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Place: Ireland

Tales of Ireland - The Welcoming Light
Author: Carolyn Fahm

If you have a choice about when to make your first trip to Ireland, November would not be at the top of anyone's list. And yet it was in November that my Aer Lingus flight from London began its slow descent into Dublin airport. I was headed for Malahide, a seaside town five miles to the northwest of Dublin on the Irish Sea. But thanks to DART - the Dublin Area Rapid Transit, getting to Dublin was quick and easy.

My goal was Trinity College, where a lifetime's dream was about to be fulfilled: seeing a page of the Book of Kells. I say a page because the library turns a page a day, so that if you go every day, you will eventually see the Book in its entirety. To help you appreciate the background of what you are about to see, the library has a superb exhibition - The Book of Kells, Turning Darkness into Light - explaining how dedicated Irish monks expressed their faith by devoting their lives to the illumination of gospels, holy books, and books of classical antiquity. From their far-flung monasteries at Iona, off Scotland's wild west coast, and on Lindisfarne, the Holy Island in the North Sea, works of amazing beauty and power speak to us over the centuries of the dedication of these remarkable but nameless men.

Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle for a reason - and that reason is rain, which, in the Summer, can be soft and misty. But on this wild November day, it came down in lashes, carried in from the Irish Sea on gale-force winds - not the day for a leisurely stroll through Dublin's Georgian Squares or inviting shopping streets! No, on this day, a tour bus was definitely in order. Since Trinity College Dublin is such a popular destination, a sheltering bus was soon found and boarded. It wasn't easy seeing through the fogged windows on this day of wet, cold greyness. But filtered views of the old Guinness storehouse at St James Gate, Christ Church Cathedral, and the River Liffey were all accompanied by fascinating historical narration, delivered charmingly in the soft tones of Ireland.

About an hour into our journey we reached Phoenix Park, which, we soon saw, more than lived up to its position as the largest city park in Europe. Heroic statues took pride of place amidst the wet green of grass, trees, and shrubs. The paths seemed endless on that dark and dreary day. But, all at once, a light shone bravely in the distance, in the window of a gracious white building of imposing stature: it was the Áras an Uachtaráin, home of the President of Ireland. And that light, we were told, burns every hour of every day, to welcome the emigrants home.

So if you are fortunate enough to have Irish ancestors, wherever you may now reside, Ireland is waiting for you with a welcoming light and ten thousand welcomes more. And even if, like me, your links to Ireland are of love and not blood, Ireland's legendary welcome will embrace you, too.

About the author:
Carolyn Fahm operates Greenwich Meantime: Treasures from Ireland and the British Isles, an internet source for English and Irish gifts, along with stories and pictures from these magical lands. (http://www.greenwichmeantime.biz).

Her love of all things Irish and British, inspired by her years of living and working in the English county of Surrey, and her travels to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, inspire her writing.