I live in an extremely green place, with an equally beautiful thousand shades of green, never-ending grass and shrubbery and trees. Turn your back on the natural vegetation, and it will eat you alive.
Well, that might be an exaggeration.
But things will take over faster than you can imagine, like the pasture of blackberries my husband mowed just six weeks ago, which is already knee deep in new blackberry plants. (In some places in the country they actually cultivate these plants... they grow here for free with wild abandon and absolutely no effort on our part.)
But I digress.
Ireland is a gentler, tamer sort of natural green. There are fewer trees, because they cut most of the oak forests a few hundred years ago for ship building. And because some places are rock with just a bit of soil on top. Or just acres and acres of solid rock. You can see how hard farming was here, by the sheer number of stone walls. Beautiful and picturesque and backbreaking. The hills are rolling carpets of green, and everywhere a plant can grow, it will (and is encouraged). The riverbanks in the cities are beautiful with trees and wildflowers, and patches of garden are wild with blooms.
Today we started out in Galway City, and traveled through Connemara, home of the pony of the same name. I didn't see any Connemara ponies, but saw a lot of grey horses (my favorite).
We spent the morning in Cong to see the ruined abbey, then walked a long country lane to Ashford Castle and the falconry school.
We're heading north, driving through the valleys where potato was king up until the mid-1800s. Those vertical green striations on the hillsides show where potatoes were grown, the only place in this poor soil where they would survive. This land grew potatoes and precious little else.
We stopped in the Dou Lough valley to talk about the famine history, and take photographs. Ireland's wild rhododendrons are spectacular.
Later today we'll take a tour of Derry in Northern Ireland, and end up in Portrush on the northern coast.