Local business owner Ron Merriel finally makes it to the Emerald Isle. East Falls Local goes along for the ride.
It took 10 years and three tries, but Ron Merriel of Blue Skies Chiropractic finally realized his dream to visit Ireland. His travel plans have been short-circuited over the years by jobs and his thriving practice on Scotts Lane, but came together last month out of the blue when his Irish stepfather, Declan decided he wanted to visit the Old Sod.
“We were working on his hops farm in upstate New York and he just turned to me one day and said ‘We should go visit my home town. It’s been too long’.”
Declan has been a naturalized U.S. citizen for almost 50 years and served as a secret service agent for President Nixon, but neither a high stakes job nor a newly purchased farm could satisfy his longing for home. “He hadn’t seen the place in a long time and he felt he needed to go.”
Suddenly Ron was touching down on the east coast of Ireland and traveling to Dún Laoghaire (pronounced “dun leery”), a seaside town south of Dublin where Declan was born (and is also home to Bono and Van Morrison) and meeting members of his extended family for the first time. “Declan came from a big family – it was fun meeting them but I lost count of how many of em there were.”
With only a week to stay, Ron, Declan, and Torrey (Ron’s brother) hit the road fast to see as many sights as they could. “We saw places near Dún Laoghaire, like the Avoca Mill (the oldest wool mill in Ireland – photo above) and Dublin to start, but wound up on the west coast in Galway. That was my favorite part.”
Ron’s stepfather could hardly recognize the place. “He said Galway was so empty when he was growing up they called it the wild, wild west. There wasn’t anything there except the occasional stone house.” (County Galway still has its wide open spaces — check out the video below — but Galway city is now known as a bohemian center with plenty of artists, musicians, pubs, and galleries.)
They also drove outside the city to the Cliffs of Moher and Ashford Castle, “which is the most beautiful castle I’ve ever seen, and that includes lots of castles I saw when I visited France. Declan was able to sneak us into the place, which is now a high-end hotel, for a tour. We even got a great seat at the bar!”
Ron’s only been back a few weeks but he’s already thinking about his next visit. “I’d like to see the south of the country next time, particularly Cork. Maybe visit two of my former patients who live there now. One was from Cork and the other was from Belfast but they met here in East Falls. They got married, had two kids, and just moved back to Cork.”
Any other cities he plans to visit? “I think that’ll be plenty – there’s so much to see there. You think of Ireland as this little country but when you get off the highway into the country roads, it takes a lot longer to get where you’re going because there are winding roads and many small towns all along the way. You have to really pace yourself.”