How do you get ready for the Emerald Isle?

How exactly does one prepare for a trip to Ireland?

I mean, obviously there’s the administrative stuff – booking your hotel and flight, making sure your passport is up to date – and there’s the fun stuff, like packing your sweet vacation clothes. But how else do you get ready? When I was planning this trip way back in September, I made it a point to choose travel dates that would allow us to take part in as many cool activities as possible over our week in Dublin. (By “us” I mean “Mr. Shifflett and myself,” because somebody has to carry my luggage. …just kidding. As a fellow English teacher and lover of all things Irish, Mr. Shifflett was the logical choice for a traveling companion.)

The first and biggest consideration was to go during Bloomsday. James Joyce’s most famous novel Ulysses is a retelling of the epic The Odyssey set in a single day – June 16, 1904 (the day Joyce met his future wife Nora Barnacle in real life). Every year, on June 16, huge nerds lovers of literature from around the world flock to Dublin and follow main character Leopold Bloom’s journey around the city. Obviously it was imperative that we go during a time we could celebrate Bloomsday.

This also meant that I had to actually read Ulysses, which is considered to be one of the most challenging books ever written, but that’s another story (largely in that I have not yet finished it… but I will!).

We looked at our dates around that time and tried to figure out what else we could do – literary walking tours? trips to local parks and museums? plays showing at famous Dublin theaters? – and realized that everything else we wanted to do happened pretty much every week in Dublin. We weren’t traveling over any bank holidays, so we really had a lot of freedom in choosing which days we’d go to parks, writers’ houses, churches, and other famous sites.

This brought us to our final consideration: when could we meet up with my friend, the Irish author and teacher (and Dublin native) Claire Hennessy? Claire is a well-known young adult author and educator, and has been my friend for a number of years (…about ten now. Boy, do I feel old!). She graciously agreed to meet up with us and tell me all about Irish schooling, her experiences as a writer, and life in the city. Our dates worked with Claire, and with that, we were on our way!

So what after that? Lots and lots of background reading/viewing. We wanted to be very well-read and well-prepared for the trip. After all, what’s the point of going to Remembrance Park or George Bernard Shaw’s house if you don’t know what you’re remembering or who Shaw was? So I drew up a reading list, and for the last nine months, I’ve been working my way through classic and modern Irish fiction and nonfiction. That’s what I’ll be writing about in the next few posts: my informal and not really that intellectual thoughts on all the truly fantastic books I’ve been reading to get ready for the trip. Stay tuned for some books you might be interested in!