And the ones I can’t wait to visit next …
I’ve been lucky enough to visit some of the most beautiful places in the world. And never have I appreciated it more than now, when travel is prohibited or limited. Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself looking back through old holiday photos (on my phone, though now would be a really good time to start printing out photos and making whole holiday albums like my family used to). It’s a way to escape the present, remember good times and think of and plan for the better days to come.
There were trips to Paris that multiplied quickly before my eyes – I couldn’t stay away after my first trip in 2017 and have visited a couple of times each year since for weekends filled with walks along the Seine, shopping in Le Marais and sunsets at the Sacré-Cœur, coffee stops in little patisseries and delicious late-night meals in some of the city’s new wine bars and restaurants. I began to feel like I knew the city, the streets and squares became familiar and I returned time and time again to particular restaurants and cafés; finding your own “locals” in foreign cities is a special thing. I had planned to visit in May with my brother and his partner to show them the places I love, to show them a slice of “my Paris” and let them fall in love with it too. Plans are on hold.
There was an epic three-week holiday to Cuba in 2016 for which I saved and planned for months in advance. An extended period of travel was never in my sights after college, I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do and was eager to start working straight away, but I still felt the urge to go further than my usual trips to Europe, even just for a short time. Having visited as a child in 2000 I had few memories of the country and wanted to explore it again as an adult. Seeing Havana is something I’ll never forget. Somehow it manages to be exactly as you imagine it from pictures and at the same time totally exceeds your expectations. It’s a special city that’s vibrant and so full of life and art and music, the culture rains down from the rooftops. Tranquil Trinidad was exactly what was needed after a week exploring the capital (and its many mojito bars…)
There were multiple trips to Barcelona, where a music festival was always tied into a week on the beach providing the best of both worlds. It was here that I found my favourite restaurant, a little local eatery up in the hills near Poble Sec, serving exquisite, authentic Venetian food and good wine. Then there was a villa in Tuscany with family and friends that felt like something out of a movie. Olive groves and winding roads, busy piazzas and gallons of gelato. Day trips to Pisa and Florence for a culture fix, lounging and reading. There was a week in Mallorca with a rental car on windy upward roads that are intimidating (to say the least) for a somewhat nervous driver. But quiet coves and picturesque beaches won out in the end and the memories are filled with the sound of gently lapping waves, book pages wrinkled from sand and sea, the smell of fresh fish cooking at the seaside shack and the first sip of an evening glass of rosé. I’d tackle the roads again in a heartbeat for one more day in Deià.
And then there are all the trips still left to come. Because we will travel again and when we do it will be better than ever. We will revel in every aspect of planning a trip, vowing to never again be frustrated at a delayed flight or reservation mix-up. Taking time to appreciate every sight and sound as it differs from our daily lives.
There’ll be a journey to Bali, where my dear sister’s wedding was due to take place this June, but there’ll also be trips to Ballydavid, our local family bolthole outside Dingle which for years was the very meaning of a summer holiday. For three weeks each August we would pack up the car and head down to Kerry. Eventually my mam and sister started to get the train and myself and my dad would drive together in the car. Each year as the roads improved we’d try to “beat” our previous time. I used to feel so lucky getting to sit in the front seat for the whole journey beside my dad, stopping along the way for a bowl of soup and a sandwich, arriving drowsy late in the evening after driving all day. Rounding the bend and seeing the great mass of the “Sleeping Giant” – also known as Inis Tuaisceart, one of the Blasket Islands – in the distance would signal the end of our journey.
The soundtracks to those summers still have the power to transport me back in time – a CD on repeat as we took day trips and rainy-day drives, went into Dingle for supplies or up to Mount Brandon for a walk. The fantastic burst of colour and heady scent when driving along roads lined with montbretia. As children of course we didn’t know how good we had it and by the second week we’d be screaming to go back to Dublin, citing boredom and how we had “nothing to do” (with limited options on rainy days). I remember how the cinema in town used to show the same kids’ film for the whole summer, months behind Dublin’s listings. But these are the times we look back on now with rose-tinted glasses.
One positive of this pandemic is that we might begin again to explore our own shores. For so long we’ve been fascinated with the exotic and enamoured with faraway lands. But as so many of us know, there’s nothing like an Irish holiday – rainy days included. There’ll be trips to towns in West Cork exploring culinary delights, there’ll be weekends in Donegal on stretches of beaches that would rival any in the Caribbean with their white sand and see-through seas, there’ll be weeks staying with friends in Connemara with seafood dinners and walks along the beach. There’ll be boat trips to neighbouring islands and drives along the coast and “God isn’t this great” because we will come to realise just how lucky we are to live on an island with such diverse and beautiful landscapes. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll actually be happy to stay home …
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