Ireland is the most romantic place in the world. Its not Paris, “The City of Lights” or “The City of Love.” It’s not the sunny vineyards of southern Italy or the art of Rome, the waterways in Venice, the seaside in Greece, or the sexy Spanish men who might become lovers. It’s none of those things. Ireland is green, it is full of sheep and it is windy and rainy. It literally does nothing but rain up to 225 days of the year. It’s miserably cold, and sometimes foggy, and you’ll be up to your ankles in mud, constantly smelling like the smoke from the peat fires necessary to retain the slightest bit of warmth. But I’ll say it again because it’s worth saying twice; Ireland is the most romantic place in the world. It is a place that wooed me, captured my heart, and left me pining to return.
The number one best day of my life was one spent in Ireland. The miniscule town of Portmagee is really more of a village, which boasts exactly two pubs, one pink hotel, one grocery store, and one angry bull in the field next to the one church with two red doors, which is one block away from the one shop, across the bay from the one tiny museum, overlooking the many colorful boats docked at the one pier.
The day began in the usual way, waking up to the sound of the rain on the roof, and going downstairs for coffee and porridge. Perhaps some eggs on toast. Though we had planned on taking one of the small boats out to Skellig Michael that day, the rain was ominous and the seas were rough, and we feared our voyage would be cancelled. In a brilliant display of sunlight on both the water from the raindrops and the water of the sea, the clouds disappeared, a rainbow appeared, and our trip was scheduled to go. We scuffled down to the one pier, put on enormous yellow rain pants and a matching yellow rain coat, and sat down in the middle of the boat. Our captain, with a face weathered and worn from his many trips to sea, had exactly one tooth. We embarked on our trip, exiting the bay through the one channel, and set out due southwest, where we would find Skellig Michael 12 kilometers in that direction.
After a reasonably smooth voyage from sea to rock, we debarked on a concrete slab and stood in the shadow of the mountain in awe, heedlessly splashed by the chilly salt spray. Our climb began, and we rose out of the shadow into the warm sunlight, encountering thousands of wild and pristine puffins as we went. 618 steps later, we arrived at the summit to see the small 6th century monastery, a small rock enclosure filled with sturdy beehive-shaped huts. From the peak, we were able to see the plummeting cliffs on the coast of Ireland, and the smaller but no less incredible Little Skellig, which is a bird sanctuary, white due to the thousands of mating pairs of Northern Gunnets that have made the craggy rock their roost. I fell in love in this moment with the truly majestic beauty of Ireland.
After a lunch consisting of Tuc and cheese that we ate in the midst of a damp clover patch, each droplet of water on each delicate, green leaf shrinking in the glory of the rare sun, we descended again to our one small boat, and greeted our one-toothed captain once more. Sailing away, I looked back for one more glimpse of Skellig Michael, already longing to return. My heart had been indescribably changed on this one day, and it seemed as if it would break knowing that it would most likely be years before I could experience the raw and romantic beauty of Ireland one more time.