Travel Happiness: Ireland
In the countless descriptions given Ireland, none is more familiar than a tag first appearing in an 1900 work by native son physician-poet William Drennan, who dubbed it the "Emerald Isle". From there, the superlatives and aggrandizement's take off "fairest," friendliest, "happiest," "prettiest," etc. etc. etc.
This land of green hills and dark beer is so dazzling and enthralling that, for once, all the hyperbole about a place seems understated. Ireland is everything it appears to be - and more. And in the spirit of Irish over-embellishment, it might be accurate to state that few destinations offer more to travelers seeking natural beauty, modern comforts, entertainment, and memorable times than Ireland. Here, clients will find Old World villagers concealing 21st century amenities behind charming facades.
But this is also a contemplative country. Beneath the stereotype of warm pubs, smiling faces, and happy songs, Ireland is awash in serious ink. The words forged by native writers like Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, William Yeats, Samuel Beckett and numerous poets and thinkers echo from practically every block of its cities and towns. It's not out of the ordinary to hear a Dublin cabdriver break into an impromptu recital of Patrick Cavanaugh's poems, or to have a newsvendor point out a pub where the writer Flann O'Brien once drank.
This highly literary island is anchored by its two largest cities - Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, and Belfast in Northern Ireland. The latter, after years of being shunned by tourists during what is called, in a delicious Irish euphemism, "The Troubles," is transforming itself into Europe's newest trendy spot.
"The Troubles" stretched from about 1969 to the mid 90s, when Belfast was a bleak city stigmatized by cataclysmic violence between Roman Catholic republicans and pro-British Protestant loyalists. Today peace reigns. Chic shops and alluring corner pubs are sprouting in areas once ravaged by fighting, and Northern Ireland is turning heads as an enticing destination with different ouches than those in the rest of Ireland. Although a British province since the partition of Ireland in 1921, it's indelibly joined to the Republic of Ireland to the south by geography, culture, and ethnicity. Traditionally, Ireland has been popular with the U.S. travelers who flock here at the rate of almost one million a year and who - after the British - constitute the largest nationality visiting the country. In addition, according to 2005 figures, American tourists contributed 18 percent of Ireland's tourism revenue, spending more than about $1028 pp per visit. Northern Ireland plans to tap into this significant market by banking on the island's allure to Americans, a country whose family tree has deep Irish roots.
Written by Richards World Travel, Inc. in Hagerstown.