I think I’ve wanted to live “somewhere else” all my life. I never had that sense of “home” that some people talk about. I never had the connection to land that many feel. Okay, okay, I grew up in E. St. Louis, Illinois—how connected can you be?
Anyway, I did attend university away from home and spent some of my married life in other states but it was not until I became a capital defense attorney that I really moved around.I lived in all those states that like to execute people—you know, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas. But not until one of my Oklahoma cases took me to Italy on a lecture tour did I ever get to actually travel abroad. I had known that my heritage was Irish and after my Italian excursion, I decided to stop in Ireland on my way back home.
It happened as soon as I disembarked from the plane. I was in Dublin and while airports are airports are airports, something was different for me. I got a rental car and that was really different as all the gears were on the other side of the car. I had to get adjusted to this new driving thing—on the left side of the road—and of all things I was in Dublin trying to do it! In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to fly into Dublin in early evening when I’d never driven on this side of the road. But somehow I made my way through Dublin evening traffic and only took out one side view mirror! My son was with me and he screamed a lot that day—well, it builds character!
By the next day we headed toward County Kerry, the land of my forefathers and I guess it was then that it really hit me. HOME! Oh, my gosh! I really felt that I was home! I had never felt this feeling before in my life and it was pretty amazing, I must admit. I began to understand why people felt so nostalgic about “home” now. Here was this green rolling carpet opening before me. We traveled through quaint little villages. I mean we are talking quaint squared! They were soo cute! Fairy forests spun their magic and every now and then an old castle ruin peeked through. It was a stunning trip. Then when you got to the ocean…Wow! Waves rushed in, slamming against the cliff trying desperately to cling to the rocks along the shore, only to fall back and race out again to the sea. The coastline was so breathtaking I would stop the car everywhere I could just to get out and stare out into the Atlantic, a place I had only seen from its other side!
And the rainbows! There were rainbows almost every day and sometimes they were double rainbows. It made you want to find the pot of gold. I settled on making a wish every time I saw one.
After that brief trip, I found myself coming back to Ireland almost every year and staying a month each time. I explored the Skelligs, the stone forts, the beehive huts, the beaches and the villages. We went sailing with dolphins and boating with seals and driving down farm roads where you had to get out and open and close the gates. This world was so full of magical places I could understand all the talk of fairies and leprechauns. In fact, I used to pass a “leprechaun crossing” while driving through County Kerry. I didn’t blame them for wanting to be there—it is pure gold! I began dreaming every time I saw a rainbow. . .dreaming that one day I could live here for real.
Of course at that time the Celtic Tiger was just beginning to roar and roar she did. Ireland was booming and the housing prices reflected it. Tiny little houses were selling for a quarter of a million Euros. I knew I would never be able to move here at those prices. But while I kept looking and dreaming and checking properties, it soon became clear that the Tiger had started purring. She was kind of a little kitten now and along with that came lower prices. I finally saw the opportunity to become part of this kitten and hopefully help her at least growl again.
For all this time I had researched immigrating to Ireland and reading everything I could about it. It was all sounding pretty straightforward and easy. You just had to have a valid passport and prove that you could support yourself and you were in. So when it happened that I could actually afford to move to Ireland, I double checked properties and Irish Immigration and finding no impediments, off I went to look for houses.
I was fortunate in that my cousins, Shelley and Babs, went with me. We were planning our second Irish holiday in about three years so they were there to help me look at places to buy. Three years earlier, after not having seen each other for almost twenty years, I went to Ireland for a month and had invited them to join me. In all my years of coming over, I would rent a self catering cottage for a month and then invite folks to come over. Sometimes I spent the month alone and other years it was like grand central station! That year staying in County Donegal for the first time, I had several visitors, among them my cousins, and we had such a great reunion we decided to do it again.
So in 2014 as I was preparing to make my big move, my cousins joined me for our Irish holiday. We chose to stay in Galway and it was just as impressive as the rest of Ireland. We found ourselves a lovely little town house in Roundstone which is right on the bay. We were quickly into the local scene even though it was past tourist season. We were there for the Connemara Pony show, the local farmers’ market, and an evening of music in the tiny little church that must have been several hundred years old. The weather was so perfect we were able to spend a couple of days on the beach as well. We had a lovely time and in between we checked out houses. We did see a lot of rainbows and they gave me hope each time I saw one.
When we weren’t sightseeing, we were exploring real estate. Our problem with house hunting was that estate agents in Ireland don’t work on weekends. I mean, really? I used to sell real estate in Arizona and I can’t imagine NOT working on weekends or any time a client wanted to see something. That just doesn’t happen in Ireland. Talk about a different pace of life—yep—it is s-l-o-w-e-r! But that is good most of the time, just when you are buying a house, maybe not so much. If you are thinking of following in my footsteps expect a bit of an adventure.
In spite of an estate agent that didn’t seem to care if I found a house or not, I found a place in Donegal that I liked. Shelley and I had been taken to this little town near Letterkenny to see a house and while there, we saw this other place. Since Ireland does not have multilist, I had to phone the listing agent on the other house before I could see it. He was too “busy” to show it to me but did let me borrow the keys to come look.
I decided this would be perfect; good sized house, nice neighborhood and the price was right as it was a bank repossession. So I made an offer. Then there was a counter offer. At least I was told there was. Then we got into a bidding war. Problem was I was leaving the following Wednesday and this was Thursday. I needed to get an answer on the house but since “we” don’t work weekends over here, well, it seemed to take forever to get answers. I finally had upped the offer on Friday and now I had to wait until the following Monday before I heard anything.
I knew if I sat around in Galway for the weekend, I would go nuts, so Shelley and I decided to tour Dingle on the Kerry Coast. Babs, Shelley’s sister, already having decided I was nuts, had gone back to the States.
We had the most gorgeous weather imaginable. She had never been to Kerry before so this was a real adventure for her. We took the boat out to see Fungi, the Dolphin that lives in Dingle Bay and celebrity that he is, is the de facto mayor of Dingle. Great fun weekend but meantime, I’m fretting over whether I’m going to get a house or not.
We headed back to Donegal and on Monday finally called the agent who advised me that he STILL didn’t have an answer from these folks. By this time we had already been back and forth about three times so I asked how long we had to wait for these people to respond. He stated “a reasonable time.” Now, of course you are asking “what is a reasonable time”. It is all relative, isn’t it? A “reasonable time” in New York is probably 2½ milliseconds. A “reasonable time” in St. Louis, Missouri is probably a couple of hours. A “reasonable time” in Italy could be a month or two. A “reasonable time” in Ireland? I still haven’t figured it out.
So Monday came and by evening we heard they had upped their offer by another 1000 Euros. So I upped mine by 4000 Euros as I needed to get a decision. My agent said he thought that would “do it” but he still had to present it to the other people and wait until they “thought about it.” Now I realized I had to make plans to stay over since I didn’t want to go home only to spend the money to come back over in two weeks. I had to find out about getting a different ticket home—oh, dear. Have you ever tried to deal with airlines? AARGHH!!! The car rental place was grand. They just said “no problem, just let us know and we’ll extend the contract.” So that was good.
But we still didn’t hear anything until the night before we were leaving. Shelley and I were having dinner in the pub of the airport hotel and I told her that if I didn’t hear from him by 5:30 I would call back. At 5:20 my agent called me and said “it’s a go.” We got the house!! I was so excited I jumped and yelled “We got it!” and everybody in the pub thought I’d won the lottery! I almost felt that I had!
So I was able to leave Ireland as scheduled and head home and begin the process of getting ready to make an international move. I had done this twice before, moving to and from South Korea, however, I kept my home in America so I didn’t have to worry about taking everything with me. Now I was putting my house on the market and selling or taking everything I owned with me 5000 miles across the sea! With a lot of effort and expense we made it, but that’s another story for another time.
I still see lots of rainbows here and I still make a wish every time. With a little bit of magic and maybe a sprinkle of fairy dust, my Ireland dream can continue.