It’s ironic: the internet offers us a seemingly limitless access to inspiration, and yet so often, looking at our social media can start to feel very same-y. Millions of photos of natural beauty, fashion, interiors, art, design – and yet the algorithms that claim to help us find more things we’ll like actually start to channel us into the same well-worn paths.
Do destinations live up to our expectations?
I think this can even start to happen for those of us who enjoy experiencing other places. Let Instagram know you like travel and pretty soon you’ll start to notice themes. Cobblestones. Colorful walls. Old wooden shutters. Picturesque ladies’ bicycles. Is this Poland or Italy or Denmark or Russia? Traveling to a new country can involve a related sort of dissatisfaction, when you arrive to your exciting destination to find a McDonalds across from your hotel… which turns out to be a Holiday Inn Express.
If we step away from the brands and the screens, however, it’s comforting to find that the great surprising diversity of the world is still there. Since moving to Ireland a couple of years ago I’ve discovered a very small difference that never fails to delight me: the rainbows.
I know, it sounds like the cheesiest tourism poster, but it really is true. Ireland has a lot of rainbows. It’s very common here for heavy rain and dark skies to alternate quickly with blazing sunlight, which is what does the trick. It didn’t take me long to develop an instinct for it – some days I find myself scanning the sky without really consciously thinking about the weather at all.
The most fantastic rainbow I’ve ever seen was the one we encountered nearly a year ago at Fore Abbey. We had been driving around the countryside with an archaeologist friend, visiting ancient sites large and small. While we’d spent some time wandering around in stiff breezes and drizzle, for the most part we’d had bright sunshine for our explorations outdoors. The drive to Fore was astonishing, though – torrential rain hammering down on the car as we shot down small country roads.
We were all set to admire the ruins from the carpark, but by the time we reached the abbey the clouds had cleared. Fore Abbey was founded by a St Feichin and has a legend about ‘seven wonders’ associated with the saint. We had a good chuckle at the sign describing these dubious wonders before trekking up the hillside to the 10th century church.
It was one of those instinctive moments when I turned around and saw the rainbow. It was impressive when I first saw it but as we stood there taking pictures it just intensified until it seemed to be glowing like a neon light. It was incredible; one of those moments that just takes your breath away.
In Ireland and Britain, rainbows have become a special symbol during Covid-19 restrictions. You see children’s artwork in people’s windows thanking healthcare workers, and the health service has also adopted a rainbow icon to encourage everyone to play a part in fighting the virus. I like to think that message of hope and solidarity could be as common as the ‘real thing’ is here and yet as stunning as that rainbow in Fore.
About the Author
Julie Daly moved to Ireland in 2018. Her interests range from women’s history to Indian cooking and classic mystery novels. She posts about her knitting on Instagram @woolofit This is her first contribution to The Petite Bijou.