Young tourist taking a selfie with her smartphone during the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on 5th Avenue in New York City

St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland and a celebratory day in many other parts of the world.

Though the religious aspects of the day are observed by many people, the secular aspects are what the holiday is most known for. 

Wearing green, decorating with shamrocks, eating corned beef and cabbage, and drinking Irish lager and whiskey are how most of us celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Any event that encourages imbibing needs a word of caution. 

The majority of St. Patrick’s celebrations are public – parades, festivals, etc.  We’ve compiled a short list to help keep you in check as you celebrate the luck of the Irish!

Know your limits.  If your pot ‘o gold happens to contain alcohol, it pays to know how much you can enjoy before you get too tipsy.  If you are out celebrating for several hours, have a glass of water in between drinks and pace yourself carefully.

Make mischief, not enemies.  All ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirts should not be taken literally.  Know who you are joking around with and, again, what your limits are.

Smiling guy during St Patrick's day party

Although St. Patrick himself is said to have started the drinking tradition by scolding an innkeeper on his lack of “generosity” with a shot of whiskey, there is no religious reason to overdo it.

However, it is still a day worth celebrating.  On that note, we offer you this Irish Toast:

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,

And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.

As we prepared to leave Ireland and return to the United States, I was still processing our amazing trip. Through friends, East Coast met West Coast and we shared a castle for a week. How fun it was to meet and make new friends, cook together every evening, tour small towns, eat in fabulous little nooks each day, exercise each morning and evening together, (dark didn't come until 10:00pm or later), play Bridge, catch up on reading, visit beautiful gardens, check out restored castle residences of the "very rich" AND do all of this with special friends. Steve and I are so lucky.

Goodbye Ireland, I am totally in love with your beautiful country.

P.S. All of that luggage did fit in that medium sized car!!

All of us have rented cars in Ireland. Driving on the opposite side of the road is not a problem until you come to the round abouts. Also, especially in a larger city, all of us have to keep reminding each other not to step out into the road without looking to your right first instead of your left.

Each night we are cooking in our huge kitchen. Just picture 7 women laughing, talking, chopping, cooking and creating wonderful meals made straight from produce grown on surrounding farms. I felt like I was back again in my college sorority house at UGA. Cooking for 14 was so much fun but the best part was after dinner the clean up crew, pictured above, charged into the kitchen and cleaned up. Believe me, that kitchen was not  a pretty place to be. There were lots of dirty dishes and lots of pots and pans. I did find out my husband, Steve, has perfected a new skill and I am happy to let him use it when we return to Atlanta!

When we arrived in Ireland toward the end of May, I had no idea there would be so many gardens with the first blooms of Spring everywhere. Wisteria, lilacs, iris, lilies, roses and much more. When I am in a garden, I feel especially close to God. Manicured arbors, fragrant smells from roses and flowering trees, birds singing melodious songs...everywhere is such peace. Why can't we have more of this peace in our lives everyday? Ireland is so beautiful.

Lilies

One of the women in our group, Julie,  is a violinist who played many years for Andy Williams. She wanted to play in a Pub while we were in Ireland. The local people in the photo above have been playing together every Wednesday night for 25 years. Anyone who wants to join in and play with the group can. You just bring your instrument and pull up your chair. There is no music and everyone is improvising based on just 3 chord progressions. Our whole gang headed to the pub, on Wednesday to support Julie. As a classical violinist she needed to see what and how the locals were playing.

After about an hour Julie jumped right in and began playing. Because she is so-o-o-o beautiful, all the Pub guys couldn't keep their eyes off of her. No, she is not in the above photo.

What fun we had listening and meeting the locals. Not a tourist was in sight because this was a tiny town. No food, just booze is served in Pubs. Maybe I should suggests pretzels and peanuts next visit!


Our castle is located just outside Thurles, a small farm town. In driving to Thurles, one sees beautiful farm fields fenced in by stone walls and hedges. These different shades of green, all squared off  with sheep, cows and horses, gives me such a relaxed sense of calm. Lots of tourist are in the large cities (Shannon, Dublin, etc.) but we see mostly locals in these small towns.

Today we visited a totally refurbished fabulous castle, owed by the Butlers. As we started our unguided tour, 2 American couples were in front of us. There were signs posted everywhere that said "no pictures allowed in the castle." One of the men in this group began taking pictures in each room. People who live in Ireland are so kind and very polite, at least those that I met, but suddenly the castle docent wasn't so gentle in her verbage, but still very polite. "Sir, you have taken 3 pictures so far in the castle. One more and you will be escorted out of the property." The man mumbled some kind of feeble excuse and put his camera away.

We dropped back to look at another room and I heard the docent say, "You always have to watch those Americans. They love to see how far they can bend the rules."

I felt a tinge of sadness. Every American who travels is an ambassador of our country. Our image as "The Ugly American" is universal and that is because of incidenses just like this one.

This morning we visited a several hundred year old restored country Swiss cottage, owned by a "very rich" family. This ornamental chalet-like thatched building is located in the Kilcommon Demesne, a walled park of some 800 acres at the heart of the Butler of Cahir estate. The Heritage Council had done such a beautiful job with the restoration. ‘The Cottage’, as it was originally known, was built c.1810 to the design of John Nash, Royal Architect, for Richard Butler, Baron of Cahir (from 1816 1st Earl of Glengall). Its interior contains a graceful spiral staircase and some elegantly decorated rooms. The wallpaper in the Salon manufactured by the Dufour factory is one of the first commercially produced Parisian wallpapers. Situated on an elevated site with access by stone steps. Actually this cottage was used strickily for entertaining 6 to 8 guest and the "very rich" family that owned the cottage never slept there a single night. Servants were brought in when the family entertained  and gardeners were kept on staff year round looking after the grounds. Hunting, fishing and lawn games filled this "special invitation" day.

Lisheen Castle is positioned on a hill surrounded by beautiful green pastures. Looking out our bedroom windows, there are hundreds of cows grazing peacefully in every direction. Oddly enough, in the distance are lots of wind turbines so my views for miles around are cows and technology. Small towns surround us in every direction.

Today, we visited Cashel and had a five star meal at The Palace Hotel. My first course, which I had never tasted before was goat cheese with red sweet onions on top, baked in a thin pastry shell. This work of art was resting on organic greens, with cucumber and grape tomatoes, also marinated black olives. A sweet sauce was drizzled over this creation and my taste buds went crazy. It was so delicious!

There is much formality and multi courses if you are eating in a pricey restaurant. Of course all bets are off if you are in a Pub. No food is served in Pubs and we will visit one over the next few days.

This week, Steve and I are in Ireland with 12 friends. One of the best ways to expand your etiquette knowledge, as well as your horizons of life, is to visit and participate in another culture.

We have rented Lisheen Castle, an 18th Century structure on the outside and a totally 21st Century renovation on the inside. With 9 bedrooms, everyone has plenty of space.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that the food in Ireland is just potatoes and carrots. Even though we have been here 3 short days, our meals have been fabulous.

One observation is that in Ireland, the take-home leftovers that we do so often in America are not customary here. There were no boxes, so our delicious extra food was placed in tinfoil.

There is so much to tell, and I look forward to sharing with you while we are in Ireland!