Where do I begin? Our trip was perfect. I’m really not exaggerating when I say that, it was perfect. All of us had a trip of a lifetime. We laughed, I cried (happy tears), we explored and just enjoyed being a family again. We forgot about cancer, we celebrated life and were in gratitude for each other.
When we began planning our trip, we thought we would rent a van and drive ourselves around Ireland. My husband and I had done this 31 years ago but then there were only two of us. We talked with our friend, Chuck Evans. Chuck, a true Irishman, who has been to Ireland no less than 40 times helped us plan our trip. He strongly suggested a driver. You won’t regret it, he said. My mind immediately flashed to an image of all 6 of us driving in a foreign country, on the other side of the road with no idea where we were going. Let’s not even bring up having a few pints in a pub or two and then trying to navigate. Nope, all I could imagine was another fine Cornacchini family moment with us in the middle of nowhere, reading Gaelic road signs and the Italian/Irish tempers coming out. That sealed it, we would hire a driver.
Chuck got us in touch with Cathal O’Donogue. Cathal with his lovely Irish brogue helped me plan a dream of a lifetime. We flew into Dublin on June 1st and left on June 9th. Our driver James Clifford was the ultimate host. Nice Irish smile, charming blue eyes and a keen intelligence. I think he was a gift to us. He said, after the second day, he was getting a good read on us. He got us, he truly did. He caught on to Anthony’s love of cars, Riley’s love of sheep and our family’s love of abandoned castles and ruins. He knew we weren’t into the tourist traps but were more into seeing and experience the nature of Ireland.
We began in Dublin and experienced the “famed” Temple Bar area. Witnessing how the Irish do Stag and Hen parties. (Bachelor and Bachelorette parties). The most amusing was seeing all the Grooms and Groomsmen dressed up as women. Short skirts, short shorts, wigs and high heels. One groom to be was in an actual wedding dress complete with veil. No one out of control, just hoisting a few pints. To be fair, it was 1:00 in the afternoon. Great start for our trip.
From there, we stayed in Galway, Ennis, Killarney and Kinsale. James took us to small towns and out of the way spots that took our breaths away. We saw the Cliffs of Mohr by boat in the fog. It was eerily magical.
We stayed in Dromoland Castle. An elegant 5 star hotel with opulence everywhere. It was on my bucket list to stay in a castle and it lived up to the hype. We had just checked in and realized that we wanted to stay later the next day to soak up all the castle had to offer. Everyone decided to do an activity in the morning. When looking at the different options, I asked Anthony if he would like to fish. He, being money conscious, said “No way am I paying $70 to fish!” My response, “This is a once in a lifetime and I’m treating.” His answer was still No. The guys ultimately decide to go clay shooting and Molly and Riley horseback riding. Me, I opt to explore the grounds. Decision made, Bob and I inform the kids we’ll be in the cocktail lounge.
It’s a sunny day and we sit by a window overlooking the small lake. My back is to the window. We order a drink and Bob is looking at the view. He says “Oh look, someone is fishing out on a boat.” About 5 seconds later, I get a snapchat from Anthony. It’s a picture of him on a boat – underneath it says “I stole a boat!” OMG, that’s Anthony on the lake! Bob sees my face and asks what’s wrong? I can’t help it, I start laughing and show him the picture. Somehow he doesn’t seem to think it’s as funny as I do. With clenched teeth and under his breath he explodes. “Jesus Christ, we’re here for only an hour and he’s going to get us kicked out of here! OMG, what if I have to make bail?!? I’m going to kill him!” About that time, Nick, Molly and Riley walk in. They, too, have gotten his Snapchat. They’re on the same page as me and are laughing. I finally take pity on my husband and text Anthony that his father is going to have a stroke if he doesn’t get off the lake. One of many times we just laughed as a family. Well maybe that time, Bob not so much. :)
We were riding in the coach one day and the kids were in the back just laughing and joking with each other. Bob and I looked at each other and smiled. We agreed it was just perfect. How long had it been since we heard genuine laughter? We all were feeling a little lighter. This was a trip for fun and laughter, cancer wasn’t allowed.
I watched all of us bring out our inner child as we climbed and explored all the castles and ruins. Even the “slow man” Nick was jumping and climbing. It’s like we’d been in a holding pattern for the last year and we were finally emerging out of the fog. We just loved having fun. One of our favorite memories was walking the beach and throwing stones in the Atlantic Ocean. We were acting like kids, throwing stones, putting our feet in the water, running from waves. We were joyous together.
We enjoyed solitude with each other. From walking through the woods to see the Torc waterfall to sitting in a chapel by a lake. We each had our private moments but also enjoyed them as a family.
One day on the way to Kinsale, James asked if we wanted to see the Blarney Castle. Bob and I had already been there and felt it was too commercial. The only one who really wanted to go was Riley, majority ruled and we bypassed the castle. James said to the kids, I know you may like seeing the towns better but today I’m going to take you some place for your mom. He drove us through the valleys of Cork and we came upon a piece of heaven. Guonne Barre. It was a breathtaking lake nestled in between rolling hills. It had a small chapel dedicated to St. Finnegan sitting on the edge of the lake. There were trails with a babbling brook, birds chirping, truly it was heaven. We each walked and took in the serenity. Even the kids said it was one of their favorite places. It was us just taking in the moment that left a sweet memory for us all.