When my fiancé and I decided to leave Nottingham in 2017 and come back to Ireland, I thought of how wonderful it would be to be back home, despite not actually returning to our home city of Dublin. Cork is three hours away by bus or train, and about two and a half hours by car, depending on traffic. So, while we were still moving to a different city, at least we were moving back to the motherland.

Two years later, and the travel schedule has truly settled down, although it’s by no means quiet. Every second fortnight, we’ll leave Cork on a Friday evening, after a full day at work and dinner at home, to get to Dublin by around 10pm. On Saturday, we’ll spend quality time with our families (either separately or seeing both together), and by Sunday afternoon, we’re on another two or three-hour journey back to the Rebel County. We’re no longer flying every few weeks from East Midlands Airport back to Dublin, but we’re still making the effort to see family pretty often.

Over the last couple of months, however, I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been able to be in Dublin and spend time with people other than relations or in-laws-to-be. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come to appreciate, value, and most of all, love the families I’m blessed enough to have in my life. At the same time, though, I noticed that I hadn’t seen some friends since before I started my new job in November – five months ago. I also had a realisation recently, when trying to plan going out for vegan-friendly dinner in Dublin city, that I didn’t know what the good/new/popular restaurants still were anymore. There were other little moments that made me feel like I didn’t know Dublin as well anymore as when I lived there four years ago, despite all my family weekend visits.

Last weekend was a welcome change, though. My fiancé and his mother had flown off to Croatia for a week, and my parents had asked me to look after their cat while they took a weekend break in the Irish countryside. In other words, I could enjoy a Saturday in Dublin with no family obligations! I can’t explain how happy I was, and thankfully, the weather was pretty incredible to help make the opportunity even better.

On my way up to the capital, I had texted the friend I hadn’t seen for months, and in no time at all, we arranged for lunch in his newly-refurbished home. We talked about everything from settling into my job, to the recent engagement, to everything he had done with his new home, and all we wanted to do with ours. It was chilled, and exactly what I needed, including the walks through the city to and from his beautiful Scandinavian/Irish-mix home.

As the Celtic calendar makes May the start of Summer, the weather was right on point. The atmosphere through the city was improved so much with the sunshine, and made Dublin look beautiful. I saw why so many visitors see a charm in the Irish capital, and really enjoyed the downtime. When I got back to my childhood home, a bit of food and relaxation was followed by a walk along the Clontarf promenade (or “seafront” as the locals call it) right up to Bull Island and the Réalt na Mara statue, where the sunset glowed over Dublin Bay. That walk is one that I’ve done since I was a young child, and it’s one that brings me back to myself every time.

The wooden bridge that connects Bull Island with the mainland at Clontarf.

I usually consider myself to have multiple versions of home, something I touched upon in The Irish Outlander. For myself, my childhood home, “home home”, is Clontarf, and I’d now call Cork my home. Belfast will always have a special place in my heart for being my first home away from home, and the effect that Copenhagen has had on my identity, my interests, and my outlook on the world, makes me consider it my soul’s true home. That all being said, walking on the seafront in Clontarf, or having a Christmas drink at the Castle, that is the most ‘home’ moment I can ever have, and thankfully it is one I am still fortunate enough to enjoy.

Coming back to Cork, I felt recharged after my bit of “me time” in Dublin. I spent the bus journey reading through the draft of my next book and enjoying the opportunity to do so. I had energy again to be creative, and sometimes a little break is all that you need for that.

So, where’s your next trip for some downtime?

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