For the first time since moving here two years ago, there was a pit in my stomach when I saw the New York skyline from my tiny plane window last Monday afternoon.

I didn’t smile or have those butterflies that always, always, always were there when I’d return home from a business trip or visiting my parents back in Pennsylvania or even just a night away somewhere else.

I was haunted, see, haunted by the place where I’d just spent nine heavenly, truly amazing days, where we gloriously had spotty WiFi, where the people didn’t push or shove or walk in front of you, but were charmed by our American accents, went out of their ways to help us and take care of us, where the green came in so very many different shades, where the sky was the bluest I’d ever seen, where the cool, clean air cleansed from my pores the New York heat and stink and sweat that had built up all summer, and I felt like I could breathe, like I was actually taking the first true breaths of my life.

I’m talking about a little place called Ireland.

From the charming Limerick to bucolic Cork and Cashel to the grand Markree Castle to Omagh to Giants Causeway to the beaches of Sligo to Galway and the Aran Island of Inishmore, which, in a heartbeat, I would make my forever home, and back to Limerick, Ireland embedded itself into my very soul.

With every passing moment of the trip, my angst and general nervous energy fell further from my memory. I smelled the flowers permeating the air. I felt the sun on my face. I shouted, gleefully, to point out every “moo” or sheep we passed (which was just about every five minutes). I sat with the kids on the hill behind the Rock of Cashel and thought, “It can’t get much better than this” and was surprised over and over again that, yes, yes, it could.

I didn’t mind when we got caught in the thunderstorm we had just watched roll in over the sea at Giants Causeway, even if it meant my sneakers squished the rest of the day and my jeans, heavy and wet, clung to me like a second skin on the two-hour car ride back to Omagh because “it wouldn’t be Ireland if that didn’t happen!” I clung for my life on the deck of the ferry to Inishmore during another quick-passing storm on a rocky sea, not wanting to miss a single view of the island the fella couldn’t wait to show me and the kids, the place where he wants, someday far, far away I pray, to have his ashes scattered. And now I, too, want the cliffs of Inishmore to be my final resting place, the pull of this remote island is that powerful to me.

To walk those ancient roads, dodging bikers and those crazy van-tour drivers and feeling like a true “Man of Aran” as I saw a world completely and gloriously untouched by modernity, a world that was the most beautiful sight these brown eyes has ever seen — and most likely will ever see.

Sadly, just as I was about the press “publish” on this blog yesterday, WordPress took a poop and ate the back half of this blog, but maybe it’s for the best because it got pretty emotional; I get pretty emotional when I talk or even think of Ireland, even still, days later, even as I go through all our photos for the millionth time.

It was the trip of a lifetime, and those memories will never fade from my mind or my being. I’ll see you again in a few short years, dear Ireland. Don’t forget about me because I will never, ever forget about you.

Without further ado, here are the images that, while beautiful, don’t do our trip a lick of justice.

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Just an early Limerick morn

Just an early Limerick morn

Limerick

Limerick

Limerick

Limerick

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

From atop Blarney Castle. I was too chicken to kiss the stone.

From atop Blarney Castle. I was too chicken to kiss the stone.

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

Could not get enough Celtic crosses!

Could not get enough Celtic crosses!

Photobombed by Rock of Cashel

Photobombed by Rock of Cashel

A fallen cross behind a mausoleum.

A fallen cross behind a mausoleum.

Seen in Markree Castle's chapel

Seen in Markree Castle’s chapel

Even in monsoon, Giants Causeway was breathtaking.

Even in monsoon, Giants Causeway was breathtaking.

Sunset across the Atlantic in Sligo.

Sunset across the Atlantic in Sligo.

Our family on the ferry to the Aran Island of Inishmore.

Our family on the ferry to the Aran Island of Inishmore.

Pier on Inishmore.

Pier on Inishmore.

I could've moved in …

I could’ve moved in …

View from our B&B

View from our B&B

Inishmore.

Inishmore.

He was very inquisitive, Inishmore.

He was very inquisitive, Inishmore.

More cows than people on Inishmore.

More cows than people on Inishmore.

Going up to the edge of the world.

Going up to the edge of the world.

Couldn't do Blarney Stone, but hanging off the side of a cliff was no problem.

Couldn’t do Blarney Stone, but hanging off the side of a cliff was no problem.

My fella and I on the cliffs of Dun Aonghasa

My fella and I on the cliffs of Dun Aonghasa

Photographic daredevils.

Photographic daredevils.

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Inishmore

Inishmore

Hydrangeas for days in Ballina, Killaloe

Hydrangeas for days in Ballina, Killaloe

Nikki

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