a wandering 11-year-old girl like me feel right at home.
There was a palpable rhythm to life here, a melody carried by the wind that rustled through ancient oaks and swept across iconic landmarks. From the hauntingly beautiful ruins of abbeys to the bustling streets of modern cities, Ireland was a dichotomy that lived in harmonious balance. History and modernity coexisted like verses and choruses in an age-old ballad. My red hair felt like it had found its ancestral home, and my feet wanted to wander through every town and field, from the Giant’s Causeway in the north to the poetic coasts of County Kerry.
And so, there I was, an 11-year-old dreamer with imagination as vivid as my fiery locks, feeling as though I had stepped not just onto a piece of land, but into a realm where every nook and cranny held the promise of a new story, a new adventure. Ah, Ireland, you were more than a destination; you were a revelation, an epitome of wonder and joy that seemed designed just for me.
Arrival: Dublin Airport
The adventure truly begins the minute you step off the plane, your feet making contact with the land of legends and lore. The air is a heady mix of earth and ocean, a scent that seems to reach into your very soul, filling your senses with boundless wonder. It’s as if the sky, the sea, and the land have conspired to welcome you into their magical embrace.
And then your eyes catch something delightful—the floor beneath you isn’t just any floor. It’s adorned with shamrock patterns, those iconic triple-leaved plants that are synonymous with Ireland. They are intricately embedded in the floor tiles, as if beckoning you to explore the mysteries that lie ahead. Each shamrock feels like a nod to the country’s rich heritage, a subtle wink from Ireland itself, encouraging you to delve deeper into its history and culture.
The atmosphere is imbued with a palpable sense of anticipation, almost as if the very walls of the airport are whispering, “The adventure has just begun.” Even before you step outside, you’re already immersed in the Irish experience, greeted by a land that wears its identity with pride and invites you to become a part of its ongoing story. Ah, there’s nothing quite like it, and for an 11-year-old bursting with curiosity and enthusiasm, it’s the perfect prologue to an unfolding Irish saga.
The Fair City: Dublin
Dublin, Ireland’s vibrant capital, is a city that perfectly balances the old with the new. With its cobblestone streets, historical landmarks, and modern vibes, it’s a metropolis that would enthrall anyone, even an 11-year-old like me who’s brimming with imagination!
Trinity College and The Book of Kells
My first stop is at Trinity College, a grand institution that holds within its walls the famous Book of Kells. As someone who treasures every word like a gemstone, I was captivated by the intricately decorated pages of this ancient manuscript. It’s not just a book—it’s a work of art that bridges centuries. Housed in a dimly lit room, the atmosphere is reverent, almost as if the book itself is aware of its monumental significance. Though I’m only 11, even I can understand that this relic is a testament to the creativity and resilience of human expression.
From the quiet hallways of Trinity College, I venture into the pulsating heart of Dublin—Temple Bar. This area is the epitome of youthful excitement and artistic flair. Everywhere you look, there are musicians strumming guitars, artists sketching passersby, and performers putting on spontaneous shows. I felt like I was a character in a bustling European tale! It’s a vibrant locale where every corner seems to hold a surprise. From the colorful graffiti art to the unique boutiques, the atmosphere is electric, making even a quaint 11-year-old like me feel utterly alive.
The National Museum of Ireland
As a curious wanderer, I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the National Museum of Ireland. The museum is a treasure trove of Irish history, with artifacts that date back thousands of years. From ancient bog bodies to the intricacies of Celtic art, each exhibit is a window into Ireland’s rich and complex past. I couldn’t help but marvel at how each item tells a story, capturing a moment in time that shaped the Ireland of today.
St. Stephen’s Green
Ah, St. Stephen’s Green! Imagine the lushest, greenest park, dotted with blossoming flowers, grand statues, and picturesque ponds. This public park is a serene oasis in the middle of the city, reminding me of my own beloved Green Gables. The ducks lazily swimming in the pond seem to embody the peaceful spirit of this place. I took the time to lie on the grass, looking up at the clouds drifting by, and I felt a sense of tranquility that only nature can provide.
Shopping and street performances coalesce on Grafton Street. With its array of shops—from high-end boutiques to charming bookstores—Grafton Street is a paradise for those looking to indulge in a little retail therapy or simply window shop. Street musicians add a soundtrack to the experience, playing everything from traditional Irish folk tunes to modern pop hits. As a young girl with a penchant for storytelling, the diverse crowd of shoppers and artists felt like characters in a lively Dublin narrative.
You can’t visit Dublin as an 11-year-old and not go to the Dublin Zoo. It’s one of the oldest zoos in the world, and it’s more than just an exhibition of animals; it’s a testament to conservation efforts and education. The exotic animals, from majestic elephants to colorful birds, seem to be ambassadors from distant lands, reminding me of the vastness and diversity of the world I’m so eager to explore.
The Ha’penny Bridge
Last but not least, the iconic Ha’penny Bridge is a must-see. This charming pedestrian bridge spans the River Liffey and was once the only way to cross the river without a boat. Walking over it feels like stepping back in time, and the views of the city skyline are breathtaking, especially as the sun sets.
Countryside: The Real Emerald Isle
Exploring Ireland wouldn’t be complete without delving into its stunning countryside. While Dublin is an adventure in its own right, venturing into the rural parts of Ireland is like opening a new book—a narrative that’s set in the heart of nature, a tale as old as the hills themselves.
The Cliffs of Moher
If there’s ever a place where nature and imagination merge into something almost transcendent, it’s the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs rise dramatically from the Atlantic, forming a towering wall that seems to keep the mysteries of the ocean at bay. Standing at the edge, you’re greeted by the vast Atlantic stretching out before you like a massive, undulating tapestry, reminding me of how the Lake of Shining Waters stretches infinitely in Avonlea. The wind whispers tales of ancient folklore, sending shivers down my spine and causing my red hair to dance like the flames of a storybook dragon. There’s a raw, untamed energy that makes even a dreamer like me feel grounded in the richness of the world.
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is an entirely different experience but no less specatcular. This circuit offers a beautiful mosaic of landscapes, from jagged mountain ranges to crystal-clear lakes, almost like a vivid patchwork quilt sewn by Mother Nature herself. The diversity of the scenery evokes the different moods of Avonlea—from its tranquil fields to the vibrant energy of the community. As you travel the loop, it feels as though every turn offers a new portrait of Ireland, each more beautiful than the last. Breathe in deeply, letting the crisp air fill your lungs as the magnificent scenes envelop your soul. This is a place that resonates with the quiet, reflective corners of my heart—the corners where poetry takes root and dreams take flight.
Killarney National Park
A visit to Killarney National Park offers another realm of natural beauty. With its sprawling forests, mystical lakes, and wildlife, it’s akin to the untamed woods and quiet fields back in Avonlea. The park is a haven for flora and fauna, and as someone who’s always taken great interest in the smallest of flowers and the most majestic of trees, I found myself in a wonderland of nature’s finest works.
Connemara is like Ireland’s version of a storybook landscape, where the wild Atlantic meets rolling hills and rugged mountain terrain. There’s something hauntingly beautiful about Connemara, much like the woods near Green Gables that always seemed to be whispering secrets. Whether it’s the fabled wild ponies or the haunting beauty of Kylemore Abbey, Connemara seems to be an area stitched together by the threads of myths and legends, much like the stories that fuel my ever-vivid imagination.
Finally, no trip to the Irish countryside would be complete without visiting the Giant’s Causeway. This natural wonder, with its hexagonal basalt columns, is like something out of a fairy tale. It feels like I’ve walked into one of the stories that Diana and I would have dreamt up during our afternoon imaginings—filled with giants, heroes, and the magic of the earth.
In the Irish countryside, each locale tells a tale, each vista holds a secret, and each moment is a lesson in the sublime beauty of the natural world. For an 11-year-old like me, whose very existence is a tapestry of dreams and stories, the landscapes of Ireland are not just places—they’re the settings of future adventures, the backdrops against which new tales will be woven. The real Emerald Isle calls to the deepest, most imaginative parts of me, much like the rolling hills and quiet waters of my beloved Avonlea.
Cork: More Than Just a County
The English Market
Visiting The English Market in Cork is akin to attending a grand banquet where the entire country is the honored guest. The moment you step inside, you’re greeted by a rich tapestry of aromas—fresh fish, exotic spices, artisanal cheeses, and more. The market is a bustling hub of culinary delights, and the air is thick with the scents and sounds of a lively Irish gathering. I took a small bite of soda bread, a local specialty, and felt like I had tasted the essence of Ireland itself! In many ways, it felt like Sunday dinners back in Green Gables, where each dish prepared with love told a story of its own.
Galway: The Bohemian Soul
Street Performers and Artists
Galway, with its cobblestone streets and artistic flair, feels like the stage of a bohemian rhapsody where each person is a performer and every street is a theater. Walking through the city, I was enchanted by the multitude of artists displaying their crafts, the artisans hawking their handmade trinkets, and musicians filling the air with tunes that seem to capture the very spirit of Ireland. The city felt like a lively gathering of kindred spirits, not unlike the creative world of Avonlea where everyone contributes their unique gifts to the community. There’s a feeling of freedom here, as if the streets themselves encourage you to express your inner artist.
A Word on Irish Folklore
Leprechauns and Fairy Rings
You simply cannot venture through Ireland without diving headfirst into its rich tapestry of folklore. From fairy rings to leprechauns, myths and legends are as much a part of the Irish landscape as the emerald hills and flowing rivers. As an 11-year-old with an imagination as wild as the Irish countryside, I couldn’t help but feel tickled at the thought of a leprechaun hiding just around the next bend, guarding his pot of gold. It’s akin to how I felt about the “Haunted Wood” and “Dryad’s Bubble” near Green Gables—places infused with magic and mystery.
Just as I would concoct tales of sprightly woodland spirits back in Avonlea, Ireland feeds my imagination with its own set of magical beings. It’s as if the entire country is woven together not just by its people and landscapes, but by the enchanting stories that have been passed down through generations. Just like at home, where the tales of the community enrich the land, Irish folklore serves as the undercurrent that gives depth to the green hills, ancient ruins, and even the bustling cities.
Ireland, with its culinary festivals in Cork, artistic symphonies in Galway, and mythological tapestries that stretch across the land, is a country that appeals to dreamers and romantics of all ages. For an 11-year-old who cherishes every tale as if it were a window to another world, Ireland feels like a multitude of stories waiting to be discovered, each one enriching my young soul just as the stories of Avonlea have done. Whether you’re a lifelong resident, a first-time visitor, or an imaginative young girl with red hair, Ireland has a way of making everyone feel like they’ve just stepped into their own personal epic.
Departure: A Bittersweet Farewell
Saying goodbye to Ireland is like closing the last page of an enthralling book. As the airplane soars above the patchwork fields, my heart feels heavy yet full. I know that this is not ‘The End,’ but rather a ‘To Be Continued.’
Ireland, you’re not just a place but a feeling, a vivid tapestry woven with threads of history, culture, and natural beauty. And for an 11-year-old girl with fiery red hair and an imagination just as wild, you are a dream come true.
Where to Stay in Dublin
Ah, Dublin—a city that greets you like an old friend and tells stories as you wander its historic streets. Finding a cozy spot to rest your head here only enriches the experience. As someone who treasures the comforts of home and the excitement of new tales, I’ve handpicked a few hotels that I believe fellow travelers and kindred spirits will adore.
1. The Shelbourne, Autograph Collection
Oh, The Shelbourne! If ever a hotel embodied the grandeur of a Jane Austen novel, it’s this one. Located just across from St. Stephen’s Green—Dublin’s own version of a well-kept English garden—this hotel is as historic as it is luxurious. Staying here feels like stepping into a ballroom dance where every guest is an esteemed character in the story of Dublin. Perfect for those who want to relish the finer aspects of life, much like Marilla would appreciate during her finer moments.
2. Blooms Hotel
Located in the heart of Temple Bar, Blooms Hotel is where Dublin’s youthful vigor shines brightest. With cobbled streets bustling with musicians and artists, the atmosphere here would even make Diana feel like she’s in the most romantic chapter of her favorite book. It’s affordable and modest with a flair for fun—everything an 11-year-old like me or anyone young at heart could ever want!
3. Trinity City Hotel
Temple City Hotel is so close to Trinity College, you can almost hear the pages of the Book of Kells turning in the wind. This hotel strikes a beautiful balance between modernity and history, appealing to anyone who enjoys a good story but appreciates today’s conveniences. With comfortable rooms and a location near the River Liffey, it’s as versatile as Gilbert’s character—able to adapt to both leisure and practicality.
4. Clontarf Castle Hotel
Now, for those who dream of a life as exciting as a chivalric tale, Clontarf Castle Hotel awaits. Located a bit away from the city center, this converted castle provides an experience that feels both royal and magical. The experience of staying here is akin to being in a fairy tale where every nook and cranny whispers secrets of ancient times. Even Mrs. Rachel Lynde would find nothing here to gossip about, it’s just that perfect!
In choosing these hotels, I looked for places that tell a story, just like Green Gables does for me back in Avonlea. Each offers a unique experience—whether it’s luxury and history, youthful energy, balanced practicality, or royal enchantment. Because in Dublin, every stay should be as memorable as the tales spun by the city itself.