Finding a piece of Ireland in Bangor, Maine

“I made it,” I thought to myself as I stepped off the plane in Dublin. I was tired — so very tired — but the day there had only just begun. I pushed away that feeling and reminded myself that I was finally in Ireland.

I can hazily recall making my way through the airport and hearing hearty Irish accents around me. I was greeted by a few people who ushered me into a cab. I sat silently as we rode down the left side of the narrow streets and the cabbie asked me and the others seated beside me where we were from and where we were going.

Ireland 3 - Carrick-a-rede

A view of the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Shelby Hartin|BDN

The hotel we stayed at was in Portmarnock, beside the Irish Sea. I walked along the rocky coast and picked a few wildflowers to press later on.

I dreamed of traveling to the country for years. There was something about it that drew me to it. I’m not sure if it was the history, the people or the landscape.

Whatever it was, I wasn’t disappointed.

The seven-hour trip I took across the Atlantic in 2014 was my very first flight. At 21 years old, I found I was one of very few in the group of students studying abroad who had never been on a plane before.

I would study in Galway for two months for a summer semester. I elected to take a trip during the summer so I wouldn’t be away from home for long — after all, it was my first time traveling such a great distance and staying in a foreign country for an extended period of time.

 A view of the Gap of Dunloe in Killarney National Park in County Kerry, Ireland.  Shelby Hartin|BDN

A view of the Gap of Dunloe in Killarney National Park in County Kerry, Ireland. Shelby Hartin|BDN

Little did I know I would leave wishing I had more time. Ireland taught me that home is a feeling, not a place.

I explored crumbling castles and ventured through a passage tomb older than the ancient pyramids. I learned about the country’s history and current political climate. I stood on strikingly green cliffs overlooking the ocean and listened to people chatter away in Gaelic. The scent of smoky peat fires hung in the air as I entered buildings with thatched roofs and listened to music in tiny pubs and watched the locals dance. I went to horse races and drank a Guinness. I took a ferry to the Aran Islands and biked through Killarney National Park.

I was absolutely enchanted by the country — I felt like I had walked straight into a storybook.

A view of the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland.  Shelby Hartin|BDN

A view of the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. Shelby Hartin|BDN

When the time came to leave and I glided back into Logan Airport to be greeted by my mother and my boyfriend, Ryan, I was filled with a warring mixture of overwhelming happiness to see them and overwhelming sadness to have left Ireland behind.

Ryan took the brunt of my sadness during the rest of that summer and listened to my stories intently as I rambled on about places he had never seen and things he had never done. He recognized I was missing the feeling of the place, so he suggested we check out a some local spots that might remind me of the country I had come to love so much.

He brought me to Geaghan’s Pub and Craft Brewery, where we sat down and had a meal. Though nothing could compare to Ireland itself, I found comfort in the place and its many signs in Gaelic that were hung throughout the space. Geaghan’s Pub and Craft Brewery open in 1975, according to the restaurant and brewery’s website. “Owners John and Arline Geaghan, opened the restaurant located near a local roundhouse (a place where trains were repaired and turned around on the tracks). Since many of the customers worked at the roundhouse, it was a natural theme. But even back then, there was an undercurrent of Irish items being accumulated and hung on the walls.”

Later on in the summer, we made our way to Paddy Murphy’s for the first time. The dimly lit pub was filled with people, just like the pubs always were in Ireland. The ceiling — though I’m unsure what style it should be called — reminded me of one I had seen in The Crown Bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Beer flowed and food came to us in heaping plates, live music played in the background and I realized that with Ryan’s help, I found places in Bangor that reminded me of a place far away.

Bangor was still new and not yet my home, as I was living in Orono at the time. But for a moment Bangor gave me a taste of Maine and Ireland — two places I didn’t think could coexist.

I have yet to return to Ireland, but I’ve occasionally gone to Geaghan’s and Paddy Murphy’s in the time I’ve been here. Neither of those places could have been built without a soul behind them that loved Ireland as well. I think that’s important to remember when visiting restaurants that represent other countries. The people behind them have a love for the country and culture they’ve attempted to recreate in a small space, and, in my opinion, both Bangor businesses have brought a small piece of Ireland right here to Maine.

Shelby Hartin

About Shelby Hartin

Shelby Hartin was born and raised in southern Aroostook County in a tiny town called Crystal, population 269. After graduating from the University of Maine in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism, she relocated to Bangor. She now works at the Bangor Daily News as a customer service representative slash features reporter and is making a new home for herself by discovering what Bangor has to offer. Every week she will do something new and blog about it. It might be attending an art exhibit or checking out a new restaurant. It might be visiting a local museum or going on a tour offered in the area. She’s going to find things that people settling into their home of greater Bangor might enjoy — and she wants your help.